In January 2019, I was invited by the Textile Museum in Washington, DC to give a brief demonstration of tablet weaving. They had two very beautiful tablet-woven bands on display as part of an exhibit on textiles containing writing. It turned out that none of the Museum staff or volunteers had any hands-on experience with tablet weaving, so they had reached out to the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild, of which I am a member, for someone who could explain how these bands had been made.
The first band (figures 1 and 2) was a sazigyo from Burma (Myanmar) – a decorated inscription band for binding religious texts. [References: Sazigyo, Burmese Manuscript Binding Tapes: Woven
Miniatures of Buddhist Art by Ralph Isaacs,1* and Woven Images, Unravelled Motifs, by Otfried Staudigel2*]
The other band (figures 3, 4 and 5) was a silk belt from Iran, woven by an ethnic Armenian in the 18th century. The Armenian belt contained decorations and text, including the date of 1775. It is extremely rare to have an exact date for an antique textile, so this band is special for that reason alone.
I regret the poor quality of these images, but photography through glass under subdued exhibition lighting is far from ideal.
My presentation was scheduled for June 6, so I had some time to prepare. I wanted to help my audience believe that tablet weaving is something they might want to try out themselves. So I set up the hands-on part of the demo with extremely simple tools: C-clamps for warp tension, a cardboard shuttle, a ruler for a beater, and crochet cotton from a variety store. I had sample bands from my weaving over the years for them to examine, but I wanted to add something special.
That special thing turned out to be a new piece woven as an homage to the Armenian weaver who had woven the “1775” band. I looked very hard at my photos and set out to reproduce the turning
sequences for the letterforms and decorative motifs. Some of the Armenian letterforms are the same as Roman characters. I wove an inscription band, replicating some of the motifs of the Armenian band, and using Roman characters derived from the Armenian. I decided not to try to duplicate the colors, because I was responding to the original, not trying to copy it. My band used 52 tablets, in S/Z doubleface weave, with a three-tablet twined border. The thread was 20/2 perle cotton from Lunatic Fringe.
The band is shown in figures 6 through 11. The symbol to the left of the text in Figure 7 is the Textile Museum’s logo. Following that long-ago weaver, I added the date of the demonstration: 6 June 2019.
I think my audience was impressed. I enjoyed giving the demonstration, and my audience was eager to try out turning the tablets. If any of you get an opportunity to demonstrate tablet weaving, I
heartily recommend that you weave an original band to mark the occasion.
1* Sazigyo, Burmese Manuscript Binding Tapes: Woven Miniatures of Buddhist Art by Ralph Isaacs, book review by Carla Gladstone in TWIST Summer 2014. All books marked with an asterisk are available at the TWIST library. If you are interested, please contact our librarian John Mullarkey at [email protected]
2* Woven Images, Unravelled Motifs, by Otfried Staudigel, book review by Carla Gladstone in TWIST Summer 2009. All books marked with an asterisk are available at the TWIST library. If you are interested, please contact our librarian John Mullarkey at [email protected]
© 2019 by Carla Gladstone
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