Brocaded Tablet Weaving

Tablet weaving is a warp-faced technique. That means that the pattern is formed by the warp threads and the weft is completely or nearly completely hidden. It is possible to bring the weft thread to the surface to form a pattern or to use an additional weft to form patterns on the surface. The most common technique in early period pieces was an additional weft, often made of precious metal: Flat strips of gold (Anglo-Saxon, 450-700 A.D.), drawn silver or gold wire (Birka, 800-975 A.D.), or gold strips wrapped around a silk core (St. Cuthbert's bands, before 916 A.D.). In the case of the Anglo-Saxon bands, the metal threads were pounded to form a solid surface after the weaving was completed. The brocading weft is held down by passing it under the warp threads to form either a background pattern or a surface pattern. The threads lying underneath continue to twist and form a support band.

In the brocading technique used in the above pieces, the additional weft (I'll refer to this as the "B" weft from now on) passes under threads of a warp cord. Here we go again. It is simpler to see than to explain. Look at Fig. l. This shows how the B weft passes under the top two threads of the card. This is how the background of the pattern would be formed. The threads tying down the B weft alternate to form a pattern. see Fig. 2.

Click to see larger image
How do you get the B weft under the warp? There are a number of different methods which are discussed fully in Collingwood's book. The simplest is to use a sharp-pointed pick-up stick to raise the cords you with to pass under (Fig. 3). Let's do another 'trust me' lesson. Thread up a set of 13 cards alternating the threading of the cards; i.e. thread card 1 from the front and card 2 from the back, and so on. (Fig. 4). Set up your loom as usual (See issues 4 and 5.).

Now look at Figure 5. This is the pattern. The dark squares are the B weft. The diameter of the B weft is a matter of trial and error. Basically it should be a little wider than the width of the warp thread. The most successful B weft I have found is a fine gold couching thread, doubled or tripled. Make it into a butterfly or wind it on a cardboard shuttle. Turn the cards one turn forward. Pass the weft as usual. With your pickup stick raise all the top threads except those from cards 2, 7, and 12. Run the B weft through the shed created by the pickup stick.

Allow the B weft to sink to the back of the band. Turn the cards a quarter turn forward and pass the weft across again as usual. Bring the B weft back to the front of the band, passing it between the threads of cards 12 and 13. With your pick-up stick, raise all threads except 2,6,8, and 12, and run the B weft across again through the shed created. This time allow the B weft to sink to the back of the band between cards 2 and 1. Continue the pattern and you will have brocaded a diamond when you are finished. Now try brocading the pattern in reverse. For the first pick raise threads 3,7, and 12; for the second raise threads 2,6,8 and 12, and so forth.

This will give you a whole new range of trim patterns to create. Take a look at the patterns given in the extant trim article for some other designs to try. For other methods of brocading, see Collingwood's book.


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