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February 10, 2005

Tubular Tablet Weaving

From an email from

Henshall, A. 1964. Five tablet-woven seal tags. Archaeological Journal
121:154-162.

5. Multicoloured tablet-woven cord

The charter is by John (de Balliol), King of Scotland, to Nicholas de Haia, of thelands of Erroll, etc. Granted at Lindores, 1 August 1294.

Material. Warp: silk yarn, 2-ply twisted S, dark blue, salmon pink (mainly faded to buff), white and pale yellow-green (white except where protected from the light). The white and green yarns are finer than the others, and the green has been used double.

The weft appears to be of the same white yarn as is used in the warp.

Size and condition. The diameter is 1.5 mm; the remaining length is about 46 cm. The condition is good except that it is somewhat faded.
All the ends are torn and the seal is missing.

The weave. The cord is worked on eight 4-hole tablets (ie 36 warp threads). The weave is plain, all the tablets being given a quarter turn in the same direction for each weft. The weaving is even and closely beaten, there
being about 40 weft threads per inch (16 per cm). All the tablets have been threaded in the
same direction with one exception, the 4th tablet on the diagram, with the result that throughout the cord these
4 threads are twisted in the opposite direction to all the rest. The cord is woven in the same way as a normal braid [band] except that the weft instead of passing backwards and forwards is always passed through the shed in the
same direction and pulled up tight to make the weaving tubular. This is, in fact, quite easy to do.
Reversal of the direction of the twists occurs at intervals of between 1.75 and 2.75 inches, and can be plainly
seen on three of the cords in the photograph.

The pattern. The pattern consists of two vertical rows of small squares, one blue and the other pink, with a green dot in the middle of each, and separated by white lines (unfortunately only the dark blue squares show on the
photograph). This pattern is achieved by the order in which the tablets are threaded with the different
coloured yarns:
1st tablet: 1,2,3 holes pink, 4 white
2nd tablet: 1,3 pink, 2 green, 4 white
3rd tablet: as 1st
4th tablet: all white
5th tablet: 1,2,3 blue, 4 white
6th tablet: 1,3 blue, 2, green, 4 white
7th tablet: as 5th
8th tablet: all white

The work twists spirally of its own accord if the direciton of the spiral made by the weft coincides with the direction of the twists of the tablet threads; for instance if the tablets are giving the threads an S twist then the weft must be
threaded through the shed from right to left and the cord will automatically twist in the opposite direction, Z-wise.

Comment. The method of making a tubular cord by tablet weaving with a spiral weft has not previously been recorded. It is, however, a simple way of producing a smooth cord suitable for seal tags.