In preparation for an event, Archaeology of the Dark Ages at Bishops Wood Environmental Centre (near Stourport, Worcestershire), mentioned in the last post, I’ve been helping to set up a Saxon style warp-weighted loom.

Nina, Deborah and I battled with metres (or yards, in old money) of flax yarn for several hours as this is a job that takes some time and patience. Nina was formerly a Worcestershire Young Archaeologists Club member and spent many a weekend with the group engaged in tasks like this. She is now a Cambridge University Archaeology student. Deborah Overton led Archaeology outreach at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service for many years and was the instigator of building the replica warp-weighted loom to demonstrate weaving at events.

First we had to measure out our warp, and in the absence of a warping frame we adopted a Heath Robinson approach and measured the warp out around two trees. The pole that Nina is holding created our ‘portee cross’ which separates two groups of warps in a cross so that they can be slipped over the cloth beam, or bar that holds the weaving..


Setting up the warp

We’d offered to set up this loom for use with school groups, but at the event we will have use of a loom in a replica Saxon hall on the site. With a fire burning and food cooking, it should be atmospheric but at this stage we had use of a spare room for the day.

Reconstructed Saxon Hall
Reconstructed Saxon hall, photo courtesy Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

We tied on the stone weights……

Hanging warp weights


Hanging warp weights

The warp threads on the loom needed to be corralled and organised……


We initially tied a continuous  heddle leash but weren’t very happy with the results.

Tying the heddle

The heavy weights, all of slightly uneven weight made this difficult, so we went back another day and used individual heddles for each warp. Either method can be used, it just depends on which is best suited, or which you prefer.

We were not able to start with a header band (are skills are not yet that advanced), but nevertheless we were able to, at least, start a few rows of weaving.

It’s going to be a busy day. I’ll also be running a flax processing session, helping with a drop spindle spinning session, and possibly speaking about this….

Burnt Saxon hall
Replica Saxon hall burnt in a fire in 2008, photo courtesy John Ryhmer

It was burnt in a fire in 2008 – an unfortunate event, that, nevertheless, leaves us with a visually interesting monument, educational resource, and site for research. But that’s another story…….