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Supplementary weft

Although tapestry and ‘flying thread’ were the predominant patterning techniques during the late Roman period in Egypt, other structures such as supplementary weft were also used. As shown in the gallery, weft-patterned weaves had a tabby ground and a supplementary pattern weft. The pattern was formed by the movement of the supplementary weft above and below the ground. Unlike the ‘Summer and Winter’ technique known by handweavers, archaeological textiles from the period had a definite face side and were not reversible.

Float lengths varied in width, depending upon the desired pattern effect. A twill structure may also have been used as the ground, but we have not seen seen archaeological examples attributed to the 3rd-7th centuries AD.

Surviving evidence suggests that supplementary weft patterned textiles apparently were made for domestic use rather than for garments. In most cases the ground fabric was linen with one or more supplementary weft colors in a thicker wool yarn. On some pieces, the linen ground was bleached from its natural shade to intensify contrast with the colored wefts.

Further reading:

  • Hoskins, N.A. (1992) Weft-faced Pattern Weaves: Tabby to Taqueté. Seattle.
  • Becker, J. (1987). Pattern and Loom. Copenhagen: Rhodos.