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The Technique of Sprang

So, what is sprang you ask?

Sprang is a technique of interlinking sets of threads under tension to create a stretchy fabric.

Still not really sure what sprang is? Honesty, to truly understand sprang, you need to see it in person, if I could, I would mail a sample of sprang to each and every person who visited my site (if you contact me, I actually would be happy to do that for real), because nothing beats getting to feel it and see it in person.

Let me start by showing you some examples of sprang.

Each of the photos below is a very basic example of the three main sprang techniques. Click on each photo to learn more about that technique.

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Interlaced Sprang

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Interlinked Sprang

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Intertwined Sprang

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How does sprang work? 

 

Sprang starts by being a set of threads warped onto a loom or set of rods. This just means that you wound a length of thread around two fixed points and now have a set of threads lying parallel to each other. Now, we further divide those threads into the threads laying in front of the rod they are wound around and those laying behind the rod. Each row of sprang is created by bringing the back threads to the front and dropping the front threads off to the back, then inserting a shed stick to hold them there. Every other row, you shift all the threads one to the right and this allows each thread to interlink with the thread next to them, first to one side, then to the other.

Follow the path of the green thread in the picture to better understand what I mean.

 

 You’re probably asking yourself, why have I never heard of sprang before?

The best answer I can give is that when knitting came about, it was easier to shape and more portable and thus replaced sprang as a stretchy form of making fabric. There are some places where sprang in some form has survived, but overall, sprang very nearly died out and it took some very enterprising textile archaeologists to rediscover this nearly lost art.

 How old is sprang?

The oldest recorded find of sprang dates back to around 3500 B.C.E, found at Etton in Britain, that makes it at least 4500 years old. Items found in Scandinavia and Peru date slightly later then that and finds of Coptic sprang fabrics in Egypt date to around 400 C.E. Consider however, the fragility of the natural fibers being used at those times; wool, cotton, linen. None of these are going to hold up well under the weathering of time. So it is entirely possible that sprang was being practiced even earlier then we have physical evidence for.

 

 Ready to learn more?

 

I sure hope so, because I am ready to teach you! My Getting Started in Sprang tutorial is a great place to start if you are new to sprang. If you’re new but already know the technique, then head over to my School for Sprang where you can watch videos of all the basic techniques, tips for warping, looms and shaping as well as creative ways to use sprang. Be sure to let me know what works and what doesn’t and what you would like to see, I’ll be adding new content on a regular basis.

Sprang fragmet from the Met

Did you know? You can find historic examples of sprang at many museums around the world?

See the examples at the Met, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and Cooper Hewitt among others.

Sprang sampler from Cooper Hewitt