Sunday, 14 April 2013

Back to Textiles

Today sees a return to textiles, the more usual theme of this blog.
This time last year I was in Japan on the Japanese Textile Study Tour.  It seems so recent and yet so long ago.  I have just spent a wonderful few hours sorting through the box of things I brought home from Japan, fabrics I bought or was given, things I made, gifts from the Indigo Sisters... and have three small projects lined up to begin now that the Wedding Quilt has left my hands.  In a few weeks I am to have an operation on my foot, two weeks of sitting with my foot raised will provide lots of lovely time for hand stitching.
While I was away last week I visited the Roman site Vindolanda with Saz and Sam.  This is an amazing fort and settlement, archaeological digging continues and there is a museum showing some of the wonderful things that have already been found.  I homed in on the textiles.  My photos were taken through the display cases so are not of the best quality but I thought you would still like to see them.  I have taken all the information from the display boards in the museum.
This child's sock is made from two old pieces of cloth (boro!) and is the only complete garment found at Vindolanda so far.
The textiles are all woven from wool with a range of weaving techniques from coarse to very fine.
The patterns shown here are:
Plain 1/1 Tabby
Basket and Half-Basket
Plain, Chevron and Diamond Twills
Decorative Woven Bands
This is a Roman "housewife" (a needle-case) containing a selection of graded fine-iron needles. Soldiers carried something like this in their kitbags to make repairs to their clothing while on the frontier.  Surgeons and medics would use similar needle cases in case of emergencies on the frontline.
These are a selection of needles recovered from Vindolanda, including a large copper alloy example. The bone and tiny iron needles would have been used for all types of sewing.  The fine metal examples would also be used for medical purposes.

The Romans used a variety of different dyes and chemical treatments to colour their textiles.  The root of the madder plant was used to produce a red dye, and a piece of checked cloth found shows traces of a lichen-based purple.  Yellow was reasonably easy to achieve by using a variety of local barks, lichens and heather, and adding a rusty nail to the dyeing process could produce a pleasant greenish hue.  Urine was used to soak the dyestuffs before they were boiled, which would also alter the colour of the wool.  All of the dyes were set using the mineral alum.


  1. love seeing these items and reading about them. thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, fascinating Lis. Sewing and weaving have joined women together throughout history. Thanks for the post. So interesting.

  3. We've come a long way with rotary cutters and longarm quilting machines. There is something very comforting, though, will all these primitive tool, and the result, coarse weaving, beautiful plant dyes are not to be dismissed.
    Wishing you a speedy recovery from next week's surgery.

  4. That's amazing. I love the idea of a sock made from two pieces, could you see how it was constructed?

  5. thanks, Lis. Absolutely fascinating, if they were weaving diamond twills they must have been working on a 4 harness loom (I expect it was a backstrap loom), it is amazing that any of the textiles have survived. Love the needle case, I have a tiny bone one that looks similar. Good luck with the surgery.


I really appreciate your lovely comments, ideas and opinions, they make my day. Thank you for visiting Piece'n'Peace,
hugs, Lis x