Autumn Symposium and AGM 2015 Abstracts & Readings

Posted here are abstracts and photos received from our contributors.  Each of them has also included a list of suggested readings.

Caulking ship's planks with oakum, c1840s (c)EH
Independent and Constructive Lives: How in the past clever humans improved themselves by using the living materials around them.
Elizabeth Heckett

1) A Bronze Age example of great interest is the site at Killymoon, Co. Tyrone (c 1000 BC) where textiles, twined objects, spindle whirls, human and animal hair were found. The wool cloth and the horsehair woven ornament from Cromaghs, Armoy, Co. Antrim are dated to 900-500 BC; the ornament has been exquisitely worked in herringbone 2/2 twill of extremely high standard.
Tabby wool cloth (c) EH

2) From Cork a late eleventh-century industrial wool cloth, with Z-spun yarn and interesting edgings, is an unusual find unlike other coarse tabbies, and, again unusually, smells strongly of tar. It may be possible that the cloth was used for sailcloth, caulking activities or part of a tarpaulin or packaging. The use of sails would depend on whether horse fat would enable them to be used successfully.

3) In a 16th century boat from Drogheda, Co. Louth, fragments of a narrow rope attached to a stone were found in the harbour. The hemp rope was probably partially treated with tar. This rope may have been used for sea bank fishing. Interesting comparanda have been found in Late Viking Age and Medieval excavations in Waterford where forty pieces of rope, twine and string were found.

Suggested readings:
Heckett, Elizabeth Wincott. 'Late Bronze age textiles, hair and fibre remains, and spindle whorls from Killymoon, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland', NESAT IX, Archaeological Textiles, Braunwald, 18-21. May 2005

Heckett, Elizabeth Wincott. 'Textiles that work for their living: A Late Eleventh-Century Cloth from 35-39 South Main Street, Cork, Ireland', The Viking Age - Ireland and the West, J Sheehan & D O'Corrain. August 2005.

Old Bleach (c) NLI
Sheets to welcome you in and sheets to bury you in.
Jean M. Walker
The linen press the wardrobe and the kitchen all of these were areas of female control within the household.

In the days when a person could ’die of a wetting’ keeping clothing and bedding protected from the wet and damp an important part of maintaining the health of the farm household.

All women were given a grounding in knitting and sewing – plain or fancy depended on your status – in the household and the washing drying and ironing of household linens was also women’s work

Taking the strong farm as a case study, both as producer and consumer of textiles, this paper examines the management of household textiles within the home of the ‘strong farmer’ and seeks to establish the extent to which fabric handling in all aspects were a daily part of female house-workload.

Looking at diaries and archival sources the function of various household linens will be explored, investigating how far the function and wellbeing of household members depended on the quality and maintenance of clothing provided for their use by the women of the household. It will look at types of textiles used in the household, their purpose; how material was sourced, and ask how far did the chain extend in textile creation, use, and its daily management in the Irish farmhouse.

SprangBonnet (c) CJ
Sprang anyone? - Oral paper and Demonstration
Carol James
Textile artist, Canada

An examination of Bronze Age bonnets in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen reveals diverse stitch patterns worked on tightly spun wool singles. Recreating items using schematic drawings presents a challenge, as does work with single – spun wool. Textile artist Carol James has been exploring sprang for 20 years. She shares information gained from her experience replicating ancient pieces. This information includes her pattern mapping technique, as well as her experience working with very fine single-spun yarn. Carol designed her mapping method in such a manner that she can use it as a pattern in the replication process. She has tested her notation by recreating the motifs of diverse bonnet patterns from Bronze Age to Coptic bonnets. She has also tested her notation for ease of use with individuals who are novices to the sprang technique. Carol has had experience working with very finely spun wool singles. She touches on issues such as the amount of twist required in yarn for a sprang piece, how to avoid thread breakage, tricks to coax ‘sticky warps’, why sprang pieces curl, and how to get them to lie flat.

Carol will be presenting a paper ‘Appreciation of the ancient craftsmen through the recreation of a 1st century sprang hairnet from the necropolis in Antinoopolis’, at the Katoen Natie Textiles of the Nile River Conference in Antwerp in November 2015. She presented similarly at the Vth Purpureae Vestes Symposium in Barcelona in March 2014, and at the Early Textile Study Group in London September 2014. She recently created a replica of a 1000-year-old cotton shirt for the collection of the Arizona St In 2013 she created a replica of the Washington-Braddock sash for George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Carol has created replicas of diverse Bronze Age and Copticarticles and two books, including the how-to text Sprang Unsprung.

Suggested readings:
The standard for information on ancient sprang textiles is Margrethe Hald and Peter Collingwood.

Hald, Margrethe. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials. National Museum of Denmark, Fyens Stiftsbogtrykkeri, 1980, ISBN 87-480-0312-3 Pages 251-277.

