Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tablet Weaving Patterns from the Past

Three pieces of tablet weaving showing the "ramshorn" pattern
which is NOT PERIOD for the Viking era or any pre-modern cultures.
Photo by Cynthia M. Parkhill depicting her own work (found on Wikipedia).
Early Iron Age tablet woven band from
Hallstatt salt mine (found on Wikipedia)
When I first became interested in early period costuming, I wanted to learn period techniques for ornamenting the clothes I was making.  That's why I taught myself the rudiments of tablet weaving in the first place.

As is also true for many people who attempted to learn about tablet weaving in the early 1990s, the first book I encountered that purported to teach the basic technique was Candace Crockett's book Card Weaving (The link is to Amazon, but the book is available both new and used from other places). The pattern shown in the photograph to the right, called the "ramshorn" pattern, though attractive, dates to 20th century CE Anatolia and is not even remotely plausible for earlier periods. Early period designs tend to be based on diamonds or triangles, like the Hallstatt band shown to the right.

The disconnect between the information I could obtain about tablet weaving (very modern) and the information I could obtain about period tablet-woven bands (very sparse, and concentrated on brocaded designs that still intimidate me to contemplate, two decades later), led me to shy away from further experimentation with tablet weaving.

But things are different now.  Now it is possible to obtain many articles, and even some books, that I could not afford during the 1990s as free downloads on the Internet.  And now there are more costumers who publish the fruits of their own research, much of it of excellent quality.

Some of those costumers who are making information about how to tablet-weave reproductions of accurate, early period designs.  For example, Shelagh Lewins has recently posted a page containing PDFs with directions for recreating specific tablet woven bands that have been found by archaeologists, including the narrow Oseberg band (early 9th century CE Norway), the Laceby band (7th century CE Anglo-Saxon), the Snartnemo II band (6th century CE Norway).  The relevant page on Shelagh's website is here.

In addition, Susanna Broomé, of Viking Age Clothing, has recently published a booklet of instructions and information about four Viking Age tablet woven bands that can be recreated with basic tablet weaving technique.  Susanna also sells patterns,  instructions for making good quality well-researched reconstructions of Viking Age clothing from her website.  The page about Susanna's booklet on tablet-woven bands may be found here.  Interested readers can order Susanna's booklet from the resellers she links to here, or order it from her directly through her Facebook page, as I am planning to do.

I have some excellent fine yarn, and a good sturdy table-sized tablet weaving loom that would be perfect for weaving some of the bands that Susanna and Shelagh discuss.  After I finally complete my sprang hair net, I intend to experiment with some of those designs.  I encourage interested readers to do likewise.


  1. I have a question. I have been looking into making a hangerock/smokkr/apron dress and being the type of person that can't let myself do anything halfway, I've been looking into tablet weaving as well. Somehow tablet weaving seems less tedious than embroidery for embellishment, and as I only have rudimentary knowledge on both, I think I'll go that route. So to my question. When you started tablet weaving did you have an inkle loom or did you do the "backstrap" technique? I would like to try tablet weaving without the upfront cost of the loom, but it seems so much simpler than the belt tension method. You seem to have some experience without being an expert who would trivialize the difficulty of such an undertaking, and I would really appreciate any advice.

    Also, I've run across your blog in multiple of my Google searches for information, and I have really enjoyed your article and the comments that come with them. And if you have any information on where to find a good herringbone or diamond weave wool, I wouldn't turn that information down either. :)

    1. Hi, Nichole! Welcome!

      I started out using the "backstrap technique"; I have never owned an inkle loom. I now have a simple, two-post type tablet weaving loom, but in a way using it is more of a nuisance than the backstrap method, because it's hard to adjust the thread tension during weaving. However, the backstrap loom ties you down while you're weaving (literally!) and using it can give you lower back pain after a long weaving session.

      As for diamond twill wool sources, the last time I checked out sources was about 6 years ago. You can see my blog posts about the subject at the following links:

      Most of the fabric I found was sourced in Europe and expensive, though I think I saw one weaver in the US selling such fabric (also expensive, but easier to obtain for someone in the US). I haven't done such a search for herringbone, because I've found it's pretty easy to find with on-line fabric vendors, unless you want a fabric that isn't woven in two different tones of thread. I found such a herringbone a number of years ago at The Wool Connection (she did business on a website as well as on EBay), but haven't seen similar fabrics from her recently.

      I hope this helps. Good luck!