Saturday, 25 June 2011

Work in Progress - The Dune Belt

I'm weaving again!

In my NESAT X article about the so-called Eric of Pomerania's Belt and the Dune Belt, I focused on the weaving technique and on the better preserved Eric of Pommerania's Belt. The fragmentary Dune Belt from Gotland mostly served as comparison, although it was actually because of it that I finally managed to figure out how the two belts were made and reconstruct the previously unknown tablet-weaving technique. Three years on, it's finally time for the Dune Belt to receive some long over-due attention. As it happens, this summer marks the 650-year anniversary of the Battle of Visby in 1361, when Danish king Valdemar invaded Gotland. The Dune treasure, in which the Dune Belt fragments were found, is believed to have been buried some time around the invasion.

On a side note: there will be a reenactment battle commemorating the events of 1361 on Gotland this summer: The Battle of Wisby. I will be there.

One of the Dune Belt fragments. Historiska Museet, Stockholm. Inv. No. 6849:68D.

It's difficult to say much about what the Dune belt originally looked like - no colours are preserved, as you can see in the image above, but the weave itself indicates some sort of diamond-shaped diagonal pattern. By focusing on the weave, I think it might be possible to get a better idea of how potential colours were distributed: changes in the pattern (the colours) result in changes in the acutal weave. So I've started weaving samples to see what kinds of colour changes will produce a weave that matches the fragments. So far I've made 5 samples, and I have a few more ideas to try out before going back to analyse the material and see what conclusions can be made (if any). The thread I'm using is Nm 60/2 spun silk, which is not quite right (the original is more like tightly twisted 320 denier filament silk, which I will get for the next set of samples), but it will do for now.

First sample. Loosely tensioned wefts, giving the weave an "Eric of Pomeriana"-look, rather than the tight "Dune"-look.
Second sample. Wefts pulled tighter, moving towards the "Dune"-look.
Third sample. Almost half the width of the first sample. Still not quite tight enough for the Dune Belt.

The pattern of the third sample really looks very nice! I like it a lot - imagine an entire belt dotted with those tiny diamonds!!! Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to match the fragments particularly well, but I won't rule it out completely until I get it under a microscope together with the original. I plan to put my results into a proper article when I'm done with all the samples and comparisons. In the meantime, the work-so-far will be exhibited during the huge weaving fair Väv 2011 in Borås, Sweden, this September (see this link for an English pdf-version of the programme)!

References and links: 

Holmqvist, V. "A Study of Two Medieval Silk Girdles: Eric of Pomerania's Belt and the Dune Belt", in  Andersson Strand, E. et al. NESAT X. Northern European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2010, 117-125.

An old post about weaving Eric of Pomerania's Belt:

Search the Collections, Historiska Museet (The Museum of National Antiquities):

The Battle of Wisby:

Väv 2011: Weaving Fair

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Crocheted Reticule with Silk Ribbons

from the Collections of the Textile Museum
(Borås, Sweden)

I continue my venture into modern times with another 19th-20th century textile: A crocheted reticule bag from the collections of Textilmuseet (the Textile Museum), where I work. 
 Reticule bag, front and back. Textilmuseet, inv. no: BM54958

Small, fancy purses like this one became fashionable towards the end of the 18th century, during the Regency era (and still survive today in the form of evening bags). They were popular DIY projects – early crochet books and ladies' magazines from the 19th century are full of instructions on how to make them. There are some claims that the word reticule comes from ”ridicule”, because these bags ”were considered a bit silly”. As far as I can tell, this is just a linguistic misconception. Reticule is derived from the Latin word reticulum, which means ”small net” or a ”small mesh bag”. The word ridicule is derived from a completely different Latin word. 

Silly or not, this particular reticule bag (inventory number BM54958) was donated to our museum in 1973, but it's from the turn of the last century or thereabouts. It's crocheted with an ecru-coloured cotton yarn and has red silk ribbons threaded into the crocheted piece. There are two small silk pom-poms attached to one side and it's closed with drawstring. The lining is a simple cotton satin fabric. 

 Close-up of the pom-poms

 Close-up of the lining, drawstring and the finishing edge (reverse side)

The yarn roughly matches the modern yarn size Nm 12/3, which is what I used for my reproduction bag, together with a 1.25 mm crochet hook. I was a little sloppy with the tension and had to add another pattern repeat to my bag to get the final proportions right. Other than that, I did everything like it was done on the original. On the later pieces, like the pouch for my mobile below, I managed the correct tension just fine without changing the hook.

When I had finished the crochet part of the bag, I went out to buy some silk ribbons. And found out just how difficult it is to get hold of satin ribbons made of real silk in Sweden today: it's basically impossible. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to materials, so I refused the only available alternative - polyester ribbons - and made my own out of a piece of silk fabric instead. Of course, my ribbons don't have have the selvedges of a band woven to the correct width; they are just flattened tubes with a seam running down the back, but they still look much nicer than cheap polyester. The ribbons on the original reticule are wider than the openings they're are threaded through, giving the bag a lively, slightly puffy look. I made mine narrower to get a perfect fit instead, since I didn't want them to twist and bulge and accidentally end up showing the seam...

 My own version of the reticule

I also made a little pouch for my mobile, with fulled wool instead of silk ribbons. The wool was sturdy enough on its own and it didn't need to be lined.

A pretty cover for an ugly phone
If anyone would like to make their own reticule bag, the Swedish pattern I made is sold in the museum shop for 35 SEK. For those of you who don't read Swedish, here's the English translation, for free:

Crocheted Reticule Bag, c. 1900 - Pattern

(I haven't test-crocheted the translated version, so if anything sounds strange or doesn't work like it's supposed to, please let me know!)