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.
The Hochdorf Chieftain’s Grave is a richly-furnished Celtic burial chamber found near Hochdorf an der Enz in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, dating from 530 BC in the Hallstatt culture period. This is the same time period we also find the woven pieces in the salt mines of Austria that I shared with you a few weeks ago.
Most of the time, we think of Celts being almost exclusively in the British Isles, but that isn’t the only place where this cultural group was found 2500 years ago. The Celts are a collection of Indo-European peoples in parts of Western Europe that included modern day Poland, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, as well as the British Isles. There were also tribes of Celts that expanded as far East as Romania and Turkey.
They are identified by their use of the Celtic languages and other cultural similarities. They had no written language, so there is a lot we don’t know about how they expanded so far and why their culture died out everywhere except for the British Isles, remaining most notably in Ireland and Scotland. Many of the people were assimilated into the local cultures where they lived, logically, but it was the Romans that had the biggest influence of defeating the Celtic peoples throughout most of Europe, and only in pockets of the UK were the Celts able to hold back the Roman armies and maintain their culture and traditions long after the Romans left.
The burial chamber at Hochdorf dates to 520 to 530 BC. It was discovered in 1968 by an amateur archaeologist and excavated 10 years later from 1978 to 1979. By then, the burial mound covering the grave, which they estimate to have been originally 6 m (20 ft) in height and about 60 m (200 ft) in diameter, had shrunk to about 1 m (3 ft) in height due to centuries of erosion and agricultural use.
To completely dispel the myth that the Medieval people were all short and died young, the man found inside the chamber was roughly 6 ft 2 in (187 cm) tall and died at the ripe old age of 40. OK, 40 is young…but six feet TALL! Holy moly!
So this giant of a man, who they determined was a chieftain of a nearby village, was laid out on an a fantastic 9 ft (275 cm) bronze couch with eight wheels inside the burial chamber. He had been buried with a gold-plated torc on his neck, a bracelet on his right arm, a hat made of birch bark, a gold-plated dagger made of bronze and iron, amber jewelry, a razor knife, a nail clipper, a comb, fishing hooks, arrows, and most notably, thin embossed gold plaques which were on his now-disintegrated shoes. At the foot of the couch was a large cauldron decorated with three lions around the brim. This cauldron was originally filled with about 100 gallons (380 litres, or 666 pints) of mead. That’s a party for the afterlife! The east side of the tomb contained a wooden four-wheeled wagon with iron-plating holding a set of bronze dishes—along with the drinking horns found on the walls enough to serve nine people. The items found are kept at the museum Alte Schloss in Stuttgart.
The burial mound has been reconstructed for the museum with replicas of all the goods that were found to really give us a visual understanding of what ancient grave sites looked like, how it was laid out and just how dang impressive it was with all the items that were buried with those who had passed on. During the construction of the museum’s burial mound, the foundations of an ancient Celtic village were found, more than likely the one to which the chieftain belonged. These were, of course, incorporated into the museum. So in the building of the museum’s display for the Celtic Chieftain, they accidentally found his village. Some things are meant to be…and now he’s home. 😀
This dig was featured in a series called The Celts: Rich Traditions and Ancient Myths…and it’s on YOUTUBE! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU1dKfMIEUQ&list=PL_Y6Qui9KStOQ9rVrBzOLkJO8hNiDtl8c
In addition to all the riches, there were several pieces of tablet weaving found both on the wall hangings and other textiles. Dr. Johanna Banck-Burgess analysed the textiles and wrote her disertation on the research of the preserved textiles (Johanna Banck-Burgess: Hochdorf IV. Stuttgart 1999). You can read a little bit about Hochdorf IV here: http://tabletweaving.dk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Hochdorf-IV-bidrag.pdf. Hochdorf IV (object 1.42) is really complex…A reconstruction was woven using 98 tablets, and 6 cm wide using very fine thread. This is a life goal for me…
The piece we’re going to look at today is this significantly simpler, jagged diamond piece called Hochdorf 39. This tablet woven border edged one of the wall hangings in the tomb and was made using the skip hole method. I’ve made it once before and it took several tries, three patterns, phoning a friend, and a lot of swearing it get it to work. Hopefully I can show you how to do this in a way that doesn’t cause you to curse like a sailor. If you’ve been weaving along with me, you’ll be familiar with this technique now, so you know what you need. (pencil)
Note: this is not a twist-neutral pattern, but I suspect that you can weave in reverse, as I showed in a previous video. Flip all your cards (S to Z or Z to S), and start weaving from line 32 (or 36–wherever you start) and work your way down to row 1.
