Card or Tablet Weaving? — Continuous Warp and Threaded in Patterns — Weaving Tension


Discussions on the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) e-mail list prompted these replies from Peter Collingwood. On the terminology of tablet weaving he wrote:

The full story goes like this…

unfortunately, no one has ever found the name for this technique when it was widely used by English speakers in the United Kingdom (UK), assuming it did have a special name. When the technique was re-discovered in the 1890’s, Frau Margrethe Lehmann-Filhes used the term ‘Brettchenweberei’ in her wonderful 1901 book, Uber Brettchenweberei. This was her German version of spjaldvefnadur’, the term used in Iceland, a country which still had a name for it. When a German book on the technique was translated into English in 1920, the author decided that ‘tablet-weaving’ was a good translation of that German word; so it became the preferred British word.

Arnold van Gennep, a famous French ethnologist, researched the technique in Algeria, where the material used was a thick cardboard or card. So in his large 1916 book he called the technique ’Tissage aux Cartons’. The American Mary Atwater came across this book in a New York (USA) library, was fascinated with it and translated the words as ‘card weaving’ in her publications from 1924 onwards. Van Gennep might equally have called the technique, Tissage aux Planchettes or Plaquettes. So would we now be talking about plank-let weaving?! Card weaving does have a slight disadvantage in that card loom weaving (weaving with warp stretched over a piece of card) is an expression found in simple weaving books. But both card and tablet are used now; anyone interested in the technique understands their interchangeability. In my Techniques of Tablet Weaving (where all the above information and more is found on page 31 in the 1982 edition) I naturally had to come down on one side of the argument and chose tablet as being the older word and originating on my side of the Atlantic. Another conversation on the SCA list concerned continuous warping and led Peter to describe how he uses
this technique (see page 60 in Techniques of Tablet Weaving, 1982 edition) even when he has a warp made up of more than two colors here referred to as a threaded-in pattern…

I do not understand this “nightmare lasting 4 – 7 hours” for setting up a threaded-in pattern. The continuous warping principal can be applied to any such pattern, assuming it is not just longitudinal stripes of totally different colours.

To begin with, analyze the pattern to see how many tablets carry the same colour arrangement whenever it occurs in the design. E.g. for a Rams horn variation I taught, there were IN TOTAL:

2 tablets with a-b-c-c colours
2 with a-b-c-b
8 with a-b-a-b
4 with a-b-b-b
4 with b-b-b-b

Written out like that you can see that there is only ONE thread difference between any two adjacent groups. So having started with a-b-c-c, you make two circuits dropping off two tablets. Then cut one of the ‘c’s and replace it with a ‘b’, making the colours a-b-c-b as required. And do another 2 circuits. Then cut the final ‘c’ and replace it with ‘a’ and make 8 circuits… and so on.

Then you have to transpose the tablets, flipping where necessary, to get them correctly arranged for the pattern to begin.

The only small problem is to keep the tension in the warp when you are cutting and adding a new colour. I overcame this by cutting a slit in the top of one of the wooden pegs around which I was laying the warp. I could then jam the warp tightly into this slit while altering the colours, and not lose any tension. Also, of course, you need several sources of any one colour.

I remember timing myself for this and it took about 10 minutes. In response to a question about releasing tension every few inches in a warp made up of cotton and linen
Peter replied;

The warp is bound to increase in tension with tablet waving as not only are you weaving a warp-face fabric but you also twisting the four threads in each tablet into a cord. So any tablet weaving set-up/loom MUST have a method of adjusting warp tension. The linen is tightening more than the cotton simply because it is yarn with very little stretch to it.

Collingwood, Peter. 1982.
Techniques of Tablet Weaving. New York. Out of Print, 1996. Robin and Russ Handweavers, McMinnville, OR.

Hendrickson, Linda, “Weaving with a Twist: Get Ready to Flip, Rotate, Turn”, Spring, Vol. 4, # 1, 1997, Pg 9-12. This article contains instructions for the same technique which Linda calls the “Ten Minute Warp.” You can also get instruction from her web site <>

Copyright © Peter Collingwood

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