Thursday, November 18, 2010

A&S 50 - 1: Learn to Tablet Weave

My first attempt at tabletweaving.  Note the curls where the cards changed direction.

Tablet or card weaving in a method of weaving narrow bands which dates back at least to the second century A.D. It was used extensively in Scandinavia and spread throughout Medieval Europe. Uses ranged from the utilitarian – straps and woven borders on fabrics – to elaborate brocaded bands used on church vestments.

The basic procedure in tablet weaving is quite simple. Cards, usually square, are threaded through a series of holes placed in the corners. The cards are held under tension and turned while a weft thread is passed back and forth. The manner of threading and sequence of turning create the pattern. Incredibly complex and intricate patterns can be achieved with this basic technique.

While the basic procedure is quite simple, learning to table weave can present some challenges and frustrations. Foremost among these is tensioning. My first band was woven using the warping peg from my rigid heddle loom attached to a small portable ironing board, which I was able to hold in my lap, which one end propped on a TV tray table. It is possible to table weave using a back-strap loom, however I found it far easier to put my work down and maintain even tension when returning to it using a more fixed system. I have since built a portable loom of my own design which meets my needs quite well, and will build a period-correct loom in the future as part of this challenge.

Warping cards can also present challenges to a beginning weaver attempting to learn on their own. A number of books and websites discuss the continuous warping method, which is infinitely easier than warping each card individually (though not always appropriate), but regardless of your chosen warping technique two fixed points are absolutely required to keep the warp threads from tangling and to keep them even. Currently, I use a warping peg and a doorknob to warp my cards, which works well only so long as I do not need to open the door. As some point I will need to get or build a proper warping board.

The weaving itself is fairly straightforward. Again, tension seemed to be the main challenge, both in keeping the warps even and tights, and in keeping the weft even. Maintaining a consistent band width and a smooth surface took some practice, but by the time I had completed my first practice band I was able to do both fairly consistently and more on to more complicated patterns. It does help to use some kind of measuring device to check your band width now and again, particularly when using softer fibers like silk or cotton.

Crocket, Candace. Card Weaving. Interweave Press, 1991.

Lewins, Shelagh. The Ancient Craft of Tablet Weaving: Getting Started ( Last accessed Nov. 18, 2010.

Gaslee, Sarah. Basic Tabletweaving. ( Last accessed Nov. 18, 2010.

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