Sunday, 8 June 2014

More on handfasting bands

I have just received an award for my six silk handfasting bands shown in my first blog. The title of my piece is 'Tying the Knot.' I am a member of the Durham Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers and  I entered these bands  into the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers National Exhibition 2014: Yarns in the Cathedral, held in Norwich Cathedral.

The Braid Society awarded a rosette and prize to a braid item in the exhibition.   Anne Dyer from the Braid Society made the beautiful rosette which I am very proud to have won.
The Braid Society Rosette

Celtic Handfasting or the binding of hands, is an old wedding custom that has become more popular since the ceremony featured in the film ‘Braveheart starring Mel Gibson.  Handfasting is probably the origin of the term ‘tying the knot’ for getting married.

A special cord or band is wrapped around the joined hands of the couple.   After the first wrap, each person answers a question and makes a promise to their partner. There are five more wraps and after each one, a question and promises are made.  After the final sixth wrap, the band or cord is tied, usually by the best man. In some versions only a single long cord or band is used and is wrapped after each promise. These promises can be devised by the couple themselves although many web sites offer a set list of promises for the handfasting. 

When I first heard of this delightful addition to the wedding ceremony, I designed a long band. It has a pattern of two hearts facing each other along its length and has two joined hearts in the centre. It is made of unbleached singles linen for the background threads, red wool for the edges of the band and silk yarn for the pattern threads. Natural yarns, each with their own very different nature are blended into a beautiful whole. 
Starting to weave the band using a standard heddle.
The joined hearts in the centre of the band.
I thought carefully about the materials to use for the band.
Linen cloth is long lasting and grows more lustrous with time. 
Silk adds a touch of luxury – we all hope for some luxury in our lives! 
Red wool outlines the band: an old custom signifying protection from outside harmful forces.  

The completed band is 422 cm in length and 1.1 cm in width. I finished the band with a short double plait and tassel wrapped in red wool with a small bead heart sewn at the end. It took a long time to weave!

Happy weaving.

Durham Weaver

June 2014


  1. You were a well deserved winner of this award. The bands looked stunning at the exhibition in Norwich. Really good to be learn the significance of the colours used too. Thank you so much.

  2. Congratulations on such a beautiful labor of love . I had to do some quick calculations to appreciate the length of this lovely band...over 4 and a half yards long! I am fascinated by your skills in weaving such a long warp of different fibers. I am curious if you had to make any amendments ( adjusting the length or using pendant weights) to the warp as it progressed to account for the differing natures of the fibers used. The linen is totally uncompromising in its elasticity whereas the wool has "give", the thicker silk, perhaps a little? The finished band is exquisite and now you inspire me to weave bands combining different fibers. I've been weaving a band in linen and as the weaving progresses, I find my thicker linen pattern threads growing more slack on a 3 yard warp. Any suggestions? I wish I could come see the exhibition in Norwich to admire your handfasting bands in person!

    1. Yes, there are a number of ways of adjusting the tension of warp threads. I will put together some information on the blog as pictures always help. Keeping the tension even is important.

  3. Well deserved win - thoughtful and inspiring project. I wish I wish I could have gone to the exhibition to see the bands for real, but it felt so far from Devon!
    I'm only a beginner weaver but I've made a long patterned strap with my handspun on a RH loom and really enjoyed it.


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