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The origin of tablet weaving is obscure. Nobody knows exactly where
or when it started, although there are several pieces as early as the
sixth century B. C. which were almost certainly tablet-woven. It is
known for a fact that the technique was widespread throughout Europe
and parts of Asia during the SCA\u2019s period, and was used for a variety of
narrow-band woven textiles. These bands could be used for belts,
straps, animal girths, laces, and garment trims. They vary from simple
and utilitarian to elaborate and highly decorated, with the finest
examples being decorated with pictures and letters, and worked with
silk and gold brocade. See the attached photocopies for a more
thorough historical listing.
Tablets were historically made of a variety of materials, including horn,
antler, leather, bone, and card (paper).
Tablet weaving can be done with almost any fiber (yarn, string, thread,
rope \u2013 I usually prefer \u201cyarn\u201d although I usually weave with thread-
sized stuff) which is used for other fabric use. The best fibers for tablet
weaving are smooth, even-textured, and strong. The tablets will tend
to catch on any fiber which is rough or nubbly, and yarns which are
hairy or textured can catch in the shed-making process. Within the
SCA\u2019s period, tablet weaving was done with silk, wool, linen, and hair,
and blends of these. Gold, silver, and copper were all used for
decorative brocading. In modern use, I often substitute cotton for
linen, although I know that the real linen has a much smoother and
finer feel, because the cotton is cheaper and more readily available. I
also occasionally use synthetics in place of silk for ribbons and finer
bands. Modern metallic yarns containing colored aluminum, mylar, or
lurex can be substituted for the precious metal brocading fibers, and
some of them (especially the Kreinik Japan gold and silver) do a very
good job of mimicking their precious counterparts.
Tablets can be made from a variety of modern materials. Bar coasters
make good serviceable tablets, although they wear out more quickly
than many other types. I have had the best luck myself with sheet
polystyrene, which is sold as \u201cPlasTruct,\u201d and used by model-makers to
create models of buildings. It is a thin sheet of gray plastic, and can be
drilled, cut with scissors or saw, sanded, and marked with markers.
Quilting template plastic is also workable, as are more historical
materials such as wood, horn, bone, antler (tiny tablets!) and leather.
Tablets are also available for purchase made out of many of these
materials. Lacis (lacis.com, or 510-843-7178) offers the small plastic
tablets which we will use for the class, $10 for a pack of 25.
The tablets which you will get for the class are pre-warped. Warping is
typically considered to be the most tedious part of the weaving
process, although there are several shortcuts which can make it faster
and more pleasant.
In order to do a threaded-in design, one where the design is created by
the threading, and each tablet has a unique configuration of threads,
you will have to individually measure and tie each warp thread. I have
found that the easiest way to do this is to string the tablets onto an
inkle loom or similar frame as you go; trying to measure all the warp
threads and then warp the loom (as you would with a floor loom) can
be very difficult because it is hard to keep the tension even.
If you are doing a single-color design, or a design which has a
consistent threading pattern, you can make a fast circular warp. This is
the technique that I use for almost every one of my woven bands,
because it cuts down so significantly on the time required.
To begin the circular warp, place the balls of yarn in bowls or jars so
that they will not roll all over the floor. Holding the entire pack of cards
in one hand, or as many as will be warped in one section, push a
crochet hook through the holes in one corner of the entire pack and
grab hold of the thread for that corner, and pull it through. Repeat this
until all four holes are threaded. Tie all four ends into a knot. Tie this
knot to a secure post of your loom or other support, and take the
tablets in hand. Pass around the warp path, dropping one tablet at the
shed area, and trailing yarn behind your hand. This makes more sense
as you do it, than it does to read it. Travel around the warp path again,
dropping one more tablet in the shed area. Repeat this until you have
run out of tablets. For the last one, you will need to hold the yarns with
your fingers. Once you get back to where you tied off to begin with, tie
the ends (all four at once) to the beginning threads, and you have a
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