Tablet Weaving for Beginners

Jahanarabanu Vivana

jahanara@thpurplelotus.org

http://www.thepurplelotus.org/weaving/double-faced-tablet-weaving/

 Vocabulary

S-Spun threads- when you look at these threads the twist follows the same line as the straight part of an S.

S-Threaded Tablet- this refers to tablets that are threaded in such a way that the threads follows the same line as the straight part of an S.

Figure 1

Warp Threads- these are the threads that run length wise through your weaving project. If you are using a loom these are the threads you attach to the loom.

Warping- the process of putting threads on the loom or arranging your long threads for weaving.

Weft Threads- these are the threads that run the width of your weaving project. You place one or more warp threads between the weft threads to hold the weaving together.

Z-Spun threads- when you look at these threads the direction of the spin follows the same direction as the long part of a Z.

Z-Threaded Tablet- this refers to tablets that are threaded in such a way that the threads follows the same line as the long part of a Z.

Figure 2

 Tablet Weaving Explained

Tablet weaving was used by various cultures through the Middle Ages from Romans to Vikings, English, Irish, Norman and many others. The most common tablet weaving set up is the twill set up. A twill weave alternates S then Z threaded cards or tablets. Many cultures also used the double faced tablet weaving set up. This type of weaving produces a reversible band. This is the style covered here.

Here are the steps to setting up a double faced twill band.

Materials:

 Two colors of yarn, preferably wool or linen. I recommend linen for your first project, because it is the easier of the two authentic threads to work with in the beginning.

Cards

Loom (optional, but recommended)

Shuttle

Determining the amount of thread you need:

Total Length of finished product X 1.2 + 50 cm

You want to add the extra 20 percent for shrinkage and the extra 50 cm for weaving space and knots.

Warping Process

Figure 3

     A                                  B

    D                            C

Figure 3 illustrates an unthreaded card. Many commercial cards will come with each hole labeled as A-D. When you thread your cards, I recommend that you have the marked side of the card facing you to help you thread the card properly. When you put the threads through each hole you must put the threads through from the same side each time. If you insert some threads front to back and others back to front on the same card the card will not turn. Weaving is a very precise art and this is the first of many examples of the precision required for successful weaving.  A properly threaded card will look like Figure 4 below.

Figure 4  A                        B

   D                        C

You will need to thread each of your cards on a loom or you can create a chained warp, which can be used in the belt style tablet weaving. I recommend using some sort of loom when you first begin.  The simplest loom is made from three pieces of wood, on that is half the length of your thread, and two pegs that the warp threads are wound around., see figure 5  You can also purchase a commercial inkle or rigid heddle loom.

Figure 5

  1. To warp a double faced project you will thread holes A and B with one color and holes C and D with your other color, for the purposes of this document I will use the colors red and yellow. We will assume that holes A and B are threaded with red and holes C and D are threaded with yellow.
  2. Once you have threaded all the cards you will need to twist every other card so the cards are in facing pairs.
  3. Once this is accomplished you need to make sure that each card has the A hole at the top, as in figure 4.
  4. Prepare your shuttle, I recommend using the light thread as the weft.
  5. Attach the weft thread to one side of the warp.
  6. Pass the weft thread through the opening between top and bottom warp threads.
  7. Turn the cards a quarter of a turn toward you, so the B hole is now where the A hole was previously. See figure 6 below.

Figure 6

B                C

D                A

  1. Pass the weft through the opening, this will be back to the side you started on initially.
  2. Turn the cards another quarter turn so C is on top, beat the previous weft into place and pass the weft again.
  3. At this point you will turn the cards a quarter turn away from you so B is again at the top, as in Figure 6, beat the previous weft into place and again pass the weft.
  4. Turn the cards another quarter turn away from you so the cards are back in the original position.
  5. Repeat this process for a few inches.

Creating a pattern

Patterns are created in double faced tablet weaving by changing the threading of certain cards so the opposite color shows. You can do this when either the A or C hole is on top. If you are looking at a graphed draft you will flip the cards that correlate with the graph. For example if the 5th grid box is colored differently you will flip the 5th card pass your weft, turn the card and go on with the process. I will use a diamond shape as an example.

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After you have woven a few inches with the A hole on top, you will

  1. Pull card 5 out of the pack
  2. pass the weft thread
  3. turn to the pack farthest from you (with the bulk of the cards) toward you, and turn card 5 away from you
  4. pack the previous weft into place and pass the weft repeat 3 & 4
  5. Pull cards 4 & 6, turn the pack furthest from you toward you again, and turn the pack closest to you away from you
  6. pack the previous weft into place and pass the weft thread
  7. turn the pack furthest from you away from you and turn the pack closest to you towards you, repeat 6 & 7
  8. pass the weft
  9. pull cards 3 & 7 into the pack closest to you, notice that you are turning each pack in the opposite direction which is what brings the two different colors onto the top layer. If you have the hang of this weave three more picks in this method then beginning with the outer most cards start returning the cards in the front back to the main pack, this reduces the shape and creates the second half of the diamond. If you don’t have the hang of this it’s OK continue with these instructions.
  10. Turn the pack furthest from you toward you and the pack closest to you away from you, pack the previous weft and pass the shuttle again. Repeat
  11. Return cards 3 & 7 to the larger pack
  12. turn the pack furthest from you away from you and turn the pack closest to you towards you, pack the previous weft and pass the shuttle, repeat
  13. Return cards 4 & 6 to the larger pack
  14. Turn the pack furthest from you toward you and the pack closest to you away from you, pack the previous weft and pass the shuttle again. Repeat
  15. Return card 5 to the larger pack. Now you only have one pack!
  16. Turn the pack away from you, pack the previous weft and repeat. You will continue to turn the pack away from you twice, each time packing the previous weft and passing the shuttle. Then you will turn the pack toward you two times, each time packing the previous weft and passing the shuttle. Continue this pattern until you want to create another diamond, then follow the above instructions. One you have done a few diamonds the sequence should be fairly repetitive and will likely stick.

Notes on the Weft and keeping and even width.

        When you pass the shuttle, you should have a fairly even weft (or fell) line, you do not need to have it right next to the previous weft, but you also don’t want to have to pack it too far.

        Leave a bit of an excess loop as you pass the shuttle, a good way to keep an even selvedge is to pack the weft then gently snug the loop in place by pulling the opposite end.

 Recommended Reading

Collingwood, P. Techniques of Tablet Weaving.

Spies, Nancy. (2004) Ecclesisastical Pomp and Aristocratic Circumstance: A Thousand Years of Brocaded Tabletwoven Bands. Arelate Studio.

        This book is a great resources for brocaded narrow wares. Nancy Spies is a great resource for extant patterns. This book can be purchased at http://www.weavershand.com/ArelateStudio1.html 

Spies, Nancy. (2004) Here Be Wyvernne’s. Arelate Studio.

“Here Be Wyverns: Hundreds of Patterns Graphed from Medieval Sources by Nancy Spies is a book of

 authentic patterns from the Middle Ages. Imaginary creatures, people, birds, lettering, architecture, overall

designs, and borders are here, available for use by any craftsperson who uses graphed designs. The patterns

have been taken from sources dating from the sixth to the sixteenth century C.E., and every source is

documented.

Whether you are a needleworker, a knitter, a weaver, a beader, a mosaic maker, a quilter, or a textile historian,

this book should be in your library. It is filled with over 400 patterns to inspire you.

The book is spiral bound and has 192 pages, plus 4 pages in color. There are over 130 quotes from primary sources.” Taken from http://www.weavershand.com/ArelateStudiowyvern1.html where the book can be ordered.