Teaching and Weaving

The last few weeks have been a flurry of research for teaching a class at An Tir Collegium on A Brief Survey of Tablet Woven Bands, being an overview of extant tablet weaving pieces and patterns to reproduce them. It was a few weeks of preparation prior to the class, but I was able to put together a 50+ slide PowerPoint presentation. It had pieces from 500 BC Austria to 14th century Germany, and from countries all over Europe from Scandinavia to France. I arrived in the classroom a few minutes early, but spent several more struggling to get the computer to work properly.  Once we made the magic of technology cooperate with me, I looked up and realized that the classroom was not just well-attended, but standing-room-only! I thought I’d have a small handful of students and it was more than 25. No worries. I’ll just panic a little.  AAAAAHHHHHHH!

After we finally got the computer working, it went well! Most of the students were either novice or beginning weavers; only a couple were intermediate or advanced. The feedback I got was mostly excellent, which was very encouraging. I even was pulled aside by a couple of students later and told that they really enjoyed the class and that a few things that I mentioned were particularly helpful.  😀

A few days later, I sent a copy of the slide show to a prominent tablet weaver in Germany who gave me some really good feedback–just a couple of minor corrections and marking some images that I had missed–but she said, “It is one of the best summaries I’ve read.” That is high praise from such an esteemed source! (Giddiness ensued!)

My goal for teaching the class was to have as many pieces done in my own hand as possible.  The more slides I added, the fewer examples I had…so I needed to get some work done.  In preparation for this class, I made a few woven pieces to pass around. They are:

14th Century German piece.  Original was brocade (of course), but this is a very close facsimile in a threaded-in version.  This one was still on the loom, which was great for students to see all set up with all the cards needed for it…all 28 cards.

Dublin Dragons.  Original was also brocaded.  I think this is even prettier than the original.  It’s great fun to weave, too!

Hallstat 3, Austria, 500 BCE.  This was found in a salt mine with several other woven pieces.  The colors were remarkably well preserved due to the salt.  This one was fast and lovely to work, and I find it so remarkable how complex the pattern is, and this in 500 BCE…the technique was already very advanced at this time.  In Mistress Madrun’s class, she mentioned how much our weaving skills have declined in the last few centuries compared to what it was back then.

Right now I’m working on a piece that has a repeating motif from the Merovingian Queen Bathilde in Chelles, France (above).  I’m not as impressed with this selection of colors (below), but I wanted to choose something from my badge/arms.  I think the blue and green are too similar in tone, or maybe there is too much contrast with the green and white.  I’m not entirely sure, but I have a taker for it when I finish the other 3 yards of it.  It’s kind of slow going and the twist is building up on it rather quickly.  This would work much better in a warp-weighted version, if I had something set up to work on.

I have a list of about 20 other pieces in a binder, ready to go, that I’m looking forward to making, and a few patterns that I plan to make more than one length of, in various colors.

While I was getting ready to teach, I also had a commitment to make beads for the Lampworkers Guild.  These are for Aethelmarc, Northshield and Avacal.  Each grouping has one bead for An Tir’s sitting Queen and the others are gifts to the Queens of other Kingdoms, which I believe are sent to them at events in February and August.

Now that all that is done….I need a long sleep.

April Update

I’ve been doing a bit more weaving lately. Risking repeating myself (although, duh, I can edit it later), here’s what I’ve done recently.

Back in February, I finished the green “bees feet” weave that I did in really fine thread. It took me about two years to finish all of it.  What was I thinking? I dunno, but it turned out really great!

Then I warped up a couple pieces in blue and yellow in the Snartemo II pattern.  This is the period skip-hole weave that goes together really fast and is beginner-level EASY!  I really like this one.

After that, I did a woven piece for Baron Evrard in the Birka 22 pattern. I still need to get that to him.  This one is a more advanced level piece that requires following a particular order of turning cards in opposite directions.  It’s easy to get yourself turned around (get it…turned around?)

And I did another piece in WSU Cougar colorway…

Then I warped up a new piece (after I found my Applesies book again!), pattern #11.  This is listed as “challenging”.  This one has 50 steps to the repeat.

Fifty steps.


I’m not memorizing this ever.

The one thing I really need to do is make new kirtles for the camping season.  I need someone to measure me because doing it yourself is difficult/nigh impossible.


Recapping Weaving

OK…now we are at a current post.  For the moment, I’m going to stop going back and adding posts that are 2-3 (or more) years old.  So many of the photos are missing now that I don’t know what it was I was doing at the time when it says “Saxon weave” since I did a half dozen of them.  So what I’m going to do is post pictures of stuff I’ve done without all the blah-blah-blah that went with it them, but just grouping them together into styles with a brief description.  Now that I look at it, I did a lot of weaving in the last five years.

Skip hole weave


I really like this one.  I believe that it’s period (I’ll have to find the documentation again).  Super easy and looks great.  It was a test piece so it’s only a couple yards.

