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.
Sorry it took a couple days to get this posted. Ooops!
This is the third of the tablet weaving pieces (the most famous, anyway) that were found in an Austrian salt mine that date from 400-500 BC.
Here’s the pattern!
If you produce this, or any of the patterns that I have provided through my videos and on this forum, please post them to Instagram or Facebook (or your social media platforms that you use) and use #weavealongwithelewys or #elewysoffinchingefeld. You can find me on Instagram at Elewys_Finchingefeld.
A landslide in 2020 uncovered a bunch of archaeological finds in a small village on the East coast of Iceland. Beads, a ring, and this fragment from a woman’s smokkr were found, and this piece of tablet weaving on the smokkr is a beautiful example of weaving from the 9th-11th centuries.
Here’s pattern A. It’s not twist-neutral by itself, but weaving the reverse will untwist that pattern! See pattern B…
Updated pattern B! If you were here on the first day, you will have noted there was an issue with the pattern–a few of the picks were missing at the end. I rebuilt the pattern and here it is!
And just for a little more variety, there were a couple other motif ideas that I saw, so I drafted those up as well.
I was thinking a bit tonight on period looms. We all want to go to a demo and use a period loom and wear our historic clothing and really look the part. Like we just stepped out of a medieval illustration.
In the SCA and in our modern lives, however, we often have to make concessions for budget, availability, accessibility, and ergonomics. I have usually done all my weaving on an inkle loom, which, to be frank, is a 19th century invention. However, I find it much more easy to work on, transport, maintain tension on my work, and most importantly, not hurt my back.
I have made a few other looms to weave on and have experimented with weaving on them with varying degrees of success.
The biggest one I made was this warp-weighted loom that I created using scraps from the garage. I based it on a number of drawings from books like Marta Hoffman’s “The Warp Weighted Loom” and several historic images.
Overall, it worked well, although I did decide that it could be a little bit shorter to better accommodate my height (or lack thereof). The weights were just bags of gravel, the yarn was wool, and the selvedge edge (across the top) was a woven piece with long wefts that became the warps of the project. I was able to weave a little bit on it, but it required standing and a fair amount of wall space. As this was a prototype and an experiment, I ended up packing it away and it’s living in the garage at the moment. I didn’t do any tablet weaving on it, however, and it seemed like much more tool than necessary for a narrow band. I have read about people doing the fabric weaving and using tablet weaving as part of the side selvedges, but this wasn’t included in my experiment.
Many people LOVE backstrap weaving, but I have tried it several times with NO success. It is ergonomically challenging and always ends in back pain for me. I did see this option of using two fixed points to weave, but this is also difficult to do in a place like a hotel lobby…
Looking to make something more portable, and easy to manufacture in bulk to teach a class, my friend and I made a bunch of “surfboard” looms. It was 1 x 4 lumber, a couple small blocks and some long screws and nuts (although this prototype has hex nuts, we swapped them out for wing nuts as they were easier to tighten by hand). It worked…mostly… There were some tension issues, but overall it was a workable loom for a class…but still not very period.
The next couple of experiments were rigid heddle and I didn’t do much with them as I was struggling with the tensioning systems…but then I tried making a 3D printed loom. Hubby has a printer and I thought it would be fun to try making it. After making several modifications from the original rigid heddle loom, I created this simple frame loom. In the end, very few parts were 3D printed–just the corner pieces and the ratchet and pawl assembly, which didn’t work quite as well as I needed–the pawl keeps popping out under tension. I did weave a couple pieces on it and it worked OK. It was a fun experiment, at least!
This is similar (at least in method) to the box looms of the later Middle Ages, like this image: La Noble Pastorale from c 1500. It is rather hard to see what’s going on here (blurry), but it’s clearly meant for narrow band weaving. It is more box-like, not a frame.
The next collection of looms are based on this pile of sticks–the Oseberg loom.