We’re getting down to the last few Kingdoms in our Laurel Kingdoms project. This time we’re celebrating the Kingdom of Æthelmearc was created in 1997 from the Kingdom of the East. It covers northeastern/central/western Pennsylvania, central/western New York, and West Virginia. Their colors are gules, argent and or. That’s silver, red, and gold, for the non-heralds out there…or white, red and yellow, if your hoards of precious metals are depleted. It’s been a long, lean year….
This is a biggun…you’ll need 36 cards for this thing. Ready?
This is a piece that is not as well known in the tablet weaving community and information is a little thin on the ground (at least in English). However, we do have this lovely image:
We also have a couple of experts who have put in their two cents on it: Egon Hansen in his book Tablet Weaving (pub 1990 Hovedland Press; ISBN 978-8777390470), and Hans-Jürgen Hundt, who wrote about it in a series of studies on the Coastal Archaeology of Schleswig-Holstein. Hansen suggested it was a 3-1 twill woven in wool and linen, whereas Hundt thought it was a single-color skip hole weave that gave it its texture. Other tablet weavers have tested out these theories and while the jury is still out, I am using a modified version of Hansen’s pattern using two colors.
Guido Gehlhaar from http://www.steinmaus.de/Mittelalter/weben/hansen/elisenhof.html provided a corrected version of the pattern, however it appeared to have a 14 pick repeat. I revised it to a 16 pick repeat here:
Edit, 7/5/2021: I was finally able to tinker with the pattern and created a method to reverse the pattern to untwist almost seamlessly. Weavers can just do picks 1-16 until the twist is unmanageable, then weave 17-32 until it is over-twisted in the other direction, then begin at 1-16 again. Alternatively, one could just weave 1-32 and repeat.
And this is the next installment in the Laurel Kingdom Project! The Kingdom of Artemisia was formed in AS XXIII (1997), the 14th Kingdom of the SCA. It currently covers Utah, Montana, southern Idaho and the parts of Colorado and Wyoming that are west of the Continental Divide. Their colors are black and yellow.
Special thanks to Aisling, a German tablet weaver, who gave me some jumping off points for research and provided her own theories about the construction of this piece.
Archaeologists have produced a few tablet weaving pieces in their searches, including this one that was found in the 10th century grave of a woman from Paragaudis. In a book called North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X (edited by Eva B. Andersson Strand, Margarita Gleba, Ulla Mannering, Cherine Munkholt) there is a mention of this textile fragment that was found in grave 59. It’s a colorful wool band of red, grey and brown, although they are unsure what dye stuffs were used. The pattern of the stylized S motif is known as the ‘serpent’ pattern, which is found frequently in western Baltic countries; known as a žaltys in Lithuanian mythology, it is a sacred animal of the sun goddess Saulė, the guardian of the home and a symbol of fertility. Killing žaltys was said to bring great misfortunes upon the household, so people would find them in the fields, give it milk to befriend the creatures and sometimes even bring it home to keep as a pet, as it promised good harvests and wealth. Snakes in the house. That’s a nope.
I came across this archaeological image a few years ago, but I couldn’t find a pattern with it, so I had to figure it out on my own based on experience…but I’m always up for a challenge! Looking at the drawings, I guessed that it was probably a skip hole weave, based on the little dots on the edges between the S motifs. It looks very similar to a couple other patterns I had seen, so I was pretty sure that’s what I was looking at.
