The tablet weaving in action

When I get it all written, I’ll load a few pages of background on the history and archaeology of all this weaving  –  including tablet weaving (or card weaving, as it’s also known).  Basically, it is a technique of twisting densely-set warp threads around a narrow weft.  It’s possible to create surprisingly complex patterns this way using very simple materials, and it’s ideal for weaving long strong bands.  The Chinese used them for making horse reins and girths.  The Celts and Romans used them for decorative trim on cloaks and other clothing, and for re-enforcing the edges of aprons and blankets.   But at its most basic, this is a very simple technique.

With any weaving, the essential feature of a set-up is to keep the warp threads straight and under firm tension. In the past, tablet weaving warps were commonly tied together to a hook on the wall, or a tree branch, and secured at the working end by attaching them to the weaver’s belt.  This way, just by leaning forward and back the weaver could adjust the tension of the warp.

But this same anchoring of the warp can be done in a variety of other ways; one of the most practical that I’ve discovered is to have a “plank with two handles”.   I’ve also added a couple of little refinements: I put felt pads underneath so that the back of the screws don’t scratch the floor or table top.  And when I was reading Candace Crockett’s book, “Card Weaving”, I saw a drawing of a Cossack soldier weaving with cards, and he had a comb attachment to prevent the warps from pulling in.  So that seemed like a brilliant idea, and I have hot-glued a comb onto my loom as well.

The second essential feature with weaving is to have sheds that will separate some of the warp threads from others.  Threading the weft through these sheds creates the cloth.   The genius of tablet weaving is that the cards themselves do all the work here, and can make sheds for a dazzling variety of designs.  (If you want to be amazed, check out tablet weaving/card weaving on Pinterest!)

The cards are usually about 4 inches square with rounded corners and 5 holes, one in each corner and one in the middle.  Traditionally these were made of wood or bone, but now it’s often cardboard or plastic.  I’ve also seen pictures of playing cards that have been cut into squares with holes punched in them, which seems like a great idea!

I’m beginning to enjoy this!  I’ve started on a simple zig zag to get the hang of turning the cards.

card weaving loom in action

4 thoughts on “The tablet weaving in action

  1. Empy

    How do you fasten the weaving to the loom/board? Looks so easy to make that I’m thinking about building one myself but I are not sure how to fasten the project once I get that far.

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    1. There are a couple of ways to attach the warp threads to the board. At the far end, you can initially gather them all up together and loop them around the handle, then simply tie them on. But when you’ve woven for a while this end of the warp gets shorter, so you’ll need to secure the warps together in a knot, and use a length of cord or strong string to attach this knot to the handle … OR to a weight, I’ve tried that too! I like the flexible resistance of a weighted warp … more on that in a future post. At the weaving end (your end) you can either tie the warp to the handle in one knot all together or in two bunches, side by side. But after you’ve been weaving for a few inches you’ll want to bring the work back in close to you again, so in the picture it might be hard to see, but I untied the warp and wrapped it around the handle and used a pencil to ‘pin’ it. The pressure on the warp holds the pencil behind the uprights of the handle. I think it’ll make sense when you try. Let me know! Sally

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