The purpose of this project was to explore the construction of the Oseberg Narrow Band, using materials that I had on hand.
For additional photos see full documentation at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/10seKW2cXZWfaGFaqzQa3ZzBUmh-7JhPkC4ZyIJsO7T8/edit?usp=sharing
In 1904, a viking ship burial mound was found in Oseberg, just outside of Tønsberg in Vestfold, Norway. Among the viking age finds, part of a tablet woven band of silk and possibly flax was found. The band, listed as 12L1 in the book, Osebergfunnet : bind iv, Tekstilene (Book, 2006), is now known as the Oseberg Narrow Band.
Image of band in situ: https://vevstua.bull-sveen.net/?p=5556
As stated above, it is believed that the original band was made of silk and possibly flax or linen. At the time that I was making this band, silk was financially out of reach. I did have some thread that was a 60/40 cotton linen blend that I had used on other weaving projects. So I knew that it would be sturdy and hold up to wear and wash. So that is what I ended up using.
Tablet Weaving is a weaving technique where tablets or cards are used to create a gap, called a shed, through which a weft thread is passed. It creates strong narrow bands of various designs or patterns. A pattern is formed by threading the tablets left to right (S threaded) or right to left (Z threaded) and then turning them in a prescribed order.
In the viking period, weaving tablets were made of bone, wood or leather. For this project, I used tablets which are made of heavy duty card stock, as I don’t own any made of the above materials.
(a warped loom in situ, with weaving tablets attached. Image: Pg 187 – Osebergfundet IV, Tekstilene)
In the same excavation that band 12L1 was found, archeologists also found part of a loom (see image above). At this time, I do not know if 12L1 was worked on a similar type of loom.
For my adaptation of this band, I used a modern inkle loom and the instructions provided by Shelagh Lewins on her website.
The Oseberg pattern is a threaded design of ten tablets with a single hole in each corner, continuously turning forward. It creates a slanted box design.
One of the problems that I encountered was that a large twist started to build up behind the tablets.
Modern weavers have done things like untied the warp threads to untwist them and then re-tied them. Others have flipped their tablets, so that the direction they were threaded, reverses. Still others work on looms that were specially built for use with fishing swivels, that you unhook, untwist your threads, and re-hook. These are techniques I only found out about as I was writing this paper.
What I did to fix the built up twist, was reverse the turning of the tablets. By turning tablets backwards, it released the twist. Now, instead of just going willy-nilly and reversing my tablet turning when-ever, I created a pattern with it. For my small loom, I was able to get six squares woven before the twist got too big. So that was the point where I reversed the turning of the tablets to make the boxes slant the other direction. Six boxes forward. Six boxes backwards.
In the completed piece, you can see that there is a pyramid between the boxes. That was created at each reversal. A pleasant surprise!
Moving forward the things that I would investigate are:
- The difference using a warp of silk thread and linen thread will make.
- Making tablets from wood, bone and leather, and how the fibre will react with it.
- Find out how the build up of the twist was dealt with during this period.
- Try to confirm the type of loom that this band would have been weaved on.
Christensen, Arne Emil; Nockert, Margareta. Osebergfundet IV, Tekstilene. Universitetet i Oslo 2006. Osebergfunnet : bind iv, Tekstilene (Book, 2006)