Tablet Weaving Techniques

In my previous post, I very briefly explained the history of tablet weaving. In today’s post, I will attempt to shed light on how tablet weaving works, and present some of the available techniques.

In regular weaving, we have two sets of threads going in two directions, up and down and side to side. These are called warp (up and down) and weft (left and right) threads.

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Illustration of warp and weft threads in regular tabby weave. Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weaving

Similarly, tablet weaving also utilizes warp and weft threads. The warping threads are set up during the set up phase, and you thread back and forth across the warp threads, between the shed, with your weft thread.

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Illustration of cards, and warp and weft threads in tablet weaving. Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weaving

Just as in harness looms, tablet weaving changes the color that is visible by turning the cards. These cards can have 2 to 8 threads threaded through each card, and by turning or flipping the cards, you also create twist.

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Twisting of cards. Copyright © 2003 Shelagh Lewins. (http://www.shelaghlewins.com/tablet_weaving/TW01/TW01.htm)

This accounts for the diagonal slants in tablet weaving, compared to horizontal and vertical lines in textiles weaving or inkle loom weaving. This also means that it is important to note how you thread the cards in the initial set up, and the two different threading methods are referred to as S threading, or Z threading.

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Threading of cards. Copyright © 2003 Shelagh Lewins. (http://www.shelaghlewins.com/tablet_weaving/TW01/TW01.htm)

Turning patterns for the cards can go from extremely simple Forwards 4, Backwards 4…to very complicated patterns where each card is turned or flipped a different direction in every turn. Some simple patterns include chevrons (or arrows) and diamonds…

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Chevron trim in wool that I wove for a friend.

…and Thor’s Hammers.

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Thor’s Hammer trim, woven by myself.

Another technique is referred to as Double-Face Weave, where two colors are used to create an inverted effect on either side of the belt or trim.

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Squire’s belt woven for a friend. Note the inverted red and white pattern.

Sometimes, you may only choose to thread 3 of the 4 holes on a regular weaving card, creating interesting swirling patterns.

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Woven by stolte. Image Source: https://stolte.wordpress.com/tag/tablet-weaving-experiment/

Another popular method of weaving is called pebble weave, and is frequently used to create a speckled look.

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Andean pebble weave. Image Source: http://www.weavolution.com/project/evelyn/andean-pebble-weave

As you can see, there is a lot that can achieved with tablet weaving. For beginners, I highly recommend Shelagh Laewins’ website; she has a very well written out section on “Getting Started”. I ended up borrowing some pictures from her website, because they were just so well-illustrated.

Yours in service,
Lady Mathilde Huldsdotter, AoA

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A Brief History of Tablet Weaving

One of the activities I like to partake in for historical reenactment is tablet weaving. Used extensively in the Viking Age for decorative and functional purposes, tablet weaving has been around for centuries all over the world.

The origins of tablet weaving were initially attributed to the Ancient Eyptians. This was based off the discovery of a woven belt that was dubbed the Girdle of Ramesses, for the inked cartouche of Ramesses III on the artifact. This theory was further supported by the publication of the book Le tissage aux cartons et son utilisation décorative dans l’Égypte ancienne (The tablet weaving and decorative use in ancient Egypt) by Gennep and Jéquier [1]. That would have meant that tablet weaving existed circa 1180BC, if not earlier!

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The Girdle of Rameses. Image Source: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml/collections/spotlight/rameses_girdle.aspx

However, this theory was dispelled when structural analysis by Peter Collingwood proved that the girdle could not have been created by tablet weaving methods. [2]

In any event, tablet weaving is still an ancient method of textile production. Archaeological evidence points towards bands made during the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Scandinavian region. They were usually used in conjunction with warp weighted looms used for textile production, and were mostly used to create borders and edges on woven fabrics. [3]

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A warp weighted loom. Image Source: http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/warp-weighted-loom

There are numerous techniques one can employ when tablet weaving, and in the area of Birka (arguably one of the best Viking dig sites uncovered), there have been excavated countless tablet woven bands employing a brocade technique (more on that in a later post). These bands were most likely used as edges for garments, and to provide decoration.

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Band 2 from Birka Grave 824. Image Source: http://www.shelaghlewins.com/tablet_weaving/Birka_twine/Birka_01.htm

Other bands have been found all over Scandinavia, such as the Snartemo band found in Norway, dated to the 5th Century.

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Reproduction of Snartemo band by altikh. Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/altikh/2064956045/

Unfortunately, because of the design elements of swastikas, Snartemo bands really aren’t doable in the SCA context.

I will be posting in a few days the technical aspect of tablet weaving, as well as an introduction to some of the techniques available.

Yours in service,
Lady Mathilde Huldsdotter, AoA

 

Resources:

[1] Gennep, Arnold Van, and G. Jéquier. Le Tissage Aux Cartons Et Son Utilisation Décorative Dans L’Égypte AncienneNeuchatel, 1916. Print.

[2] Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Tablet Weaving. McMinnville, Or.: Robin & Russ Handweavers, 1996. Print.

[3] Gleba, Margarita. Textile Productions in Pre-Roman Italy. Oxford: Oxbow, 2008. Print.