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Card weaving, also known as tablet weaving, is a method of producing narrow textiles such as straps, belts and trim. Most card woven bands are very strong and sturdy. Card woven bands can range from simple and easy to elaborately patterned and very time consuming. I'll focus on the easiest types, but I will tell you where to find out more about the more complicated types of card weaving. The oldest known reliable evidence for card weaving comes from about 400 B.C. Several cards and some card woven material was found at an archeological site in Spain. In period, card weaving was most highly developed in northern Europe, especially in Scandinavia, and was also used by the Anglo-Saxons. Many medieval pieces were ornate silk ecclesiastical vestments, or wrist and head bands brocaded with gold or silver, but others were much simpler. These may have been used as belts or straps. Card woven borders were sometimes woven into larger textiles. This helped to set the warp spacing and provided sturdy selvages.
Cards can be made of thin sturdy cardboard, or even thin wood. The material must be smooth enough that it won't catch the yarn. An easy set of weaving cards can be made from an old set of playing cards. Index cards also work, but aren't very sturdy. What ever the material, the cards should be cut into squares about 5-6 cm on a side, and a hole punched in each corner. Make sure the holes are smooth and nearly round, or you will have trouble turning the cards. It also helps to round the corners.
A wide range of yarns work well for card weaving. Whatever you choose must be fairly sturdy. The warp (the yarn strung thru the cards) will be under a lot of tension and friction, so it can't be anything fuzzy or easy to break, although fuzzy yarns can be used in the weft. I've found that cotton crocheting string works well (and is cheap and easy to find) but embroidery floss can also be used, or any sturdy yarn.
The first step (after making cards, finding yarn and picking a project) is to cut the warp. The length of each warp string should be the intended length of the finished piece plus 20% for
starting and ending knots. 4. wither with your finger or something smooth and flat. plus 50 cm for room for the cards. Either hold the other end or attach it to your belt. Leave about 2 cm or so sticking out of the weft. Take a fairly long piece of string (but not too long or it gets unmanageable) of the same color as the strings in the edge cards. like a doorknob or a chair. which is the gap between the warp threads in the top holes of the cards and those in the bottom holes. Now repeat the following steps: 1. and pass the weft through again. Don't pull the weft all the way tight yet. Pack the shed. etc. Pass a new weft shot through the shed. Pack the new shed towards yourself. like the back of a knife blade. 3. When all the cards are threaded. or the same direction as the middle part of an S. and wind it around a shuttle or make in into a butterfly. either in the same direction as the middle line of a Z. isn't it? . tie a big knot at the beginning and the end to hold everything together. It will normally only show at the sides of the band. Easy. The cards should all be in a pack with one set of edges flat towards you. Pass one end of the weft through the shed. Continue until the band is the length you'd like.2 x final length + 50 cm One warp yarn will be strung through each hole in every card.take-up. 2. A card can be strung from left to right (Z-threaded) or right to left (S-threaded). but all four holes must be strung in the same direction or the card won't turn.leave a little loop sticking out. Tighten the previous weft shot just to the edge of the band. When you look at the cards from above. The direction depends on the pattern. The weft is the yarn that is passed back and forth between the warp threads. either forward (away from you) or backwards (towards yourself). Turn the entire pack of cards one-quarter turn. so I'll repeat it: warp length = 1. and holds the whole thing together. It's probably easiest to tie each set of four warp yarns together after you thread a card. Now you are ready to weave! Weaving Tie the far end of the warp to something sturdy. Turn the cards. This is important. the yarn will be on a slight diagonal.
