Qasr Abrim Garment: V-Neck Shaping on a Loom
As I wander through the numerous museums in and around London, and view the exhibits and artifacts , I see lots of intricate pottery in the collections. A lot is known about pottery because it is an art form that is durable and can withstand being buried for centuries. But textiles are fragile and often all that is found is small fragments, so I think these are often overlooked by the archaeologist.
When textile fragments are found they are carefully cleaned. They are brought out on display in museums for short lengths of time and then stored in carefully controlled vaults to help preserve them from the elements.
When I do come across the textile pieces I get quite excited, I look at them carefully and then often wonder, “Now, how did they do that?” Lots of questions come to mind whenever I look at an ancient textile.
As weavers and hand spinners, we appreciate the work that can go into a piece of fabric. We know what was involved in the processing of the cotton, hemp, linen or wool. The work that was needed to clean and scour the fleece, or to harvest and rett the flax, and then hours involved in hand spinning the yarn.
If the garment was dyed, then what was involved in the dye process? The dye plants would have been gathered in season, and prepared for the dyebath. The yarn would have been mordanted and then dyed.
And if the piece was woven, what type of loom was it woven on? How many shafts? Is there a pattern? The warp would have been carefully planned and calculated. What was its use? Who was it for? How many threads per inch? How should the yarn be spun? At what twist? The weaver of this cloth of ancient time would have had many of the same thoughts in mind as we do now when we plan our projects.
During an afternoon touring the British Museum, in London, I noticed this handwoven cotton top. On closer examination, I realized that the V-neck had no sewn selvages, so I think it must have been shaped on the loom.
This particular piece of work has been on my mind for some time. How was it shaped? How could I duplicate this piece of work? I had an idea and to test my theory of the shaping of the neck of this garment, I tried it on the end of a hemp warp that I had on my loom.
I tested the weaving for the neckline, but still have further questions and things to explore at another time. There is some sort of pattern at the bottom edge of the garment. And how was the fringe work done?
3rd-4th Century AD From Qasr Ibrim
This section of undyed cotton formed part of a garment resembling the modern ‘bikini’
British Museum, London, UK
How I wove the Sample for V Neck Shaping
Garment V Neck Shaping on Loom