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


a stitch in time said...

Hooray, she's weaving again! : ) I'm so looking forward to see what you end up with after all your comparisons are done...

Anonymous said...

eric belt is the one with nice metal fittings that featured in the magrede exhibiotn a few years back? if so I have long coveted the metal fittings for the eric belt, but I would never get round to the weaving til the metalwork was done, and its not high on my list(mainly becasue I would have to give it to a friend to wear), so I shall watch with interest

Julie Størup said...

Do you have a description/pattern of how you made the Erik af Pommern belt? In Nesat X you say that it is made by octagonal tablets, but at the pictures you have used "normal" tablets.

Arachne said...

Julie: I'm not sure what pictures you are referring to, in the article there are no square tablets.

Are you thinking about the ones in one of the blog post from 2007? That's an incorrect priliminary sample because I hadn't solved the actual _weaving technique_ at the time I handed in my thesis. I didn't crack it until two or three weeks _after_ the term ended and that's why I submitted the NESAT article. It's _structurally possible_ to achieve the same weave with square tablets (except the 8-thread warp twining of the Dune Belt), which I point out in the article, but impractical. The description of the (correct) weaving technique of Eric of Pomerania's Belt and all the patterns are in the NESAT article.

I'm working on the Dune Belt now but that project isn't anywhere near being finished yet!

Julie Størup said...

Will you post the pattern when you a done?

Arachne said...


I will definitely write an article - but since all my research is done in my spare time it will probably be a while yet. I'm aiming for NESAT XII.

Alice J said...

Hi Victoria!
I was wondering if I could bother you with a question. There's a piece of a band in the Norvegian museum (maybe? the "fotoportal" sometimes seems to have mistakes in descriptions of the photos):
and a version in colour here:

I am trying to "crack" this technique, and I think it is similar to this Dune Belt you were working on. However, I don't think it's tablet weaving, I tried a different approach, and this is what I came up with: (the one on the right, of course ;) )
Could you please advice if I am on the right track? I would be happy and grateful for your thoughts.
I must write to the Norwegian museum to enquire, if this piece is indeed from Oseberg.

Arachne said...

Oops! I've been very bad at checking for new comments apparently...and missed this one big time. I'll reply anyway.

I have to admit that I'm not particularly familiar with the Oseberg textiles...
Do you happen to know the inventory number of the piece(s)?

It certainly doesn't look like tablet weaving structurally - it looks more like a (tapestry?) woven tabby band with some of the weft threads missing. It starts off with a bit that looks like soumak wrapping (to the left)and then it continues with what looks like a completely ordinary weft-faced weave.

If the pieces are form Oseberg, they should be published in the book about the textiles: "Osebergfunnet IV: Tekstilene"