My creative SCA journey on stuff I make and research I do…mostly in fibers (wool prep, spinning, weaving, tablet weaving) and glass beads, but could also include costumes, camping, cooking, and any other creative things that strike my fancy.
Ok, it might not *actually* be a snail, but it looks a little snail-like to me.
I had asked on the community page what kind of weaving you all would like to see next, and about half of you said something different and more challenging. And I thought I found one…but I think I’ll put it off til next time. That one has 38 cards; a very random, meandering pattern; and seems to go on for days…and days…and days… In all, 182 picks to this repeat… If you want to do that weave with me, and you don’t have that many cards, this is your fair warning to stock up!
So I looked around some more and found one that I think is much more do-able, but still a bit different because it isn’t Norse and not geometric. I don’t have a lot of history on this one because, while there are some papers written on the subject… I don’t read Estonian. Sure, I could rely on Google Translate to help, but many times, as many of you may have experienced, the translations leave a lot to be desired.
The motif that I have chosen comes from a 13th or 14th century grave find in Estonia, the Siksala shawl, found in grave 200. It is currently housed in the archaeological collection at the Tallinn University Institute of History. There are more than a dozen different motifs around this woven and beaded edge, where the weaver did two or three repeats of a design, then moved onto the next one, a bit like a skip hole weaving sampler.
The shawl’s edging is largely complete—almost the entire edge remains, but the body of the shawl has mostly disintegrated.
Rather than try to chart out the entire thing (there is a book available on Ebay for under $8 US that does just that), I have chosen one very pretty motif, and its mirror image, to show you for this video. It’s got really cute snail-like curls—and I love snails!
I hunted around for a new and different piece of tablet weaving and came across a photo of a re-created piece and I absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately, the person who posted the image on Pinterest didn’t credit the maker (ALWAYS credit the maker!), I dug around some more and found that these photos actually belonged to my favorite weaver to stalk, Mervi Pasanen. https://hibernaatio.blogspot.com/2012/01/lautanauhaa-virosta-tablet-weaving-from.html
The next kingdom in our Laurel Kingdoms project is the Kingdom of Atlantia, created in 1981 whose borders encompass Maryland; Virginia; North and South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia & Washington DC. Their colors are blue and white. Given the oceanic theme of that region, the snail-like motifs will be a perfect fit for that Kingdom.
Don’t be afraid of the length of this pattern! It’s got the same techniques that you have already done–skip hole, turning cards forwards & backwards–it’s just a lot longer. However, you don’t have to worry about twist build up in the cards–this is a zero-twist pattern. You will need to flip your border cards every couple of repeats.
Thanks so much for joining me again! Happy weaving, a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all my US viewers, and hope all your lockdowns are swift and comfortable. Check on your neighbors…we all need to look out for each other.
I’ve had a number of folks asking me about my loom, how it was made, where I bought it, etc. The answers are: it’s an Inkle loom–a 19th century invention (so…not medieval at all), unknown maker, and I bought it second hand more than 20 years ago. I think I bought it before I had kids…and my eldest is 23 now.
However, I am here to give you plans, dimensions, photos, and all the suggestions for improvement if I were to make it again. The discussion will be in the video, but this is where I wanted to post all the drawings (for what they’re worth–it’s been many a year since I took drafting, and I am not a proficient woodworker, so your mileage may vary).
I hope you are able to translate these images and drawings into a loom of your own!
And when you find that this little guy isn’t enough for you…
If you were to ask me for book recommendations, and you have!, one of the books that I will recommend to every historic tablet weaver is Applesies and Fox Noses, Finnish Tabletwoven Bands from Maikki Karisto and Mervi Pasanen.
This is a collection of 30 patterns ranging from very easy to difficult, and includes period motifs from tablet weaving fragments found from the Finnish Iron Age, which ranges from 500 BC to 1300 AD.
The other comments I’ve gotten from the Tablet Weaving for Absolute Beginners is that the pattern was too complex. If you want to start your first tablet woven band and want a very easy pattern to start with–this is it!
This pattern comes from a fragment found in the Kaukola Kekomaki graveyard dating from the Karelian Iron Age–as mentioned above. This three-color fragment was found on a dress, a detailed drawing of this 14 mm wide band (slightly over 1/2″) is in Theodor Schwindt’s book, Tietoja Karjalan rautakaudesta (“About the Karelian Age”), published in 1893. The item is labeled as #379.
