Wire Weaving – Not as Simple as it Seems: Part 6 – Significance

Last time I asked the question: But is any of this significant?

I think it is. The two forms of wire weaving are distinctly different in form. The Nahlbinding form uses a distinctive looping pattern, known in fiber circles as the Coptic stitch. In addition, the Nahlbinding form, like Nahlbinding that is done with yarn, uses relatively short pieces of wire, usually 12 to 18 inches long, that are joined together to form a woven chain or some other form. The knit form uses the same pattern as the knit stitch in Knitting. The knit form also uses a continuous piece of wire. The length of this wire is limited only by the ability of the maker to create it.

So now we have a problem. The original form of Trichinopoly, is the knit form. But historically it has not been sorted correctly from the Nahlbinding form. The teacher in my Gulf War class chose to call the Nahlbinding form “Baltic Wire Weaving”. The problem with that is that it certainly did not originate there. Several years ago I found a piece of it in the touring exhibit of the female pharaoh, Hapshetsut, which puts the date back to 1508–1458 BC, and Egypt is no where near the Baltic.

I don’t really have a solution for the naming problem, but I do have another VERY important point to make. When I began in the SCA many years ago I was told that knitting was not done pre-1600. Then latter I was told it was brought to Spain by the Arabs and was used there by about 1200. Then I ran across the fact that during the reign of Henry VIII a law was enacted requiring all men to wear a knit cap on Sunday, and another stating that women must wear white knit caps unless their husband was of considerable social standing, and only the nobility could wear knit goods that were produced outside of the realm. And then about four or five years ago the Museum of London digitized, and made available, an extensive collection of knit coifs, flat caps and other items that are pre-1600.

But what does that have to do with Trichinopoly. Simple. The original identified form of this wire weaving, the Trewhiddle Hoard, is believed to have deposited about 868 AD in the Cornwall area of England. And there appear to be other pieces in Scotland and Ireland. That puts the structure of knitting in the British Isles before 868 AD, considerably older that the 1500’s.

Now we have the opportunity for more research. In Scandinavia we find Nahlbinding used for both fiber and wire. In Egypt we see both knitting and Nahlbinding techniques used in fiber. The Victoria and Albert has a Nahlbinding pair of socks, and I have personally seen the same technique used in jewelry. Can we locate the knit structure in Egypt in wire jewelry? And in the British Isles we find the knit structure at least as early as 868 AD in metal. Can we push it back farther in metal? And can we find it in fiber? Fiber is much more easily destroyed by time and the environment than most metal, but bogs can preserve animal fibers, like wool. The time has come to actively revisit old finds, in both metal and fiber, with a thorough understanding of knit and Nahlbinding structures. The time has come to make sure that researchers are well versed in the nuances of wire weaving structures.

Dated approximately 872-5, based on coins in t...

Dated approximately 872-5, based on coins in the hoard. Found at Trewhiddle, Cornwall, England 10: Curved ornamental mounts, function unknown 11: Scourge (whip) made of tube-knitted wire, with plaits and knots, with a glass bead attachment 13: Decorated pin with hollow head 15: Flattened ornamental strip of unknown function 16: Decorated strap end 17: Bronze buckle, with the tongue missing 18: Plain cast strap ends and belt slides 19: Coins and coin fragments (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wire Weaving – Not as Simple an Issue as it Seems -Part 4 – Wire Weaving and Trichinopoly: Are they the same?

So when I took that class at Gulf War, I was immediately excited when I saw the information that the teacher was presenting. Sad to say I actually remembered having run across it a couple of years earlier, while looking for something else. It was one of those things that I planned to “get back to”. I tried to explain to the teacher how important her information was and that she could use fiber terms to help her students to understand the structures that she was discussing. Her response – I don’t do fiber. OK. But a LOT of people do – more than the number of people who do metal. This is why I require my apprentices to have an open mind towards at least understanding the basic technology of crafts other than their own.