This remarkable find from the Oseberg farm in Norway dates to the 9th century which includes an unfinished piece of weaving with a whole bunch of cards. This is an upright loom that looks something like this:
I love this modified loom design because it looks like it breaks down for easy transport! This is ideal for demo purposes and small vehicles.
Also, there are a number of medieval images of women using similar set ups for weaving, like this one:
The plans for this loom were found on Pinterest, also.
I took a class many years ago (in the 90s) from Master Fiacha, also a tablet weaver in An Tir, and he created these portable Oseberg-style table looms. It is a simple 2 x 4 and a couple dowels, and requires a clamp to hold it on the table, but it is a fairly usable tool.
It was rather LONG, however, so I thought I’d try to create a more portable size using the original loom as inspiration.
With just a couple of pieces of dimensional lumber, a couple of dowels, and 4 screws, this little loom went together quickly. It stands just over a foot tall and about 18″ long. It fits easily into a carry on bag, ready to fly off to exotic locales for vacation weaving!
I loaded up a project on it and worked it for a while, getting used to the angle and the wobbly nature of the cards as I worked. It was different, but not unmanageable.
So for future demos, I will be bringing the little Oseberg table loom with me to work on projects. It’s small and portable and fun to work on!
I recently got a question about what tools and materials you need to get started weaving. I thought I had done a video (I did…sort of) or a blog post (a long time ago), so I figured it was time for an update. I have learned a lot in the last couple of years and found some new tricks and materials, so let’s start at the beginning.
This is one of those hobbies that doesn’t require a great deal of expensive tools and machinery to get started. There are few things that you need, and depending on your budget, you can make some economical choices or go hog wild and get All The Things!
The two things that you definitely need are cards and thread.
The cards can be purchased from most spinning and weaving stores, or you can find them on Amazon. I have an Amazon storefront that will give me a small commission for referrals–this is the link, which is also in the video description. There are a few different brands of cards to choose from. I have Schacht cards, which I quite like, but there are some cheaper options, also. There may also be some made from wood, although I find that many of the wood cards are a bit thick for my taste–the cardboard and 3D printed ones that are between .5mm and 1mm are the best size.
You can also get 3D printed cards from sellers on Etsy. Rowanberry Jam had some 3D printed cards you could buy, but appears to not be selling on Etsy at this time. I will keep looking for where Lidiya may have wandered off to…. In the meantime, there are some 3D printing patterns available on Thingiverse–so if you or someone you know has a 3D printer, you can print your own. I have quite a few and I love them!
You can also make the cards from cardstock–something like cereal box thickness. If you have a penchant for crafting, have the time and patience, or some fancy scrapbooking tools to help speed up the process, you may enjoy making your own. Round the corners of those homemade cards so they turn easier and avoid snagging on the threads as you weave. I have made some from granola bar boxes, from file folders, and gift boxes. Many people recommend making them from playing cards! Square them off, round the corners, and punch holes for the yarn.
Next you will need yarn. I have a preference for cotton–in the Medieval period, it was much more common to see wool, linen, and silk (and combinations of these), but I tend to use what is easily accessible and affordable. If you are just starting out, you may want to get some inexpensive stuff to start with.
Crochet cotton is some of the most accessible, inexpensive, and colorful options out there. Every craft store carries it; Michael’s carries Aunt Lydia’s Classic 10 which is perfect for this kind of weaving. It’s a #0 lace weight yarn, comes in 350-400 yard balls (varies by color), and comes in around 45 different colors. The ad I just looked at listed them at $3.69 per ball, so for under $10, you can get yarn enough for a few projects to help you decide if this craft is right for you. Choose 2 or 3 colors, using a variety of light and dark colors. Maybe choose the colors of your favorite sports team, your alma mater, your heraldry, or the heraldry of your favorite nation’s flag.
