Inkle Looms?

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Inkle Looms?

Post by Hraefn »

'Inkle looms',y'know the ones with all the pegs out one side and warped up by running threads the long way round said pegs, what period are they? I've seen them used as LH displays for dark age, medieval, tudor, stuart but I was recently told that they are an 'Arts and Craft Movement' design from the 1920s & 30s and a lot of earlier narrow wares were made on small laptop and table 'box looms'.
The term inkle is period but is the loom? All pictures, info and refs greatfully received as I want to invest in a new toy for the Mem'.

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Inkle looms

Post by Cecily »

Hi, I use a home-made inkle loom, on my lap, while re-enactiing. I asked my mother-in-law about this (she's a bit of an expert on textiles & demonstrates/lectures). She says Inkle is a Scandinavian word for band & probably came over with the Vikings. Once something is woven it's often difficult to tell exactly what it's woven on and there's little recorded evidence of cheapish household equipment like looms. So we really don't know for sure what 'Inkle' looms were like. One or two pictures of box looms don't rule out our Inkles. There are similar American looms which indicae that Inkle looms like ours were in use (and possibly later adapted)before people emmigrated across the Atlantic.
From my own art research the Arts & Crafts movement was aiming to bring hand-crafted items back into popularity and use, at a time of eager industrialisation. So they are more likely to have revived a disappearing loom design than to have invented a new one. Try contacting: as he makes these sorts of items and knows a bit about the history. (He will do special items for re-enacting, and actually makes an amazing crescent-shaped inkle loom). I looked in the BBC book "The Craft Of The Weaver" for info but there wasn't enough history. You might try Googling two of the authors: Ann Sutton & Geraldine St Aubyn Hubbard. Hope that's some help! Cecily

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Post by GinaB »

Cecily is quite right that bands have been recovered which may or may not have been woven on what we now know as an inkle loom.

I've never seen a depiction of a band loom design which looks like a modern inkle loom. Most are either a box loom type of affair, or simply two fixed points, sometimes using a small rigid heddle to control the shed.

There are actually quite a few depictions of band weaving - primarily pictures of the Virgin keeping busy. This site has some - type 'weaving' into the search and you'll find a box loom (under the Arachne link) and various band looms

Another good source of band looms(tablet, box, etc) is
Artes Minores
Dank An Werner Abegg
Herausgegeben Von Michael Stettler und Mechild Lemberg
Verlag Stampfli & CIE AG. Bern 1973
pg 113-188:
'Robert L. Wyss, Bern: Die Handanbeiten der Maria Eine ikonographische Studie unter Berucksichtigung der textilen Techniken'

The closest I've seen is one which shows a table-like affair with posts and a rigid heddle - the drawing is a little confused (I suspect the artist wasn't sure what he was drawing) but it appears to have both a rigid heddle and a separation beam. And, despite the woman holding a beater, it doesn't appear that any of the threads are actually woven. (From The Book of Good Manners, c15c French Manuscript, Musee Conde Chantilly)

I also have the following in my notes -

A History of Textile Art
Agnes Geyer
Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, London 1979
ISBN 0 85667 055 3

pp 40-41 (Illustration of a 19c box loom shown)
"Another very primitive implement is still commonly used in Hallingdad (Norway) where it is used to make the ancient type of band which is known as kelim-band. Normally this implement consists of a small, rectangular box supporting holders for two rollers, one for the warp and one for the finished braid. There is no shedding mechanism at all. The weft is darned into the warp using a flat, pointed wooden needle (resembling the 'net needle' used for net making). One such needle is needed for each colour. There are medieval pictures showing similar boxes, which probably were used for making braids of this kind."

My notes say that the OED has the earliest use of the word inkle from Shakespeare, but I can't find my copy of the full entry!

I never use a modern style inkle loom while re-enacting because I haven't seen any looms to resemble it, and would prefer not to confuse people.

(I'd like to though - I love my inkle loom, made my "Miel" by the way!).

