Thoughts on Period Looms

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.

“Peggy”

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.

Warp Weighted Loom, prototype

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…

Estonian woman weaving

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.

This loom was hexed, but later had wingnuts

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!

Boxy frame loom

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.

La Noble Pastorale (tapestry) Loire region about 1500 Paris, Musee du Louvre Scan from Medieval Tapestry Dora Heinz Crown 1965 plate 14 (Detail)

The next collection of looms are based on this pile of sticks–the Oseberg loom.

Grave robbers took all the valuables, but they left the good stuff behind!

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:

From Machtdasglücklich Oderkanndasweg, found on Pinterest.

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.

With a few modifications, it can be made into a break-down loom!

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.

Osebert, the Oseberg table loom

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.

Osebert in Paradise

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!

Elewys

Materials for Getting Started

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!

On the left, 2″ Rowanberry Jam cards; on the right, 2 1/2″ home printed cards

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.

Maysville
Maurice Brassard

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.

Maysville, being 8/4, has four threads twisted together. Maurice is 8/2, which has 2 threads twisted together.

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).

The 100 yard spools and the wide variety of colors available in the 20/2 silk. Just check out that shine!

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.

Elewys

Weave Along 26: Ladoga’s Easiest Pattern Ever

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!

Weave Along 25: Double Face Tablet Weaving: Laurel Leaves

The pattern I used for the Laurel Leaves pattern

I found this pattern years ago from Carolyn Priest-Dorman. She has a number of great articles and research on Norse-related topics here: https://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/vikresource.html

I had wanted to try double face weaving again–it’s been years since I tried it–so I chose this pattern:

 Laurel sprig with thin stem

The pattern for this double face pattern can be found here: https://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/laurel.html

But not being used to this kind of pattern and having reservations about trying to accurately follow this unusual draft, I decided to translate it into the TDD software and came up with this pattern:

This should be pretty easy to follow, if you’re familiar with the TDD threading and turning notations.

11th c. Finnish Masku Humikkala

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.

Seija Sarkki researched it in the 1970´s publishing a book in 1979 called “Suomen ristiretkiaikaiset nauhat” or The Finnish Crusades.
Volume 18 of Helsingin Yliopiston arkeologian Laitos. Moniste
Moniste (Helsingin Yliopiston Arkeologian Laitos)
Volume 18 of Moniste / Helsingin yliopiston arkeologian laitos, ISSN 0355-1881 ISBN 9514516281, 9789514516283

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!

My Inkle Loom: Woodworker Episode

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).

This is a view of the back of the loom. If I were to make it again, I would make the slot for the tension peg at least an inch longer–maybe two.
This is a view of the forward end–the weaver’s end–but still the back view of the loom. I have omitted the tension peg in this drawing for simplicity. Note that this drawing is not to scale…I wasn’t sure how to do that at an angle, but I think it makes sense.
This is the view from the forward end–the weaver’s end–of the loom. Again, not to scale, and clearly, not the best drawing ever. The pegs don’t even come close to lining up…sigh.
A simple diagram of the tension peg. The threaded screw fits into the narrow slot on the base, and into the tapped end. The wooden peg pinches the base as you tighten the screw.
The front of the loom. From this angle, you can see how close together the pegs are on the left (weaver’s) end and the three pegs in the middle. If you are using this exclusively as a tablet weaving loom, those pegs can be spread out further to accommodate the warping. I might also add an additional peg on the base between the right-most peg and the one to its left, just above and to the left of the stabilizing foot.
Top view of the loom.
The back of the loom. Note that the pegs are all wedged into place. The stability foot was added later by me, but I strongly recommend it.
The end of the loom–the weaver’s end.
Here’s the loom warped up–now you can see how the pegs have been placed to accommodate the weaving. The peg at the lower right is lower than the pegs in the middle of the base, and the large gap between the top peg on the first upright and its second peg leaves room for a string to go directly from the front peg to the back peg if you are using it for inkle weaving.
Inkle loom, warped, for reference. Note how half of the strings go directly from the front peg to the back peg. The other half go through string heddles, then up to the top peg on the first upright, then to the back peg. If you are making your loom for only tablet weaving, you don’t need to worry about that gap.

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…

Weave Along With Elewys, Episode 5 & 6: Hallstatt 3 / HallTex 152

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!

New research on Hallstatt 3 tablet woven band (HallTex152)
photo by Mervi Pasanen

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:

This piece was woven using 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.

New research on Hallstatt 3 tablet woven band (HallTex152 ...
For consistency, this is the pattern drawn up on the pattern drafter I use.

Bibliography

M. Karisto, K. Grömer. “Different solutions for a simple design: New experiments on tablet weave HallTex 152 from the salt mine Hallstatt.” Academia.edu. 2017. https://www.academia.edu/35616012/Different_solutions_for_a_simple_design_New_experiments_on_tablet_weave_HallTex_152_from_the_salt_mine_Hallstatt_M._Karisto_K._Gr%C3%B6mer_

Pasanen, Mervi. New research on Hallstatt 3 tablet woven band (HallTex152). . https://hibernaatio.blogspot.com/2016/09/new-research-on-hallstatt-3-tablet.html

Tablet Weaving for the Absolute Beginner: Birka 6

What is Tablet Weaving?

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.

Backstrap

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.

Applesies author, Mervi Pasanen.

Oseberg

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.

The book of hours and hours and hours of weaving! France, Paris, ca. 1425-1430
MS M.453 fol. 24r
Image of card weaving from a festal missal of Savoy, ca. 1460 (The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB 128 D 30).
The Crack-Your-Head edition

Modified Oseberg

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.

Box Loom

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.

Arachne's Blog: Planning a Portable Loom for Tablet Weaving

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.

Beginners Loom RH-4 by OakeandAshe on Etsy

It can be built using a few simple tools and is small and portable.

Inkle Loom

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…

Monster Loom

When three yards isn’t enough…

This was not warped to its full capacity, but yielded nearly 8 yards of finished silk tablet weaving.

Weaving Yarn

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!).

A gross of colors! $43 on Amazon.

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

As easy as A-B-C and 1-2-3! And S and Z…

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:

Z threads go in the right side; S threads go through the left side.

Shuttles

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.

Getting Started

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:

Zip ahead to about the 27 minute mark for weaving 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.

Elewys

Birka 22…Weaving in Reverse!

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.

  1. You can untie and comb out the twist and re-tie…but that can create some exceptionally bad tension problems.
  2. You can use a warp-weighted system that will untwist your warp as you go, but that is somewhat less portable.
  3. 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.

Happy weaving!

Elewys

Weave Along with Elewys, Episode 4: Birka 22

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!

Note that the cards are labeled counter-clockwise and the slashes indicate the angle of the card, the rows are labeled DCBA…so this can be confusing to beginners.

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.

I’ve named him Mike Wazowski.

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.

16 mm wide!