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Sometimes I wonder

Arnhild's original belt

I have spent a fair amount of time in the last 6 months trying to understand card weaving (aka tablet weaving). This took a while. Several years ago I followed the directions for a card woven band written for Weavezine by Pam Howard. But, I followed the pattern. I didn’t get the underlying principles (not her fault, that was totally mine). Since then, I’ve read multiple books and articles on the topic, seen Sara Lamb make a continuous warp not once but twice, got a third quick overview of creating a continuous warp from Bethany (daughter to Holly, http://www.hjsstudio.com) and woven quite a few warps. I don’t know what it was that *finally* made it click so I no longer had to follow  a pattern, but I finally “got” it. Actually reminded me of learning to tat.  When I finally got it, I wondered how something so simple could take so long to  get into my head! I should say that I usually learn to teach, so I set a high standard for myself. I not only need to be able to DO it. I also need to be able to put it into WORDS and be able to teach someone.Arnhild (www.arnhild.com), found I was interested in this weaving technique when I was teaching at her retreat last February. We met up again at Midwest Fiber and Folk and she brought the waist band from her Norwegian dance garb to show me. She said a friend wove it on a standard floor loom using the card weaving technique. It is beautiful. Woven with fingering weight yarn, it is about 7” wide and if you didn’t know better, you’d swear it was knit.

Well, this piece inspired me. We had a class running (Fiber Explorers) at the shop and when our assignment was to create something fiber-y using the words/concepts “ethnic” and “miniature,” Arnhild’s belt popped into my mind. Miniature to me meant I should weave with sewing thread. When I reverse engineered the belt, I had part of my head stuck in the weaving world and the rest of it firmly planted in the knitting world. In knitting, a “V” indicates one stitch. In card weaving, it represents two cards. Ooops. My teeny tiny sample ((Photo coming as soon as I find the ribbon)) was created using only half the number of cards I should have had and they were all threaded in the same direction. Since the cards are moved in a continuous rotation, I created a very pretty ribbon that curled like a barber pole. Of course, since the weaving on the loom is always under tension, this problem didn’t manifest itself until I took my sample off the loom. If I’d been thinking as I wove, I’d have noticed that the pattern I was getting wasn’t what I expected. Sometimes the mind’s eye tricks us!Detangled threads.

The part inside the box is the corrected pattern.

Once off the loom, it became obvious that the rest of the warp was junk, so I tossed it and stewed a while. Several months, actually. I finally went back to the drawing board a couple weeks ago, purchased the colors of cotton thread (Gutterman quilting instead of generic cotton/poly), gathered up enough weights (nuts, as in nuts and bolts) so each group of 4 threads could
swing independently to allow built up twist to dissipate. I made my own cards from a set of new playing cards – smaller and seemingly easier to work with at this gauge. Perhaps I should have used an OLD deck of cards to remove some of the slippery-ness. At any rate, based on the portion of the band that I intended to weave, I threaded 42 cards. With the cards threaded, the weights could be added, which I did. And then I proceeded to spend at least three hours untangling the mess. In an attempt to create order from chaos, I created three cascading levels of thread groups so each level only had 1/3 of the groups. It was still a mess. Then I decided that a separator was needed so I got a piece of foam insulating board, drilled a bunch of holes in it and threaded each group of four threads through one hole and attached my weight. Voila! It worked. So I wove a couple inches and realized that what I was getting didn’t look exactly like what I was aiming for. Close, but no cigar (whereever did that phrase come from???). Even with my glasses on, I couldn’t discern exactly where things were “off.” Enter the iPhone. I took a picture of the ribbon and blew it up. Ha! That worked and I found that one card was turned 180 degrees and one had been miss-threaded. I made the corrections and was off and weaving.

The band on the loom, with a penny for perspective. My first attempt, I replicated the side of the band, this time I chose the center section. I thought 42 separate cards was enough for this experiment!

Now I just need a few hours to finish weaving it off, but I will likely have to attach extensions to the weights to allow the entire warp to be
woven. Or, perhaps I will stop with two bookmarks and call it “good enough.”  Next project: weave suspenders that say :1901 Experimental Ford for my dad. He built one last year and runs it in parades. One final comment: the loom that you see in these photos is the result of a napkin discussion my dad and I had at Easter. He made me 8 of them: enough to have a class with. Don’t worry, students will not start with type of band – NO nuts for you!


I made a list of resources to share that has guided my card/tablet weaving voyage, but it was a a page long. Instead, I’ll refer you to a site that is an on-line collection that accompishes the same thing, but more! There’s a little gem in the list that is a pattern generator, so you can design bands yourself: http://www.weavershand.com/twbiblio.html

Comments on: "Sometimes I wonder" (2)

  1. /very interesting. Looks like you’re working on an inkle loom but you say you’re card weaving??? I’ve never seen card weaving done that way. Inkle weaving produces strap-width pieces, dependent on the width of your loom and warp, and intricate designs are possible in infinite variety. What is the purpose of combing the two, and how are the cards (which control the pattern) brought in to play once your inkle loom is dressed? You’re picking your design by hand, aren’t you? I’m genuinely confused and look forward to understanding just how you are doing both techniques together. Please, tell us more!
    Thanks and happy weaving. WM

  2. This is a loom that my dad and I designed for card weaving. The pattern is created because each card has four holes and four possibilities for colors. As the cards are rotated (as a pack or individually), the pattern appears. In this project the cards are rotated as a pack and always in one direction, which causes the threads of each individual card to twist around each other behind the cards, hence, I’ve weighted all the threads from one card individually to allow the twist to dissipate. Most often the cards are turned forward “x” number of turns and back the same amount of turns and the twist dissipates automatically. Hope that helps!

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