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Serena's New Thing

JULY -- Weaving, Tablet

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For this project I already had an inkle loom (my husband's, actually), but I had never used it. Luckily, Grevinde Runa lives in my Barony and knows a great deal about tablet weaving. I called her and asked for a crash course.

The first thing I had to do was decide what I wanted to weave. With card weaving you can make ribbon, trim, a belt, a wide band for strapping, among other things. The width of your project depends on the width of your yarn and how many cards you want to use, and how big your loom is! I decided to make a belt out of cotton, because I had mid-weight cotton yarn on hand that I thought would be easy to work with. Runa taught me how to make a pattern. I'm still a little bit shady on how the best way to set one up, but fortunately for me--and you--there are many books and web pages with pre-drafted patterns or suggestions on designing your own.

Stringing the "warp" (the threads that go around the loom) was the longest, most tedious part of the weaving process. I used 15 cards with four holes in each card. The number of the holes, the direction that the yarn is threaded, as well as the yarn color, all have an impact on the final pattern. It's important to warp the loom properly and according to the pattern, so I was constantly checking which color yarn I was supposed to use and which hole and direction it was supposed to go in.

Once the warping was done, then the weaving began. The "shuttle" (a small piece of wood that more yarn is wound around, is used to pass the yarn, or the weft, between the warp threads) is used to "beat" the weft thread down tight onto the warp, and then the cards are turned. The turning of the cards changes which warp threads are "up" and which are "down," thus changing the pattern. I used a very simple pattern of turning all the cards forward four times (passing one weft yarn between each turning) and then turning all the cards back four times. There are many more complex patterns that require some of the cards to be turned forward and some backwards, but that is certainly more advanced than a first-timer like me could handle.

The weaving continued. String the weft, beat, turn. String, beat, turn. Repeat until it's done. Sounds simple, right? Well, in theory it is. More than once I had forgotten if I had just turned the cards forward or backwards, or how many times I had turned them, and when I looked at the pattern it wasn't right and I knew I had messed up someplace. So I had to un-weave until I got to the mistake so I could fix it. Luckily I was able not to make too much of a mess of it.

Really the most important part of this step is consistency. Pulling the weft yarn through the warp yarn threads with the same tension, then beating the weft thread down the same way each time will result in evenly spaced rows. Too little tension will make the whole belt wider, and too much will make it thinner. So once you get a feel for it, try and do it the same each time.

When I was done, I cut the belt off of the loom. Finishing the loose end of the belt was easy--I just twisted the end threads together and knotted them. For the "ring" end I decided to do a technique I saw in a book Runa lent me The Techniques of Tablet Weaving by Peter Collingwood (as of this writing it is available at Amazon.com). It demonstrates how to make a wrapped starting loop by overlapping the loose ends to form a ring shape, then wrapping that ring shape with yarn to make a ring. I realize this technique is supposed to be used to start a belt, not finish it, but I wanted to try it anyway. And it worked! No need for a metal ring! Pretty cool.

The Techniques of Tablet Weaving is an excellent beginner's resource. It gives lots of examples, patterns, and instructions on how to tablet weave just about anything. I highly recommend it as a great place to start learning. It also has a hefty bibliography, which I'm sure would yield a few primary resources if they were back researched far enough.

The finished belt!


Next up For Serena's New Thing #2 ? Ironwork and Tool Making!

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-- SK