Drawing these sorts of things on paper is not easy…and doing physical experiments would be time consuming and use up a lot of materials, so I needed a better option. Luckily, I had just discovered the TDD! If you haven’t checked out the Tablet Weaving Draft Designer site, you should do that! It’s a very easy to use program, and Catherine and her husband James just did some updates recently, and Catherine made a YouTube video that walks you through how to use it.
So after tinkering with the pattern a bit, I came up with this…and warped it up to see how it looked…and it was a match!
Today’s Laurel Kingdom is the Kingdom of the Outlands! It was created in 1986 and encompasses New Mexico and Colorado, parts of Wyoming, the Nebraska panhandle, El Paso County and the Hudspeth County in Texas. Their colors are green and yellow. My favorite part is their heraldic banner, which has the same deer on it as the Deer Xing signs. Of course, the banners for An Tir has the Lowenbrau lion.
The original piece appears that it started with 16 picks of diagonal lines, but then follows with 56 picks to the sequence. If you want to weave the diagonal stripes into your piece, you can do that, or you can use one of the other options that I’ve included: a 56 pick pattern (without the diagonal stripes) or a 24 pick simplified pattern. I’ve also included options to untwist the pattern by weaving S motifs instead of Z. Dealer’s choice!
In the video, I erroneously identified this as a twist-neutral pattern, but discovered after doing several repeats that the twist was, in fact, building up. I modified the pattern to create a twist-neutral version, which is below:
For this pattern, you can weave as-is, or you can weave picks 1-24 until it’s over-twisted, then weave picks 25-48 until it’s over-twisted in the opposite direction.
If you want to do the long version, here are the two parts to make it twist neutral.
Ok, it might not *actually* be a snail, but it looks a little snail-like to me.
I had asked on the community page what kind of weaving you all would like to see next, and about half of you said something different and more challenging. And I thought I found one…but I think I’ll put it off til next time. That one has 38 cards; a very random, meandering pattern; and seems to go on for days…and days…and days… In all, 182 picks to this repeat… If you want to do that weave with me, and you don’t have that many cards, this is your fair warning to stock up!
So I looked around some more and found one that I think is much more do-able, but still a bit different because it isn’t Norse and not geometric. I don’t have a lot of history on this one because, while there are some papers written on the subject… I don’t read Estonian. Sure, I could rely on Google Translate to help, but many times, as many of you may have experienced, the translations leave a lot to be desired.
The motif that I have chosen comes from a 13th or 14th century grave find in Estonia, the Siksala shawl, found in grave 200. It is currently housed in the archaeological collection at the Tallinn University Institute of History. There are more than a dozen different motifs around this woven and beaded edge, where the weaver did two or three repeats of a design, then moved onto the next one, a bit like a skip hole weaving sampler.
The shawl’s edging is largely complete—almost the entire edge remains, but the body of the shawl has mostly disintegrated.
Rather than try to chart out the entire thing (there is a book available on Ebay for under $8 US that does just that), I have chosen one very pretty motif, and its mirror image, to show you for this video. It’s got really cute snail-like curls—and I love snails!
I hunted around for a new and different piece of tablet weaving and came across a photo of a re-created piece and I absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately, the person who posted the image on Pinterest didn’t credit the maker (ALWAYS credit the maker!), I dug around some more and found that these photos actually belonged to my favorite weaver to stalk, Mervi Pasanen. https://hibernaatio.blogspot.com/2012/01/lautanauhaa-virosta-tablet-weaving-from.html
The next kingdom in our Laurel Kingdoms project is the Kingdom of Atlantia, created in 1981 whose borders encompass Maryland; Virginia; North and South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia & Washington DC. Their colors are blue and white. Given the oceanic theme of that region, the snail-like motifs will be a perfect fit for that Kingdom.