but it is useful to mark to top of each card in some way. This effect is caused by the twisting together of the four threads in each card. what color weft to string through each hole. the letters are: D C A B A pattern will show the order of the cards. The following sample pattern would be for four cards with dark threads in their B holes and light threads in the remaining holes. Card weaving projects are usually set up from a pattern. A \ below a column indicates that card is Sthreaded. they will produce a clean S-diagonal. and the threading direction. Looking at the card from the left. Notice that for a Z-diagonal stripe to have smooth edges on the front of the band. and all the cards are turned in the same direction. Or for a belt. The opposite is true for Z-threaded cards: if turned forwards. Most commercial cards are marked. or hem the ends. Patterns with no diagonal lines usually work best with alternating Z and S-threaded cards. The conventions I use are similar to those used by Collingwood and other authors in this area. Just don't forget to take the cards off! Threaded-in Patterns Now that you know the mechanics of card weaving. and descriptions of the bands they will produce. and can be drawn quickly on graph paper. Each hole in the card is given a letter to identify it. as long as the ends are firmly sewn down. the cards must be S-threaded and turned forwards. where the design is created by threading different colors of yard in the same card. you can leave extra and make tassels or braids. with each column of four squares indicating the four holes of one card. These patterns are not medieval! Most period patterns involve some amount of individual manipulation of the cards. right? The easiest type of pattern is the threaded-in pattern. . you probably want to know how to make neat patterns. If S-threaded cards are turned backwards. and the right cards are Z-threaded.Finishing Trim can be cut into lengths and sewn on. a smooth S-diagonal stripe will result. The left two cards are S-threaded. Any of the references at the end can give you more suggestions about medieval card weaving. For straps or belts. and a / indicates a Z-threaded card. You don't need to write these on the card unless you really want to. O O X O \ O O X O \ O O X O / O O X O / D C B A I have made a page with a few sample threaded-in patterns. you may want to attach a ring to one end.
This changes the threading direction of the card as well as the color position. .More Complicated Patterns One of the most common individual card manipulations is the twist. which makes a spiral design.) One pattern I really like is kivrim. but the color pattern may not be the same with a twist as a reversal. Simply rotate a card around its vertical axis. A Z-threaded card turned forwards will produce the same twist as an S-threaded card turned backwards. (Note: In some cases twisting the card is equivalent to turning it in the opposite direction.
letters. or in B and C).Double Face Weave This is the simplest weave that allows you to make patterns that do not depend on the threading of the cards. The basic double weave sequence is: 2xF. To switch colors in one card. 2xB. The cards should alternate S and Z-threading.) . Having control over the color of each individual card allows you to weave any pattern that you can draw on graph paper. and not in the second and fourth (twisting will have no effect on color position. The card or cards twisted will now make a portion of the band with a light surface and a dark back. This turning sequence will make a band that is all dark on the top and all light on the bottom. simply twist that card when it has two different colors in the top two holes (the dark threads are in A and D. as long as each color change is a multiple of two squares long. Set up all the cards with two dark threads in the holes nearest you (A and B) and light threads in the far two holes (C and D). Nearly any two-colored pattern can be made using this weavepictures. even Celtic knotwork. This restriction is because you can only change colors in the first and third card positions in the sequence.
While weaving a twill with a dark upper surface.) This card is out of step with its neighbors. which creates the twill line in the fabric. and repeats the sequence. each card moves from position I to II to III back to I. especially in northern Europe. all cards are turned individually. Twills are described as S or Z. depending on the direction of the twill line.) The cards used for the twill weave are threaded with two light threads in adjacent holes. Twill cloth has a diagonal surface structure. based on the fact that an S-threaded card turned forward is equivalent to a Z-threaded card turned backwards as long as the color pattern is symmetric. All these directions assume that you are weaving a dark colored twill with white patterns. to create elaborately patterned bands. The oldest known sample comes from Norway.Double Faced 3/1 Broken Twill Basics This technique has been used throughout the Middle Ages.) There are two methods to weave a twill. This means that patterns with 45 degree diagonal lines are especially suited for this weave. This turning pattern keeps a dark thread always showing on the top. The card can assume four positions relative to the string colors. but there are many possibilities. and is dated to the sixth century. (This is exactly like ordinary double face weave so far. (The reverse side will be light with dark patterns. The most common designs are geometric patterns and stylized birds and animals. (This is equivalent to the use of S and Z to describe card threading direction. and dark threads in the other two holes. though. and color changes are . Other period pieces are described in the references below. but the edges of the diagonal color boundaries will not be smooth. In the one-pack method.
