Intro2CrdWvng-art - 7/9/15
"Introduction to Card/Tablet Weaving" by Lady Elena Hylton.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Updated as needed; most recent version will be at
Introduction to Card/Tablet Weaving
by Lady Elena Hylton
1. What is Tablet/Card Weaving?
Tablet weaving, also known as card weaving, is a technique that dates at least as far back to the 6th century BC and is used throughout the SCA period across multiple cultures in Europe (Collingwood 13). Wool, linen, and silk were commonly used fibers for the technique, though any fiber with little stretch and solid tensile strength can be used.
Tablet weaving is creating by twisting the threads of the warp together around the weft, interlocking the threads of the warp and weft together to create a pattern. Tablet weaving is what is called a warpfaced fabric, meaning that the designs seen on the weaving are created by the threads of the warp, not the weft. This means that if you weave a piece with a black warp and a white weft the color of the finished product with be mostly black with white dots where the weft shows through.
Warp: The threads on the loom before you start to weave. In tablet weaving, these threads will be the threads that show on the finished piece and create the design.
Warping: The process of putting the warp threads on a loom.
Weft: The thread on a shuttle which is woven into the warp. The weft in tablet weaving is mostly only visible as small dots at the outside edges of the band.
2. Warping a Loom.
A. Fiber. Before you can begin to warp your loom you must decide on your fiber. For beginning weavers crochet cotton is an excellent fiber; it has little stretch, is very strong and smooth, comes in many colors, can be found at nearly any craft store, and is inexpensive. Fluffier yarns can be used, but can be somewhat challenging at first as the fibers tend to try to stick together. A thicker, smoother fiber is easier to work with earlier on. Sewing thread can even be used eventually (I often use cones of serger thread for delicate projects), but it can be challenging to keep your tension even with such small thread until you are more comfortable with tablet weaving. Play around with different yarns and crochet threads and see what you enjoy.
A note on colors: Often two colors will look distinct on the cone/skein, but will blend together somewhat when woven. To see how the colors work together take a strand of each color you would like to use and twist them lightly together. If you see the swirl pattern distinctly then you will see the finished pattern, if the colors are hard to tell apart then your pattern will be very subtle. Either style is valid and can be lovely, but this way you can be sure you will like the effect before you start to weave.
B. Looms. Tablet weaving does not need to be done on a loom, you can work between two clamps on a table, or tie the warp to yourself and a stationary object. However, I highly recommend using a loom if possible. Inkle looms are a great investment for this in my opinion as they function as both an inkle and a card loom, as well as a warping board for other weaving projects. If you are not using a loom, then http://www.earthguild.com/products/riff/rcdweave.htm has instructions on how to weave using the backstrap style (one end of the warp tied to you, the other to a door or table) and http://www.lindahendrickson.com/cwarp.htmshows how to weave between two clamps.
C. Warping Styles. There are two common ways to warp a loom, threaded in or continuously warped. Threaded in patterns are very common in Viking patterns and work well to create repeating patterns. The advantage to threaded in patterns is that as each card has the fiber "threaded in" individually you are able to create a detailed patterns with less work once the loom is warped. However, the warping process does take longer and there are fewer options to change the pattern once it is warped. A good description of threaded in warping can be found in Candace Crocket or online at http://www.earthguild.com/products/riff/rcdweave.htm
In class we used the continuous warping method, a technique which allows you to warp the loom much quicker and with less struggle over keeping the cards equally tight (known as the tension), and also allows for numerous patterns to be made by moving the starting position of the cards around. While it does not work for all pattern types, it gives an extensive amount of freedom to the weaver in that you can eventually weave almost any pattern, including runes, letters, or images, from this basic warp. In the beginning it will also let you recreate several period patterns, including stripes, diagonal lines, and chevrons. Step by step instructions on this method can be found at http://www.rocknbead.com/wshed/cardwarppics.htm
Continuous Warp: The various cards are not tied off individually but instead are 4 single long threads with a single knot. This allows for a faster warp and easier time managing tension while warping. This method is excellent for geometric patterns (stripes, diagonal lines, chevrons) and later Medieval patterns.
ThreadedIn Warp: Each card is tied off individually, meaning it can take longer to prepare and be more challenging to keep the tension even, but can create lovely and intricate patterns with little effort. This method is great for stylized florals, knot work, or animals, and is very common in Viking tablet weaving.
