The weekend before, I completed the very large order of tablet weaves. 9m of burgundy with gilt brocaded motifs, 8 meters of olive green with gilt brocaded motifs and 2 m of a threaded-in design.
Having worked so much brocade recently I've picked up a few things along the way. The first is that a good netting needle is a fantastic shuttle for the brocade threads. I am lucky enough to have some Victorian steel netting needles, they hold the threads in place very well and are thin enough to pass under the tie-down threads easily. As netting needles have been found in a medieval context, I wonder if weavers of the past also used these?
The other thing that I've been contemplating is the finishing of narrow wares. I don't mean how the ends of the weave are treated - this depends on the ultimate end purpose. (For instance, these are all garment trims, so no special treatment is needed for the ends). I mean the finishing of the weave itself.
Cloth weaving always uses some kind of finishing technique - if only washing to ensure the threads 'close up' and the weave is strengthened. It's not something that is normally considered when weaving narrow wares. Yet, when an item is found in the ground, the weave very often is compacted - basically a condition put down to damage and age. But what if the bands were treated in a particular way after they were were woven as part of the initial process?
This first came to me with the plate brocading I did earlier in the year. The pattern, like so many, is the result of finds of gold plate in graves which have the impression where the threads lie over the gold. Yet, many (especially from the Anglo-Saxon period) are assumed to have been woven with wool threads. Wool isn't as 'stiff' as silk or linen, and even with pure gold (which is very soft) I wonder if the impressions would have been so clear without further help. Likewise, the turn of the brocade weft at the back always seems quite flat. So, for my brocades, I used a rolling pin to flatten the letal after the weave was completed. This changed the overall appearance of the band very subtly, and, I thought, very nicely.
So should bands of other materials be finished in the same way as cloth? Should wools for instance be washed, so that the threads shrink somewhat? Or silks? This has taken me on a whole new tangent for trials, when all of the orders are completed!
I still have about 5m left to weave of a gold and silver band (like the one I'm using in my profile pic at the moment), for a total order of 16m, so that's on the loom now. I also have a really interesting bit of passementerie to complete, pipe decoration. It's taken me quite a while to find a the right materials for the project but I am finally happy with what I've bought and am looking forward to this as it's a very different sort of project. In between I've made some linen and wool laces, and then have another 5 metres of tablet weave to complete. It's nice to have things which must be completed when I'd probably otherwise like to sit around feeling blah.