Some of you may have seen this pattern or similar ones on Pinterest or come across it in Google searches. The web site for these two amazing weavers is https://hibernaatio.blogspot.com where they have several other patterns. You may panic for a moment because there are quite a lot of words you don’t recognize…yes, it’s written in Finnish. But DON’T PANIC–if you look carefully, you’ll see there is also English written in there! Not this pattern, of course, but on the web site. It’s OK.
You’ll notice that this pattern doesn’t have S and Z written under the pattern, and you’ll also see that the pattern is labeled DCBA…upside down! And the card is COUNTERCLOCKWISE! AAAAAHHHHH!
No, don’t panic. Let’s plug that into the tablet weaving draft designer: https://jamesba.github.io/tabletweave/ and make the bubbles look the same as the image.
There we go! Now, if you’ve watched my previous weaving videos, or if you’re familiar with this notation, you should be able to warp this one up! And if you’re not familiar with the Applesies charting system, you also now have the key for how their notations will translate into warping your loom.
This next piece in the Laurel Kingdoms project is honoring the Kingdom of Ansteorra (which means “one star”–totally appropriate for the Lone Star State!), which was elevated from a Principality to a Kingdom in 1979, which encompasses Oklahoma and Texas. Their colors are red, black and yellow.
In this video, I took a little side step to answer the question: “What do you do with all those tablet woven bands?!” (Besides drop them into a box and shove them into a closet…)
Sure, I do have a bunch that I keep as my “portfolio” for Arts & Sciences displays and for teaching, but I do occasionally use them for reenactment events and my everyday life. You don’t have to be into Medieval or Norse reenactment events to make use of your tablet weaving–you can use them in many modern applications as well. But to give you an idea what you can use them for, I came up with a short list!
Decoration for pillowcases
Quilts and comforters
Decorating Christmas trees
AND SO MUCH MORE!
Yes, that’s quite a few more than 10, but those are just a few ideas for how you can use tablet weaving for both costumes and everyday wear.
And, as promised, here is the pattern for the lanyard (keychain-dog leash-purse strap-holiday centerpiece…). This one is about as easy as it gets–thread it according to the directions and it’s simply four turns forward and four turns back. Repeat.
Thanks for checking out the video and the blog, and I will see you next time on Weave Along with Elewys!
Edit! Updated pattern!! After looking at the extant piece and my pattern, I decided that the little blue <> on the sides didn’t belong, so I adjusted it and came up with this!
As the weather cools in the northern hemisphere (and life begins anew in the southern lands) we are minded of the upcoming holidays and thinking ahead for gift ideas for those we love. If you have a Medieval enthusiast on your list, I may have an idea for you! Have you been shopping for reliquaries and coming up empty handed? Vendors all out of slivers of the one true cross? Finger bones of Saints on back order? Well, never fear, fellow weavers—you can create your own relics–the sleeve of St. Bertille!
Born in the early years of the 7th century, Bertille was born to a prominant family in Soissons, France, about 60 miles/100 km northeast of Paris. As a child, she spent her time in prayer and doing “serious duties”, not wanting to spend time doing frivolous things, and as she grew up, she found the world to be tempestuous and despised it. She found comfort in prayer and conversations with God. About the year 630, shortly after it opened, her parents brought her to the Jouarre Abbey in the city of Brie, about 20 mi/30 km SE of Paris. We don’t know how old she was when she arrived, but I would guess between 15 and 20 years.
She was educated by the Abbess Thelchildis and was known for her humility and self-denial. She was committed to aiding the sick and caring for the children being educated at the monastery. When Chelles Abbey was founded, with tremendous support from Queen Bathilde in 646, Bertille was chosen to be its first Abbess. 20 years later, that Queen retired from Royal service, as her son took the throne, and moved to Chelles Abbey, where she lived until her death in 680. The Abbess died 12 years later, in 692. Both were buried at the Abbey and about 200 years later, both had been canonised as saints. Her feast day is November 5th.
