Tablet Weaving

Saline Celtic Festival: Demonstrating the Gentler Arts of the SCA

9 July 2011

Today my son and I attended the Saline Celtic Festival with other members of the Barony of Cynnabar. Our mission? To demonstrate many of the wonderful aspects and arts of living in the “current middle ages.” I’d been preparing to attend this event for much of the week, finishing off our camp chairs and my new Flemish Gown. I arrived early this morning to set up our chairs — which I’d just finished staining and gilding yesterday — and my large loom showing a tablet-woven band in progress. Here was our little corner of the Cynnabar tent:

Our gothic camp chairs and my large loom

The chairs were WONDERFUL! Easy to put together and take down, they looked great, they felt comfortable, and I received many comments on them. I’m really happy I made them! Oh, and I did make that “cupholder” for Alexander — you can sort of see it in the above photo.

Also “in action” today is my new Flemish Gown. It wore well, and I received many compliments on it. Nothing ripped or fell apart — always a bonus! Only problem is that I really should have lined the kirtle — it just felt too flimsy with one layer of linen. So I’ll be doing that, as I loved it otherwise, and it was a remarkably comfortable outfit. Alas, I was pretty hot in all those layers. If it gets that hot at Pennsic (it was 95°F today), I’ll probably have to wear just the chemise/smock and kirtle, or I’ll exhaust myself from heat early in the trip! Also, I need to make myself a caul (headscarf) to keep my hair up and off my neck — my hair was just making me feel hotter! But thank goodness for that old straw hat I had!

My new Flemish Gown was very comfortable!

I had a great time talking about, demonstrating, and teaching the tablet weaving. Even my son Alexander got in on the action and showed off his “Golden Path of Fire” band to others — in fact, a woman from one of the local news organizations took his photo and name while he was demonstrating his weaving. Maybe he’ll show up in an article or something! Update: Yes, indeed — a photo of both Alexander and I appeared in the article about the Celtic Festival on today! Here we are:

As we appear in's article!

Update 7/13/11: Turns out Alexander made the local news again! Here’s a video posted at — in it you can see Alexander with Alex the Blacksmyth (around 1:04). Cool!


My son in his red linen Bocksten tunic

Speaking of my son, he “bought” me this pretty, sterling silver ring. He spent all of his own spending money on it, and I made up the rest. It was completely his idea. He chose the heart because that’s always been an important symbol between he and I — we draw hearts on notes for each other all the time. He didn’t even know that the Claddaugh ring is traditionally given as a token of love, and that I’ve always wanted one. I haven’t worn rings in years, but I used to love them. I will always cherish this ring from him!

My Claddaugh ring from my son!

All in all, a great day! Notes for my next event …

  • Get my hair up and off my neck
  • Put a ribbon in my hat and tie it under my chin so it doesn’t blow off my head in a breeze
  • Don’t forget my keys when I go to pick up my car at the end of the day! (Oops!)

Tablet Weaving for Kids: Golden Path of Fire Band

4 July 2011

My son has been wanting to try his hand at tablet weaving for some time now! We bought him some gold thread (he’s really into gold lately) and we warped it onto my small loom with some red thread. Alexander chose a simple pattern of chevrons (or “arrows” as he calls them). This pattern has just 11 cards and you turn the cards all in the same direction until you want to go back in the other direction. Here’s the threading pattern:


He’s watched and helped me tablet weave before, so understands terms like shuttle and shed, and knows that he has to turn the cards and pass the shuttle through. I had him watch me a few times, then he tried it … he did well, though I don’t know how well he’ll be able to stick to the pattern. The cards can easily turn the wrong direction when being slid up and down by little hands. But this is such a simple pattern, that even if it gets messy, it’ll still look cool … all that red and shiny gold! Here’s the part of the band that we did together…

Golden Path of Fire band

Alexander calls this the “Golden Path of Fire” band. I think it looks very nice!

My next project (on the larger loom) will be a band for an SCA friend of ours (Charles). He’s requested a band like Emerald Waves of the Crimson Guard, but with yellow instead of green. As soon as I finish the Cynnabar band on that loom, I’ll begin on the new band. Charles, if you’re reading this, it shouldn’t be too long before I start! 🙂

Emerald Waves of the Crimson Guard Band: Tablet-Weaving Pattern

16 June 2011

I’ve started on my fifth tablet-weaving band, which I am calling the “Emerald Waves of the Crimson Guard” band. Yes, that’s an awfully long and fancy name for a little tablet-weaving band, but it’s FUN! Here’s how it looks so far:

Emerald Waves of the Crimson Guard Band

This is a pretty simple threaded-in pattern — the work is mostly in the threading of the cards, not the actual weaving. I got the pattern from a German site ( It takes 24 cards and three colors — here’s how the cards were threaded:

Emerald Waves Pattern

The card turning is very easy — four forward, four backward. It’s a great thing to do while Gregor and I are playing the D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) game he made for me (which is amazingly awesome, I must say). I’d love to say more about the D&D game, but well … I better ask him first!

This band is for my Irish dress, which I’m making for the Saline Celtic Festival which is being held July 8-9, 2011. I should start working on the dress itself, but I want to wait until at least July 1. Not only do I have a work deadline July 1 and really should focus on it, but I am in the midst of losing weight and want to wait a bit so the dress isn’t too loose on me. Couple weeks will do the trick!

A New, Larger Loom for Tablet and Inkle Weaving

12 June 2011

Today I stumbled across a new and much larger loom — it’s 40″ tall! It was being sold at a garage sale, and I discovered it when a fellow Cynnabar member posted about it on our mailing list. The frame is made of hardwood and the dowels are pine — it was built by a cabinetmaker for his wife. Oh, and the best part? It can do 8 yards! I can’t wait to try it out.

