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                                                                    Basic principle    The weaving    Techniques    Material

Basic principle

Normally fabrics are woven on a loom, where the warp threads are handled by shafts. Through lifting and sinking the shafts periodically, a space between the warp threads - the so called shed - opened. With every crossing of the weft threads  through the shed, the next peace of a new textile is built.

In tablet weaving, the shed is built by turning the tablets clock- or counterclockwise. Thereby, the warp threads are twisted into cords, which are held together by the weft. Normally the weft threads are not visible on the surface of the fabric.

The fabric consists of individual cords, which is typical for this technique and unique in weaving.

 

The twisting of the cords depends on the threading (S- or Z-threaded) and the direction of turning the tablets.

                                

If you are looking from the weavers side at the top of a tablet (as you can see at the pictures above), and the threads pass through the holes from the lower right side to the upper left side, then they are S-threaded. If they are Z-threaded they will pass from the lower left side to the upper right side. There is no standardized technique for weaving with tablets, so some weavers are talking about the S-direction or Z-direction of the tablets, and that means exactly the opposite of my description.

The weaving

You can do endless of patterns using tablet weaving. Within one band a lot of complex patterns can be woven. You can create your own patterns easily, using a squared sheet of paper. What you need is the sequence of the colours, the threading and the direction of turning the tablets. For creating multicoloured bands it is helpful to letter the holes of the tablets. Most of the weavers are using the letters A-D. To make the confusion for the beginners perfect, you can do this clockwise or counterclockwise on the tablet. So take care if you are using threading diagrams from other weavers. Be sure that you are using the same lettering on the tablets, otherwise you have to reverse the turning direction of the tablets. Basically I recommend to use only that system, that appears more logically to you and stay with it.

How a pattern is created and the result of changing the turning direction I will show on an example:

I dont want to give a detailed weaving instruction, because there are already a lot of them (and better one) on the web (see Tablet weaving on the web). I will give only a short version for a threaded in pattern.

What we need: 10 tablets, lettered counterclockwise, threaded with yarn of any colour you want = warping:

picture 1

hole D                    
hole C                    
hole B                    
hole A                    
tablet Nr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
threading S/Z S S S S S S S S S S

We need 16 threads of black yarn , 4 threads of a green one and 20 threads of a creme-coloured (e.g. cotton crochet yarn, every thread the same length). In accordance to the threading diagram (picture 1) the yarn is threaded through the holes of the tablets and tied together on both ends (for the experts: Yes I know, there are other ways for easier warping !!!). Tablet 1 - four black threads, tablet 2 - four creme-coloured threads and so on... All tablets are sorted, corresponding to the threading diagram, and turned into the start position. That means from the weavers side, all of the tablets have to be with the lettering on the left side and the holes A and D on the top. The warp must be brought to a constant tension and fixed were ever you want (classical version one end on the weavers belt, the other side on the kitchens door...). Now we can start with weaving. The whole pack of tablets has to turned (a quarter) now forward or backwards. To build a fabric, a weft (e.g. black cotton crochet yarn) has to put through the shed and must be beaten by the shuttle (if you dont have one with a finger). After four turns backwards (to the weavers side) you should see a piece of a band with the pattern as you can see in picture 1. After four turns backwards more, the pattern of the band should look like picture 2 :

picture 2

hole D                    
hole C                    
hole B                    
hole A                    
hole D                    
hole C                    
hole B                    
hole A                    
tablet Nr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
threading S/Z S S S S S S S S S S

Turning four times backwards and four times forward, the pattern should look as you see in picture 3 :

picture 3

hole A                    
hole B                    
hole C                    
hole D                    
hole D                    
hole C                    
hole B                    
hole A                    
tablet Nr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
threading S/Z S S S S S S S S S S

By turning the tablets actually two bands are woven at the same time. One on the weavers side, and as a reflection a second one behind the tablets. But behind the tablets there is no weft inserted, so you dont form a real band, only twisted cords. The twisting in the warp behind the tablets has to be removed, after turning the tablets for a longer time in the same direction (turn the cards in the opposite direction or by open the warp at one end to unwind).  By building cords,  the warp is getting shorter, and the tension is changing. For a good result it is necessary to control the tension of the warp periodically and hold it on a constant value.
When you come to the end of the warp, open it by cut up the ends on both sides. Remove the tablets, and fix the rest of the threads e.g. with nice knots or a plait.

The forming of the pattern is following strict rules, so you can try every pattern on a sheet of paper before you start weaving. Real artists are getting inspired, using techniques like free turning, lifting or changing the threading of the tablets during the weaving process. Others (like me) are using the genious PC-program GTT- Guntrams tablet weaving thingy, to create new patterns.

For a better understanding the whole process again in pictures:

                              material                               threading (all tablets S-threaded)

 

 

warping and bring to a constant tension - the easiest method using two C-clamps

 

        

ready for weaving, all tablets with the lettering on the left side and the holes A-D on the top -
turn the whole pack (a quarter) forward or backwards

  

the shed opens, put the weft through the shed and beat it with the shuttle, next turn etc.

                                         

                th result after 3x4 turns forward      after 5x4 turns backward   alternating 4x4 turns backward/forward

As you can see on the pictures, the pattern of the woven band does not look exactly as your draft on the paper.  That depends on the fact, that the twisting produce little rhombic areas on the cord, and not little squares as we have used for creating the threading diagram. Depending on the material (e.g. silk, cotton etc.) the quality of the pattern can vary.
When you always turn the whole pack of tablets, as we had done in our example then you will get an irregular, unlovely edge. You can avoid this effect, separating the edge tablets from the pattern tablets and turning them for the whole weaving process only in one direction.
To show the difference in our example I made the following corrections during the weaving:

1. separate the edge tablets from the pattern tablets by moving them backwards on the warp
2. change the threading of the edge tablets
    (tablet 1 and 9 keep S-threading, tablet 2 and 10 change to Z-threading)
3. turn the edge tablets only forward

                                                        
move two edge tablets backwards on the warp, the S-threading is visible, turn around tablet 10 gives Z-threading

The woven result of the correction:


                                            

                                 before: irregular, uneven edge                                  after: even edge
Turning around the tablets, to change the threading of the tablets, is oftenly used to create new patterns during the weaving process. You can do this without any problems on one-coloured threaded tablets.

 

Techniques

In the following I will give a short overview about the different techniques to create patterns. Detailed informations and instructions you can find on the web and of course in the available books.

threaded in:                   S or Z threaded depending on the pattern, for multi-coloured beautiful bands

double face:                  alternating S/Z threading, normally 2-coloured, the pattern appears reflecting on both sides  

3/1 broken twill:           S or Z threaded, cyclic warping, 2-coloured, for beautiful celtic knots and other patterns

missed hole:                  S/Z threading possible, one ore more holes of the tablet are not threaded

                                      special form: "Pebble weave" S or Z threaded, 2 holes not threaded, 2-coloured,

                                                            cyclic warping, for beautiful celtic knots and other patterns                 

brocaded:                     S or Z threaded, multi-coloured, a additional weft of gold or silver threads is used

Material

What equipment is required for tablet weaving ??


The most important things are: tablets, yarn, plenty of time and patience !


First of all to the tablets. Most of them are made from cardboard or an old pack of playing cards. The material is cheap and and the tablets easy to make. Tablets made out of other materials (like metal, wood, bones, horn or leather) are rare and expensive.

Every material that you can buy as a cord can be used for weaving, even thin steel or brass wire is possiple. As beginner, most of the weavers use cotton crochet yarn. Silk is beautiful, but expensive. Linen is a little bit more difficult to weave, but gives magnificent bands. With all the other types of yarn, everyone has to make his own experience.

For tablet weaving you need time and patience. You have to work concentrated when you try techniques like 3/1 broken twill or pebble weave. Children, pets or a running TV are not helpful when you want to weave a complex celtic knot in missed hole technique.

Other helpful things are a shuttle for opening and beaten the shed. If you want to work serious in this technique I recommend buying a loom, it facilitates the work. Maybe you can build your own loom, there are some informations for do-it-yourselfer on the web. The easiest way to build a loom I have shown already on this side. For myself, I use a self made weight loom, where every tablet is hold under constant tension by a separate weight. With this loom it is also very easy to remove the twisting in the warp, but you need more time for warping and he is not mobile.

 

                                                        

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Copyright by brettchenweber@aon.at
last update 04.05.2009