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What Is Tablet Weaving?

To weave, a shuttle holding weft thread can be passed through the shed, pulling warp threads together in a colored pattern that depends on their alignment.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Image By: Kamal Venkit
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2014
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Tablet weaving is a textile production technique using threaded tablets to create a patterned warp tied together with a woven weft. Examples of this weaving method date to approximately 400 BCE and can be seen in many human cultures. It can be used to produce narrow bands in a wide variety of patterns which can be closely controlled by the weaver. The supplies needed are typically inexpensive and easy to work with, which can make tablet weaving a good introduction to textiles.

In this weaving method, the weaver starts by threading warp through holes punched in tablets of wood, cardboard, or other sturdy materials. To create patterns, some of the threads can be colored. Threads protruding from one end of the tablets can be knotted together and attached to a stable base, and the weaver can hold the other ends or tie them to something to keep the warp under tension. This is critical to prevent buckling, holes, and other problems in the finished project.

Space created between threads at the top and bottom of the cards is known as the shed. To weave, a shuttle holding weft thread can be passed through the shed. This pulls warp threads together in a colored pattern which depends on their alignment. Weavers can rotate all or some of the cards to change which colors face up and create a complex woven pattern. The weft threads are largely invisible because they run between the warp.

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The length of the tablet weaving project depends on how long the warp threads were at the beginning. It is important to remember that they will be twisted during the weaving process, and thus the project will end up slightly shorter than the cut length of the warp threads. Weavers typically allow approximately 20% for overage, and also must account for the thread that cannot be woven because it passes between the cards and the base used to hold the tablet weaving.

Weavers can create a variety of patterns, including asymmetrical designs, by rotating the cards as they work. Commercial tablet weaving patterns are available. These outline the layout of thread in the cards and provide information about how to rotate them to create a desired design while working. It is important to thread the cards appropriately at the start of the project to ensure that all the threads run the same way, or they will become tangled and could snarl the weaving.

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