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Tabletweaving throughout Time

Updated: Apr 28

Blog contribution by Nancy Devlin.

Where to begin, when it comes to tabletweaving! Not easy, not with modern techniques and the speed in which new finds are made and then analysed! Materials and patterns unthought of even 20 years ago, are now mainstream! Symbols thought only to have been found at one place or another, suddenly seem to pop up all over the globe! So let’s just keep it general….

Tabletweaving is a rather intricate kind of weaving. What are those tablets, or cards? The oldest cards found, are about 3000 years old and from Mesopotamia, and they were square pieces of flat stone, but they can be made from any flat material, and they aren’t always square. I suppose you will have to see it, and do it, to understand what I’m on about! Baltic style braids are made using the pick-up technique though, not tabletweave, although most of the patterns and symbols used are akin to those used elsewhere, both techniques are common.

Overview of a scetch of the Birka braid from grave 824 on which most Birka work is based! For starters it was a brocaded on a tabletwoven background braid and personally I think it may have been a sampler, very much like we get textile sample books, or even wallpaper books, or strips of paint samples to see which we prefer, before ordering!  Was this braid made in Birka? I believe it was gold brocade on silk…. It may have been a tester braid, a sampler, to see which pattern someone liked, and ordered to measure….

Patterns! Symbols! Another minefield to explore! What symbols can you use? Was what you want, known during the period in time you wish to reenact! Most likely, yes, it probably was. Let’s face it, anything WE can think up nowadays, THEY did way better than we can! The use of patterns may be restricted due to lack of knowledge or misinterpretation of the symbol some time in history, but look around a bit further, and you’ll see certain patterns pop up everywhere around the world! From Finland to Japan to Bolivia to Italy to Australia to Canada and  back again! What you can or cannot wear, is up to your group’s authenticity policy code. It’s as simple as that. The same goes for colours! These were all depending on availability of resources at the place of origin! Forests give different dye stuffs than the seashore! Cochinille comes from a beetle not available in the north of Europe, so don’t use that kind of red if you want to be a viking age person! Of course trade-routes were well established, and there were some exotic colours available, and strange symbols, you only have to use your common sense, and do your own bit of research….. Some regimes had restrictions on both use of colours and use of symbols during their reign, depending on the wealth of the wealthiest. Your tabletweaver is not your historian! They will have done their research, of course, and likely they’ll be recreating braids for every period in time, from early bronze age right up to today…… Tabletweave makes very good dog-leads, or guy-ropes for your tent…..


This belt for example is based on a design from Bathilde Von Celles, wife of Chlodwig II, at the Frankish-Merowingisthen Hof, about 680AD.

What came before your period of choice, can be used, ONLY if you know for certain that it’s LATER, I’d advice against its use….


Last bit of advice? No, don’t ask if we used handspun and handdyed yarns, there isn't enough time, and we have other jobs to attend to as well, just like you… You didn’t arrive here by horse and cart either… ND

PS: Come and talk with us at Slane Castle in May

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