Threaded in Weaves



This one I did as a commission in 2012.  Unfortunately, she never picked it up and never paid me for it.


BUNNIES!  I made this for the Shire of Shittimwoode to put in their prize box.  This was from the Robin & Russ Handweavers’ book.


This pattern I think I found on the Loomy Bin.

tablet-8b  Variation of the Loomy Bin pattern

tablet-12a  From EQoS on Deviant Art

I love this pattern.  tablet-15a

I’m not kidding.  tablet-5b

Seriously.  tablet-4a

I really love this pattern.  tablet-12b

Really…really….  tablet-14a

tablet-11b Gorgeous in RED!

I love it even more with really fine thread.


Simplified version


And another one…


And another…


Yet another version…


tablet-13a  I think I made this one up.  Meh.


Anchors Aweigh!  This was for a high school buddy to be made into suspenders.


I drafted this “Tyr” pattern for Tyrssen of the Midrealm.  He was a middle school friend who I discovered was also in the SCA. 😀


Super wide band for Molly McGurn!  This was also my design, although to be honest, I kind of strung this up at random.


I think this one got donated to the Barony…An Tir and Aquaterra colors.

tablet-aq-2  A better pattern of An Tir and AQ colors.

an-tir-weave-1  Another with An Tir colors only


Prototype of a surfboard loom for teaching a class.  Mostly worked.


So I made a whole stack of surfboards for the class!


Got some six-hole cards.  Mostly didn’t work on the inkle loom.  I bet they’d work fine on a backstrap or Osburg type loom with a much longer working space.  I’ll have to try that sometime.

Egyptian Diagonals


This was assigned to me as a challenge by Master Fiacha.  This is super ugly, but I learned how the colors moved with the cards.


This piece was what I worked on after a failed attempt at a Dragon Head weave.  I gave up on the dragon heads and made more Egyptian Diagonals instead.  I love the dark blue and silver-grey together.

Ram’s Horn Pattern

tablet-10b 20141206_844

Not a period design, but very cool-looking and popular among the Historic Tablet Weaving folks!

20141206_773  Small test piece….just a bookmark.

Brocade Card Weaving


Didn’t like doing it.  That’s as far as I got before I decided it wasn’t for me.

Saxon Weaves

This next group has a few documentable pieces and are all double-sided patterns.  I want to get back to making more of these now that I have translated the GTT patterns onto a more easily-accessible Excel spreadsheet.

Saxon weave, 5-6th century, Cambridge.


Anglo-Saxon #8


Anglo Saxon 6a:  anglo-saxon-2

weaving-anglo-saxon-6b  Anglo-Saxon 6d


Tried using fishing spinners….with little success.

Snartemo weave


6th century Norwegian and really easy to make.  25 turns forward, 25 turns back.

Birka weaves






Birka 6 end-of-nov-2015-353

Applesies & Fox Noses








Still working on this one.  It’s also made of really fine thread and I’ve been working on it for about a year.

January Beads, Weaving & Other Stuff

(Originally posted 28 Jan 2014)

The end of January is nigh upon us and I have several things to show…at least in beads and a bit of weaving.

First, there’s me…I set up a table at Ursulmas where I made beads for the weekend.  While there was a demo display booth contest, there were significant limitations as to what I could do given that I was going to be actively demonstrating beadmaking.  Where the booth was located (unknown prior to set-up)?  What I can display that isn’t flammable?  Is there a banner and how do I hang it?  I can’t bring a tent or pop-up with a roof, so what can I bring for ambiance?  So many questions.  I brought the color copies of Callmer’s beads and brought all the old beads I could find that I store in a small treasure box.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot of old & ugly beads from my first months of bead making; I had strung them on dental floss and hung them over the treasure chest on the table.  I need to pull those aside and keep them somewhere else…like decorating the garden or something.  Some of my later beads were loose in the box, and the newest ones were strung on mandrels on the table.


File:An Tir Lampworkers Guild.jpg

I was told there was a banner for the Kingdom Lampworkers Guild, and it would be delivered Saturday morning.  I found the current banner design posted on the Lampworker’s web site; the banner was made for a previous event, but the design was not fully vetted by the Heralds, so it is currently an unofficial banner (not passable, apparently).  Since the Lampworker’s Guild does not have a device registered with the College of Heralds, I had some discussions with a couple of them at the event to come up with a new passable design.

In any case, the banner might not be understood by the public, so just to make it clear to passers-by, I made a lettered banner that simply reads:  “Lampworkers Guild” in a font called King Harold, matching the lettering from the Bayeux Tapestry.  I hung it using the packaging tape I had with me on the exposed pipes in the frigid hall.  It ended up being the only banner, as the Lampworker’s banner ended up not arriving after all.