Don’t be afraid of the length of this pattern! It’s got the same techniques that you have already done–skip hole, turning cards forwards & backwards–it’s just a lot longer. However, you don’t have to worry about twist build up in the cards–this is a zero-twist pattern. You will need to flip your border cards every couple of repeats.
Thanks so much for joining me again! Happy weaving, a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all my US viewers, and hope all your lockdowns are swift and comfortable. Check on your neighbors…we all need to look out for each other.
If you were to ask me for book recommendations, and you have!, one of the books that I will recommend to every historic tablet weaver is Applesies and Fox Noses, Finnish Tabletwoven Bands from Maikki Karisto and Mervi Pasanen.
This is a collection of 30 patterns ranging from very easy to difficult, and includes period motifs from tablet weaving fragments found from the Finnish Iron Age, which ranges from 500 BC to 1300 AD.
The other comments I’ve gotten from the Tablet Weaving for Absolute Beginners is that the pattern was too complex. If you want to start your first tablet woven band and want a very easy pattern to start with–this is it!
This pattern comes from a fragment found in the Kaukola Kekomaki graveyard dating from the Karelian Iron Age–as mentioned above. This three-color fragment was found on a dress, a detailed drawing of this 14 mm wide band (slightly over 1/2″) is in Theodor Schwindt’s book, Tietoja Karjalan rautakaudesta (“About the Karelian Age”), published in 1893. The item is labeled as #379.
Some of you may have seen this pattern or similar ones on Pinterest or come across it in Google searches. The web site for these two amazing weavers is https://hibernaatio.blogspot.com where they have several other patterns. You may panic for a moment because there are quite a lot of words you don’t recognize…yes, it’s written in Finnish. But DON’T PANIC–if you look carefully, you’ll see there is also English written in there! Not this pattern, of course, but on the web site. It’s OK.
You’ll notice that this pattern doesn’t have S and Z written under the pattern, and you’ll also see that the pattern is labeled DCBA…upside down! And the card is COUNTERCLOCKWISE! AAAAAHHHHH!
No, don’t panic. Let’s plug that into the tablet weaving draft designer: https://jamesba.github.io/tabletweave/ and make the bubbles look the same as the image.
There we go! Now, if you’ve watched my previous weaving videos, or if you’re familiar with this notation, you should be able to warp this one up! And if you’re not familiar with the Applesies charting system, you also now have the key for how their notations will translate into warping your loom.
This next piece in the Laurel Kingdoms project is honoring the Kingdom of Ansteorra (which means “one star”–totally appropriate for the Lone Star State!), which was elevated from a Principality to a Kingdom in 1979, which encompasses Oklahoma and Texas. Their colors are red, black and yellow.
Edit! Updated pattern!! After looking at the extant piece and my pattern, I decided that the little blue <> on the sides didn’t belong, so I adjusted it and came up with this!
As the weather cools in the northern hemisphere (and life begins anew in the southern lands) we are minded of the upcoming holidays and thinking ahead for gift ideas for those we love. If you have a Medieval enthusiast on your list, I may have an idea for you! Have you been shopping for reliquaries and coming up empty handed? Vendors all out of slivers of the one true cross? Finger bones of Saints on back order? Well, never fear, fellow weavers—you can create your own relics–the sleeve of St. Bertille!
Born in the early years of the 7th century, Bertille was born to a prominant family in Soissons, France, about 60 miles/100 km northeast of Paris. As a child, she spent her time in prayer and doing “serious duties”, not wanting to spend time doing frivolous things, and as she grew up, she found the world to be tempestuous and despised it. She found comfort in prayer and conversations with God. About the year 630, shortly after it opened, her parents brought her to the Jouarre Abbey in the city of Brie, about 20 mi/30 km SE of Paris. We don’t know how old she was when she arrived, but I would guess between 15 and 20 years.
She was educated by the Abbess Thelchildis and was known for her humility and self-denial. She was committed to aiding the sick and caring for the children being educated at the monastery. When Chelles Abbey was founded, with tremendous support from Queen Bathilde in 646, Bertille was chosen to be its first Abbess. 20 years later, that Queen retired from Royal service, as her son took the throne, and moved to Chelles Abbey, where she lived until her death in 680. The Abbess died 12 years later, in 692. Both were buried at the Abbey and about 200 years later, both had been canonised as saints. Her feast day is November 5th.
