Clothes Make the Man

Last summer C. R. Brandenburgh completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of Leiden.  His dissertation, titled “Clothes make the man : early medieval textiles from the Netherlands” is available at the Leiden Universitory Repository and the Full Text version (first of the download links) includes an english version of the dissertation.

To quote from his summary:

This study has focused on the use of cloth and clothing in the area now defined as the Netherlands, in the period between 400 and 1000 AD. (p. 198)

There’s still a lot of reading to do, but the first fascinating observation was that it wasn’t just the shape of the clothes that varied according to gender; it was also the type of fabric used.  Twills and tabbies, while similar, require slightly different weaving set-ups.  In tabby, you only need two heddles that raise alternately, and in a pinch you can make do with one heddle and one separator.  (We still do this in modern timed when inkle weaving; the two paths that the open and heddled threads take, respectively, through the loom, help create the high and low positions.)  For twill, on the other hand, you need multiple sets of heddles, as each heddle in turn is kept high (or low) for two (or more) picks at a time.  Thus in a 2/2 twill is thread is high twice and the low twice, but the high/low state changes are offset, creating the effect of diagonal structures (as seen, for instance, in plaids and herringbone twills).  A 1/3 twill on the other hand will see each thread high once, and low three times.