Collingwood, Peter. The techniques of Sprang.
Faber and Faber Ltd. 1974. ISBN 1 55821 930 7

I teach the method, and have published a book
The book presents the technique in a modern context, but also cites ancient examples.

James, Carol. Sprang Unsprung.
Self-published. 2011. ISBN 978-0-9784695-2-8

Abrahamsson, Tine. Sprang een oude vlechttechniek.
Cantecleer. 1975. ISBN 90 213 1346 4

Nijman, Fenny. Sprang Egyptisch Vlechten.
Zomer & Keuning Boeken. 1977. ISBN 90 210 2075 0

I have also posted several YouTube videos.  I explain the basic technique on the video

spin zest (c) EO'C
Sheep to Shawl - Demonstration
Elizabeth O’Connor
Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers

I propose to demonstrate spinning and wool preparation, to show the progression from sheep’s fleece to shawl.I use hand-carders to prepare wool for spinning. I spin prepared fleece on a drop-spindle and on my spinning wheel.Interested participants can try out home-made spindles, if desired. I show samples of hand-spun yarn and items made from my hand-spun, including a knitted shawl and a woven shawl. My proposed practical demonstration of spinning allows participants to see and handle the wool, yarn and finished products, bringing history and forgotten skills to life. As I spin, I talk about the history of spinning, based on the following books, among others:
spin a long (c) EO'C

Affiliations: I am a member of the Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and of Léine Medieval Crafters, a group interested in Viking Age crafts.This year, I have demonstrated spinning at Lough Gur Heritage centre, Limerick, in Limerick Craft Hub, at The National Heritage Park Ferrycarrig, Wexford, in Dublinia and at Dungarvan Public Library. 

Suggested Readings:
This is Donegal Tweed, by Judith Hoad

Ireland's Traditional Crafts  by David Shaw-Smith

Dress in Ireland by Mairead Dunlevy

A Heritage of Colour, Natural Dyes Past and Present, by Jenny Dean.

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years; Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Viking Age Head-coverings from Dublin, Elizabeth Wincott Heckett.

Hand loom weaving
The records of the Weaver’s Guild held by the Royal Society of Antiquaries 
Poster presentation
Evie Monaghan

The Discovery Programme
The Weavers’ guild was formally established in Dublin in 1446, after being granted a charter by Henry VI and given the title ‘the guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. The guild operated in the city for almost 400 years. The records of guild are preserved in the library of the Royal Society of Antiquaries and date from the seventeenth century. The original function of trade guilds was to control the production or manufacture of whichever goods they had an interest in. For the weavers’ guild, this meant ensuring that cloth was produced to a specific standard and regulating those who operated as weavers in the city. The wool trade was one of Ireland’s key industries and the weavers’ guild was a powerful corporation. As such weavers occupied positions of influence among the political and social elite, but they also comprised a vast number of the city’s poor. The records provide an insight into almost 200 years of the guild’s history. They also illuminate the industrial, political and social history of the city of Dublin.

Suggested readings
W.C., Stubbs, ‘The weavers' guild; the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dublin, 1446-1840’ in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1919) pp60-88

Veronica Rowe, ‘The Weaver’s Guild’ [available at]

Mary Clark and Raymond Refausse (ed.) Directory of Historic Dublin Guilds (1993)

Kathleen Breathnach, ‘The last of the Dublin silk weavers’ in Irish Arts Review Yearbook (1990)

Richard L Greaves, Dublin's Merchant-Quaker: Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends, 1643-1707 (1998)

Modern and charred flax seeds (c) MMcC
Archaeobotanical evidence for textile production in historic Ireland 
Meriel McClatchie 
Independent Researcher
Many different plants can be used in the production of textiles and manufacture of rope, including cultivated plants such as flax and hemp, and wild plants, such as nettle. Preserved textile fragments are sometimes found during archaeological excavations in Ireland, but they are very rare. Instead, the archaeobotanical remains of these plants are more commonly found, usually in the form of seeds. The remains of potential dye-plants, including woad and madder, have also been discovered at a number of locations. While some prehistoric discoveries have been made, most of these finds date to the historic period. This presentation will provide an overview of archaeobotanical evidence for textile production in historic Ireland, which will be integrated with other categories of evidence, including documentary sources, artefactual records and experimental studies.

Suggested Readings:

Geraghty S 1996. Viking Dublin: botanical evidence from Fishamble Street. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy.

Kelly F 1997. Early Irish farming: a study based mainly on the law-texts of the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Dublin, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

McCormick F, Kerr TR, McClatchie M, O'Sullivan A 2014. Early medieval agriculture, livestock and cereal production in Ireland, AD 400–1100. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 2647. Oxford, Archaeopress. For earlier online version, see 

Murphy M, Potterton M 2010. The Dublin region in the Middle Ages: settlement, land-use and economy. Dublin, Four Courts Press.