D. "S" and "Z" Threading. If you are using a pattern it will almost certainly label the various card "S" or 'Z." This has to do with which direction the individual fibers are threaded through the cards. If you are using a threaded in pattern you need to determine this before you thread your pattern sometimes, but if you are using a twocolor continuous warp method then this can be managed after the loom is warped.
S and Z threading is important because tablet weaving does not lay the warp threads out evenly across the weaving surface like in tabby weaving. Instead the warp threads are twisted by turning the cards forward or backward, causing the warp threads to wrap around the weft. This means that the pattern lines we create in tablet weaving have a slight slant to them. This is why tablet weaving creates excellent diagonal lines, the patterns follow the natural slant of the weft. Z threaded and S threaded tablets twist the threads in opposite directions. If this sounds confusing no need to worry, once you start weaving you will be able to see it.
Something to keep in mind, but again don't worry if it's not clear just yet, twisting an S threaded card forward twists the cards in the opposite direction of a Z threaded card. Because it is the exact opposite, when you twist an S threaded card backward it is twisting the thread in the opposite direction, which is the same direction as a Z threaded card. This will be visible once we start weaving diagonal lines and chevrons.
Troubleshooting!: If you follow a pattern but the pattern lines look rough or jagged, look at the underside of your band if you flipped S and Z threading you may have a perfect pattern on the side underneath. If this happens you can either flip all of your cards to the opposite threading (making sure to keep the colors in the same position, keep the same colors in the top two and bottom two positions), or simply continue weaving as it is once the weaving is off the loom it won't matter which side was up.
S Threaded: When looking down the warp (starting at the part of the loom where you are starting the weaving and looking past the cards) the threads look like a slanted S going through the cards.
Z Threaded: The opposite of S threaded, when looking down the warp the threads look like a slanted Z.
S & Z Slanting: An S threaded card turned backwards creates the same slant in the pattern as a Z card going forwards.
3. Starting to Weave
Once the loom is warped, if you are using a pattern (especially for a threaded in pattern, but also for chevrons or diagonals), quickly flip through each card to confirm that they are threaded in the correct holes and also that all cards are facing the way that they should face.
Insert your hand into the shed. The shed is the opening created by the cards.
Slid your hand down the shed to the end of the loom. This is where you will start the weaving on your band.
Next we will "throw" the shuttle and weft, that is we will take our shuttle with the weft thread on it and send it through the open shed. Leave at least a few inches hanging out. Once the weft is passed through the shed it is time to actually begin to weave! Turn the deck (all of the cards together) forward. By forward I mean move turn the deck so that top corner that was closest to you is now still on top of the deck but is now closest to the end of the warp. Another way of thinking about it is if you were to turn your loom to face you with the start of the warp on your left and the end on your right you are turning the deck clockwise.
This is the basic movement of all tablet weaving. Throw the shuttle, turn the cards, throw the shuttle, turn the cards. The hanging start of the weft can be handled in several different ways, leaving it alone and heming it with the finished piece, or threaded back in through your band on the second turn and then snipped.
Our starting pattern is very simple, A&B threaded in a single color and C&D threading in a contrasting color, all S threaded. This is going to allow us to create numerous different bands by changing the starting position of the cards.
Shed: The opening created by the cards where the shuttle passes through.
Beat: Pressing the weft thread firmly down against the already woven sections to create a tight weave.
Forward: Turning the cards one position forward ,a.k.a. clockwise.
Backwards: Turning the cards one position backwards, counterclockwise.
Pattern for a Striped Band:
A simple striped band is very easy to create, and also very period (see Crowfoot page 133 for details on recreating a 14th century striped band using this pattern).
All cards should be threaded the same way and in the same starting position, with A being on the top of the shed and closer to you. Now simply throw the shuttle and turn the entire pack forward. Next throw the shuttle again, beating it against the first weft thread we just put down to keep the pattern tight. Turn the pack forward again. Repeat.
You could simply continue moving forward until you had reached the length that you wished (this is also slightly more common in period for patterns such as this). However, you would build up a lot of twist in the warp strings. To counter this you can reverse your turning direction occasionally. In order to switch between moving forwards and backwards with this pattern without disrupting the strip pattern wait until you have woven the first half of the strip (one turn) and then immediately reverse direction. This will keep the stripes the same size. The other advantage to reversing the pattern is that it prevents too much twist from building up along the rest of your warp.
