Blue Ribbon

This bibliography concerns the ancient technique of plaiting on stretched threads; it is not about the technique of darned netting which is also called sprang. It is for the use of people who are interested in studying or reproducing ancient sprang. I assembled this bibliography as a labor-saving device after I got two requests for sources on the topic in one day.

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Old World Sprang through the Early Middle Ages: A Brief Bibliography

Annotations copyright © 2000 Carolyn Priest-Dorman


Barber, E.J.W. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages wtih Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Brief summary of some early finds of sprang.

Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Sprang. London/New York: Faber & Faber/Watson-Guptill, 1974. Recently reprinted in paperback by Design Books (distributed by the Lyons Press), 1999.

A good foundation for any collection on the subject. As always, Collingwood provides a rock-solid technical grounding. Summary and how-to information on many early examples of the technique. Big bibliography. While you're at it, admire the plates of later historical sprang too.

Hald, Margrethe. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials: A Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles, translated by Jean Olsen. Publications of the National Museum, Archaeological-Historical Series, Vol. XXI. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark, 1980.

A superior chapter grounded in the early history of the technique. Includes schematics of the Borum Eshøj, Skrydstrup, Arden Mose, and Haraldskær Mose hairnets. Also includes catalogue information on some Coptic caps in the V&A Museum as well as excellent large-scale photos and diagrams of several Coptic pieces.

Kliot, Jules. Sprang: Language and Techniques, Second Edition. Berkeley: 'Some Place' Publications, 1979.

Introduction to the basic technique and several variations. An interesting notation system, different from Collingwood's and perhaps more appealing to the visually oriented.

Wild, John Peter. Textiles in Archaeology. Shire Archaeology 56. Aylesbury, UK: Shire Publications Ltd., 1988.

A paragraph on sprang with four line drawings showing the sequence of interlinking.

Greek, Roman, and Coptic Sprang

Bazinet, Michael. "Coptic Dress in Egypt: The Social Life of Medieval Cloth," Textiles in Daily Life: Proceedings of the Third Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24-26, 1992, pp. 73-80. Textile Society of America, 1993.

Brief information about some sprang headdresses in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Clark, Louise. "Notes on Small Textile Frames Pictured on Greek Vases," American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 87, no. 1 (January 1983), pp. 91-96.

Short article discussing evidence for sprang in Classical Greece. Heavily footnoted, much of it comparative information from other cultures.

Erikson, Marianne. Textiles in Egypt 200-1500 A.D. in Swedish Museum Collections. Göteborg: Röhsska Museet, 1997.

Fifty pieces, mostly Coptic tapestry but includes some sprang.

Harris, Jennifer, ed. Textiles 5000 Years: An International History and Illustrated Survey. London/New York: British Museum Press/Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993.

Pretty color photo of a copy of a Coptic sprang cap. Claims that sprang is a precursor of knitting.

Jenkins, Ian, and Williams, Dyfri. "Sprang Hair Nets: Their Manufacture and Use in Ancient Greece," American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 89, no. 3 (July 1985), pp. 411-418.

Discussion of Classical Greek and Coptic sprang hairnets, including sprang frames in Classical Greek art. An appendix by Hero Granger-Taylor details a 5th century BCE fragment from the Crimea.

Rutschowscaya, Marie-Hélène. Coptic Fabrics, trans. Adam Stephenson et al. Paris: Editions Adam Biro, 1990.

Photo of a linen sprang head covering, so elaborately patterned with holes that it looks kind of like lace.

Stauffer, Annemarie. Textiles of Late Antiquity. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995.

Photos of several Coptic sprang caps from the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thomas, Thelma K., and Harding, Deborah G. Textiles from Medieval Egypt, A.D. 300-1300. Pittsburgh: The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 1990.

One closeup b/w photo of a piece of multicolor sprang in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Natural.

Wild, J.P. Textile Manufacture in the Northern Roman Provinces. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Catalogue entry for a first-century sprang fragment from Vindonissa, Switzerland. Back then Wild believed an instrument was required to manipulate the stretched threads, but he doesn't refer to that in his later work.

Sprang in Northern Europe

Broholm, Hans Christian, and Hald, Margrethe. Costumes of the Bronze Age in Denmark: Contributions to the archaeology and textile-history of the Bronze Age. Copenhagen: Nyt nordisk Forlag, 1940.

Precursor to Hald's Ancient Danish Textiles chapter, with much of the same information. Nice photos of Hald's reconstruction of the Skrydstrup cap, both on and off the loom.

Crocker, Candace. Card Weaving, revised edition. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1991.

Photo and brief explanation of two sprang caps with tablet woven ties. Although the caps are not strict replicas, they were inspired by early sprang caps, and they are a good example of the use of integral tablet woven borders for sprang, which is a known historic technique.

Geijer, Agnes. Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern. Birka: Untersuchungen und Studien, III. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells, 1938.

A brief summary of the history of sprang and some information on two small finds of wool sprang in tenth century women's graves at Birka.

Hoffmann, Marta, and Trætteberg, Ragnhild. "Teglefunnet," Stavanger Museum's Årbok, 1959, pp. 41-60.

A photo of the extant "stocking" with tablet-woven borders from third- to fifth- century Norway, plus line drawings of how it was worked and a draft of the triangle pattern motifs.

Munksgaard, Elisabeth. Oldtidsdragter. København: Nationalmuseet, 1974.

A full-page drawing of the Borum Eshøj hairnet patterning (derived from Hald), and a series of drawings reconstructing the Skrydstrup hairstyle with its associated sprang hairnet.

Pritchard, Frances. "Silk Braids and Textiles of the Viking Age from Dublin," Lise Bender Jørgensen, Bente Magnus, and Elisabeth Munksgaard, eds., Archaeological Textiles: Report from the 2nd NESAT Symposium 1.-4.V.1984, pp. 149-161. Arkaeologiske Skrifter 2. Købnhavn: Arkaeologisk Institut, 1988.

An eleventh-century silk sprang fragment with a repeating hole pattern.

Schlabow, Karl. Textilfunde der Eisenzeit in Norddeutschland. Neumünster: Karl Wachholtz Verlag, 1976.

Information on two Iron Age German finds of sprang: a hairband from Windeby and a hairnet from Damendorf.

Sprang in the Later Middle Ages?

Some evidence exists for the use of plaiting on stretched threads during the later Middle Ages; however, I haven't tracked down any citations to actual surviving pieces yet. For now, though, here are two useful articles that elucidate the problem of sprang nomenclature.

Guðjonsson, Elsa E. "Icelandic Mediaeval Embroidery Terms and Techniques," Veronika Gervers, ed., Studies in Textile History: In Memory of Harold B. Burnham, pp. 133-143. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1977.

Restates and reinforces the point made in her 1981 article (see below) about the confusion of nomenclature arising from the Icelandic use of the word "sprang" to denote both plaiting on stretched thread and darned netting or lacis.

-----. "A Sprang Embroidered Altar Frontal from Iceland (With an Excursus: Icelandic References to Sprang)," Mechthild Fleury-Lemberg and Karen Stolleis, eds., Documenta Textilia: Festschrift für Sigrid Müller-Christensen, pp. 52-79. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1981.

Lengthy, well-sourced linguistic examination of the history of the word sprang in Icelandic written sources. It seems always to have referred to embroidery, not to plaiting on stretched threads.

This page was created on 20 February 2000 and last updated on 25 September 2000.

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