Among the textiles, at least three tablet woven pieces were found there—although, their garments were moved in the late 9th century, and displayed as saint relics for passing Pilgrims, then later moved again during the French Revolution to spare them from destruction, so we’re not really sure which woven piece belonged to which woman. Despite the rough handling, the fragments held up remarkably well, and so much detail can be seen on them. The pattern I’m going to share with you today is a bit of tablet weaving on what is presumed to be the Abbess’s sleeve. The extant piece is 9 mm wide, made from silk in red, yellow and dark brown. 2/3 of that width is border cards, so this center design is a very fine 3 mm wide.
Kingdom of Caid, created in 1978, comprises the regions of Southern CA, Southern Nevada (including Las Vegas) and Hawaii. Sounds like a party! Their colors are blue and white, but looking at their banner, it also has yellow in the laurel wreath and crown, so I’m adding a third color because this pattern lends itself well to using three colors…so let’s do that! Grab your looms and let’s get to work!
The last video for the Hallstatt 152 skip hole may have been a bit too advanced for a beginner, so here is a very easy skip hole pattern for beginners!
The original band was found in Hægebostad in the southern part of Norway and dates to about 500 A.D. The tablets in the central area were threaded with only two threads per tablet, the border tablets with four.
The three graves at the Snartemo farm were excavated over an 85 year period, between 1847 and 1933, which uncovered a number of fantastic pieces, including a sword, glass beakers, gold rings and more, dating to about 500 AD. Grave II (excavated in 1878) and Grave V appeared to be those of a warrior nobleman, both containing remarkable textiles, including the bands we know as Snartemo II and Snartemo V, the latter being significantly more complex than the former. The simpler band from grave II was woven with 17 tablets in two colors of fine wool using the skip hole technique. It measures 0.9 cm, but colors have not been determined as no dye analysis has been done. Lisa Raeder Knudsen did a study of the extant piece and said, “In Bjørn Hougen’s book “Snartemofunnene” 1935 a drawing is shown, but the analysis is not correct.” More recent in-depth studies have been done very recently; the link is below.
As part of my Laurel Kingdoms project, this piece is celebrating the Kingdom of Meridies, which was created in 1978 from the Kingdom of Atenveldt in the Southeast United States. Its borders currently encompass the entirety of Alabama; almost all of Georgia; a sizeable chunk of Tennessee; a bit of Florida; and small portion of Kentucky. Their colors are black and white.
This pattern is completed by simply turning all the cards forward, throwing the shuttle after each quarter-turn. When the threads become over-twisted or after a chosen number of repeats–often I switch after 12 or 16 repeats–turn all cards backwards, throwing the shuttle after each quarter-turn. Easy as that!
This piece is one of my favorites, not just because it’s attractive and easy to weave, but it’s one of the oldest ones on record!
It was found in 1991 in the Kernverwasserungswerk part of the salt mine in Austria. The salty environment kills single-celled bacteria that would cause the decomposition of organic materials. It is currently housed at the National History Museum in Vienna.
The archaeologists determined that the date for the piece is somewhere between 800 and 400 BCE (before current era). You read that right–FOUR HUNDRED BC! So sometime between the beginning of the Etruscan civilization and the Egyptians overthrowing Persian rule, some iron age miner dropped some woven fragments in a salt mine in Austria. Or really, one of several miners who left behind at least six pieces of tablet weaving. The oldest of the woven pieces, HallTex 288, a band of simple blue stripes, dates back to 1500-1200 BCE, which is about the time of the super-awesome rule of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt. Objects 43 and 136 are also made with simple stripes. The other pieces, 123, 152, and 186 have more intricate patterns with meandering lines, solid triangles, and diamonds.
