Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perugia Style Turban

Last year at Ymir (a Viking themed SCA event held in North Carolina every February) I displayed my Perugia style towel for the first time.  One of my fellow spinners was so excited about it that she commissioned me to weave her a similar turban for her Italian kit.  What with one thing and another, it took a full year to get the sucker done but I did and was able to deliver it to her at Ymir.

The basic idea was to produce something along the lines of the turban shown in The Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano, 1423.  There are a couple of other similar paintings with simpler color work on the cloth but this one looks the most like a typical "Perugia" design to me.  As I found when weaving the original towel, the complex pickup pattern is a bit beyond my looms capabilities, especially when working with 40/2 linen at a fine set, so I opted to create a simplified pattern based on Rose Path twill.

The finished turban is 22 inches wide and about 80 inches long.  I've found that for me and other anatomically large-headed folks this works well for a nice turban wrap.  If you want to do something similar for yourself, I would suggest starting with the circumference of your head as the width and experimenting with the length you will need for the wrap style you want in purchased linen before you commit to a warp width and length.  Linen ain't cheep and everything about warping with fine linen is a huge pain.

Aside from measuring the warp, which was doubly miserable as I warped two projects at once (more on that later, I wove two head wraps on the same warp so make the best use of my time dressing the loom) the weaving was not too bad.  I need a warping mill.  6 1/2 yard lengths on a warping board suck and most of what I want to work on right now are long lengths of cloth for clothing.   I used boiled flax seed dressing, diluted and sprayed on with a spray bottle, and tried to keep the level of humidity around the loom as high as I could.  This helped with getting a clean shed and maintaining even tension, though was difficult as I did the bulk of the weaving in the dead of winter when the highest temperature we had was in the low 20s.  A humidifier might have helped.

I also started out the project with fishing line running along with my floating warp.  This made adding a bit of tension to those threads to keep them from getting lost in the selvages much easier and prevented them from abrading too much and breaking.  I still quite a few extra weights attached to the back of my loom (it looked like a Christmas tree back there) but overall it worked out very nicely.

Angel wings (brackets that hold the lease sticks in place and at a fixed width) were a HUGE help.  It was much easier to find broken ends and I was able to warp by myself with very little trouble.  Not only was I able to maintain the cross in the warp, but it helped to even out tension and spread the warp out properly behind the lease sticks.

The only major problems I still need to work out are some weird tension issues that developed when I got to the second project on the warp.  I started having a lot of breakage and tangling that I didn't run into on the turban.  I suspect I need to wind onto the back beam with help when working with linen.  Some of the problems might have been fixed had I used a warping mill.  I don't have any plans to weave linen in the near future, by the time I get around to it again I will hopefully have a mill.  

The turban came out beautifully in the end and my client was very happy with it.  I was a little sad to see it go, but I know it's gone to a good home and will be worn with pride and love.


  1. So, I had written a long post about how much I loved your weaving, and that I always wear turbans, etc, but somehow it got deleted. lol So, if you're going to Coronation in April, I would love to talk to you! I weave as well, but I inkle weave. Ask around for Signorina Niccolina the Wanderer, and someone should be able to point you towards my general direction. I'm also on Facebook as Nicci Mann. I would really love to talk to you!

  2. I'd love to know more about it, especially what size of linen thread you ended up using and where you found it. Beautiful work!