Although I didn’t mean to be the exclusive lampworker working the booth, I was the only one there for more than half of the weekend; Aenor joined me for a while on Sunday, making a few beads in the frigid hall.  It was so cold on Sunday that the bead release was not drying and we walked around with our plastic buckets of vermiculite looking for a heat source.  The portable heaters outside were turned off to save fuel; they said they were only heating the building at night (which didn’t make any sense–no one was in the building at night).  I dipped the mandrils and more than 90 minutes later, the bead release was still wet.  If you heat them using the flame, the stuff dries too quickly and either cracks or explodes off the mandril.

Because I had more than 16 hours of uninterrupted time to make beads, I was able to finish almost 40 beads over the weekend, using just under two tanks of propane–I was able to make several more after returning home.  I finished all the beads I needed for the Kingdom gifts to Caid and Glen Abhann–they’re not due until July Coronation, so I got the Gold Star from the Guild head. 🙂  There are more than I need here, so I will send on the best 20 of each colorway.

Here are a few that I made over the weekend, in addition to the Caid and Glen Abhann beads…I also made a few as part of a commission for Jadwiga.  She chose six others that I failed to photograph before she came to pick them up.

I am also doing a little card weaving. I finished the weaving for Tyrssen of Middle Kingdom and warped up a new one on the loom.

I brought the loom with me to the event, but didn’t do any during the weekend.  The booth next to mine was occupied by Demo Winners, Emma and Nigel, who covered their table with weaving and leatherworking items.  I placed my loom on the edge of the table, next to hers, to add to her display.  This one is strung up with Perle cotton, using just over four balls of strings–one yellow, one black, and two red–in #8 floss.  I had quite a time finding extra red floss, and ended up having to replace it with a readily-available color.  Red 666 was available during the holidays, apparently, but not later, but everyone was carrying Red 321.  I had to un-warp six cards, and I’ll use those threads in a later project, I suppose.  While this is more expensive than using the cotton warp, the cost of materials is still under $20, it comes out lovely and shiny, and the cards turn smoothly.  I have a couple other projects in mind that I might try, using these threads as a substitute for silk.

A&S and Plans Set in Motion

I’ve made quite a few beads!  Some are really nice!



And some are pretty ugly…they are rather experimental, so don’t abuse the artist too much.  I was trying to make some Islamic Folded Beads, but found that they are tediously long to build and don’t always turn out right. In other words, my skill level is not yet up to that standard.

I started another technique that involves using a pointy tool, much like a dental scraper, but thicker and stronger.  I made the core of the bead then added stripes and dragged the tool over the surface of the glass, deforming the stripes, which looked very much like the folded beads, and took a fraction of the time.  Many of these turned out pretty cool, but others didn’t do as well…a bit lumpy and coarse.  One had a fatal flaw that caused…well…

…sudden bead death.  I didn’t get this one into the vermiculite fast enough, so it cooled down too quickly, causing stress fractures.  I could glue it back together, but there’s no telling if other fractures might appear later.


The perle cotton tablet weaving is coming along.  I have about a yard done so far on this particular piece.  The threads are pretty fine (#8 DMC perle cotton, found at any fabric or craft store) and slick, which makes the cards turn so smoothly…like buttah!  The cost of materials is a bit higher, but not astronomically high.  We’re talking about $12-15 spent for this project so far…maybe more if I need to use another $3 skein of thread for weft…instead of $5 for an entire project.  Yeah, it’s about triple or quadruple, but still cheap for what it is.

My plans in the not-too-distant-future (say, summer) is to build something like this:
warp-weighted loom
It goes with my sheep-to-shawl plan.  You know…take the fleece from the sheep and turn it into a wearable garment.
1.  Make loom.
2.  Spin fibers.
3.  Weave into cloth.
4.  Full cloth.
5.  Make something from cloth, like a 10th century Danish apron dress.
If I can finish all that by next January, I can enter things into Kingdom Arts & Sciences.  I was told (by a supportive Laurel friend) to enter three things:  loom, woven stuff and beads.  I think I can do it…but I’m going to have to do some serious work over the summer.

This goes well with the advise I received from *another* Laurel friend, who said to stay within a particular scope of time/culture when you enter Kingdom-level contests.  In her experience, being “all over the map” doesn’t show as well as being a bit more focused.

I’m thinking I should build a prototype of the loom first; try to build it out of really cheap materials, like 2″ x 4″ and 1″ x 2″, then make a more ‘natural’ product out of cut trees.  I can’t even imagine what I’d need to do to cull trees from the neighborhood or out in the wilderness somewhere.  Maybe someone in the SCA has a piece of property they’re willing to let me cut a tree from.  First things first…build the prototype.

Beads & Weaving (3/10/2014)

I’ve made a bunch of beads lately.  This set of 10 (11) were made for my dear friend, Heide, who wanted to make bracelets for her sister and mom.  Heide grew up on a cranberry farm near Aberdeen, so when she saw the first bead I made, she said “CRANBERRIES!” and commissioned 10.  I was happy to make them for her and threw in the 11th bead free!  OK, technically it was the first bead, and it wasn’t the prettiest, but she loves them anyway.


