Monday, April 6, 2015

Card or Tablet Weaving

Burmese Bands, card/tablet woven
It is almost one year since I have written in this blog. A busy year, a good year--and now I hope to be more consistent and catch you up and stay with it. Is anyone out there reading anymore?

From left to right: inkle band by Bhakti Ziek circa 1969; tablet band by Bhakti Ziek, 2015; Burmese tablet band; double weave band by Bhakti Ziek circa 1992; Mexican pick-up band; Mexican pick-up band; Guatemalan double woven brocaded belt from Nebaj, made before 1960.
I have bands on my mind. The image above is just a small selection of the many bands in my collection. I never have used them. Well, that isn't exactly true. The inkle woven band on the left in the photo above is the first band I ever wove, and I did use it as a strap on a bag for many years, then removed it and put it with all the others--usually tucked away in boxes but sometimes hanging to be admired, or wrapped in circles, like the Burmese prayer bands above that reside in a cabinet with glass--so they are always on view. I find these strips of cloth very appealing--just as they are.

But that doesn't explain why I am thinking about bands, and making them. In January, on a wonderful trip to California, I presented a talk to the Santa Cruz Weavers Guild and met Don Betterley and Gudrun Polak. Gudrun is a well-known tablet weaver whose website, theloomybin, has wonderful information on this type of weaving (card weaving is what most Americans say, and tablet weaving is more common in the rest of the world, but they refer to the same process--I think I will use tablet weaving here) including a link to Don's new card weaving loom. 

All the ingredients used for making the band in this photo--Don Betterley's loom with the beautiful turquoise inlay on the front beam, cards, clamps, weft, a beater, weights, and the all important instructions--these are by Karen Henderson
I was intrigued (I love new tools for weaving) and got Don's loom. You can get his link from Gudrun's website or write directly: <betloom(at--use @ no spaces)>. Don's loom allows for easy spacing of the warp at the back, and clamps to tables.

Books on tablet weaving, I used Linda Hendrickson's instructions for my new band
I pulled out all my books on tablet weaving, and ordered Peter Collingwood's The Techniques of Tablet Weaving, which had been out of print the last time I tried to buy it. The only disappointment when it arrived was that this edition is a black and white print from 2002, and it is very difficult to read the images without the color--but the information is all there, and I am busy reading it at night. The book I used to make my band was Linda Hendrickson's wonderful little pamphlet Tablet Weaving for Parents and Children.

My original set up with warp tied around front beam the way I would do on a floor loom (note Don Betterley's nice inlay design); the warp is weighted in six sections with knitting machine weights, and the warp is stretched out across the back beam (which proved to be too wide)
I set up the loom and started weaving. I am going to teach a beginning weaving summer class at Penland School of Crafts (July 5 through 17, 2015; it is full but you can contact the school to get on the waiting list because people do change their plans) and I realized that doing this tablet weaving project was perfect preparation for that class. My own awkwardness and confusion about what was going on (tablet weaving is twining, not weaving, so threads twist around each other and it took quite a long time before I could see the elements and understand what they are doing....not that I totally understand yet) is a reminder of how my summer students will feel confronted by the loom and the many steps involved with weaving before you actually throw the shuttle.

Many bands woven by Alice Schlein

Selection of bands woven by Belinda Rose
I am lucky because I have many expert weavers as friends. Both Alice Schlein and Belinda Rose have recently taught classes on tablet weaving, and if you contact them I am sure they will be doing more in the future. Click on their names for links to their websites. I immediately started a three-way email conversation and barraged them with questions. They patiently and carefully immediately sent me responses. Belinda said she might even do a video--so watch her website to see if she posts it (and if she does, I will mention it on this blog too--another reason to keep posting regularly).

Warp readjusted on back beam so the threads would stay warp-faced
I realized I had spread my warp out too far on the back beam and when I adjusted it, I was able to keep the threads tight and covering the weft.

New clamps with flat square clips that hold the band evenly
I also went to the hardware store and bought new clamps for the front--smaller ones and these have a square holding clamp that seem to hold the band more evenly. Anyway, like I said, I love to purchase new weaving tools.

Finished band and detail of some of the patterns
It took me much longer to weave than I expected, and of course the results are very wobbly and uneven--a true beginning experiment. I don't think I am going to add anything to the world of tablet weaving any time soon, but I am reading the Collingwood book and will try again soon. I realized that despite the hundreds of cones of yarns I have on my shelves, almost everything I have is much too thin for a novice tablet weaver like me to use. Luckily I have a trip to Webs planned for April 14 because I am giving a talk to the Pioneer Valley Weavers' Guild which meets at Webs. (That talk is free and open to the public if you want to attend.) So I will look for some heavier smooth yarn in colors that are more harmonious than the red and blue I used above.

Details of woven bands: two Mexican pickup weaves on left; Guatemalan brocaded band in center; inkle woven band on right by Bhakti Ziek, circa 1969.
Actually, this card weaving study made me remember how much I loved weaving inkle bands when I first started to weave. Maybe my Penland beginners won't be able to afford a floor loom but they certainly can afford cards and perhaps an inkle loom (or make one themselves). So I pulled out my sweet Gilmore inkle loom, and will look for appropriate yarn at Webs--probably the same yarn for both my next tablet project as well as the inkle loom. If I practice enough perhaps someday I can make bands as beautiful as the Burmese prayer bands below.

Various images of three Burmese tablet woven prayer bands, and one Bhakti Ziek feeble band.