After the piece was found in 1991, a pattern was designed to recreate this piece, which is called HallTex 152, and is an easy beginner pattern.
I will create it for you today in the colors to celebrate the Kingdom of Atenveldt! This one is the pattern I’m using–I’ll call it option 1:
This is option 2:
About 25 years after this piece was found, Maikki Karisto and Karina Gromer did a deep dive into researching the piece to see if the pattern was accurate. Looking at photos of the front and back of the extant piece, the weavers determined that this was more likely a skip-hole woven piece and did a number of test weaves before coming up with a new-and-improved pattern.
They determined that the yarns used are .4 mm, both Z and S plied wool. The extant piece is 12.5 cm long and 1.2 cm wide. The original colors may have changed a bit, but the salt in the mine helped preserve the colors quite well. They appear to be yellow-tan, brown and olive green.
First of all, card weaving and tablet weaving–same thing. The terms are used interchangeably depending on where in the world you’re from. It is a form of narrow band weaving using tablets to form a shed (the space between the top threads and bottom threads), and a method of weaving that can create complex patterns. This not only shifts threads from top to bottom, but twists them around each other creating a very strong woven band.
A Bit of History
The oldest woven piece was found in a salt mine in Austria between 1200 – 1500 BCE. This means it’s quite possibly contemporary with Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt. Several more pieces were found in that same salt mine–the atmosphere of which helped preserve the fibers–which date from 400-800 BCE. Many of them were very complex patterns and the details of these have been analyzed for thread size, twist, color and method of construction, so we know exactly how it was made!
Tablet weaving continued to be a popular way of decorating clothing and household goods until about the 15th century when people started using beads, gems, embroidery and precious metals as decoration.
Looms & Weaving Methods
There are a number of ways that you can do tablet weaving, and you really have to try a few (or all) of them to figure out which is best for you.
This is a favorite among many weavers–the ability to weave almost anywhere, as long as they have a belt and a stationary object to attach to. This could be a pole, railing, banister, door knob, heavy chair, a very patient friend, or even a stick that is held under your feet. If, however, you find that you need to set down your weaving to chase after small children or animals, this may not be a very convenient method for you.
The Oseberg loom was found in the Oseberg burial, dating to about 800 AD. It consists of two upright poles, about 3 feet high (1 m) set about 6 feet apart (2 m). There is a crossbar between them and your weaving is affixed between the two posts. You sit at a bench to weave. This is a beautiful image to see at recreation events–Norse, SCA, or even high Middle Ages. You can even design them to disassemble for transport to and from events.
If space is a consideration, you can make a modified version with simply a 2 x 4 and a couple of thick dowels. This sits on a table and can be worked just as easily. You may need to clamp it to the table to avoid it sliding around.
For later periods, the box loom was the way to do narrow bands. These are perfect for having a small loom that can be set on a table top or even on your lap. It has a warp beam (the back rod for the unwoven strings) and the cloth beam (the front rod, for the finished weaving). This warps up like many rigid heddle or floor looms and may require assistance to get the proper tension, or some very creative methods of adding tension to the strings as you warp them onto the warp beam–a stack of heavy books or a moderately heavy chair, maybe.
The Surfboard Loom
A poor cousin to the Oseberg loom and perhaps a first-cousin once removed to the box loom, this simple set up is another great option.
It can be built using a few simple tools and is small and portable.
This loom is the youngest of the bunch, presumably designed well after the Middle Ages (patented in the 1930s!), but it does act as both warping board and loom, keeps even tension and keeps threads organized. Of all the methods, this is my favorite, causing me the least amount of consternation and irritability. It is, however, limited on how long you can make each of your woven pieces. Most weave between 1 to 3 yards depending on the loom design…but don’t let that stop you…you can always design a bigger loom…
When three yards isn’t enough…
There are several options for weavers to look for weaving yarns. Here are some ideas for what to look for, and what to avoid:
Wool: Wool hairs are made with little barbs that snag each other to form yarn when spun. Different methods of spinning can give different final products. You can have a very light, fluffy yarn that is soft on the skin, but doesn’t have the strength to be warped; it’s best used as a knitting yarn. You can also have a strong, smooth yarn with a lot of strength, which would be great as a weaving yarn. This is all based on how it’s carded and spun. So wool can be a great option, but you should look for a strong worsted weight wool. If you have some wool lying around, give it a test-tug. If it snaps fairly easily, it will likely snap under tension while weaving and you will cry. You should also check to see if the yarn is really…grabby. I don’t know what the technical term is, but if the wool threads stick to each other like velcro, they will do this while weaving and it will require a lot of extra patience.
