Tablet-Woven DPN Holder
One of the first questions I'm asked when I teach tablet weaving is, "Where can I buy the tablets?" Weaving shops sell them, but you can also make your own, which is a great way to recycle. I use empty cereal boxes, but any stiff cardboard or card stock will do. This project is perfect for first-time tablet weavers: simple to make and—when you're done—you end up with a lovely knitting-needle case!
Note: Tablet weaving is also referred to as card weaving.
- Graph or notebook paper
- Pen and colored pencils
- 2 clamps (I recommend Irwin Quick-Grip style clamps.)
- Stick shuttle for the weft
- 24 tablet-weaving tablets, either bought or made (instructions below)
Note: If you are making your own tablets, you will also need cardstock (or empty cereal boxes) and a hole punch.
In tablet weaving, the warp yarn needs to be strong and smooth. For this project I used 5/2 mercerized cotton (purchased from Yarn Circle) for both warp and weft. I used the following colors/amounts:
- 130 yards of plum (for warp and weft)
- 85 yards of green
- 30 yards of tan
Cut the cereal box open and lay it flat. Decide how big you want your tablets to be. I own tablets ranging in size from 2-1/4 to 3-1/2 inches square. The size you prefer will depend on the size of your hand. You may want to make a couple of "prototype" tablets in different dimensions and see what feels comfortable.
After you have decided on the size of your tablets, take a pen and mark off as many tablets you can on the inside of the cereal box. I was able to get twelve 3-inch-square tablets from one box. For this project you need twenty-four tablets.
Cut out the tablets and punch four holes in each one, where indicated. Round off the corners of the tablets so they don't poke you during weaving.
[Editor's Note: To make it easy to create your own tablets, I've designed a template for 3x3-inch tablets that you can download as a PDF file. You can print the template directly onto heavy cardstock, or use it as a guide to cut tablets out of cereal boxes. A sample tablet appears to the right.]
Designing the Band
To design a tablet-weaving pattern, start with a piece of graph paper. Because there are four holes in each tablet, you need four lines. There are twenty-four tablets in this project, so mark off twenty-four squares. You now have a total of 4 X 24 = 96 squares to color in with your colored pencils. You can see how the threading diagram maps to the tablets in the diagram below.
The Z or S direction is determined by the side of the tablet that you warp it from, left or right, as illustrated in the diagram above.
The threading directionality changes how the design looks when woven. S twist creates a slanted thread to the left and Z twist creates a slanted thread to the right. If the cards are not positioned correctly jagged lines occur on all or part of your woven band.
Notice that the first half of the design above is threaded in the Z-direction, and the second half in the S-direction.
A handy memory aid for remembering how to thread tablets in the Z and S directions is "Z-to-P", in which P stands for the printed side of the tablet. So to thread a tablet in the Z direction, you thread the tablet from the printed side to the back. To thread a tablet in the S direction, you come from behind (the non-printed side) and thread from the back to the front. For this tip to work you always look at the front of the tablet and at the yarn going into the tablet from right to left. If you remember "Z-to-P", then you'll be able to look at a tablet and instantly recognize it's threading direction.
Threading the Tablets
I use the individual-tablet threading method. This means I cut lengths of yarn and thread each hole separately. (Other tablet weavers use a continuous-warp method of threading.)
When I thread my tablets I hold the tablet in my left hand with the printed side facing me and the A—B line on top.
You can also make a nifty "threading helper" by cutting a slot in a block of wood.
The thread count from our design is forty-eight plum, thirty-six green, and twelve tan, so the total number of yarns to measure and cut is ninty-six. The length of each thread for this project should be at least 82 inches long. As I measure and cut, I read the threading design starting from the left and working my way to the right. To keep my place, I use a piece of paper to cover the parts of the design I've already threaded. Once the tablets are threaded I stack them on top of each other. Continue until all twenty-four tablets are threaded.