Then I was messing around with different colors and techniques, tools, and trying out some stuff with clear glass.  I don’t particularly care for working with the clear stuff–it seems to need a lot more heat and takes longer to melt, but it can create some really cool effects.

end-of-nov-2015-1756 end-of-nov-2015-1760 end-of-nov-2015-1762  end-of-nov-2015-1784  end-of-nov-2015-1763

This one I call the Diversity Bead.  🙂

end-of-nov-2015-1785end-of-nov-2015-1783Portrait: Experimenting with color combinations. .. Then doing a tried-and-true red, white and black combo.

I love the chemical reaction I had with these two colors–I need to get more turquoise.


I finally got the weave done–it’s so lovely!  I don’t know what I’m going to do with it…although I think it’ll end up on an apron dress.

Since the loom was now free…I warped up some yarn on the inkle loom to make the band for Frigga the Loom.  I’m thinking I need to get it on the rail and start attempting to weave.  I need to figure out where to set it up in the house–probably the front room, but I need to rearrange some furniture first.

Advanced Cardweaving: Ram’s Horn Pattern

(Originally posted 5 Dec 2014)


I’ve been watching a card weaving Facebook page and several people have asked about how to do the Ram’s Horn pattern.  It’s not a beginner’s pattern, for sure, but with an understanding of how the cards are set up and turning patterns of the cards, you, too, should be able to produce a lovely woven Ram’s Horn band.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Don’t worry–go step by step, and you’ll have this one by the horns!

Now, it should be noted, for those who are big into the recreationist groups like the SCA, this is not a period piece.  Historically, the only mention I can find is from a web site that reads:  “The Ram’s Horns pattern popularlized by Crockett’s “Card Weaving” book comes from the 20th century Anatolian (Turkish) belts and it has not equivalent in archeological finds.” http://weavedmagic.deviantart.com/journal/Origins-of-most-popular-tablet-weaving-patterns-394709084

So let’s get to the full color demonstration of this pattern!  READY?

If you’re not sure if you’re going to like it, or if you suspect you might get frustrated from trying and pitch it across the room, you may want to try a short piece first. Don’t warp up the loomzilla for this first project.  When I first tried this pattern, I did one-yard lengths for each thread, just to test it out.  I ended up getting about a foot done before I knew I needed to do a larger piece!

Supplies needed:

  • 3 colors of carpet warp or crochet cotton thread–I used Maysville 8/4 Carpet Warp.  It’s good stuff, heavy duty and will make great belts, bag straps, and heavy trim (it’s not delicate and as flexible as finer threads, but a great place to start).
  • 22 cards–mine are the store-bought 3″ cards with ABCD labeled in clockwise order.  (European cards are labeled in reverse)
  • 1 loom–I use an inkle loom that weaves up to 4 yards of trim, which makes it portable and if I need to run to grab the phone or pick up the kids, I can set it down and walk away.  Can’t do that with backstrap weaving.

When choosing the thread, you will need a light color, a medium color, and a dark color.  High contrast is important in this pattern!

You will warp it up with the #1 card on the left; #22 card on the right, reading the pattern just like reading a book.  The next thing to note is that, for this pattern, you should have the top surface of the cards facing *left*.  If you have the cards facing right, the pattern will show up on the bottom side of the weaving.  Also, and the pattern (above) has the rows lettered backwards–D, C, B, A.  (If they were lettered A, B, C, D, you would have to face your cards to the right–good tip to note for when you find future patterns!)

Ominous music sounds!

This is the pattern for the dreaded Ram’s Horn pattern.  Some people dread it, but it’s really not that bad!  I love this pattern and I’ve made a few pieces with this pattern and while it’s not from the Medieval period (for those SCA recreationists out there), it sure looks great and the technique of turning the cards is all the same from ancient times.


First, a note.  I mark my cards.  In this set, I’ve colored the AD side blue, and the BC side pink.  This is the way I can tell when I’m back in the home position.




Just a refresher:  Each column in the pattern is marked with S or Z.  Some patterns will be marked with \ for S or / for Z, but since this font doesn’t have a significant slant, it can look a bit more confusing, so I’ve used the letters instead.  Many new weavers get confused about how to do S and Z threading.  This is one of the best diagrams I’ve found to remind yourself how the threads go through the cards.

You’re looking at each card from its side–the S threading has the yarn coming through the front of the card towards you; the Z threading has the yarn coming through the back of the card towards you.
Now you’ve got the pattern, the threads, the cards, and a refresher on S and Z threading.  Go ahead and thread up your loom…I’ll wait.  (I often put in a movie that I’ve seen a dozen times so I have something to listen to while I work.)
Hot mess….


