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An Introduction to Wool-Working for Readers of Greek and Latin

Weaving on a warp-weighted loom. Drawing after Attic black-figure lekythos
(ca 550-530 BCE) now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
Immediately, they both set up their looms in different places
and they stretch twin webs with slender warp: the web has been bound to the beam, a shed rod separates the warp,
the weft is inserted in the middle with sharp shuttles,
the weft which their fingers draw out,
and which, led between the warp, the notched teeth strike
as the comb is tapped. They both hurry and,
with their clothes gathered at their chests,
they move skilled arms, their eagerness belying the labor.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.53-60

The vase painting and passage above detail the process of weaving on a warp-weighted loom. It is difficult to visualize these activities if one is not familiar with the textile arts or with the ancient technology of cloth production. The DVD Text & Textile: An Introduction to Wool-Working for Readers of Greek and Latindemonstrates the process of turning wool into cloth using ancient tools and techniques. It is, if you will, a backward journey through metaphor: the many terms that describe the textile arts also apply to the work of the storyteller. The textile metaphors we find in literary contexts come to life when we understand the world in which they originate. In fact, textiles were not only a source of metaphor for the poet's art, but also a means of storytelling through visual narratives.

This DVD with Susan Edmunds, Prudence Jones, and Gregory Nagy shows:
- How wool is spun into thread with a spindle
- How cloth was woven in ancient Greece and Rome
- Images of textile work from vase paintings and other sources
- Economic and cultural significance of women’s textile work
- Importance of textile metaphors in Greek and Latin literature


Expert spinners and weavers demonstrate the steps involved in making cloth from wool using tools and technology appropriate to the time period.

In addition, special guest Gregory Nagy of Harvard University and the Center for Hellenic Studies discusses the relationship between text and textile.


This instructional DVD is not just for readers of Greek and Latin. Students of classical literature and civilization at any level will gain a deeper appreciation of connections between language, thought, and material culture in Greek and Roman antiquity. Today’s weavers and spinners will learn about the history and cultural significance of their craft.

Running time: 30 minutes. The DVD contains supplementary material for classroom and general educational use, including information for those wanting to learn to spin or weave using ancient techniques.
ISBN: 0-9759617-0-5 


Youtube Link


Supplementary material:
pdf How to Get Started Spinning and Weaving
pdf A Teacher's Guide
pdf Some Latin Textile Terms
pdf Some Greek Textile Terms
pdf Passages from Greek and Latin Literature cited in Text and Textile
pdf Select Bibliography
pdf Text and Textile DVD Flyer

Text & Textile: An Introduction to Wool-Working for Readers of Greek and Latin was made possible by a generous grant from the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C.

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