In the late 6th and early 7th centuries CE, a new variant of tabletweave arrived in Britain from the continent; first via Kent and the South coast before spreading north. This lavish new technique - brocading - involved working additional weft threads through a plain-coloured tabletweave as it was woven, to build up an embroidery-like pattern. This paved the way for the intricade brocades popular in the Viking Age, but brocading in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain began with metallic brocades, where strips of fine metal - almost foil - were worked through the weave to produce shimmering patterns. It is thanks to these metal brocades that we can trace the arrival of the technique, for, unlike normal tabletweave, these metal strips (usually gold), with impressions of the threads impressed into their surfaces, survive our harsh soils.
Due to the shortcomings of the 19th century excavators of the burial, the position of the fine strands of gold found in the burial cannot be stated with any confidence, and as such, we cannot say for certain if the huge amount of gold brocade formed the decoration of a cloak or other garment, or perhaps a sword harness or belt. The famous gold Taplow buckle had adhesions of both leather and tablet-weave-structure textile on its back, so it may have been associated with the brocade.
Upon completion it was sewn, using the same threads, to a piece of prepared, stained and burnished veg-tan leather, and the buckle and retaining loops were installed, such that the belt could be clasped without the buckle being covered, or the delicate brocading needing to pass through the buckle or be strained.
Rather than the Taplow buckle (a replica of which we had used on a previous build) we chose to incorporate an exquisite replica of the contemporaneous and similarly styled buckle from Alton, Hampshire, produced by Ganderwick Creations.
The final result was more subtle than we expected; the gold foil woven through the belt is quite subtle until light hits it at just the right angle and flares, revealing the pattern vividly against the ground weave. It looks particularly good glistening in firelight, and it may have been this that attracted our ancestors to the technique. After all, while coloured tabletweave will appear dull in the dim light of the meadhall, gold brocade glistens and sparkles in light cast by dancing flames. What better assemblage to, along with replicas of finds such as the Staffordshire Hoard, illustrate that the 7th century really was the "Age of Gold"?