Among the textiles, at least three tablet woven pieces were found there—although, their garments were moved in the late 9th century, and displayed as saint relics for passing Pilgrims, then later moved again during the French Revolution to spare them from destruction, so we’re not really sure which woven piece belonged to which woman. Despite the rough handling, the fragments held up remarkably well, and so much detail can be seen on them. The pattern I’m going to share with you today is a bit of tablet weaving on what is presumed to be the Abbess’s sleeve. The extant piece is 9 mm wide, made from silk in red, yellow and dark brown. 2/3 of that width is border cards, so this center design is a very fine 3 mm wide.
Kingdom of Caid, created in 1978, comprises the regions of Southern CA, Southern Nevada (including Las Vegas) and Hawaii. Sounds like a party! Their colors are blue and white, but looking at their banner, it also has yellow in the laurel wreath and crown, so I’m adding a third color because this pattern lends itself well to using three colors…so let’s do that! Grab your looms and let’s get to work!
The last video for the Hallstatt 152 skip hole may have been a bit too advanced for a beginner, so here is a very easy skip hole pattern for beginners!
The original band was found in Hægebostad in the southern part of Norway and dates to about 500 A.D. The tablets in the central area were threaded with only two threads per tablet, the border tablets with four.
The three graves at the Snartemo farm were excavated over an 85 year period, between 1847 and 1933, which uncovered a number of fantastic pieces, including a sword, glass beakers, gold rings and more, dating to about 500 AD. Grave II (excavated in 1878) and Grave V appeared to be those of a warrior nobleman, both containing remarkable textiles, including the bands we know as Snartemo II and Snartemo V, the latter being significantly more complex than the former. The simpler band from grave II was woven with 17 tablets in two colors of fine wool using the skip hole technique. It measures 0.9 cm, but colors have not been determined as no dye analysis has been done. Lisa Raeder Knudsen did a study of the extant piece and said, “In Bjørn Hougen’s book “Snartemofunnene” 1935 a drawing is shown, but the analysis is not correct.” More recent in-depth studies have been done very recently; the link is below.
As part of my Laurel Kingdoms project, this piece is celebrating the Kingdom of Meridies, which was created in 1978 from the Kingdom of Atenveldt in the Southeast United States. Its borders currently encompass the entirety of Alabama; almost all of Georgia; a sizeable chunk of Tennessee; a bit of Florida; and small portion of Kentucky. Their colors are black and white.
This pattern is completed by simply turning all the cards forward, throwing the shuttle after each quarter-turn. When the threads become over-twisted or after a chosen number of repeats–often I switch after 12 or 16 repeats–turn all cards backwards, throwing the shuttle after each quarter-turn. Easy as that!
This piece is one of my favorites, not just because it’s attractive and easy to weave, but it’s one of the oldest ones on record!
It was found in 1991 in the Kernverwasserungswerk part of the salt mine in Austria. The salty environment kills single-celled bacteria that would cause the decomposition of organic materials. It is currently housed at the National History Museum in Vienna.
The archaeologists determined that the date for the piece is somewhere between 800 and 400 BCE (before current era). You read that right–FOUR HUNDRED BC! So sometime between the beginning of the Etruscan civilization and the Egyptians overthrowing Persian rule, some iron age miner dropped some woven fragments in a salt mine in Austria. Or really, one of several miners who left behind at least six pieces of tablet weaving. The oldest of the woven pieces, HallTex 288, a band of simple blue stripes, dates back to 1500-1200 BCE, which is about the time of the super-awesome rule of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt. Objects 43 and 136 are also made with simple stripes. The other pieces, 123, 152, and 186 have more intricate patterns with meandering lines, solid triangles, and diamonds.
After the piece was found in 1991, a pattern was designed to recreate this piece, which is called HallTex 152, and is an easy beginner pattern.
I will create it for you today in the colors to celebrate the Kingdom of Atenveldt! This one is the pattern I’m using–I’ll call it option 1:
This is option 2:
About 25 years after this piece was found, Maikki Karisto and Karina Gromer did a deep dive into researching the piece to see if the pattern was accurate. Looking at photos of the front and back of the extant piece, the weavers determined that this was more likely a skip-hole woven piece and did a number of test weaves before coming up with a new-and-improved pattern.
They determined that the yarns used are .4 mm, both Z and S plied wool. The extant piece is 12.5 cm long and 1.2 cm wide. The original colors may have changed a bit, but the salt in the mine helped preserve the colors quite well. They appear to be yellow-tan, brown and olive green.