Linen: A plant-based fiber that is reputed to be very nice to work with. I haven’t actually used linen yet, so I can’t offer any good advice on that. There are lots of beautiful colors and the fibers are known for being very durable and having a lovely sheen. I will be placing an order for a couple spools, just to try it out, and there are a bunch of colors here on big cones.
Crochet Cotton: This comes in a huge variety of colors in a few different sizes. I’ve done projects in just about every size available, but my favorite–and one that is close to period-accurate–is the size 8 pearl cotton that comes in the little balls (I’m sure someone, somewhere has big cones of the stuff…still looking for a good source). Most craft stores have this in stock–Ben Franklin carries quite a number of colors. Be sure to check color numbers on the spools to make sure they match. I once got several balls of red, only to discover later that I had two different shades of red (I didn’t notice it in the store, but sure noticed it when I got home!).
Cotton Carpet Warp: The Maysville 8/4 yarns are heavier than the crochet cotton–by about double–but it makes a nice, robust weave. If you’re making a woven piece for a cloak, a bag, a guitar strap or a dog leash, this is a great material to work with. It has over 80 colors to choose from and the big spools are under $10 each, so you can do quite a number of woven pieces using just a few basic colors.
SILK: There is nothing bad to say about using silk! There are two sizes available from my favorite Etsy dealer; the 60/2 — a really fine thread — and the 20/2 — about the size of the size 8 pearl cotton. The silk has a luster and sheen that is unmatched by other fibers, it’s a dream to work with, and it’s strong! You can get large cones for $30 each or small 100 yard spools for $5. I got some of the small ones initially to see how well it worked, and within a couple weeks, was ordering cones. I won’t be using it for every project, of course, but for those special pieces, absolutely.
Cards / Tablets
Period cards were made from a variety of products including bone, horn, antler, wood, and leather. There are a variety of sizes that they came in, the Oseberg tablets being about 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm).
Most of the cards I use are of the 3 1/4″ (9 cm) cardboard variety–it’s what I learned on and what I’m used to working with, and several people cleaned out their craft rooms and their cards kept getting rehomed with me–which is great for when I teach classes! I have hundreds of them and don’t have a need to add to the collection. However, my husband just bought himself a 3D printer and has kindly printed some smaller 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm) cards that I’m going to try out. They might be a little thick–I prescribed the dimensions for them–the cardboard cards are about .6 mm each and these plastic ones are 1 mm. There are a few different designs for tablet weaving cards available on Thingiverse, including some Oseberg reproductions, so if you have access to a 3D printer–or know someone that does–maybe they can print some for you!
If you don’t have that kind of technology at hand, you can always make your own cards. You will need some heavy paper stock–like cereal boxes or cracker boxes–or even a deck of playing cards. Here’s a link to some instructions on how to make your own: https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Tablet-Weaving-Cards/.
Reading the Pattern
There are a few things you need to be able to understand. Looking at the pattern, you will see the numbers–1 through 13. These are the numbers of cards–one for each column. Best plan to write numbers on the backs of each card, which you will need to reference for many patterns.
Along the side are the letters A, B, C, and D. This indicates what threads go into what hole on which card. For example, card 5, hole A is pink; hole B is black and so on.
S & Z Threading
This is one of the most disputed items–is S and Z…does it mean the direction of the thread or the direction of the cards? Well, as long as you know how the pattern’s notation is written, you can do it how you choose.