OK.  Now your loom is threaded and you have a shuttle loaded (I recommend using the same color as the thread on the border–in this case, a dark red–to make it blend in, but some people like to make it stand out as an added pattern on the edge.  Your choice!)  Ready to start?
The pattern alternates between the cards moving together, as a pack, for four quarter-turns, and then some of the cards turning in opposite directions for four quarter-turns.
There’s no place like home!
To begin the pattern, turn all the cards so it has A & D at the top (the blue side), like the image above.  This is the “home” position.  Throw your shuttle and turn the cards one quarter-turn away from you (forward).  Do this for four quarter-turns away from you, then for four quarter-turns toward you (back), throwing the shuttle after each quarter-turn, just to anchor everything together and adjust your tension.
Visual cues in sorting cards–the ones nearest you will turn toward you; the ones further away will turn away from you.

Then you can start splitting the deck!  The cards now will turn in groups in opposite directions for four quarter-turns.  First separate the cards into groups.  Slide the cards 1 & 2 toward you, 3-5 away from you, 6 & 7 toward, 8-15 away, 16-17 toward, 18-20 away, 21-22 toward.  See the picture above?  That’s how it should look.

This might help give you a visual…
Now the cards will turn in the direction that they have been placed.  The cards closest to you will turn towards you (BACK); the ones further away will turn away (FORWARD).  Turn all cards a quarter-turn and throw the shuttle.  Turn another quarter-turn and all the cards will have the red side facing up.  Make two more quarter-turns, throwing the shuttle between, until the cards are back to the home position again.
Once at the home position, all the cards will turn together for four quarter-turns.  Since the first two cards were turning back in the last round, *all* the cards will turn back in this round.  Turn back for four quarter-turns, throwing the shuttle between each quarter-turn.
Then, split the deck again, same as before.  Repeat and you will see the ram’s horns appear!  Yes, you will see a dimple after each repeat.  Don’t panic!  When you switch directions in turning the cards, a tiny hole can appear in the middle and the weft shows through.  If you don’t want the dimple, you can change your weft thread to match the middle, but then it’ll show on the border, unless you also change the border color to match.20141206_851
So, in brief, here’s the turning directions:
1.  Turn all the cards four quarter-turns BACK, throwing the shuttle between each quarter turn.  End in the home position.

2.  Slide cards 1-2 back, 3-5 forward, 6-7 back, 8-15 forward, 16-17 back, 18-20 forward, 21-22 back.  Turn cards 1/4 turn in opposite directions (forward cards forward; backward cards back).  End in home position.

Repeat steps one and two to your heart’s content!

Some strings, like people, are more twisted than others.

The observant weaver will note that since some of the threads are always turning back and the rest turn forward four and backward four, that some of the threads are going to build up a great twist in it.  This will shorten the warp length for those threads, but not the rest, causing tension issues.


Some people have tried (with varying success) to use fishing spinners that will untwist the threads as you go.  This is great if you’re doing backstrap weaving or have a long span that your warp is spread out, but I use this inkle loom and the twist builds up between the cards and the first or second peg and stops there.  You *can* move the twist down the entire length, around each of the pegs to get the spinners to untwist, but it’s time-consuming and can be frustrating.

The other thing you can do is carefully untie the threads that are twisted, untwist them, and re-tie…this is also time-consuming and can be frustrating.  I’ve done it…a couple times.

20141206_844  20141206_842

But the other option that works well with this pattern is to simply change directions to untwist every few repeats.  You could do every couple of horns, six horns, eight horns…whatever you desire.  The question is, at what point in the pattern do you change directions?

In this pattern you were repeating steps 1 and 2, now you have to take steps 3 and 4 to go the opposite direction!

3.  Slide cards 1-2 forward, 3-5 back, 6-7 forward, 8-15 back, 16-17 forward, 18-20 back, 21-22 forward.  Turn cards 1/4 turn in opposite directions (forward cards forward; backward cards back).  End in home position.

4.  Turn all cards for four quarter-turns forward.  End in home position.

You will repeat this pair of steps until the twist builds up in the opposite direction.  Then you’ll change directions again, finishing step 4, then going back to step 1 and 2.

Now you can weave your Ram’s Horns and show your Advanced Card Weaving skills to all your friends!

Good luck!
Elewys of Finchingefeld, GdS, JdL
Barony of Aquaterra, Kingdom of An Tir

Lazy Kate for Elewys

(Originally posted Dec 19, 2014)

Frustrated with spools of thread bouncing all over the place or having to keep the spools in bowls that inevitably tip over, I decided to make myself a cheap Lazy Kate.  At first, I looked at the scrap lumber I had sitting around and wondered if I could find a drill bit, and where I would find the nails, and setting up the table saw to cut things….and then decided to make it a bit simpler.