My New Loom

Cynnabar Band: My First Tablet Weaving Pattern

8 June 2011

Now that I’ve woven three bands from others’ patterns, I want to make my own tablet-weaving pattern. I think a simple, threaded-in pattern would best for my first. But I still want something relevant, so I’ve decided to try to weave a band in the colors/style of the Barony of Cynnabar. The barony’s device is pictured to the right — black, white, red, and green:

So after fiddling about using graph paper and an online weaving design tool ( I came up with a preliminary pattern using 16 cards and four thread colors, as follows:

First Pattern Attempt

So I threaded my loom with my pattern, noting the card-threading directions — a / means “S” threaded (from the front of the card to the back) and a \ means “Z” threaded (from the back of the card to the front). Then I tried it, with this turning sequence: four turns forward (entire pack), four turns back (entire pack). This was my result:


My First Pattern Result

Not bad — the color and shape is what I was looking for, but what’s with that green thread in the middle? Well by this point I was sleepy and went to bed, but all night in my dreams I was trying to work out how to get rid of this green thread. Finally this morning, I figured it out — I need to turn the two middle cards in my pack (#8 and #9) independently of the other cards, so that the turn happened BETWEEN the diamonds, but in the middle of them. So now I separated my cards into three packs — pack 1 (cards #1-7), pack 2 (cards #8-9), and pack 3 (cards #10-16) — and my turning sequence looks like this:


Picks Pack 1 Pack 2 Pack 3 Sequence
1 Up Up Up Turn all packs one quarter turn backward
2 Up Up Up Turn all packs one quarter turn backward
3 Up Down Up Turn packs 1 and 3 one quarter turn backward and turn pack 2 one quarter turn forward
4 Up Down Up Turn packs 1 and 3 one quarter turn backward and turn pack 2 one quarter turn forward
5 Down Down Down Turn all packs one quarter turn forward
6 Down Down Down Turn all packs one quarter turn forward
7 Down Up Down Turn packs 1 and 3 one quarter turn forward and turn pack 2 one quarter turn backward
8 Down Up Down Turn packs 1 and 3 one quarter turn forward and turn pack 2 one quarter turn backward

And here is the result of the modified pattern:

The Cynnabar Band

Hooray! This is what I was aiming for! Now I think I need to work on getting my threads tighter. I’m beating it down quite firmly, but I’m thinking I should put a little more muscle behind it. I’d like to see really tight threads in this band.

Tales of Tablet Weaving (also known as Card Weaving)

5 June 2011

As a newcomer to the SCA, virtually everything is a discovery. Take tablet weaving, for example. It all began when I wanted to make a tunic. I looked online for a simple pattern, and eventually discovered the Bocksten Tunic (an authentic pattern from one of the best-preserved medieval tunics in Europe). In the discussion about the tunic, I found a reference to something called “tablet weaving” for “making authentic trim from scratch.” So after I made my first linen Bocksten Tunic, I sought out tablet weaving … and discovered a fascinating craft!

Tablet weaving is an ancient method of creating woven trims, straps, and belts. You use cards with holes punched in them, and thread woven through the holes, to create patterns — from the simple to the elaborate. You can tablet weave without any specialized tools — at it’s most basic, you need only cards and thread. I think this simplicity is what sold me — I could try it out without having to buy anything fancy.

My First Tablet Weaving Attempt

So after studying various online documents that explained tablet weaving (here’s the one I found the most helpful as a complete beginner), I gave it a try. I made the tablets (cards) from some of my son’s old flashcards and used a vise and clamp to hold the ends of my threads. For thread, I used some $2 crochet thread from Joann’s. I threaded my cards, tied knots in both ends, and turned the cards. You can see my first attempt here. I was quite amazed at how well it turned out, and it encouraged me to keep trying.

I continued to work on the simple diagonal pattern, and eventually made enough to trim the sleeves of that Bocksten tunic I mentioned earlier. It looked very nice, but I couldn’t help but think how much better it would look if I had enough trim to do the neckline and/or hemline. But my vise/clamp method was clunky … I decided I needed an actual tablet weaving loom.

Initially I thought about making one, but realized I just didn’t know enough about the craft to do it properly. So after some research, I bought a lovely walnut loom on Etsy — it’s on the small side and very portable, which is just want I wanted. I mean, wouldn’t think be a great thing to do on the porch or at an event?

My Second Attempt at Tablet Weaving

The new loom arrived two day ago, and I haven’t been able to put it down since. The loom came pre-warped with what is called a “Dragon’s Breath” pattern, and I eagerly began to weave it. Wow! It’s just beautiful — it really looked like flames. You can see some of it pictured here. When I finished, I had almost two yards of gorgeous trim … and I did it in just hours.

Today I decided to make more trim — I loved the Dragon’s Breath pattern, but I decided to change the black to white, and I’m now calling it the “Dragon Army” pattern in honor of the Middle Kingdom’s Dragon Army and their colors of red and white. The trim is for Gregor — I intend to make him a red linen Bocksten tunic with the trim to wear at Pennsic War! It took HOURS to thread the loom — that’s definitely not my favorite part. But the good news is that I threaded it correctly and the pattern looks amazing, even better than the first one. Here it is so far:

I just love it! Of course, I need to continue to work on keeping to the pattern. Every once in a while I forgot my place, or just turn the cards the wrong way, and I end up with a little mistake. You can see it above if you look closely. Thankfully, this pattern is very forgiving of mistakes. But I must strive to get better at not making them. I have already come so far, so I believe I can do this!

In addition to trying more complex patterns, I want to try to weave letters. Wouldn’t it look great to have some trim that said, “Honor Before Victory?”

Some Helpful Tablet Weaving Links: