Kentish Anglo-Saxon Gold Brocaded Fillet

Illustration #12 from Crowfoot
Illustration #12 from Crowfoot’s “Early Anglo-Saxon Gold Braids”, Sarre, grave 90

Note: I’ve decided to go ahead and hit publish on this article even though I have not yet woven the band. I think there’s interesting details here that others may appreciate. Someday I hope to get back to this and actually weave the band.
For Kentish Women there are several examples of gold brocading which has been found on or near the skull. An article by Elizabeth Crowfoot from 1967 identifies these as “gold decorations on the coif, or fillet for the hair”.

On page 196 of the Buckland book there’s an illustration of a brocaded tablet weaving that was found in Graves 391B and 420 (Parfitt, p. 196).

The brocading pattern for this appears to be identical to a pattern in illustration 12 “Sarre, grave 90 (no. 17)” shown in “Early Anglo-Saxon Gold Braids” (Crowfoot, p. 52).

This pattern has been mapped by Ælfflæd Ælfgaresdohtor on “Ælfflæd’s Saxon Rabbit” here:

This is the pattern I plan to recreate.

What the sources say:
(Parfitt, p. 200.) …although the gold strips from Grave 420 are wider and more yellow than the strips from Grave 391B. All the threads are flat strips cut from gold foil, 25-55 microns thick, evenly cut in Graves 391B and 420…

(Parfitt, p. 200.) In all four examples the width of the patterned zone is 5-6mm wide, which, allowing for corded edges, probably represents a band of about 10mm width.

(Parfitt, p. 200.) from Graves 391B and 420 both proved to be the same weave (Fig 5.13j)

(Parfitt, p. 200.) The greatest amount of thread came from Grave 420, where the different pieces added up to a total band length of over 300mm (~11 inches).

(Parfitt, p. 200) Grave 420 physical description: Strip 400-520 microns wide, mostly 450 microns, varing thickness. Pattern as 391B, but gold is more yellow and strip wider.

The Plan – Practical Assumptions and compromises:
In the description of Grave 420 the gold brocading strips are described as “mostly 450 microns” wide. This works out to 0.45 mm wide. Commercially the closest available broad plate I could find is No. 11. No. 11 is about 1 mm wide which is about twice as wide as the period piece, but it’s the gold broad plate I could readily find for purchase.

I purchased No 11 Broad plate MGBP11 Yard(s) of No. 11 Broad Plate…. – Gilt from

Through experimentation I’ve found that 9 cards each with 4 threads of all forward turning in size 10 crochet thread is about 10mm wide.

The brocading is described as 5-6mm wide.. That’s 5-6mm brocading over 9 cords. This translates to a thread which is finer than the size 10 cotton crochet thread. That said, I know that my gold plate is about twice the width of the gold used in the finds.

The sources are very clear that these Kentish brocades are done using strips of gold metal. I’m forced to wonder:
– How did the medieval gold smith make super thin plates of gold metal? I am totally in the dark as to how a sheet of metal is made.. let alone how it’s made so thin in the 6th century.
– How did the medieval craftsperson get this strip cut into widths 450 microns wide? Honestly even at 1mm wide, the strip is tiny.. and I can’t conceive modernly what I would have to do to cut that strip in half.. and beyond that I can’t conceive of how the medieval craftsperson would have done it.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth and Hawkes, Sonia Chadwick, “Early Anglo-Saxon Gold Braids,” Medieval Archaeology 11. 1967. p. 42-86. PDF.

Parfitt, Keith and Anderson Trevor, eds. Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery, Dover: Excavations 1994. (The Archaeology of Canterbury, n.s. 4.) Canterbury, UK: Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 2012. Print.

Ælfflæd’s Saxon Rabbit

Tablet Weaving in the mid to late Anglo-Saxon context

3 thoughts on “Kentish Anglo-Saxon Gold Brocaded Fillet

    1. I really don’t know. The “Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery” source was clear that it was foil cut to widths.. but metal is not my art so I don’t know if that’s just what the researchers assumed or if they had reasons for that assessment.

  1. I’d trust that it’s foil — fine wire-drawing and foil-beating are each so labor-intensive, you wouldn’t want to do both — plus, if the weaver can lay in each strip of foil and [not a weaver, hoping I’m using the right phrase] close the shed and go on, the result is “what you see is what you get” without risk to the also-labor-intensive fiber art.

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