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Post by rob the tudor »

I too find the modern stringy inkle loom nice to use, but no nicer then a rigid heddle on a loom (or tied to your belt and any rigid object).
Evidence for inkle looms as we now see them is very sketchy, there is the oldest one I have been able to trace in the stores of a museum specialising in textiles in Halifax. Gentleman in charge of the collection even went down into the stores for me ( very kind man) and had a fresh look, but he said he was "fairly sure" it was an old copy of a scandinavian seventeenth century one, according to their records.
Inkle as a word appears several times in Shakespeare, but at the time only meant ribbon like braid, not braid from a particular loom type.
For these reasons I prefer to use a rigid heddle or tablet to weave braid in front of the public. Because there is pictorial and for Tudor and later, actual surviving examples of rigid heddles, I feel safe to do so. Children find the rigid heddle easy to use in school have a go sessions as well.
In using the braid on clothes and such though, modern inkle looms produce a braid which is of exactly the same weave as a rigid heddle, so use the braid freely and with confidence!

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Post by Hraefn »

Hmmm, so no real hard evidence for the peggy loom before the 19thC,in fact heres a lady that gives the 1924 as a definate date,
heigh ho! I'll have to look into the boxy types and get the Mem Sahib to decide which of the, too many, periods we do she would like it for, mind you if I get one for each it means that chrissy and b'day pressies are sorted for a couple of years......... :)
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Post by ViscontesseD'Asbeau »

That's a really interesting site but the photos very US - they had their own vernacular when it came to textile tools (thinking of the double wheeled chair wheels for example), and quite a Germanic influence which makes that stuff (I have a 19thC American wheel that is very German looking and have seen a lot of US textile tools over there - like the ones she illustrates, they don't look very English in style!) so those pics are fascinating, but not usefulreally for those of us in the UK.

I suspect a very plain box loom type thing as in the medieval illustrations would cover it. Or a warp strung between two trees like in some illustrations!

Also think her precise dating of the inkle loom in the 1920s is, to use her own word, 'spurious' as it might be more likely to be an Arts and Craft movement (late Victorian or Edwardian at the latest) thing. It probably remains undateable, but I wouldn't put it anything like as late as the 1920s. 1890s? Possible. :D

Linguist hat on for a mo.

I think the word inkle's a lot older than she thinks, and may well be from English, also not as she thinks as she trots out the old thing about it being from the Scots or similar. 'Mickle' is an old English word for 'big' (the Scots 'muckle' presumably derives from it) and I thought for a long time 'inkle' sounds like the opposite to that. Done a look up in the Anglo Saxon dictionaries, and '-incel' seems to be a suffix you can add on the end of words, to mean 'small'. Sure enough, the opposite of mickle. The example they give is 'scipincel' meaning 'little ship'. I think the word therefore just means 'little' - ltitle piece of weaving, or little loom, I dunno to which it refers.

She also puts references to 'inkle' as the word for braid being 18thC onwards - in fact it's a word that commonly appears in 16thC inventories, very likely even older for all I know.

The string heddles presumably come, as she says, from a desire to manufacture the thing more cheaply and as a good heddle is quite a fiddly, skilled thing to make - but the basic loom fairly straightforward, that makes sense. That also points to it being a late 19thC thing, possibly from the era of mass production.

I use my inauthentic inkle loom at home with some beautiful heddles we bought at a re-enactor's fair - as the string heddles used to put me off inkle weaving, they were harder to make accurately and took longer, for me, than the weaving! Once you have decent heddles, you're away. I don't tend to take weaving with me because I don't have a little box loom or similar, and I don't have the woodworking skills to make one.

I still struggle with this whole inkle thing, as I just find it easier and I get better results, if I do this kind of weaving backstrap - and of course that would leave no archaeological trace, but possibly more trace in the extant illustrations, than it has. We're back to the old chestnut of whether if something is lower tech, easier, more logical and we know they did it elsewhere/at a later period, can we do it anyway? And on that argument I've always erred on the side of caution and thought - no! That said, when I've been to hokey events where authenticity wasn't the aim, and everyone round me knew less about textile history than me, (rare) I have backstrap woven and got away with it as no-one was any the wiser.

Tablet weaving looks more spectacular than inkle if you're demonstrating, but sometimes that braid isn't what you want to make, and inkle would be more useful.

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