Åse Eriksen

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                                                                                                                                              Samitum weaving





Test weaving
Weaving Samit/Samitum in an

up-right loom Tubular weave – rundvev

(Åse Eriksen- juni 2014)
(This is a practical study, done by a

weaver, with curiosity and a small



















See the work in the loom:
















The reason for this experiment goes back to the times I first learned about warp faced- and weft faced compound weave. I found the bindings structures in Agnes Geijers ”Ur textilkonstens historia”, and have since 1980 used them freely in my works a textile artist. I have learned that there is a lot of possibility for variations, that have been used interchangeably throughout the years. For the weft- faced compounding weave which is the subject here, the main characteristics are the two warps which have different tasks in the binding structure. One steering the pattern, the other is controlling the tabby/twill.


There is an agreement about the fact that the pattern in the Chinese warp faced compound weave was woven directly in the loom without any mechanical pattern repeating equipment.  And also that the weft faced compound weave is the best fit binding structure for developing the same. But the weft faced compound weave, must also for a long time have been woven on simple looms without any mechanical pattern repeating equipment.


I started this experiment because I wanted to know how Samitum, or weft faced compound twill is to weave in an upright loom. I choose a tubular weave for my experiment.
Although my experiment is done with thicker wool, the Samitum is most known woven in silk. In a warp weight loom the weft is beaten upwards, while silk because of its smooth character most likely has to be beaten downwards. Margrethe Hald consider tubular weaving to be older than the warp weight loom, and she also associate this loom with the 3 shaft twill.



















Fig. 5 and 6. There has been found Taquete, weft faced compound tabby, made in wool, both in Antinoë from 200  AD, and also in Lou-Lan from between 100-300 AD.
(I would like to see the lower edge on of the Lou-Lan taquete.)


I have built my small test loom as simple as I could. In reality it is just two beams and a stick or a solid rope for the warp to turn around. There is no reed, and I am using some hooks to help me holding the width. The selvages are a cotton rope, were the weft is turning. On the pictures I have put a black cardboard behind the warp, just to make it easier to see.


I have been warping with two treads, one white and one yellow. Density is about 6 – 7 warp treads pr. cm. The white one is for the binding warp, and the yellow is for the pattern warp, the main warp, the inner warp or the filling warp. There have been many names on this warp, which in Samitum is controlling the pattern. As a weaver, I have always called it the pattern warp, both because of is its function,  and because it then refers to the Chinese binding structure warp faced compound weave, where every second weft tread is a pattern weft, a term John Becker also used.


The white warp treads are put in heddles, three shafts. Every second tread is yellow, the pattern warp, it is  moving freely without any connection.

In this experiment I am just using two weft colors, to make a complete weft/ passè. The wefts, white A and red B is passing from selvedge to selvedge, but in contra pattern sheds.  Always starting with A, and B in the contra pattern shed. The three twill shaft is following in order, and for each shaft change there is two wefts A and B/one passè. 
When pattern is changing, it always starts with weft A.


My pattern is a larger and free copy of the bird from the Oseberg findings. The original is drawn by Sofie Kraff. In the book about the Oseberg findings vol. 4 The Textiles, the density in the warp is given up to be 36 - 40 silk treads pr. cm ( binding- and pattern warp). I have been weaving a copy of this small fragment in my ordinary loom, in silk, so I know the pattern well, and it will be easier to concentrate on weaving in the tubular loom.


The pictures are showing the process. Some difficulties of cause in the beginning, but I soon understand that it is easier to weave Samitum in this loom, than in my ordinary loom. Picking the pattern first weft A, is done below the shafts, where it is more easy to see how the pattern is moving in the fabric. The pattern shed on the stick has to be transported over the shafts before any shaft is raised. Fig. 7.


Looking at old samitum/taquete fabrics, you will notice that some passè is repeating itself, as if it was decoupure/steps. Sometimes it can repeat many times depending on the picture it is building. In this loom you can save the first weft A, when the pattern is repeating.


