Some time between one event and another a week later I managed to misplace all 80 of my cards for tablet weaving. The particular set I lost was purchased (my first set) that still had some life in them so I was sad to loose them but it’s not the end of the world. With my wool weaving project almost done I thought I ought to get on track and make a new set for the next project I want to warp up.
What is Tablet Weaving?
I’m going to start with a brief explanation since I know there are a few people reading that don’t know. Tablet weaving is old and dates back at least to the 6th century. The greatest find regarding tablet weaving was found in the Oseberg ship burial from Norway, dating to about 850 AD. In it, a tablet weaving loom with fifty-two threaded cards, a partially woven band, and a number of other tablet woven bands were found.
Tablet weaving uses cards (historically made from bone, wood, or metal) that come in a number of shapes with holes in the corners through which warp threads are passed through. How the cards are threaded help dictate the patterns with string going into the hole from the left and coming out on the right being “S” threading and from right to left being “Z” threading. Patterning is a whole other topic so I’ll just stop here for now. Turning the cards is like raising and lowering heddles in usual loom weaving.
The easiest way to make cards, at least for me, is to find an old deck of playing cards. If you have two candidate packs pick the more rigid of the two as you may be able to use them more than once. Do not use solid plastic cards. Making holes in those require a drill and are prone to shredding threads when weaving.
Gather your deck of cards, a round hole puncher, pen/marker, and cutting implement. My tool of choice is a paper cutter that has a neat corner-rounding thing which helps.
After gathering your tools the next step is to sort though your deck. My deck was attacked by my two-year old at some earlier date so I need to go through and make sure the cards are free of rips, chew marks, etcetera. No, I’m not joking. Also discard any that are too bent or crumpled. These don’t tend to stay rigid enough to weave with.
I’ve added a photo below of a card that did not make the cut.
The next step is to make up a template that you can use to make the other cards but the over all making process is very similar.
- Measure and mark the square to cut and the hole placement.
- Cut the card into a square.
- Punch holes
- Round corners (so that they won’t snag during weaving)
Making The Card Pattern
To measure and mark the card take one of the other cards and make an L – shape with the cards putting link in the picture to the right. Mark the edge and remove the top card.
Next, cut along that line and round the corners. If you have a corner rounder, great! If not do this with scissors.
Now you have a nice, square card with rounded corners. The next step is to draw an X on it. Use a ruler as this will be the guide for the holes you will punch in the next step.
Measure in a little over a 1/4 inch along each line and mark it. Center your hole punch on the mark and punch out the hole. You can see mine are a little off but it’s not the end of the world. Some people swear by marking a circle on top of the X. I find that the holes are too close to the edge for comfort and, if I’m making these on the fly, I don’t usually have a compass to make the circle with.
This card now becomes your template and you mark all the other cards using this one. This means that you do not need to mark each one with the X and measure the distance for your holes. A shortcut, if you will. When all of the cards are done I do something that helps me know what turn I’m on. I’m a visual person so I color the edges of my cards following a simple rule:
The colors go in alphabetical order and if one is not turned with the rest there is a better chance that I will post it before it goes too far. Some people will clip a corner of the card for the same use. I find this a little faster for myself.
And voila! You have cards. There is one caveat to these cards. These will be good for (at best) three uses. Depending on what you’re using for fiber and how tight it needs to be tensioned will dictate how many uses you will get out of these.
I do not recommend using these to tablet weave sewing thread (yes, people do it) it will rip them up. Other than that, these are great to use as long as you don’t expect them to last forever. So if you just want to try it out or you’re in a pinch, I hope these instructions help!
Collingwood, Peter. 1982. The Techniques of Tablet Weaving. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York.