A warp-weighted Tablet Weaving Loom

I’m enjoying teaching myself about tablet weaving, through some reading and a lot of trial and error.  Over the past few months I’ve spent quite a while experimenting with ways to make sure that I’ve got the right tension on the warp.  And after a few false starts, the very ancient idea of using loom weights occurred to me, and it seemed like a new solution!


The first method that books suggest for tensioning the warp is to gather the entire warp and knot it to a door handle or a hook on the wall, then attach the working end of the warp to a belt around the weaver’s waist.  This backstrap method seems to be popular, but it has not worked for me.  I like to be able to stand, sit or move away from the weaving without having it attached to me.

So the next thing I tried (Method Two) was to create my very simple loom from a board with a handle at each end.  My intention was to gather up the warp threads and tie them to the two handles while I worked with the cards in between.  The problem with this emerged fairly quickly.  As I wove, the twisting built up behind the cards and the tension increased.  I had to untie the warp at the back often to untwist everything, and then I had to re-tie the warp and try to make the tension the same again.

Method Three was something I came across in my reading.  (I can’t remember where …)  It was to tie the entire warp to a weight and hang this over the edge of the table I was working on.  This way the tension did not increase with weaving, or even with advancing the weaving at the working end.  However, the twisting still built up behind the cards.  Using fixed fishing swivels for each card solved the problem of twist build-up, but didn’t have the advantage of using a weighted warp.

Then came my bright idea, I thought:  Method Four!

weights on loom

I admit it seemed unlikely that I had come up with a new innovation in a craft that has been around for 10,000 years.  But I decided that instead of using one big weight, I would try using a separate lead fishing weight for each card.  In the end this was not heavy enough, so now I am using a metal ring for each card and I can attach as many weights as I want to each.  Three 1-ounch weights per card seems about right.  Now the twisting does not build up behind the weaving and the tension is steady for all the cards.  Brilliant!

close up












And then a few weeks after my inspired new discovery, I came across Luther Hooper’s book, Weaving with Small Appliances (Volume II) published in 1923.  It is available now online at: http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books/hl_tablt.pdf  And there on page 38 he suggests exactly the same thing.  So of course I am not the first to come up with this after all.  But it is still a great idea!


10 thoughts on “A warp-weighted Tablet Weaving Loom

  1. David Colquhoun

    Well this is why we study the ancient ways is it not? Looking forward to seeing what you actually produce from this type of loom?


  2. Maria Colatarci

    Check out Inge Dam’s _Tablet Woven Accents for Designer Fabrics_. At MAFA 2015 we used water bottles, as these have many advantages. We used these on a floor loom to explore the use of two different methods of tensioning used at the same time. This was really satisfying, and I use weights to tension my card weaving ever since.


  3. Mary

    Dear Sally, I’m so so glad I found this. I was looking for a solution to solve the twists and built-up tension behind the cards and I hope this solution is going to work for me. So I understand correctly that you tie all threads from one card to a ring with weight? So no need to tie threads from every individual hole to a ring? I only use short threads (appr. 20 inch) for bracelets, so the twisting tension builds up quite fast.


    1. Hi Mary, Yes, I use one weight for each card (so all 4 warp threads of the card together). But I am experimenting now with using old (washed) spice jars instead of fishing weights. They seem to be a good weight, and you can coil up the warp ends inside the jar and secure with the lid screwed on. Less likely to tangle! Sally


      1. Mary

        Thanks Sally! I was looking into fishing leads with swivel. They are available in many weights. I do not use thread but hair to weave, so I can do with less weight per card (100gr is more than enough probably) and jars are not an option in this case, as the hair is max. 24 inch long.


  4. Susan

    I braid fibers using the Japanese weights called tama which are available at Braidershand.com and the 85g weight is perfect for cardweaving. One weight per card using your loom plan. Works great and the tama are tailor-made for winding the unwoven four warp ends from each card. They never tangle. I have abandoned my fishing weights to…. fishing.


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