Tubular Selvages, A Finnish Specialty

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Considered one of the most beautiful and most complex Finnish tablet woven bands, the Masku Humikkala band lead to some important discoveries in Finnish tablet weaving: tubular selvages and double turns. Woven bands with tubular selvages have been found especially in Western Finland, but not in Karelia. Tubular selvages offer at least two major advantages: they strengthen the edges of the band and hide the weft completely, allowing the use of nearly any material or color without the drawback of “dots” showing on the sides of the woven piece.

Weaving Tubular Selvages

Weaving tubular selvages is an easy technique that can be applied on any border width. Of course, like every new technique, it requires a bit of practice. Let’s begin having just passed the shuttle through the shed from right to left.

1. Turn your cards as usual.

2. Beat but DO NOT YET pass the shuttle through. I do this with my finger because passing the shuttle is such an automatic gesture. This step clears the shed, which will help in next step, when the shuttle will be passed completely under some cards. A messy shed at this point tends to be difficult to manage in the next step

3. Pass the weft UNDER all threads of cards for the left selvage, then in the shed of cards for the pattern and right selvage.


4. Tighten the weft from your last pick.

5. Repeat the process in the other direction. Beat, then pass the shuttle under all threads of the right selvage cards and through the shed of the pattern and left selvage cards.
Pull the weft and tighten.

Most common mistakes and how to (try to) avoid them

Do you think undoing mistakes in tablet weaving is challenging? Brace yourself, here is the next level. Usually while searching for a mistake you “simply” turn each tablet back and forth until the weft of the previous pick reappears. Here you are passing under all the threads of certain cards, so the shed will never be completely freed.

If your mistake is in the pattern, first turn your selvage cards back and start then searching for your mistake. You will at some point be able to free the weft and reverse the pick passing under all the cards of one of the selvages. I noticed that sometimes I got carried away in my search for the offending tablet and forgot to turn the selvage cards which I passed under. This resulted in a bulkier border in the next picks, as I had more twist than expected.

You will notice quite easily when something goes wrong with your selvages. Forgetting to pass under the cards will result in a wider band and, if your selvage has several colors, another color will be more prominent. Pay special attention when you change the turning sequence in your pattern. It feels like the brain is already so satisfied that it remembered to change the turning direction, the need to pass under the border cards at one side completely falls into oblivion.

Passing under the wrong cards could result in a very loose aspect, as you will have turned those cards at least twice without passing any weft through their sheds.

Out of curiosity, I wondered what would happen if, instead of passing under the first selvage cards encountered, I passed my weft systematically under the second ones. Theoretically, this should not make any difference. I noticed that the result was similar on the front but distinctly different on the reverse side, probably due to tightening inconsistencies.

Problems at the edge between pattern and borders tend to happen especially with “sticky” threads. There is a risk of passing the shuttle under some threads from the pattern cards. To avoid this, be sure to separate tablets completely.

Forgetting to pull the weft may sound unlikely but it can happen. Because the loop of the weft from the previous pick is underneath the band, rather than showing at the side, it is easy to overlook tightening, especially when learning the technique.

Managing the band width

Getting neat selvages is no easy thing at the beginning. Although the front looks quite good, the back can be utterly disappointing when the band is taken off the loom. Of course, most tablet-woven bands are supposed to be beautiful especially on one side, but I was nonetheless very displeased by the messy look of the back of my first band. I decided to get better control of my weft-pulling by reversing the process and weaving the tubular selvage “upside down.”

Instead of passing under the selvage cards, I wove some lengths passing above them, as shown here. This way I was able to see exactly what was happening during the pulling.
After only a few picks I gained much better control. When I started to weave “right side up” again (passing under the selvage cards), I found out I had a much neater result on both sides as well as a much more regular width.

Results and Conclusion

Having the weft completely disappear is a real advantage, especially with bands having two different colored selvages. It is also very handy not to be restricted in color choice when using another type of yarn as weft. The reinforcement of the edge is also a plus, especially for woven belts that will be used in jeans belt loops.

On the minus side, this technique is time-consuming— regardless of the increased difficulty of correcting errors. Ideally, each pick is beaten twice, the tablets must be separated properly… There are quite a lot of constraints added to the weaving process.

Tubular selvages are not something I will use on all my bands, especially if the pattern is complex. Nonetheless, I enjoyed learning the technique and will definitely use it in bands with different colored selvages, or when weaving belts to be used with modern clothing. And of course, when I take up the challenge and weave my own version of the Masku Humikkala band.

Comparing three selvages from left to right: — 4 turns forwards 4 turns backwards — all selvage cards in the same direction — tubular selvage with 2 border cards and orange weft

Comparing bands: a band with tubular selvage is distinctly narrower, although I may have over-tightened this one as the elongation of the pattern shows. Here there are two border cards in tubular selvage and a white weft.

Band thickness (right): I rolled the same length of two bands woven with the same pattern and the same yarn for warp. The left one has regular selvages the right one has a tubular selvage of three cards using a thinner white weft. The band with tubular selvages is distinctively thicker on the edges.


Karisto, Maikki:
Lautanauhat: suunnittelu ja kutominen, 2010, Tammi

Karisto, Maikki and Mervi Pasanen:
Omenaisia ja revonneniä: Suomalaisia lautanauhoja, Applesies and fox noses: Finnish tabletwoven bands, 2013, Salakirjat

Kaukonen Toini-Inkeri, Suomen kansanomaiset nauhat, 1965, Suomalainen kirjallisuuden seura

YouTube video of Mervi Pasanen weaving a pattern from Applesies and Fox Noses using both tubular selvages and half turns

Copyright © Anne-Laure Janssen

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