Here’s what I did…

Found a box in the garage from our most recent shipment of medical supplies.  We get a few of these every month, so there’s no shortage here, in a variety of sizes and shapes.  I picked a smallish one.

I found a 1/2″ dowel in the wood shop, just the right size to fit through the center of the spools of carpet warp.

Poked a hole about 2 inches down from the top edge of the box large enough to fit the dowel in.

Threaded the dowel through and eyeballed it so it was relatively straight and level, and pressed down on the cardboard on the opposite side of the box.

Used the scissors to make the hole on the other side, and threaded the dowel through.

Mounted the spools onto the rod, which greatly increased the speed at which I could warp my loom!

Advanced Card Weaving: Birka 6, the Kivrim Band

I’ve been working on an “Introduction to Card Weaving” post, but ran into some technical difficulties Several hours into creation, the computer shut down, and inexplicably, the post was not saved, despite my having clicked on the “Save” button numerous times throughout the process.  I have no idea what happened, but it was a significant set back.  Images gone.  Text gone.  My mini glossary gone.  In many ways, it was almost back to the first outline I created.  Seriously frustrating.  Hopefully I can get that back up to where it was and get it posted soon.

In the meantime, I will post a quick lesson on Advanced Card Weaving.  There are many different Kivrim patterns which apparently means “Bent” (although Google Translate doesn’t have the word in its dictionary for any language).  This is a split-pack weaving technique, which means that the cards will be turning in different directions, singly or in groups.  Proper threading and turning will result in some stunning patterns!  You can find several different varieties on the Loomy Bin, including the Egyptian Diagonals patterns.

This was a great lesson for me to learn how to read patterns that have no instructions–that is, those that have slashes in the boxes that change from left-leaning to right-leaning; from slash to back-slash.  I had never done such a thing before, so I feel like I made a huge leap forward in my tablet-weaving journey.

Here’s an example of one of those patterns…

Muster zum Brettchenweben: Diagonalmuster - Kivrim

Looks confusing, doesn’t it?  Well, my brain doesn’t like looking at it.  I prefer to have it written out, which can take some time doing the translation.  I had the same issue when I was learning to knit, so perhaps in time, I will be able to look at this kind of pattern and untangle it in my head, but for now…it’s long hand.

The pattern I decided on was Birka 6, one of several card woven bands found at Birka, a former trade site in Sweden which uncovered a great number of artifacts in an archaeological dig.
Birka 6
The bottom four rows are, of course, the threading diagram.  The cards are threaded DCBA, so face those cards left!  I chose two colors, a dark burgundy red and pale yellow for my project.

Looking at the diagram, you will see the first six cards are Z threaded, and the last five are S threaded.  Here’s a great diagram to remember how Z and S threading works:
Z and S Threading for tablet weaving
If you’re weaving along with me, go ahead and get out your thread, your cards, your loom, and warp up your cards!  I’ll just go make a cuppa and meet you back here….

Ready?  Great!

Through experimentation, I discovered that you start this pattern with the AD position on top.  For the first four quarter-turns, you turn the cards away from you, which will form the V formation as you see in the threading diagram.  We’ll call this motion “Forward” (since it appears to be the industry standard, although it feels backward in my mind…).  This first few rows will, of course, look sloppy and messy…as an experienced weaver, you know it always does at the beginning!

The next phase is looking at the boxes where the slashes change direction–that indicates a reverse in the card direction.  The author of this image made dark lines every two rows, which conveniently points out that the pattern of card-turning changes every two rows.  You will turn the cards two quarter turns, passing the shuttle for every quarter-turn, then adjust your cards for the next two rows.

Here is what I charted out (and you’ll forgive me for not following the pattern exactly and changing directions of the first and last cards on the selvage–I never liked the idea of two cards constantly twisting up in one direction while the others moved forward and back equally.  It does make the edges a little more rough, so if you want smooth edges, turn them only forward and you can always reverse to only backwards after a while.)  These directions are written so each “turn” is a quarter-turn of the cards, and the shuttle is thrown every quarter-turn.

A)  Turns 1-4:  turn all forward
B)  Turns 5-6:  1-6 Forward; 7-8 Back; 9-11 Forward
C)  Turns 7-8:  All Back
D)  Turns 9-10:  1-6 Back, 7-8 Forward; 9-11 Back
E)  Turns 11-12:  1-3 Forward; 4-6 Back; 7-11 Forward
F)  Turns 13-14:  1-5 Forward; 6 Back; 7-11 Forward
G)  Turns 15-16:  1-3 Back; 4-6 Forward; 7-11 Back
H)  Turns 17-18:  1-5 Back; 6 Forward; 7-11 Back
I)  Turns 19-20:  All Back