Another yarn option, which is a bit more expensive and more difficult to acquire, is either Maysville Carpet Warp, an 8/4 cotton; or Maurice Brassard 8/2 cotton. From the images, they look almost identical, but from this close-up of the yarn, side by side, you can see the Maysville is quite a bit thicker than the Maurice Brassard.
I have recently made the switch to the 8/2, and find that I prefer the lighter yarn for weaving. Those are generally not available at the local craft stores, but might be found at a specialty weaving store, or you can find them online at WEBS (www.yarn.com) or The Woolery (www.woolery.com).
If you really want to up your weaving game or looking for something very luxurious for a special occasion or gift, you can’t go wrong with SILK. Eowyn de Wever has been my go-to silk supplier, and she can be found at www.eowyndewever.com. The 60/2 is super fine…it’s like weaving with sewing thread, and unless you’re doing something with dozens of cards, this is probably not what you’re looking for. The 20/2 is more like a fine crochet cotton and is what I would recommend for most silk weaving. She has some available in cones or in 100 yard spools which is enough for a single project.
The only other thing you need is something to hold the work. There are looms, like the inkle looms I use (I own both a Beka loom and a Schacht loom, as well as an unmarked homemade loom that I bought second hand); a box loom; backstrap weaving, or warp weighted weaving. There are pros and cons to each of those, and you will have to do the research to determine what is right for you. I will cover those on the next blog post.
Stay cool, my friends…it’s a hot one out there! At least it has been here for the last week. 91 F (33 C). I know…it could be worse, but it’s just exhausting when you don’t have AC in the house. Definitely something we need to invest in.
If you are new to tablet weaving and would like a very easy pattern to start with, this is a great one. It gives you the opportunity to work on your tension, your selvedge and beating between throws, and getting a nice overall finished product without getting lost in the turning sequences.
As always you will thread the cards labeled S from left to right, and Z from right to left.
All cards will turn forward, throwing your shuttle after every quarter-turn, until the threads are over-twisted, and then you simply reverse direction until the threads become twisted in the opposite direction. It’s as easy as that!
This is a lovely 11th century piece with some half-turns included, which are indicated by the ovals inside the ovals.
· Humikkala is a little town about 20 minutes northwest of Turku, Finland. Built around 1490-1510, the Masku Church and surroundings represents one of the oldest parishes in Western Finland. dedicated to John the Baptist and St. Ursula. Next to the church is the Masku Museum, founded in 1974, which has a collection of finds from the local area. Near the church, researchers found an Iron Age burial ground. The Humikkala cemetery, called the “hill of corpses” is on a hillside next to the Masku church. There were 49 inhumation graves found here, and this fragment came from grave 32. Like others, this find is dated to 1000-1100.
· A note about the identification of finds at these anthropological digs. While I couldn’t find the specific item number for THIS piece, I did find one for another one in the neighboring grave. This item was given the code KM 8656: H32:18 ; KM is Kansallismuseo = National Museum of Finland; the number 8656 identifies the dig site for the Humikkala findings, H means hauta = grave, 31 is the number of the grave, and 18 is the object number in that grave. Having these identifying numbers helps a great deal when you are looking for more information from the museums that store these finds. This piece was actually found in grave 32 (H32), so we know that the item code would start KM 8656: H32… I’m still looking for the item number on this guy…but having that much information narrows down the search tremendously.
Sarkki, S. (1979). Suomen Ristiretkiaikaiset Nauhat. Arkeologian Laitos. Helsinki, Helsingin Yliopisto.
Sarkki was not a weaver and had a unique way to translating the textiles by trying to figure out how they were woven, and Maikki Karisto, co author of Tablet-Woven Treasures and Applesies and Fox Noses, took her drawings and created patterns from them. This proved to be challenging for Maikki and Mervi Pasanen; the pattern above is the result of that reconstruction.
I hope you enjoy weaving this piece as much as I did! It’s got a lovely texture to it and will be a gorgeous addition to your medieval kit!
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…
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.