(particularly related to the supplemental selvedge)
Using a design that makes the most efficient use of the fabric, the cloaks were cut in wedges from the cloth. A 6’ length of cloth was measured and cut, then folded diagonally and cut between the corners. Each cloak has six wedges, one from each length, so variations in weaving are spread throughout both cloaks.
Since one of my main concerns for cutting the fabric was the tendency of
the twill to stretch out of shape, and since I was also concerned that the fabric might fray on the cut edges, I decided to add a supplemental edge to all cut edges by tabletweaving an extra band onto the fabric. This is certainly documentable as a period practice ‐‐ see, for example, the several examples noted by Crowfoot, et al. (1992).
The band is stitched to the fabric as it is being woven (see the diagram, Crowfoot, et al. (1992), p.161), and secures the edge from fraying and strain.*
*Three different ways to do this can be documented: 1) Stitches made consistently in one side of the new band and out the other, forming a tube of tablet weaving over the edge of the fabric; 2) Stitches made back and forth across the tablet weaving, and stitched directly into the edge of the fabric, with the fabric being cut before the new band was woven; and 3) Stitches made back and forth across the band, and stitched slightly in from the cut edge of the fabric, indicating that the band may have been woven before the fabric was cut. I chose to use the third method for the curves and a variant of the third for straight edges.
As with the main selvedge, the supplemental band was warped with all the tablets in an S configuration. The warp was stretched between the ends of a short band loom. Only three tablets were used on the band, as the need was only for a secure edge, not any width. For the straight seams on the cloaks, this supplemental band was woven and stitched to the fabric 1/8” inside the edge after the edge was cut. The reinforced edge was then stitched to one of the selvedges of the woven fabric. The selvedge was then doubled over the edge and the supplemental band and stitched down, so that no cut edge or
supplemental band was left exposed where it might fray. Once the fabric edge was secure with the extra band, it was safe to be sewn and stressed by seaming. Each wedge was sewn into one or the other of the growing cloaks, as soon as the supplemental band was finished.
The “shuttle” used for this portion of the tablet weaving was a hand‐made brass needle of a style commonly seen in period. For weft on the edging band, and to stitch the band to the fabric, I used the leftover warp thread from the main weaving.
Once all the wedges were sewn together, the hem was measured and marked, and the supplemental tabletwoven band added to the edge where the hem would be cut. The neckline was fitted and marked, and a free‐form tabletwoven band was added along the neckline cutting edge, before any cut was made. The neckline is the area that receives the most strain, and is
most easily stretched out of shape. If I had waited to stitch over the edge, I risked the neck stretching while I was tablet‐ weaving. Since it proved to be fairly simple to tablet‐weave without cutting the neck edge, I chose to do that. Making the freeform turns was the trickiest part, but that was solved by tying a supplemental thread onto the warp at the point where the turn was to be made, and using that to hold the warp under tension from the new direction.
Conclusions (Weaving ‐ Tablet):
I am pleased with this experiment in using tablet weaving for a purely functional, not a decorative, use. Tablet weaving is one of the most solid, non‐stretch forms of weaving possible, and should help the cloaks maintain their shape for many years. Being able to show two different functional uses in the cloaks is particularly satisfying, as this use, while common in period, has not been exploited to any extent by modern weavers. “Free‐form” supplemental bands, such as those stitched around the shaped necks of the cloaks, would also have a decorative use, possibly resulting in a pattern design much like that of a narrow braid or a couched thread on the surface of a fabric. I hope others will find all this an inspiration for their work, especially on important pieces that need to retain their shape.
Cloak Construction (cont.):
Much of the work in constructing the cloak was accomplished before the wool and the silk sections were sewn together. Once the stabilizing tabletwoven trim was in place on the straight seams, I sewed the selvedge to the cut edge, with the edge offset enough so that I could then come back and fold the woven edge over the cut edge, and further stabilize the seam with a flat‐fell seam, a period seam type. (See the seam types diagrammed in Ostergard, 2004, specifically figure 64 b on p. 98.)
When the outer wool shell of the cloak was done, the lining, of silk noil, was cut and sewn together. As the silk fabric was wider than the handwoven wool, the lining required only four full‐sized wedges and two half‐wedges on each edge, instead of the 6 full‐sized wedges of the wool. As with the outer shell, the seams of the silk was all handsewn, using silk noil thread to minimize differential shrinking between the thread and the fabric.
The silk noil lining fabric was another choice made on expediency, but based on reports from period practice. While silk noil would not have been used as an outer fabric ‐‐ the noils would have been rejected as flaws ‐‐ it certainly would have been acceptable as lining fabric. It would have provided the period owner with an economical way to have a silk‐lined garment, without costing more than the budget would allow.
With all the supplementary bands in place and the lining sewn together, the hem and neckline of both the outer shell and the lining were cut to shape. The shoulder seams of each were sewn with flat‐felled seams for reinforcement, then the necklines were sewn together,. All hems were sewn as double‐folded hems.
As noted above, the yellow wool outer fabric was all handsewn using leftover thread and a handmade brass needle purchased from a friend. This worked quite nicely, and the needle seemed to sharpen more the longer I used it with the wool ‐‐ I suspect it was being polished by the rubbing of the fibers.
The white silk noil lining was also handsewn, using silk noil thread I had purchased for weaving. I wanted to match the thread types to their fabric to prevent any differential shrinking between thread and fabric, whenever the cloaks might be washed in the future.
At present, I have edge‐stitched the neck opening and tacked down the lining at the seams, as the lining was riding up inappropriately without the stitching. Eventually, the front edges of the cloak will also be stitched in this manner. This has been skipped for the moment to enable easier examination of the seams and the free‐form tablet weaving.
The overall project to create handspun, handwoven cloaks for Baronial regalia has been a success. While it took much longer than originally anticipated (with several attacks of Real Life intervening) everything has finally resolved itself, and the Baron and Baroness were quite pleased with the cloaks when they were presented. I am certainly no longer daunted by the prospect of taking on this large a project, though I will probably wait for a year or two before attempting anything quite like it. In the meantime, though, I can look at the cloaks with pride.