First of all, card weaving and tablet weaving–same thing. The terms are used interchangeably depending on where in the world you’re from. It is a form of narrow band weaving using tablets to form a shed (the space between the top threads and bottom threads), and a method of weaving that can create complex patterns. This not only shifts threads from top to bottom, but twists them around each other creating a very strong woven band.
A Bit of History
The oldest woven piece was found in a salt mine in Austria between 1200 – 1500 BCE. This means it’s quite possibly contemporary with Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt. Several more pieces were found in that same salt mine–the atmosphere of which helped preserve the fibers–which date from 400-800 BCE. Many of them were very complex patterns and the details of these have been analyzed for thread size, twist, color and method of construction, so we know exactly how it was made!
Tablet weaving continued to be a popular way of decorating clothing and household goods until about the 15th century when people started using beads, gems, embroidery and precious metals as decoration.
Looms & Weaving Methods
There are a number of ways that you can do tablet weaving, and you really have to try a few (or all) of them to figure out which is best for you.
This is a favorite among many weavers–the ability to weave almost anywhere, as long as they have a belt and a stationary object to attach to. This could be a pole, railing, banister, door knob, heavy chair, a very patient friend, or even a stick that is held under your feet. If, however, you find that you need to set down your weaving to chase after small children or animals, this may not be a very convenient method for you.
The Oseberg loom was found in the Oseberg burial, dating to about 800 AD. It consists of two upright poles, about 3 feet high (1 m) set about 6 feet apart (2 m). There is a crossbar between them and your weaving is affixed between the two posts. You sit at a bench to weave. This is a beautiful image to see at recreation events–Norse, SCA, or even high Middle Ages. You can even design them to disassemble for transport to and from events.
If space is a consideration, you can make a modified version with simply a 2 x 4 and a couple of thick dowels. This sits on a table and can be worked just as easily. You may need to clamp it to the table to avoid it sliding around.
For later periods, the box loom was the way to do narrow bands. These are perfect for having a small loom that can be set on a table top or even on your lap. It has a warp beam (the back rod for the unwoven strings) and the cloth beam (the front rod, for the finished weaving). This warps up like many rigid heddle or floor looms and may require assistance to get the proper tension, or some very creative methods of adding tension to the strings as you warp them onto the warp beam–a stack of heavy books or a moderately heavy chair, maybe.
The Surfboard Loom
A poor cousin to the Oseberg loom and perhaps a first-cousin once removed to the box loom, this simple set up is another great option.
It can be built using a few simple tools and is small and portable.
This loom is the youngest of the bunch, presumably designed well after the Middle Ages (patented in the 1930s!), but it does act as both warping board and loom, keeps even tension and keeps threads organized. Of all the methods, this is my favorite, causing me the least amount of consternation and irritability. It is, however, limited on how long you can make each of your woven pieces. Most weave between 1 to 3 yards depending on the loom design…but don’t let that stop you…you can always design a bigger loom…
When three yards isn’t enough…
There are several options for weavers to look for weaving yarns. Here are some ideas for what to look for, and what to avoid:
Wool: Wool hairs are made with little barbs that snag each other to form yarn when spun. Different methods of spinning can give different final products. You can have a very light, fluffy yarn that is soft on the skin, but doesn’t have the strength to be warped; it’s best used as a knitting yarn. You can also have a strong, smooth yarn with a lot of strength, which would be great as a weaving yarn. This is all based on how it’s carded and spun. So wool can be a great option, but you should look for a strong worsted weight wool. If you have some wool lying around, give it a test-tug. If it snaps fairly easily, it will likely snap under tension while weaving and you will cry. You should also check to see if the yarn is really…grabby. I don’t know what the technical term is, but if the wool threads stick to each other like velcro, they will do this while weaving and it will require a lot of extra patience.
Linen: A plant-based fiber that is reputed to be very nice to work with. I haven’t actually used linen yet, so I can’t offer any good advice on that. There are lots of beautiful colors and the fibers are known for being very durable and having a lovely sheen. I will be placing an order for a couple spools, just to try it out, and there are a bunch of colors here on big cones.