If you are doing the edges all one direction, the directions are:
A)  Turns 1-4:  turn all forward
B)  Turns 5-6:  1-6 Forward; 7-8 Back; 9-11 Forward
C)  Turns 7-8:  1 Forward; 2-10 Back; 11 Forward
D)  Turns 9-10:  1 Forward; 2-6 Back, 7-8 Forward; 9-10 Back; 11 Forward
E)  Turns 11-12:  1-3 Forward; 4-6 Back; 7-11 Forward
F)  Turns 13-14:  1-5 Forward; 6 Back; 7-11 Forward
G)  Turns 15-16:  1 Forward; 2-3 Back; 4-6 Forward; 7-10 Back; 11 Forward
H)  Turns 17-18:  1 Forward; 2-5 Back; 6 Forward; 7-10 Back; 11 Forward
I)  Turns 19-20:  1 Forward; 2-10 Back; 11 Forward

When the cards have twisted too far in one direction and it starts to affect your tension, reverse the cards 1 and 11 to Back, which will untwist them.  When they are twisted too far in the opposite direction, start turning forward again.

Here’s the finished piece!  It’s only 5′ 6″ (not quite 2 feet), but since it was a test piece, I didn’t want to make a full-length 4-yard piece if I didn’t find it fun or workable.

I hope these instructions help you to make your own Birka band.  Good luck!  I hope to see lots more period pieces made and displayed on garb at upcoming events!

Beginning Card Weaving: Getting Started

Card Weaving (aka Tablet Weaving) is an older-than-you-think weaving technique of making narrow bands or finished edging on other woven goods.  It’s been found in Egyptian digs and Iron Age Finnish digs–and that’s a lot of geography in between!

While it would be fun to go into all the history and things, you can find all that elsewhere, like here, and here, and any number of available books on the market.

But I’m here to provide you with a step-by-step guide to starting your first tablet weaving project (or offer a refresher course if it’s been a while).  I’ve got two different projects going on in these photos…I apologize if this is confusing.

First you may need a quick overview of some of the weaving terms.
Warp – the threads that run the length of the work–on a bolt of fabric, it would be the 15 yards’ length
Weft – the threads that run back and forth through the warp for the width of fabric.
Cards / Tablets – same thing.  Four- or six-hole cards for weaving.
Shuttle – item the weft threads are wrapped around and is used for beating rows of weaving
Beating – the pressing down of each pass of the shuttle to compress the threads
Shed – opening between the top and bottom threads through which the shuttle passes.
Turning – changing the shed with the cards by rotating 1/4 turns

The supplies are rather simple:

  • 2 to 3 colors of carpet warp or crochet cotton thread, high contrast–light, medium, dark. You can pick up crochet cotton pretty cheaply at just about any craft store.  Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Walmart…whatever is closest to you. There are also several online options, like yarn.com, dickblick.com and greatnorthernweaving.com.
  • 4-hole cards which can be purchased here, or here in packs of 25, or you can make your own here.  I’ve seen people make them out of playing cards or cereal boxes or even bar coasters, but just be sure that the holes punched in them all line up.
  • A loom.  This is the trickiest bit.  Some people like to have a backstrap loom, which means you anchor it to your waist by a belt then another fixed point, like a doorknob or a railing.  This rather limits mobility, especially if you can only weave for a few minutes here and there, so others prefer to use a loom.  Inkle looms are popular, especially if you are also interested in inkle weaving (two-shed weaving with heddles instead of cards).

Mini Inkle Loom, Tablet Weaving, Card Weaving Loom With Double Tension System - Handcrafted From Solid Maple & Red Oak - 15 Inch<— Some are miniature and only weave a couple yards of very narrow or delicate bands…

Card / Inkle weaving loom - 100 percent red oak/maple/walnut/cherry 18 yard warp

<—…others are enormous and can weave 18 yards or more of serious trim.  Note that there are *two* sliding tension bars!

There are ways to create some simple loom systems that involve clamps and 2 x 4s…you’ll have to do some research on the internet or Pinterest and find a loom system that will work for you.  There are plans to make a quick-and-dirty loom from PVC for about $10.

For a first weaving project or for testing new patterns, I would recommend starting with short lengths; try a one-yard project.  If, after warping up 18 yards of a Loomzilla, you may decide that you hate the pattern and it’ll take forever to take it apart and could result in yards of wasted materials.  I warped up a loom for four yards of a brocade weaving project that I abandoned about 10″ in.  Luckily, I was able to use the thread for a 3 yard weaving project later.

If this is your first project, starting with something simple is the way to go.  This is a nice one from the Evil Queen of Spades on DeviantArt.com (sorry it’s blurry):

If you follow the link, you will see she’s got a number of great patterns with both 4-hole and 6-hole cards (which, for beginners, is more advanced card weaving that you don’t need to get involved in yet).  I have tried several of them and love the way you can make it very different just by changing colors.  Most look just like this pattern above–no card or hole numbering.  I’ll help you bridge that gap.

I did this up on Excel, which is how I do a lot of my patterns.  Some people like to use GTT or the Loomybin, but I’ve had difficulty getting them to work for me.  It’s not the programs’ fault–I’m just not that computer-savvy.

