Patterns on a Portable Loom

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Introduction: Patterns on a Portable Loom

About: Stop looking, start making!

Tablet weaving is a fascinating technique where tons of different weave patterns can be created just by turning the cards in a particular way.

The core of tablet weaving lies in the threading and turning of the cards. While this can be done on any loom, in this tutorial, I will be using a simple, portable loom that was made from scratch. Make a Simple Loom →

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Step 1: Supplies

Materials

  1. Warp Yarn (held stationary on the loom)
    Measure 80 lengths of yarn in 2 colours (i.e. 40 pieces of each colour)
  2. Weft Yarn (passed back and forth through the warp)
    Wrap yarn around the shuttle

Note on Type of Yarn to Use:
Thick so the pattern will build easily, and smooth extra fibers will not catch across the yarns.


Tools

  1. A loom to weave on and a shuttle to weave with
    You can Make a Simple Loom or figure out an alternative way to keep the warp threads taut while weaving.
  2. 20 weaving tablets
    Made from playing cards - with 4 holes each
  3. Scissors
  4. Instant Adhesive like Quick Fix
    To secure the first and last picks of weft before taking the band off the loom
  5. Large Needle
    To help secure the cards while adjusting the warp
  6. Paper and Pen
    To keep track of the turns made

Step 2: Setting Up the Warp

1. Clamp one end of the warp on to the loom. This will be the end that we build the weave on.

2. Separate the yarn on the other side of the warp and thread each of the weaving tablets according to the threading diagram. This is described in detail in the next step.

3. Clamp the second end of the warp onto the loom, making sure each of the yarns are spread out evenly (to ensure each thread is held tightly).

Step 3: Reading a Threading Diagram

Each of the holes in a weaving card are marked A-B-C-D. I have used 20 cards.

The threading diagram indicates which yarn colour goes into each of the holes. Each column of 4 cells represents the holes in a card, and the colour of the cell indicates which yarn colour to be threaded in the hole.

The cards can be threaded from right to left (Z-threaded, indicated by" / " in the diagram), or from left to right (S-threaded, indicated by " \ " in the diagram). The threading direction defines the direction in which the threads twist on weaving, the effect of which can be noticed prominently in patterns that are mirrored vertically.

Step 4: Weaving

1. Start the weave by inserting 4-5 small sticks or toothpicks into the warp. This will help keep the edge of the band straight.

2. Turn the entire set of cards one step forward (i.e. away from the weaving) between each pick of the weft.

3. You will notice the yarn on the far side of the cards starting to twist after a few forward turns. To remove the twist, the cards are turned in the opposite direction (backward) for equal number of picks (i.e. towards the weaving). This will mirror the pattern created.

4. Maintain the tension of the weft threads. Pull them tight enough so that there is no extra loops on the sides, and so that all the warp threads are held evenly together. At the same time, they should not be too tight, or the band will become thinner and thinner.

5. Use the edge of the shuttle to pack the weft threads closely together after each turn of the cards. This will ensure that the pattern builds seamlessly.

Step 5: Changing the Pattern

Patterns on the same warp are changed primarily in two ways:

ROTATING (along the edge)
Changing the starting position of the tablets in relation to each other. This is done by rotating individual tablets on their edge, with respect to the intended pattern.


FLIPPING (around the vertical axis)
Changing the direction of threading through the tablets (left to right or right to left) by flipping them along the vertical axis. This will change the direction of twist in the yarn, and is often used to mirror patterns along the length of the band.
The tablet is usually pulled out of the pack in order to flip it, as there is more space for movement. The tablet is returned to the pack after flipping.

Step 6: Bringing the Warp Ahead

1. Use a large needle to tie the cards together. This will keep them in order while adjusting the warp.

2. If the end of the warp is nearing:
Tie all the yarns in a knot at the end. Use the bulk of the knot as a stopper against the clamp, and pull tight. Secure the woven end with the other clamp.

3. Untie the cards and continue to weave.

Step 7: Different Weaves

Changing the threading pattern (the order in which the colored threads go through the holes in the cards) will give different weave patterns. The cards are rotated before weaving to "set" the pattern, and then are rotated all together for each pick of the weft.

After trying a few common patterns to understand how the cards work, you can treat the weaves like pixels to create any figure (like the alphabet, or an emoji).

Step 8: Removing the Band From the Loom

1. Add drops of Quick Fix (or any other instant glue) to the first and last weft threads, to ensure the ends do not unravel.

2. Loosen the clamps and pull the woven band off the loom

3. Remove the first few sticks and trim the ends of the band.

Step 9: Explore

Explore new patterns with different warp colours, threading patterns and card turns!

Good resources are:

Youtube
It's not Magic, it's Mechanics!
This 2.5min video is an introduction to card weaving theory

Webpage
The Ancient Craft of Tablet Weaving
A brief introduction to card weaving theory in text

Book
The Techniques of Tablet Weaving by Peter Collingwood
This is a bible for everything related to tablet weaving - from historical practices to detailed constructions and variations.

Enjoy!

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