Crochet Cotton: This comes in a huge variety of colors in a few different sizes. I’ve done projects in just about every size available, but my favorite–and one that is close to period-accurate–is the size 8 pearl cotton that comes in the little balls (I’m sure someone, somewhere has big cones of the stuff…still looking for a good source). Most craft stores have this in stock–Ben Franklin carries quite a number of colors. Be sure to check color numbers on the spools to make sure they match. I once got several balls of red, only to discover later that I had two different shades of red (I didn’t notice it in the store, but sure noticed it when I got home!).
Cotton Carpet Warp: The Maysville 8/4 yarns are heavier than the crochet cotton–by about double–but it makes a nice, robust weave. If you’re making a woven piece for a cloak, a bag, a guitar strap or a dog leash, this is a great material to work with. It has over 80 colors to choose from and the big spools are under $10 each, so you can do quite a number of woven pieces using just a few basic colors.
SILK: There is nothing bad to say about using silk! There are two sizes available from my favorite Etsy dealer; the 60/2 — a really fine thread — and the 20/2 — about the size of the size 8 pearl cotton. The silk has a luster and sheen that is unmatched by other fibers, it’s a dream to work with, and it’s strong! You can get large cones for $30 each or small 100 yard spools for $5. I got some of the small ones initially to see how well it worked, and within a couple weeks, was ordering cones. I won’t be using it for every project, of course, but for those special pieces, absolutely.
Cards / Tablets
Period cards were made from a variety of products including bone, horn, antler, wood, and leather. There are a variety of sizes that they came in, the Oseberg tablets being about 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm).
Most of the cards I use are of the 3 1/4″ (9 cm) cardboard variety–it’s what I learned on and what I’m used to working with, and several people cleaned out their craft rooms and their cards kept getting rehomed with me–which is great for when I teach classes! I have hundreds of them and don’t have a need to add to the collection. However, my husband just bought himself a 3D printer and has kindly printed some smaller 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm) cards that I’m going to try out. They might be a little thick–I prescribed the dimensions for them–the cardboard cards are about .6 mm each and these plastic ones are 1 mm. There are a few different designs for tablet weaving cards available on Thingiverse, including some Oseberg reproductions, so if you have access to a 3D printer–or know someone that does–maybe they can print some for you!
If you don’t have that kind of technology at hand, you can always make your own cards. You will need some heavy paper stock–like cereal boxes or cracker boxes–or even a deck of playing cards. Here’s a link to some instructions on how to make your own: https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Tablet-Weaving-Cards/.
Reading the Pattern
There are a few things you need to be able to understand. Looking at the pattern, you will see the numbers–1 through 13. These are the numbers of cards–one for each column. Best plan to write numbers on the backs of each card, which you will need to reference for many patterns.
Along the side are the letters A, B, C, and D. This indicates what threads go into what hole on which card. For example, card 5, hole A is pink; hole B is black and so on.
S & Z Threading
This is one of the most disputed items–is S and Z…does it mean the direction of the thread or the direction of the cards? Well, as long as you know how the pattern’s notation is written, you can do it how you choose.
My method is this–if you have clockwise lettering on your cards, face it to the right. If your letters are counter-clockwise (anti-clockwise), face them to the left.
From there, the patterns I use this threading method:
There are a number of shuttle options–I’ve purchased belt shuttles (6″ to 8″ long with a tapered edge) & short stick shuttles, made shuttles from scrap wood in the garage, and even a wooden ruler I found in the school supply box. Use what you have and experiment to find what you like the best.
Warping the loom–at least for circular warps like on the Inkle loom–requires the ends to be tied together. I use a surgeon’s knot so that it’s secure and easier to untie if/when you make a mistake.
While it’s difficult to describe what a weaver needs to do for tablet weaving, I will note that I start with the shuttle on the left and the tail through the shed, hanging out to the right. This is just my personal choice as I try to finish weaving at the end of a repeat and put the shuttle under a piece of elastic so the shuttle doesn’t fall on the floor…which had happened about 12 too many times before it occurred to me to tether that sucker down.