made by reversing the turning direction. although I use "rectangle paper. and that cards in different packs cannot change colors at the same time. designing patterns actually follows a few straightforward rules. the outermost card can be labeled in such a way that the top edge always indicates the current turning pattern. A twist made while the card is in position II or IV will change the threading direction without affecting color position. The twill cards are then separated alternately into two packs. Graph paper can be used to design patterns. about 5 cm. and switches the threading direction. The even-numbered cards are pushed away from the weaver. two dark as described above. sturdy edge. Then pack 1 is turned back (top edge toward weaver) and pack 2 is turned forward. This type of paper is available in craft stores for designing bead loom patterns . This means that a color change must be a multiple of two turns long. Color changes are made by twisting the card about its vertical axis while it is in position I or III. First. into a second pack. which is the one covered here (developed by Peter Collingwood). The twill cards are threaded two light. involves separating the cards into two groups. There is a four-part turning sequence for the twill cards. The threading direction of the cards depends on the desired twill direction. and finally pack 1 is turned forward and pack 2 is turned back. it is easiest to use fairly small cards. both backs are turned forward (top edge away from weaver) and the weft is passed. which interchanges the positions of the light and dark threads. Both packs are turned back. which starts in position I. Selvage pack is turned each time the twill packs are turned. but lines along the band and at 45 degree angles are possible. The two-pack method. The selvage cards for a third pack. Set-up Several selvage cards in plain weave should be used to stabilize the twill and provide a smooth. each of which is turned as a whole. Twill direction can be changed while weaving by twisting cards in position II. Because of the frequent twisting. Color changes can only occur when a card is in position I or III. It is impossible to crate a smooth line across the width of the band. and starts in position II." which conforms to the limitations of this technique. Examples of both S and Z twills are shown below. Pattern drafting While it seems complicated at first. The pack nearest the weaver is composed of all the odd-numbered cards. If the selvage pack is always turned forward.
I found it helpful to draw out the threading direction and card position at each color change. 8.The underlying principle is that a card in position I relative to the top color at a color change must be treaded in the same direction as the line of the color change. While learning how this rule translates into practice.) . no twists are needed to adjust threading direction. Determine whether the card is in position I or III at each color change (with an arbitrary starting point. no twists are needed. remembering that color boundaries must be separated by multiples of two turns. 10. etc. If two perpendicular boundaries are 4. turns apart. and a card in position III must be threaded in the opposite direction. Draw the design on graph paper. There are some derived rules which can also be useful. Steps in drafting a pattern. If a card is threaded in the wrong direction for a smooth color change. 1. If two parallel diagonal color boundaries are 2. turns apart. 12. etc. 2. 6. twisting it while it is in position II just before the interchange will put the card in the right orientation without leaving long floats.
the 3-weft floats are all parallel across the band. The ffbb turning sequence creates a fabric where the warp threads each go over 3 and under 1 weft thread. including the maniple from Arlon. which is my favorite piece of tablet weaving. The tablets follow the same sequence (ffbb. Collingwood's Techniques of Tablet Weaving (TTW) illustrates some amazing examples. and crosses the top with each turn. so the upper face of the band will be dark. Sequence of tablet positions for double-faced weaves. 4. 3/1 twill isn't that different from doubleface. . Use the threading directions to determine both the initial set-up and the locations where a twist is required.3. Alignment of floats for three double-faced structures. The diagonals can run in either S or Z directions. but in 3/1 twill the floats are staggered along diagonal lines (Fig. Fig. so this could be called 3/1 repp. In doubleface. Double Faced 3/1 Broken Twill Background Tablet-woven 3/1 was used to create some of the most elaborately patterned bands of the Middle Ages. 1) to create a fabric that is all dark on one side and all light on the other. Decide what the twill direction for each section of the pattern should be (your call) and use that information to determine the proper threading direction for each card at each color change. Figure 2. Figure 1. 2). At least one dark thread is always on top.
