HNW - Sprang question...

Chris Laning claning at
Sun Sep 26 19:33:45 PDT 1999

Anahita wrote:

>I have read that items such as stockings were made in the technique called
>sprang. Some have survived from what is called "period" in the SCA
>(theoretically 600-1600 CE).
>I have Peter Collingwood's book on sprang, ("The Technique of Sprang", i
>think it's called). It gives great technical advice and very clear
>illustrations. He mentions some of these items, what sprang techniques
>they're made with. and what collection they're in, but does not include
>pictures of historical objects.

Actually there are two pieces from before 1600: plates 26 and 31, in the
back of the book. One is a Bronze Age cap, the other a "Coptic" bag --
which isn't dated, but the adjective "Coptic" leads me to think it's from
the same era as the tapestry roundels.

>As a sprang novice, i don't think i can
>re-create them on my own. I've just fiddled around trying to learn how to
>do sprang, without producing anything useful.
>Does anyone know of sources with photos of these stockings (and pouches,
>etc.) and maybe even real directions?
>Has anyone actually made sprang stockings?

I've seen caps aplenty, and a bag or two, but the stockings Alionora
mentions are the first I've heard of. For more examples of sprang, try
Margrethe Hald's _Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials_ (National
Museum of Denmark, 1980, ISBN 87-480-0312-3;  it's actually still in print,
and my Laurel, Tangwystyl, was there on her recent Europe trip and says
they take credit card orders!).

Sprang's "good feature" is that the mesh is not held by knots, which makes
it easy to fit over awkward shaped objects; it also expands quite easily,
which makes it good for shopping bags. On the other hand, its "bad feature"
is that the mesh is not held by knots <g>, which means it snags easily and
is difficult to get back into shape when it does (especially if there's a
decorative pattern). For myself, I've made a small hemp bag in sprang,
although I made a couple of mistakes in the finishing that I need to fix.

Sprang in general seems to be scarce on the ground in Western Europe from
the end of the Iron Age until about the 1600s, though I don't know whether
this is because the skill was forgotten, or it went out of fashion, or just
that by accident no examples have survived.

Your source might possibly have confused sprang with another technique,
naalbinding, of which we *do* have quite a few examples of stockings,
including at least one from Egypt. It's a completely different technique --
about the only resemblance is that they both involve interlocking loops of
thread (after a fashion).

>It'll be a while before i get to it. My next projected plan is to try weave
>some tapestry roundels a la Medieval Coptic Egypt for a tunic,

Ooh! Neat!

>but i'm
>considering trying to make some stockings eventually - i think i have
>directions for some old Arabic knitting - but i'm also thinking of trying
>sprang. Do note the use of qualifier words like "plan" and "try". You all
>know how it is having a backlog of projects :-)

I taught a workshop in Nordwache (Fresno) early in August on "Medieval
Islamic Knitting" and graphed about 30 color patterns for it, both from
wool fragments, and from cotton fragments some of which are stockings. Most
of the patterns I've graphed are from the Bouvier Collection in France.
Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' excellent book _Ethnic Socks and Stockings: A
compendium of Eastern design & technique_ (A Knitter's Magazine Book, 1995,
XRX Inc., ISBN 0-9646391-0-6) has one of the 12th(?) century cotton
stockings as its first piece, *and* she tells you how the toe and heel were

Right now I'm working on getting an article on the wool stuff done
(including knitted reproductions).  But I'm planning on "Medieval Islamic
Stockings" (i.e. the cotton stuff) as a second phase of the project.

(Anahita: come and find me if you're at RenFaire this Saturday [Oct. 2] or
Oct.16, and I'll bring my sprang bag and some handouts for you. I can also
tell you how to make a quick, cheap sprang frame.)

Christian de Holacombe (SCA)
a.k.a. Mistress Christian Ashley, Guild of St. George (RPFN)

O   Chris Laning
|   <claning at>
+    Davis, California

Go to to perform mailing list tasks.

More information about the H-needlework mailing list