So the shuttle is on the left, the tail is through the shed to the right with a long tail (5″ or more long). Turn the cards forward once, and throw your shuttle through to the right and bring the tail through the shed to the left. The cross-cross of this weft thread helps anchor the weaving. Turn the cards again, throw the shuttle, pausing to lightly beat the weaving. Do then you can start to tighten up your weft threads to draw the band together. Repeat the turns for 2 to 6 more times, depending on how well you like the look of the tension. This takes practice…
Begin the pattern with AD at the top. You may want to view the video for further instruction:
Flipping Your Edge Cards
One thing to note is that this pattern is a zero-twist pattern–that is, as you weave, you don’t build up a twist like some patterns do, forcing you to either untie and untwist, use fishing swivels, or weave the pattern in reverse to untwist the warp. In this one, the only cards that build up the twist are the border cards. This can be easily fixed by either reversing the direction of the border cards–backwards instead of forwards–or flipping the cards from Z to S or S to Z, and continuing to follow the pattern as before.
Thanks for joining me! I hope you’re enjoying your weaving journey. Feel free to drop me a note on the YouTube comments if you have any questions.
One thing that tablet weavers experience frequently is twist in the warp that builds up until *something* has to be done about it. There are a few options that a weaver can consider.
You can untie and comb out the twist and re-tie…but that can create some exceptionally bad tension problems.
You can use a warp-weighted system that will untwist your warp as you go, but that is somewhat less portable.
Or you could try using fishing swivels, which is fine for a shorter warp, but when you’re doing upwards of 7 yards, like I am for this project, chasing the twist through a dozen or more pegs means you need another plan.
I’m sure that there’s a term for it…mirror image weaving…flip card weaving…or…untwist weaving…but I’m calling it Weaving in Reverse! This method weaves out the twist while still maintaining the pattern. Sure, it has a small variation in it, but it’s virtually invisible at first glance.
Here was my first attempt at changing direction. It has…elbows. Sure, it works, but it’s not hard to spot. I wasn’t really happy with it, so I experimented a bit…
And this is what I came up with!
A virtually invisible…or at least excellently camouflaged…design!
And this is how it’s done. First, you’ll be weaving the pattern from bottom to top:
When you finish this sequence, weaving 1 through 8, loosen the tension on your warp a bit and flip all your cards–S will become Z and Z becomes S. Then retighten your tension on your warp.
Then you need to weave four picks of a transition, which are rows 4, 3, 2, and 1, in that order. You will only need to do this once.
Then weave the pattern from top to bottom–8 down to 1–and repeat. The white squares are still forwards; the grey squares are still backwards.
When your warp has twisted too tightly in the opposite direction, you can transition back. After you finish your 8-1 sequence, you will need to flip your cards again, and your transition sequence is picks 5, 6, 7 and 8…then start at pick 1 and proceed through to 8.
Give it a try! Let me know how it works for you! If you have any questions, of course, feel free to reach out and ask questions.
I had planned to do a woven piece in celebration of Atenveldt, but I had a commission to work on and it seemed perfect to do a video and blog post on another Birka tablet woven piece!
This one was found in grave 824 and is known as Birka 22. It’s a brocaded tablet woven piece that dates from the 8th to 10th centuries.
This piece was one of several that were found in graves from that time period.
There have been several threaded in patterns that have been around the internet (Pinterest) but they seemed rather complicated. I then found one from Maikki Karisto and Mervi Pasanen (of Applesies and Fox Noses fame) that is much more simple!
I used that layout and put it into the tablet weaving pattern generator that I use so that the pattern is consistent with the way I’ve been teaching it. I love this pattern generator–it’s easy to use, doesn’t require a download, and it’s free!
Remember, the white backgrounds turn forward–away from the weaver–and the grey backgrounds turn backward–toward the weaver.
I warped this one up with 20/2 silk as it is to fulfill a trade with a woodworker to made a lovely Monster Loom for me! It holds over 13 yards (I haven’t actually measured it out yet), and it’s very flexible for doing any lengths of weaving over 3 yards. This is great for those longer commissions that I sometimes get.
You’ll notice that there are several pegs that were missed, which would add 25″ of length for each vertical space, plus the zig zag around the upper pegs. There are 100 different ways for warping the thing, and two tension bars, so lots of options.
When you get doing, you can do each repeat of the pattern in about 2 minutes, which means in about 21 1/3 hours, I’ll be done. If I work 4 hours a day, I can get it done in under a week…we’ll see how long it really takes.