Back in 1774 a hoard was located in an old tin mine. Known as the Trewhiddle Hoard. It had some very unusual and unique metal items, including what is believed to be the oldest surviving Christian ceremonial scourge. The scourge was made of silver wire. The Reverand Philip Rashleigh managed to acquire most of the find and wrote a report on it in 1788, which was published in the Society of Antiquaries journal, Archaeologia, IX, 187. As was typical of many of the discoveries that occurred during this timeframe, a considerable portion of the original find has disappeared. Fortunately, the scourge has survived and is in the British Museum.

The original report by Rashleigh does not shed any light on the structure of the scourge, being a simple listing of the items that were found. The decision to call the technique Trichinopoly is lost somewhere in my archives. I thought that I had discovered the gentle’s name, but I can’t currently locate it. Supposedly the story was that being stationed at some point in Trichinopoly, India, a British Colonial Administrative District, the individual in question recognized the technique as something that he had seen in India, and gave the technique a name.

In 1961 D.M Wilson and C.E. Blunt published an article, again in Archaeologia (Jan 1961, Vol. 98) titled, The Trewhiddle Hoard. And they detailed the structure of the scourge wire.

Trewhiddle Hoard Scourge FOrmI have to admit, this brief excerpt makes my head hurt. Looking at the picture the structure of the scourge is obviously knit. The author’s description of the “circular plaiting” as tatting is incorrect. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary tatting is: a delicate handmade lace formed usually by looping and knotting with a single cotton thread and a small shuttle. My Mother used to make tatted doilies, I know what it looks like. Interestingly enough, their description of the spool knitting that the children were doing is correct at least as far as the structure of the “plaiting” is concerned. I decided to investigate the individual finds that are mentioned to try to determine if they were being consistent in the use of the word Trichinopoly, or not.

Next time: Consistent or Not, and Why is ANY of this Significant?

Wire Weaving – Not as Simple an Issue as it Seems – Weaving, Nahlbinding, and Knitting

Last time we discussed three basic forms of chains – simple linked chains, loop in loop chains, and wire weaving. The reason that I needed to discuss those things was because we need to start looking objectively at the words we are using to describe a craft. And this time we are supposed to talk about Weaving, Nahlbinding, and Knitting.

Why? Because our ultimate topic is Wire Weaving.

If we enforce the idea of the name of a process being correct, based on the definitions of the words in that name, we need to look at each word separately. The chains that we have looked at all use wire, but the way in which that wire is used is dramatically different.

According to the name of the chain we are supposed to be talking about a type of weaving. Dictionary.com gives this definition of weaving: ” to form or construct something, as fabric, by interlacing threads, yarns, strips, etc. ” OK, I have to admit that my personal definition tends more towards the warp and weft theory of fabric construction, but if we use their definition, we are OK.

As always, being a crafty geek I don’t do just metal work, I also spend a lot of time doing fiber things, and one of those things that I tried was Nahlbinding. Now one of the first things that you will notice about this craft is that no one seems to be able to agree on how the name of the technique should be spelled. Why is that? Because every Scandinavian language has their own word for the technique, and they are each slightly different.

But getting back to the basics of the technique… guess what? The pattern that is used for the classic “Viking Wire Weaving” is the same as the Coptic stitch in Nahlbinding.

I had also been involved for a long time with the study of Nahlbinding vs. Knitting, and the arguments about which came first and where they both originated. So discovering that the Vikings were using the same technique for working in both wire and fiber was not really particularly shocking to me.

Craftspeople in less technologically isolated cultures (the crafts are often done in semi-home workshops, rather than in technology parks and factories) would have been more likely to be exposed to the techniques that were used in crafts other than their own. The Egyptians were using the “Viking Wire Weaving” technique long before there was such a thing as Vikings. And they were also using the technique of Nahlbinding to make socks before there were Vikings. This pair of socks owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum is an excellent example of that. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O107787/pair-of-socks-unknown/

Another unfortunate name for wire weaving is Knit Chain. But at least to Knitters, knitting means something very specific. The graphic below shows the structure of a simple knit piece, a very different structure from Nahlbinding.

Knit structureJust in case you have forgotten, this is the structure of Nahlbinding.

wire weaving

So obviously, Wire Weaving, or Viking Wire Weaving, is NOT a knit chain.

Next time: Wire Weaving and Trichinopoly: Are they the same?