Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Card tricks

Ever woven with cards? 

At the Kings County Fiber Festival in October, a member of the New York Guild of Handweavers asked me if I could do card weaving. I offered to donate cards to the cause, but that wasn't what she was looking for. She wanted someone who could help teach card weaving in a guild workshop. I agreed to help.

Card weaving, also known as tablet weaving depending on where you live, produces decorative bands and requires little in the way of equipment. For those interested in in the dynamics of weaving, card weaving offers entry to the craft for very little investment. Weavers can make their own cards from sturdy cardboard, but they are very inexpensive. Halcyon, for example, offers 12 four-hole weaving for $4.

Historically rich

Inge Dam workshop example, MAFA2015
According to Margarita Gleba in her book, Textile Production in Pre-Roman Italy, and cited on Wikipedia, card/tablet weaving goes back at least to the eighth century BCE in early Iron Age Europe. Historically the technique was used to create starting and/or selvedge bands, to weave decorative bands onto existing textiles and to create freestanding narrow work.

Wool, linen, silk and gold and silver threads were traditionally used as threads, but there are no restrictions. Thread types and size of thread is up to the weaver. 

At its most basic level, card weaving isn't difficult and the simplest designs make beautiful belts, straps and clothing decorations. Of course, added complexity provides more intricate and beautiful designs. 

Lest you consider card weaving to be a craft of times past, consider how modern fiber artists are using the techniques--and be inspired. Master weaver and textile designer Inge Dam, for example, incorporates the cards into her loom-woven fabrics. The results are spectacular. The example at right shows a card woven band in the middle of fabric. (The cards are barely visible behind the reed in the heddle space.)

How it works

Weaving with cards/tablets combines twisting threads with securing the weaving through a shed, which is produced when the cards are turned. It's the twisted threads that add luminescence to bands woven with certain threads.

Learning the technique was a requisite in my City and Guilds of London Institute course at what is now London Metropolitan University. I still have the cards along with samples and directions as well as a definitive book on the subject, The Techniques of Tablet Weaving by Peter Collingwood.

But no investment in books is required to start these days. Online, The Loomy Bin and The Earth Guild, among others, provide clear and concise directions from setting up the cards to devising a way to tension the threads and to finishing the weaving. The Loomy Bin has excellent visuals.
A collection of finished card woven bands
I used my inkle loom for tensioning a test warp of 5/2 red and green cotton on 24 cards. It worked just fine, so I threaded a set of 16 square four-holed cards for the workshop. 

As an afterthought, I  thought I'd be able to use the six-sided six-holed card set by threading four threads on opposites. It seemed like a good idea--but it wasn't. Although the shed was fine on half the turns, the other half were bad. It worked, but on the messy sheds, I needed to pick up the threads on each card. I don't recommend it.

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