I’ve been promising myself I would show you my tablet weaving, something I began as a little project in amongst over the Summer. My first piece is an 11 tablet belt/strap in shades of red, yellow and white approximately 115cm long (not including braid and tassel section)
The reason I decided to try my hand at tablet weaving was, after an interesting session at the pub on a Tuesday night, I did a bit of digging around Viking culture, particularly their clothing and weaving methods. The idea of learning to spin using a drop spindle just didn’t appeal to me, particularly when it’d require me to get hold of raw wool and a stone weight and other associated paraphernalia. But the method of tablet weaving to create belts and straps and decoration caught my attention and it was in this direction I took my character.
I’m surrounding by people who know so much about this sort of stuff, particularly in-character as a Viking type people are becoming a regular sight amongst the players, so it’s nice to be able to be involved having had some experience of doing this.
Tablet weaving (or card weaving) is a form of decorative weaving using cards or tablets with holes, through which the weaving material is threaded. I use the term tablet or card interchangeably as most of my reading and understanding has come from several American sites which offer advice and tips on the art of card weaving.
The way tablet weaving works is that a series of cards are strung together and all the cards are twisted toward or away from the weaver depending on what the pattern calls for. It took me awhile to figure out what this meant, so I’m going to show you some step-by-step pictures following the really helpful guide produced by the Earth Guild. I’m using a modified pattern to the one shown in the instructions as I didn’t have enough thick card to make my tablets.
The pattern I designed/made is as follows:
The numbers indicate which tablet it is, whilst the four letters down the side indicate which of the four holes are threaded. The letters are the colours I used: Dark Red, Red, Yellow and White. I ended up using a few complimentary shades of red because I ran out whilst cutting the project and rather than create a stripy pattern, I mixed the different shades into the pattern to mask the different colours. You can sort of tell that’s been done in the belt if you look closely, but the overall impression is what is pictured above.
I labelled my tablet A to D in a clockwise direction from the top left hole. I don’t think it matters how you label them as long as they are all labelled the same and threaded in a similar set on each card.
I used embroidery thread for this project (just some cheap and cheerful stuff from Argos) which went from feeling a little stiff and plastic to being lovely and silky after I’d woven it together. I only used this because I had stuff lying around and I knew where I could get more quickly (got to love reserve and pickup from Argos).
As well as preparing the cards, I had another skein of embroidery cord in dark red (the outer colour). I also kept a clean blunt cutlery knife to hand (driving Lord A384 crazy) to help knock the threads into place. It’s called a shed-knife if you want to be fancy – but its just a knife.
The little arrows indicate the threading direction of the card as explained in the Earth Guild card riff instructions. I can’t really explain it properly yet as I’m still not sure why things are threaded the way they are. I just do as I’m told.
Fig 1) To avoid messing my threads, I hung them in sets of 4 (because that’s how many I could get from each skein) on the back of a chair. Note the different shades of red.
Fig 2) Just to demonstrate my shuttle being threaded with the dark red thread used on the outer edge of the pattern. Because the weft (the technical term for the thread that goes in and out of the warp (the threads that are threaded through the cards)) will be visible at the sides of the pattern, it looks nicer if it blends in. I used around a skein of thread for this because I didn’t want to run out.
Fig 3) Look at that tangle! Cards all threaded, waiting for the next step.
Fig 4) Cards held by two elastic bands and the threads all tidied up. We’re ready to start weaving!
The act of weaving goes like this – pass your weft through the “shed” or open space between the upper and lower threads coming from your deck of cards towards your project. Knock the weft up against the last bit you wove with the back of your knife. Grasp your cards and turn the entire deck away or toward you depending on what’s required. Make sure you keep a track of how many turns you’ve done or what position your deck is in. Clear the shed (the actual term) with your fingers or your knife. Tighten the weft and pass it back through the shed. Knock in place, turn your cards and keep going.
Fig 5) Starting to weave. It’s showing the pattern and I’ve discovered the turning points on my pack of cards (the bunch of things hovering below the green line) but it’s a bit loose.
Fig 6) The weaving is attached to my belt and hung off the door handle in the picture. I gradually worked towards it as the project went on.
Actually, I ended up finding several places where I could work on this. This style of weaving is known as belt weaving because you anchor the work to yourself and use your body position to control the tension. It did lead to a bit of a sore back after a while, but that might have been the chair I was using.
Lord A384 helped me out by taking some photos of my weaving in action – hover over the pictures to see what’s going on …
And just to highlight the shed and my hand grip –
The piece was finished by braiding the 45 final threads (44 warp and 1 weft) into tiny 3-stranded braids then braiding these into 5 larger 3-stranded braids and then braiding this into a 5-stranded braid seen above. At the side that was attached to my belt, I did something similar though with only 44 threads. the ends were then tied and cut at a suitable length to form a tassel.
Links to helpful websites:
Earth Guild – a really useful guide, going through step by step what I’ve summarised above.
Stingpage – a little simpler than the Earth Guild guide – but I found it took some prior understanding to “get” some of the explanations given. It’s handy though when you start branching out into some of the patterns available on the web. I also found the braiding page great at finishing off my design as I had 45 threads to do something with (!).
The Ancient Craft of Tablet Weaving by Shelagh Lewins – really handy to just check some things that aren’t fully explained in the above guides, but it’s a bit hard to go through as a beginner.
The Loomy Bin – an online weaving studio with some patterns and tools for weavers. Some really cool stuff can be found on here that I can’t wait to try!
Tablet Weaving as an S.C.A. Kid’s Activity – got an interesting set up for a table top loom and explanation on how tablet weaving works. The accompanying guide from the activity (Tablet-weaving looms) details how the loom would work