As I worked along, I experienced that if the loom has been higher I also could have saved all the A`s in a pattern/picture unit. And when using it again I have to reverse the pattern, but just once. If I want to repeat it I have to pick it again see Fig 16.
















































































































































Researchers today are making models, else it is difficult to understand things of complex matter. My greatest challenge in this project was perhaps to weave without reed, and to keep the width correct. I have made free selvedges, and an easy system for stretching the fabric during the work.
The surprise was that it was easier to work with the pattern, comparing with my ordinary loom. Also the fact that I can save the stick with the shed for weft A for next passè, if the next is repeating the first. In this workingspace I can imagine that there is some controlling possibility for working with more than two colors in a complete weft.

This experiment was done in a small scale, with wool, but I am looking forwards to the opportunity to work it out in a bigger scale, with silk and a higher density, with more complex pattern, and also with more than two colors in passè.


My hypothesis is that many of the Samitum silks, also the more intricate patterned with more than two colors , are done in a vertical loom, not necessary in a tubular weave, but without more equipment than I have shown here.




John Becker, Pattern and Loom, 1986

Agnes Geijer, Ur textilkonstens historia, 1972

Margrete Hald, Ancient Danish Textiles, from bugs and burials, 1980

R. Shurinova, Coptic Textiles, collection Pushkin Museum, 1969

W. F. Volbach, I tissuti del museo Sacro Vaticano, 1942

W. Fritz Volbach, Early Decorative textiles, edition 1969

Sofie Kraft, Fra Osebergfunnets tekstiler, 1955

A.E. Christensen og M. Nochert, Osebergfunnet, Bind IV, Tekstilene 2006,

Ulla Cyrus Zetterstrøm, Textile Terminologi 1995



Fig. 3 A small roundel with  two men flanking s tree?. From 600 centry, size 9,4 x 10,3 cm. From the State Pushkin Museum of fine Arts, Moscow.  This is how I think early experiments with samitum in a drawloom looks. With clear steps. I can count to about 30  pattern steps in this  fabric.


Fig. 4 Another  roundel with four men hunting wild animales, from 800 centry. Museo Sacro, Vatican

The photo is from  W.F. Volbarcs book from 1969, photo of the same textile is found in an older book, I tissuiti del museo Sacro Vaticano, 1942 by the same auther. In this book it is possible to count the ”steps”, they are up to 164 im weft and 475 in warp direction, with four color in passè. We can just guess what equipment they had to weave this fabric.

Fig. 1 and 2

Fig. 7 , 8 and 9 .The pattern is picked on a stick, for weft A, in the yellow pattern warp( red in the drawings). It is easy to pick here where I can see the already woven pattern. The stick/shed is transported over the  shafts, before raising the shafts that is controlling the white binding warp (green in the drawings).

Fig. 10 and 11. Stick A is put on the edge, and the shed is clear under the raised shafts, the weft is placed.


Fig. 12 and 13. While the same shaft is still raised, the next shed for weft B is picked contra shed A, in the pattern warp.

Fig 14 and 15. Stick B is put on the edge and weft B is placed. Now both weft A and B in the passè can be beaten down, and the shaft is lowered. The picking starts again with A and next shaft is raised.




During the work I discover that there was a possibility for saving and repeating pattern. But in my small loom the pattern had to be very limited, if I was to save it. After using one ”step”, I can push the stick containing the shed for A,  upwards in the loom, over my workings pace. When I am finished with the pattern unit, the saved pattern will be a reverse of the woven pattern unit. It is not possible to start from the beginning, I have to reverse, and I can not save it again. When I am finished with the saved pattern unit I have to start all over again.
The saved unit does not have to be used at once, but can be saved for later use in the same fabric.



So the simple Taquete in wool from Antinoë and perhaps also from Lou-Lan fig.5 and 6 could have been done this way, with a very simple pattern unit, picking, weaving, saving and reversing the pattern.





Fig. 16