Talk : Beiderwand
Presented by : Joan Milton

Waltraud Hindlöv was unable to join us so Joan kindly took her place and brought along Waltraud’s notes and samples.

Joan Milton, experienced weaving teacher and member of the Pretoria Weavers Guild, presented the November talk.Then sharing with us her own considerable expertise, Joan explained the ins and outs of weaving this technique and followed up with a demonstration.

Photo-Rex Milton

What is Beiderwand?

Beiderwand is a weaving technique which was woven in Schleswig Holstein in Germany and also in the very south of Denmark since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In other parts of Germany and Europe, as well as in Norway, Sweden and Finland, Beiderwand was not known.  

It came to Holstein with farmers from Holland. In Holland and Flanders there was a history of weaving on draw looms and pieces dating from the thirteenth century have been found. It is thought that the Dutch learnt the technique at the town of Bidar in their Indian Colonies, and the name could come from there. It could also come from the fact that it is a type of double weave with two layers of weaving, and Beiderwand means two-sided.  

Originally the material used for the warp was white linen and later cotton. The weft for the tabby weave design was the same as the warp thread, and the other weft for the background areas was black handspun wool.

In Schleswig Holstein the design figures on the right side are in white tabby weave. The black wool background is woven together with the thin layer which forms vertical black stripes on the reverse.

Interestingly in Denmark the striped side was used as the front, and it was used for both men’s and women’s clothing as it was hard-wearing and warm.

The front and reverse of a Beiderwand sample woven by Waltraud Hindlöv

The intricate figured fabrics were woven by professional weavers for selling. In olden times its insulation properties were recognized and it was used for wall-hangings and the curtains of box beds to keep the cold out, just as tapestries were used in other parts of Europe.

Beiderwand patterns from the 17th and 18th centuries can be seen in three different groups:

  1. Patterns woven on draw looms with up to 40 shafts and later on Jacquard looms that have squares, circles and tree patterns in many variations.
  2. Ornamental patterns of plants and animals form the largest group
  3. Figures with biblical themes.
The patterns were similar to damask but simpler as thicker threads were used.

Around 1700 it was also called woolen damask. In the Dithmascher Museums-Workshops in Meldorf, Beiderwand is still woven today on old Jaquard looms, and in Denmark it is woven in the workshops of A.G.Jansen and Karen Lindelof. 

Waltraud’s beautiful cushion and block Beiderwand wall hanging. 

The Beiderwand weave has binding, or tie-down, threads just as Summer and Winter, and the Moorman technique have.

The threading for Pick-up Beiderwand is on four shafts, and traditionally has between 10 and 12 fine white warp threads per cm.

  • The closely spaced white warp threads that show in the tabby design areas are carried on Shafts 3 and 4 at the back of the loom.
  • The widely spaced tie-down threads are on Shafts 1 and 2, closest to the weaver. They bind, or tie-down, the thick background weft thread into the weaving. 

Traditionally the tie-down threads are the same as the fine warp threads that form the tabby, but they may be the same colour as the thick background weft thread to blend in.
Notes by  Waltraud Hindlöv

The elegant and beautiful unicorn designed by Joan. The design has been traced onto a transparent sheet and is used to show the area’s where the pickup will be done. The sheet is flipped backwards and forwards as the weaving progresses.

How to weave Beiderwand 

A 3.25 mm (old No 10) knitting needle works well as a pick-up "stick".

1.  Raise shafts 3+4, pick-up white design in-front of the reed with stick.

2. Raise shaft 1, push stick back to the reed and weave thick background yarn in the shed that forms below the stick.3. Raise shaft

3, pull stick right forward to the fell and weave thin tabby thread in the shed that forms close to the reed. Remove the stick and beat.

4. Raise shafts 3+4, pick-up white design in-front of the reed with stick.

5. Raise shaft 2, push stick back to the reed and weave thick background yarn in the shed that forms below the stick.

6. Raise shaft 4, pull stick right forward to the fell and weave thin tabby thread in the shed that forms close to the reed.

7. Remove the stick and beat.

Article and demonstration Joan Milton
Photos Carol Ellis

Bibliography:  Väva Finnväv by Annalie Machschefes Publisher LTs förlag.
 (This is written in Swedish and is mostly about Finnweave but has a chapter on the history of Beiderwand – Joan Milton.

Weaving Drafts by Joan Milton 

DRAFT :  Pick-up Beiderwand with 4 threads between the Tie Down

DRAFT: True tabby or not?

As shown in the draw-down below, when Shafts 1 + 3 are raised alternately with Shafts 2 + 4, some tie-down threads work together with an adjacent warp thread so there is no true tabby.

As Beiderwand is also often threaded with only three threads between the tie-downs, as opposed to the 4 shown in the full draft above, this threading has been included below. The tie-up and treadling are the same as that shown above.

DRAFT: Threading with 3 threads between the Tie-Downs