Thursday, June 14, 2012

Card Woven Halter for Shetland and Icelandic Stallions
When I first met Elizabeth Johnston several years ago, she was working as an Iron Age interpreter at Scatness in Shetland.  From my point of view at that time, she was a weaver who just happened to spin and knit. Most of you however know her as an exceptional Shetland knitter and spinner.

Last week she sent me these great photos of a new weaving project - a tablet or card woven halter for a friends' horse.  She had the chance to model it on both a Shetland and an Icelandic stallion.

Indy Ping-pong : Shetland stallion

Indy Ping-pong with card woven halter
Elizabeth made this halter using an ancient weaving technique called tablet or card weaving.  In this case she has handspun and hand dyed all of the yarns she used in the weaving.

Detail of card woven halter - note that this pattern imitates the look of a knitted object
Card weaving dates back to the Celtic Bronze Age in Scandinavia with the earliest findings in the second century A.D.  The earliest known cards from this area were made of wood. One of the greatest archaeological finds relating to this type of weaving was from the Oseberg ship found in Norway dating back to A.D. 850.  Here a tablet loom with 52 threaded cards, a partially woven band and a number of other card-woven bands was found in the tomb of Queen Asa.

Tablet loom in the Oseberg ship find from A.D 850
The pattern on the card woven bands is determined by a number of factors including how the cards are threaded, the number of cards used and the sequence that the cards are turned in, to create each new weaving shed.  The variation can range from simple to endlessly complex.  

Although today, we have a limited use for these bands, historically woven bands were used for reins, bridles, saddle girths, cloth edging as well as being used for tying and attaching all manner of things.  They were the decorative forerunner to zippers, pins, elastic and Velcro.

Haakon - Icelandic stallion with card woven halter
Note chevron pattern that is woven into the halter
For more details on the weaving and dyeing of this halter as well as links to the horse owners website, go to Elizabeth's blog .


  1. Lovely!!!!!!! Very well done!!!!

  2. How incredible this is..I have been pondering making some knitted things for my Bubba..He's a grulla and his color changes with the seasons..thanks for posting such beautiful pictures..will def be checking out her blog..thank you!!!!!!!