Wincott Heckett E 2003. An elusive cloth: aspects of the archaeology of linen in northern Europe in the medieval and post-medieval period. In Collins B, Ollerenshaw H (eds),The European linen industry in historical perspective, pp. 43–60. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Awls of La Draga (c) SR
Acquisition of vegetal fibers for making textiles and ropes in the early Neolithic site of La Draga (Banyoles, Spain)
Miriam de Diego, Susagna Romero, Antoni Palomo, Raquel Piqué. Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).  Xavier Terradas, Ignacio Clemente, Millán Mozota. Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, IMF-CSIC, Barcelona

This research paper is focused on the study of rope production trough the analyses of vegetal fibers and tools of the Early Neolithic site of La Draga (5300-4900 cal BC). The site, located in (Banyoles, Catalonia) is a lake dwelling where the preservation of organic material is extraordinary. 

Ropes of the site of La Draga (c) SR

Several ropes made of bast fibers have been found at the site. These remains constitute one of the earliest evidences of rope production in Iberian Peninsula. Moreover tools potentially used for the textile processes and the confection of ropes have been recovered. The use of tools for making ropes and textiles is well documented by ethnographic sources. According this, several bone and wood instruments recovered in La Draga could have been used for work with vegetal fibers: needles, awls, combs, scrapers, spindles or shells could have been used for producing cords and/or textiles, both for processing fibers and/or for the network of vegetal fibers. In this presentation the first results of experimentation, use-wear analysis and identification of fibers are presented.
Bow of La Draga (c) SR

Suggested Readings:
Piqué, R.; Palomo, A.; Terradas, X.; Tarrús, J.; Bosch, A.; Chinchilla,J.; Bodganovic, I.; López, O., Saña, M. 2015. Characterizing prehistoric archery: technical and functional analyses of the Neolithic bows from La Draga (NE Iberian Peninsula). Jounal of Archaeological Science. Academic Press, 01/01/2015. ISSN 0305-4403

Palomo, A.; Piqué, R.; Terradas, X.; Bosch, A.; Buxó, R.; Chinchilla, J.; Saña M.; Tarrús, J. 2014. Prehistoric occupation in Banyoles lakeshore: results of recent excavations in La Draga site (Girona, Spain). Journal of Wetland Archaeology. 14, pp. 58 - 73.

View of the site of La Draga (c) SR
Revelles, J. Lopez, O.; Antolin, F.; Palomo, A.; Berihuete; Pique, R., M.; Burjachs, F. ; Terredas, X. 2014. Landscape transformation and economic practices among the first farming societies in Lake Banyoles (Girona, Spain). Environmental Archaeology 19(3) 298-310. DOI: 10.1179/1749631414Y.298

Palomo, A. Gibaja, J.F.; Pique, R., Bosch, A.; Chinchilla, J.; Tarrus, J. 2011. Harvesting cereals and other plants in Neolithic Iberia: the assemblage from the lake settlement at La Draga. Antiquity, vol.85:1-13

Caruso, L. Pique, R. 2014 Landscape and forest exploitation at the ancient Neolithic site of La Draga. The Holocene. DOI: 10.1177/0959683613517400

Clara, Adriana and Cristina hard at work (c) CR
Bast fibres tradition and preservation of historical textiles in Romania
Hortensia Clara Radulescu (1), Monica Simileanu (2), Roxana Radvan (2), Adriana Ispas (3), Cristina Popescu (3), Georgeta Rosu (3), Laura Chiriac (1), Pyerina Carmen Ghituleasa (1)
(1) National Research and Development Institute for Textile and Leather - INCDTP, Bucharest, Romania
(2) National Institute for Research and Development in Optoelectronics – INOE 2000, Bucharest, Romania
(3)National Romanian Peasant Museum - MNTR, Bucharest, Romania

Romania had a long time tradition in the cultivation and production of bast fibres materials. In the traditional households, the hemp and flax fibres were grown by each family and fibres were obtained and used for all the needs starting from clothing, bedding, floor-coverings to ropes, and bags. In the last decades because of the harsh legislation regarding hemp used for obtaining narcotic extract and due to the urbanization and increased ageing of the families living in villages the tradition of home-made bast materials is almost close to extinction. The paper will present an over view of the Romanian bast fibres tradition during the last century and part of the results obtained in a research project in which the long term restoration and conservation of historical bast fibres materials from the museum collection are envisaged. 

Suggested Readings:
Conclusions on cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe, Council of the EU, Brussels, 20May 2014.