3). so the color change shows up on the pattern as 4 parallel slashes along that line (Fig. using / to indicate a forward turn and \ a backward because those are the directions of twist created by an S-threaded tablet turned in the appropriate direction. The onepack method is easier to understand. The color change actually happens in the middle of that broader line. There are several possibilities.the fun part is making designs. the twill direction is the same on both sides. Changing color Plain twill isn't all that interesting . especially Snartemo. It has become conventional to draft patterns on graph paper. When changing colors. S and Z color changes. then resume the regular ffbb sequence. With this kind of color change. and is faster for large areas of plain ground and for simple patterns. Figure 3. 4).The strong diagonals in 3/1 broken twill make it possible to design elaborate patterns based on diagonal lines. the color change also needs to follow the twill line. The slashes line up along the twill direction. All the tablets are S-threaded with two light and two dark threads in adjacent holes (as in Fig. The twill direction is indicated by the parallel lines of / or \ running in the appropriate direction (Fig. The two-pack method was developed by Peter Collingwood. the slashes lined up along the twill line. Pattern draft for single-color S and Z twill. 1). and it is easier to move from the one-pack method to other structures. but make it impossible to weave smooth horizontal lines. Weaving twill There are two ways to weave 3/1 twill. I'm only going to cover the one-pack method here. but the easiest way to change colors is to turn the tablets 4 times in the same direction. Figure 4. . In Figure 3.
The points where the turning sequence has been changed are shaded. so that technique lets us make patterns of diagonal lines all going in one direction. Figure 5. These are made with 2 or more tablets always turned the same direction. The one on the left changes in the middle of the area.. Since the color change must match the twill direction. Twill has long floats. Two ways to change twill direction.6..where there are 2. picks between the change in direction. The sequence only changes for every other tablet . so bands should have warp-twined selvages. while the one on the right changes just before the boundary. . Even the simplest diamond requires diagonals going in both directions.10. not very interesting. Twill direction is changed by shortening the turning sequence (Fig.To come out smooth. and only reversed when too much twist has built up. the only solution is to change the twill direction. the color change always has to match the twill direction. Again. Warp-twining creates a sturdy edge and prevents the floats from snagging. . 5).
4.Sketch the outside of the diamond using two parallel slashes in the direction of the color lines. working from the edges inward and putting the twill direction change along the middle of the diamond.Fill in the hollow half. and to the inside of the hollow half. The point of the diamond must be made with one card instead of two (not completely symmetrical). 1. so add those turns to the outside of the diamond. 2.Fill in the solid half.Color changes are made up of 4 consecutive turns. . Let's try a diamond with one side filled in and the other hollow. 3.Putting it all together I've found that the easiest way to draft patterns is to start with the pattern itself and work backwards.
the surface color is in the top two holes. but I wanted to illustrate the simplest way of drafting it. . To weave this pattern.5. If both turns are backward (\). For whatever reason. The decision on what twill directions to choose will depend on your overall plan for the band. Fill in the background. If the two turns are different. If they are both forward (/). the tablet must have the surface color in the two holes closest to you. I want this diamond to appear on a background of S-twill. the surface color is in the farthest holes. This pattern could have been done differently to avoid the long floats at the points of the diamond. you need to set your tablets up based on the first two rows of the pattern (read from the bottom).
to help explain. for most patterns each tablet requires four warp threads. so that the front of the tablet in the picture is to your right. as in this photo: . instead of front to back. So I've added this page. First. A threaded tablet looks like this: If you. the tablet would be S-threaded.Threading Tablets Judging from the email I get. this is one of the hardest things to figure out from my web page. set them all next to each other in a pack. are holding the end indicated. one through each hole. with several more figures. If all four threads passed through the tablet from the back to the front. Once you get all the tablets threaded. then this tablet would be Z-threaded. the weaver.
The pictures below show the front and back of a sample band which includes all the possible threading and turning combinations. An S-threaded tablet turned forward makes a Z-twisted cord. and reversing the threading also reverses the cord twist. and a backward turn would be counterclockwise. The opposite twist appears on the back of the band. for a forward turn the tablet would move clockwise. Reversing the turning reverses the cord twist. This is what makes jagged diagonal lines. Front Back .Assuming the perspective shown in the top figure.
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