Tensioning the Warp for Weaving
At this point you are ready to secure your warp ends and tension the warp. I use two Irwin Quick-Grip clamps attached to my table. (Their soft pads do not damage the wood and the clamps are quick and easy to remove when dinnnertime rolls around.)
You can also use an inkle loom or loom made specifically for tablet weaving to hold and tension the warp.
The diagram below illustrates how to tension your tablet-weaving warp using a table and two clamps. If your table is not eighty-two inches long, you can wrap or tie the extra warp around one of the clamps.
Preparing the Weft
Before you can weave, you need to choose your weft thread. Because tablet-woven bands are warp faced, the weft does not show except at the edges. To keep the weft inconspicuous, it shold blend in with the selvedge threads. In this design, both of the edge threads (those in tablets 1 and 24) are plum, so I used plum-colored 5/2 cotton for my weft.
I wrapped the weft onto a belt shuttle (a variation of stick shuttle with a beveled edge for beating the weft in) and now I'm ready to weave.
Weaving the Band
For this project I turn the tablets one-quarter turn forward (away from me), and weave a shot of weft. I do this sixteen times. After I have woven sixteen picks, I change the direction I turn the tablets and weave sixteen picks where I turn the tablets one-quarter turn backward (towards me.) I alternate sixteen picks forward and sixteen picks backward to weave the entire band. Changing the direction you turn the tablets every sixteen picks prevents you from building up an unweildy amount of twist in the warp threads, and also creates the X's and O's pattern.
When I am weaving using a table and clamps to tension the warp, I sit facing towards the left clamp with the warp on my right side.
For the first few picks of my weaving, I weave in small thin strips of cardboard. This spreads the warp.
Then, starting with the A—B line facing towards the left clamp, I throw a weft shot, turn all the tablets forwards one-quarter turn, and beat. I then throw the weft back the other way, rotate the tablets forward another one quarter turn, and beat. After the third pass of the weft, I grasp the tail of the weft thread and the attached weft thread and gently pull the warp threads of the woven band together. Tightening the first few weft shots in this manner lets you set the width of the band for a firmly-woven strap.
This project creates a band about an inch wide. I turned the tablets once again and the A—B line is on top again. Now you can begin weaving in pattern: sixteen shots turning one-quarter turn forward, and sixteen shots of one-quarter turn back.
If you want to change the design, you can change the number times you rotate forward or back. This will put the X's and O's closer or farther apart. Or you eliminate the reversal altogther and always weave going forward. This will create a one-way diagonal. If you do not change direction, however, the band may develop an unweildy amount of twist during weaving.
The weaving goes quickly. Soon I had a band about forty inches long. (You lose some of the warp length to take-up and the waste yarn from tying on to the clamps.) I cut the loose threads away, took off the tablets, and had a lovely, long band.
Sewing up the Needle Case
The next step is to fold the band in half, creating a pointed fold at one end, so the band can lay flat beside itself (see diagram below.)
I used sewing thread that matched the color of the selvedge and sewed the band edges together along the middle seam.
I After that, I folded the cut ends over and hemmed them, then folded the case at the central fold line and sewed up the side seams. When I finished, I had a beautiful, hand-woven case for my double-pointed knitting needles!
This project can be completed in an afternoon, and makes a lovely gift for your knitting friends. This case, made a titch bigger, could protect your favorite weaving shuttles and supplies.
To learn more about tablet-weaving, see the following books:
- For beginners, I recommend Card Weaving by Candace Crockett. Her book is full of historical facts as well as fun, simple projects.
- For more advanced tablet weaving, read The Techniques of Tablet Weaving by Peter Collingwood. It contains thorough explanations of many different tablet-weaving techniques.
Pam Howard is the resident weaver at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. She has taught and presented programs throughout the Southeast. Pam is a former staff member of Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot magazine and a member of the Handweavers Guild of America and the Southern Highland Craft Guild. She is co-owner of Yarn Circle in Murphy, NC, a store catering to equipment and supply needs for the fiber enthusiast.