Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Card Weaving

On Vashon, we have this rather fabulous weaving group (with some rather fabulous and talented weavers) that meets once a month to talk about weaving, to show and tell what we've been working on, to get inspired, and to learn. At the April meeting, one of the members gave a short lesson in card weaving (thanks Donna!). Card weaving (also called tablet weaving) is a pretty old kind of weaving (archeological finds - cards of ivory, bone, wood from 400BC and later) that creates woven bands with intricate patterns without a fancy loom.

So here it is.

You get these cards (OK, no fancy stuff here - these are just heavy cardboard) and thread your warp threads through them from the top or from the bottom, in a sequence that creates a pattern (pattern instructions in some good books - references at end of post).

warping from the top and from the bottom

Using colors too (if you like - you could also go with black and white, or you could use all one color and just go for texture - so many choices!)
a bundle of cards

Well, color it is (that's just how I am!). After threading the cards, you tie one end, slide the cards to the other end to straighten out the warp threads (not a trivial task, let me tell you - no matter how organized you are to start out, it becomes quite a jungle of twisted threads), tie the other end, and hook them up somewhere.
the cards all warped and tied

This bundle is stretched from a cabinet knob to a clamp on a weighted tray table.
To weave, you pass the weft shuttle through the shed (that V shaped space next to the cards)
shuttle goes through the shed

Then you turn the cards (either towards yourself or away from yourself, depending on the pattern),
turning the cards

slide the cards towards the weaving fell (edge) to "clear the shed" (straighten out all the newly tangled warp threads) and to press the weft thread firmly in place,
clearing the shed

and when you slide the cards back, "Voila", you have a new shed ready for your weft shuttle!
new shed

And the pattern grows (sometimes in unexpected ways when you forget whether you're supposed to be turning towards or away from, but it's all kind of cool, and it's fun to be surprised, mostly).
the warp goes off into the far beyond

This is a pretty thick 2-ply cotton thread to make a sturdy band (for my sample, test, discovery, learning experience). My next band will use a bit finer cotton to make a more delicate pattern (thinking about a ram's horn pattern), but still strong so that I can use it for a banjo strap.

Pretty easy, kind of fun, and cool patterns.

Good books to use (these are Amazon links, but I found these first at my public library. . . then I bought them):

Card Weaving by Candace Crockett -for good beginner instruction and basic technique and some nice patterns (she also has a video to teach the process)

and for the serious student and for in-depth info on history, instruction, techniques with variations, and tons of patterns - The Techniques of Tablet Weaving by Peter Collingwood


  1. Very cool, Mom. It seems like rotating the cards does most of the work of weaving -- is that kind of the idea? Looks like magic!

  2. yes - the threading and rotating of the cards does the work of many shafts and heddles - and it is magic!