As you can see from this pattern, this one needs 12 cards. You will warp it up with the #1 card on the left, the #12 card on the right, just like reading a book.  Number all your cards on the backs, 1-12 (in pencil). This will help you keep them organized.

The front of the cards have four holes, labeled A, B, C and D.  Each hole will have one string in it; four strings per card.  If you look above at the pattern, each square represents one thread.  On Card 2, hole A is yellow, B is yellow, C is pale blue, and D is green; that’s four threads running through one card.

The next logical question is “what is S and Z under the rows?”  This is the way each card is threaded.  This makes the threads angle inward or outward to create a pattern.  It can make a difference between a wiggly line and a fuzzy line on your band.  When you thread the card, all the threads must go through the card the same way–you can’t have some of them S threaded and some Z threaded.  That just won’t work.

As you can see from this diagram (the card is the dark line in the center), S threading has the threads going from the back of the loom through the card from left to right.  Z threading goes from right to left.
Z and S Threading for tablet weaving


So above are two pictures:  the left is S threaded–the threads go from the top peg through the front of the card…the right is Z threaded–the threads go from the top peg through the back of the card.

Warping board:
If you are using a warping board, you will need 18 dark strands, 20 medium strands, and 10 light strands of string.  Since I use an inkle loom, I warp as I go, so I don’t need to pre-cut any threads.

If you are using an inkle, move your tension rod to the longest position.  On my loom, because it has a switch-back, it’s to the far right.  (PS – the green elastic on there is to hold my shuttle during transport…this isn’t an essential part of the loom.)

Lazy Kate:
In order to more easily pull threads to warp your loom, you may want to construct a Lazy Kate.  There are some fancy ones out there that you can buy, but I went the quick-and-dirty route by using a cardboard box and a 1/2″ dowel.  Punched a couple holes in the box with a pair of pointy scissors, threaded the dowel through, and boom!  Lazy Kate.

With all the spools on the Lazy Kate, you can pull all colors at once, saving precious time.

As I said, you will warp it up with the #1 card on the left, the #12 card on the right, and you will have the the top surface of the cards (with ABCD) facing left.  If you have the cards facing right, the pattern will show up on the bottom of the weaving.  Also, note that the pattern is lettered DCBA from top to bottom.  If your pattern is written up as ABCD, the cards will have to face right…but that’s notes for future pattern.

Tying the ends.
When I warp my loom, I leave long 3″ tails for each thread.  I put all four threads for one card together and tie the beginning and ends in a square knot.  If there is an issue with one thread being too loose or breaking, you can much more easily fix it by isolating that one card and fixing the problem.  Tying them individually can also create tension problems and mean four times as many knots in the end.  Remember back to your Girl Guide or Scouting days–right over left and under, left over right and under.

Actually, I like to use a surgeon’s knot, which is left over right and under twice, then right over left.  This helps secure the knot and also makes untying the knots easier at the end.  The warp needs to be taut, but you don’t need to pull the warp super-tight.  Too much tension on the warp can warp your pegs…so to speak.

Once all the cards are threaded and the tension looks even, it’s time to begin!

Notes on shuttles.
Shuttles can be just about anything you want to use.  I’ve used wooden rulers to hand-carved shuttles by masters of the craft.  As long as it’s rigid, does the job, and is comfortable for your hands, it’s all good.  Bonus:  wooden rulers can be found for under a buck.

Wind several yards of weft threads (that’s the name for the thread that goes from side to side–or from wight to weft…as I say…) onto your shuttle.  Generally speaking, you will want to use the same color thread as the threads on the #1 and #12 cards (or whichever is the last card on the right).  This will help blend the weft into the edges so any little mistakes in tension won’t be glaringly obvious.

Turning the cards.
For this pattern, all the cards will turn 1/4 turn in the same direction.  After four quarter-turns, you will reverse the direction and weave in the opposite direction.

As you can see in this image, I have colored one edge of the cards with a red permanent marker–this is the BC side.  On the opposite side, the AD side, I have colored the edges blue.  This helps you make sure you know where you are during the weaving process.  The blue edge, when A and D are on the top, is the “home” position for many patterns.  You can, of course, reverse directions at any time, but if you are going for a repeating pattern, knowing the home position is important.

Pass the shuttle through the shed (the opening between the upper and lower threads), and pull the thread down towards the knots on your warp.  Turn all the cards 1/4 turn and pass the shuttle again.  Press down–beat–with your shuttle.


You’ll note that there’s a little loop on the right side–this is left back to help maintain good tension.  You don’t want to get wobbly edges, so when you weave follow these steps:

*  Pass the shuttle, leaving a loop behind
*  Turn the cards
*  Beat
*  Pull the weft thread to incorporate loop
*  Then repeat!

After a time, it becomes rather meditative.