H. Fischer, H.Wiese, C. Radulescu, P. Rödel. Development of advanced compatible materials for the restoration of cultural heritage assets (Mythos): Artificial ageing of bast fibres. Vlakna a textil (Fibres and Textiles) (1) 2015: 13-16. ISSN 1335-0617

Cybulska, M. 2010. Reconstruction of archaeological textiles.  Fibres & Textiles in Eastern Europe 18 (3): 100-105.

Results (c) DW
A Retrospective View of Plant Fibre Material Culture and Prospects for Future Diagnostic Potential
Denis Waudby 

University of Bradford
Here we consider ethnographic reports to review material cultural heritage and the natural husbandry practiced by hunter-gatherer societies to protect and enhance their faunal and flora resources. Our studies considered plant fibre textiles and their diagnostic differential typology to aid understanding of the usage of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.). We review the interpretation of textile production as based mainly on inferential diagnosis of textile tools, tool wear and paleo-botanical analysis and outline our proposed research programme to consider plant fibre textiles and their diagnostic differential typology to develop robust, non-destructive and minimally invasive diagnostic principles.

Suggested Readings:
Andersson-Strand E, Gleba M, Mannering U, Munkholt C & Ringgaard M (eds) (2010) North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X. Oxford: Oxbow.

Barber EJW (1991) Prehistoric Textiles; The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Edwards HGM, Ellist E, Farwell DW &  Janaway RC (1996) Preliminary Study of the Application of Fourier Transform Raman Spectroscopy to the Analysis of Degraded Archaeological Linen Textiles. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, (1996) Vol. 21:663-669.

Harlow M, Michel C & Nosch ML (2014) Prehistoric, Ancient Near East and Aegean Textiles and Dress: An interdisciplinary anthology. Oxford: Oxbow 

Hurcombe LM (2000) Plants as Raw Material for Crafts. In Fairbairn AS (ed.) Plants in Neolithic Britain and beyond: Neolithic Studies Group Seminar Papers 5. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 155-173.

Hurcombe LM (2014) Perishable Material Culture in Prehistory: Investigating the Missing Majority. London: Routledge

Randsborg K (2011) Bronze Age Textiles: Men, Women and Wealth. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Straw hay and rushes cover (c) AO'D
Straw, Hay and Rushes in Irish Folk Tradition,
Anne O’Dowd
Straw is a by-product of the corn crop, hay is dried grass and rushes are mostly considered as a bothersome weed growing mainly in poor soil. Yet each of these organic materials was utilised throughout the centuries in Ireland for a myriad of uses and practices.

If I knew you were coming I’d shake green rushes for you’ was a greeting to welcome a friend or relative who had not visited for a long time. It is an ancient tradition which evolved over the centuries into plaiting and weaving rushes, straw and hay to make floor mats and mattresses, seats, containers, hens’ nests, clothing, children’s toys and a thousand and one other useful objects and gadgets for use around the house and farm.

Folk drama is a phrase descriptive of a wide range of popular activities which we see now as entertainment but which have their origins in ritual. The visit of the Wren boys and Mummer groups at Christmas and New Year, the making of St. Brigid’s crosses and the ceremony of the Crios Bríde and Brídeog at the beginning of February, masking at Hallowe’en and the entertainment and games at weddings and wakes all required the use of costumes and disguise. These were all made locally from the freely available organic materials.

The heyday of the use of objects made from straw, hay and rushes in Ireland was the 18th and 19th centuries. Travellers to the country during these years often wrote disparaging and derogatory accounts of what they saw - saddles of straw, sleeping on rushes, restricting animals with tethers and spancels of bark and animal hair and wearing crudely made straw and rush hats. The people who made and used the objects were both ingenious and thrifty making use of what they could find at no cost and using their learned skills to make objects which we now see as having not just function, but beauty also.

The talk looks at the historical context of the making of the wide range of useful and ceremonial objects and the folklore of belief and custom connected with the materials and practices. The thousand or so objects made from straw, hay and rushes in the National Museum’s Irish Folklife Collection and the hundred plus replies to a questionnaire circulated by the Museum and the Irish Folklore Commission (the National Folklore Collection) throughout the country more than fifty years ago, are the foundation of the study.

The study on which the talk is based has been published by Irish Academic Press in September 2015.

Dr. Anne O’Dowd was formerly a curator in the National Museum of Ireland. 

Suggested readings:
Gailey A.  1968 Straw costume in Irish folk customs.  Folklife. Journal of Ethnological Studies, 6, 83-93.
Harris, K. 1963 Plaited Straw Work. Ulster Folklife 9.
Lucas, A.T. 1956 (C) Wattle and Straw Mat Doors in Ireland.  Arctica, Essays presented to Åke Campbell. Uppsala, 16-35.
Main, V. 1998-9 Corn dollies: searching for the seed of truth. Folk Life 37, 46
O’Dowd, A. 2015 Straw, Hay and Rushes in Irish Folk Tradition. Irish Academic Press, Dublin.