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.