My method is this–if you have clockwise lettering on your cards, face it to the right. If your letters are counter-clockwise (anti-clockwise), face them to the left.
From there, the patterns I use this threading method:
There are a number of shuttle options–I’ve purchased belt shuttles (6″ to 8″ long with a tapered edge) & short stick shuttles, made shuttles from scrap wood in the garage, and even a wooden ruler I found in the school supply box. Use what you have and experiment to find what you like the best.
Warping the loom–at least for circular warps like on the Inkle loom–requires the ends to be tied together. I use a surgeon’s knot so that it’s secure and easier to untie if/when you make a mistake.
While it’s difficult to describe what a weaver needs to do for tablet weaving, I will note that I start with the shuttle on the left and the tail through the shed, hanging out to the right. This is just my personal choice as I try to finish weaving at the end of a repeat and put the shuttle under a piece of elastic so the shuttle doesn’t fall on the floor…which had happened about 12 too many times before it occurred to me to tether that sucker down.
So the shuttle is on the left, the tail is through the shed to the right with a long tail (5″ or more long). Turn the cards forward once, and throw your shuttle through to the right and bring the tail through the shed to the left. The cross-cross of this weft thread helps anchor the weaving. Turn the cards again, throw the shuttle, pausing to lightly beat the weaving. Do then you can start to tighten up your weft threads to draw the band together. Repeat the turns for 2 to 6 more times, depending on how well you like the look of the tension. This takes practice…
Begin the pattern with AD at the top. You may want to view the video for further instruction:
Flipping Your Edge Cards
One thing to note is that this pattern is a zero-twist pattern–that is, as you weave, you don’t build up a twist like some patterns do, forcing you to either untie and untwist, use fishing swivels, or weave the pattern in reverse to untwist the warp. In this one, the only cards that build up the twist are the border cards. This can be easily fixed by either reversing the direction of the border cards–backwards instead of forwards–or flipping the cards from Z to S or S to Z, and continuing to follow the pattern as before.
Thanks for joining me! I hope you’re enjoying your weaving journey. Feel free to drop me a note on the YouTube comments if you have any questions.
One thing that tablet weavers experience frequently is twist in the warp that builds up until *something* has to be done about it. There are a few options that a weaver can consider.
You can untie and comb out the twist and re-tie…but that can create some exceptionally bad tension problems.
You can use a warp-weighted system that will untwist your warp as you go, but that is somewhat less portable.
Or you could try using fishing swivels, which is fine for a shorter warp, but when you’re doing upwards of 7 yards, like I am for this project, chasing the twist through a dozen or more pegs means you need another plan.
I’m sure that there’s a term for it…mirror image weaving…flip card weaving…or…untwist weaving…but I’m calling it Weaving in Reverse! This method weaves out the twist while still maintaining the pattern. Sure, it has a small variation in it, but it’s virtually invisible at first glance.
Here was my first attempt at changing direction. It has…elbows. Sure, it works, but it’s not hard to spot. I wasn’t really happy with it, so I experimented a bit…
And this is what I came up with!
A virtually invisible…or at least excellently camouflaged…design!
And this is how it’s done. First, you’ll be weaving the pattern from bottom to top:
When you finish this sequence, weaving 1 through 8, loosen the tension on your warp a bit and flip all your cards–S will become Z and Z becomes S. Then retighten your tension on your warp.
Then you need to weave four picks of a transition, which are rows 4, 3, 2, and 1, in that order. You will only need to do this once.
Then weave the pattern from top to bottom–8 down to 1–and repeat. The white squares are still forwards; the grey squares are still backwards.
When your warp has twisted too tightly in the opposite direction, you can transition back. After you finish your 8-1 sequence, you will need to flip your cards again, and your transition sequence is picks 5, 6, 7 and 8…then start at pick 1 and proceed through to 8.
Give it a try! Let me know how it works for you! If you have any questions, of course, feel free to reach out and ask questions.