If you were going to weave an entire piece in this pattern by turning it exclusively forward I would recommend changing the threading pattern somewhat, either by threading the pattern half S half Z (SSSSSZZZZZ or revered), alternating (SZSZSZSZSZ), or another variation (SSZZSSZZSS). If an entire band is threaded all in one direction and turned forward or backwards exclusively it can make the finished piece tend to twist somewhat.
Creating Other Patterns:
Now that you have the basic movements of tablet weaving down you can create many different types of patterns with this basic warp. Try the following options. Turn the individual cards on your loom so that they are all in the different starting positions. Repeat these patterns for as many cards as you have on the loom. Look at the patterns you can create. Weave 4, 8, or 9, or any number of turns forward and then backwards and look at how it alters the design.
Remember: If the band looks jagged or rough, look at the underside to see if the pattern is there! Starting Pattern 1:
Starting Pattern 2:
Starting Pattern 3:
4. Adding a New Weft Thread
If you are making a short band (garters) you may complete an entire project using the single weft thread that you start with on your shuttle. However, for longer projects you will need to be able to switch weft threads. Do this by removing the weft from the shuttle, leaving 48 inches at the end of your old weft thread out the side of your band after passing through the shed but before you turn the deck. Now rewind your shuttle with the new weft thread and pass it through in the same direction of the old weft. Turn the cards once. Now bring back the old weft thread by hand as well as the new weft thread on the shuttle together. Trim the old weft thread so that the tail is within the width of the band and not hanging out. Turn the cards. You can now weave as normal with the new weft.
5. Future Projects
Once you are comfortable with the geometric patterns you have created here there are a variety of different techniques that you can learn. Brocading is a process where you add an extra weft thread that goes across the top of the band to create a design, as seen at http://www.weavezine.com/content/tabletwovenbrocade.
This was very commonly used in period in a variety of ways. Another technique is called doublefaced weaving, where you turn the individual cards forwards or backwards to create intricate patterns in the weft, such as letters, runes, or pictures.
My handout on the topic is found at https://sites.google.com/site/elenasthreads/cardweaving/doublefacedhandout
and my patterns for the alphabet and Futhark runes can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/elenasthreads/cardweaving/mycardweavingpatterns
Tablet weaving is a great activity to create period and beautiful trim, garters, and belts for almost any SCA persona. They also make lovely gifts for friends or largess. I love geeking out over fiber and especially weaving, feel free to contact me with any questions at jecscififan at yahoo.comEnjoy!
Tablet Weaving Resources:
Free Patterns/HowTo Guides
Guntram's Tabletweaving Page
This is an incredible website for patterns, as well as other information on cardweaving.
"Cardweaving Made Easy" at The Renaissance Tailor
This page has a lovely guide to a simple and pretty threaded in pattern.
The Cardweaving Riff
This has instructions for people looking to use the backstrap method to card weave without a loom.
"How to CardWeave Letters, Numbers, or Designs" at Elena's Threads
This is my handout on how to perform doublefaced weaving to create letters, runes, or images. The pattern page to accompany it is https://sites.google.com/site/elenasthreads/cardweaving/mycardweavingpatterns
Pine Box Traders Warping
The page is designed by a merchant who sells lovely looms, but this specific link provides pictures and instructions on how to warp an inkle or card loom using the continuous warp method.
SCA CardWeaving Yahoo Group
This in an excellent group with many knowledgeable, friendly people and excellent resources in their links and files.
Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Tablet Weaving.
This is generally considered to be one of the most comprehensive books on historical tablet weaving, and includes pattern diagrams for many period patterns.
Crockett, Candace. Card Weaving.
This is designed more as an introduction to card weaving, but does include period images as well as modern designs for a variety of patterns and weaving styles.
Crowfoot, Elisabeth et. al. Textiles and Clothing c. 1150c. 1450. Medieval Finds from
Excavations in London, 4.London: HMSO, 1992.
Copyright 2015 Jeanne Clifton a.k.a. Elena Hylton This work may be reproduced without permission only for noncommercial purposes and in its entirety. All images are property of Jeanne Clifton and may not be reproduced individually without permission. For all other uses please contact me at jecscififan at yahoo.com.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.