If reading this is your very first experience with tablet weaving, I suggest you read my basic instructions, go off and actually try weaving something, then come back and read this discussion. It will make much more sense to you after you have some practical experience. You should also read the introductory material if you aren't familiar with basic terminology, especially S and Z threading.

The conventions I use assume that the weaver works away from herself, and that the tablets are threaded while looking at the pack from the right. I realize that there are many other ways of weaving, so you may have to make some changes for this discussion to make sense for your way of working. This discussion was written for square tablets with all holes threaded, but can be adapted for any variation- the basic principles are the same. A "forward turn" means that the top corner of the tablet nearer the weaver moves to the top corner farther from the weaver, and a "backward" turn is the reverse movement. Unless otherwise specified, both are quarter turns. The notation I use is shown at left. When the tablet is turned forward, holes A, B, C, D successively occupy the near top corner.

There are three important elements which determine the structure of tablet weaving: threading direction, threading pattern, and turning direction. I have found that understanding how tablet weaving actually works, and how these three elements interact, makes it much easier to design original patterns and also to learn new techniques. This knowledge is especially important for the weaving techniques in which the tablets are turned individually, such as the 3/1 twill, and the four-color patterns (also called Snartemo after the location where a band in this technique was found.)

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How Tablet Weaving Works


One of the distinctive features of tablet weaving is the twining. The threads in each tablet are twisted together to form a cord in the finished band. The thread which moved over the top of the tablet is the one which shows on the top face of the finished band.



This diagram illustrates the way the threads move in the cord when the tablets are turned. Each thread is successively seen on the top of the band, hidden in the band, seen on the bottom of the band, and hidden again. When the turning direction is reversed, the sequence through which each thread is moved is also reversed at that point. Notice that each thread passes over or under either one or three picks of the weft, not the usual two. On the surface of the band only the longer floats will show. If the tablet direction is changed several turns in succession, even longer floats will be made.


The same diagram can be used to illustrate how the twining works. The tablet is threaded in the S direction, so the first section of the cord, where the tablet is turned forward, is twined in the Z direction. You can see that each thread crosses the cord from left to right. Reversing the turning direction changes the twining of the finished cord, so the second section of the cord is S-twined, and the threads cross from the right to the left. A tablet produces the cord twined in the opposite direction if it is turned forward, and the same direction if it is turned backward.



Turning Direction


Threading Direction











Threading Diagrams

The essential set-up information for a set of tablets is the threading direction and the color of thread which passes through each hole. This can be expressed concisely as a diagram. Each column represents the four holes in a tablet. Using the lettering pattern from the tablet shown earlier, the bottom row is the A threads, the next row is the B threads, and the top row is the D threads. The slash marks below the chart represent the threading direction (S=\, Z=/).


This diagram represents the same tablet used earlier for the structure diagram. The sequence A-B-C-D shows the thread colors in the order in which they appear on the surface of the band. NOTE: this diagram shows the threading pattern of the tablet BEFORE the first turn. To start the pattern, first turn the pack, then pass the weft. Other people draw diagrams differently, this is just the method that I have found most useful.



This is the diagram for a 6-tablet chevron pattern, using the demonstration tablet yet again, as the rightmost of the pack. A pack set up like this and turned forwards will produce a series of chevrons in four colors, and a reversal would flip the pattern to produce a diamond. Note that because of the twining of the cords in the band, it is only possible to get smooth-edged diagonals by threading the tablets as shown. Any other threading would make jagged edges on the chevrons. If you arenít clear on this, warp up a pack of tablets and try this pattern. The reverse side of the band will show chevrons with jagged edges. The direction of the smooth diagonal pattern is the same as the direction of the twining of the cord. S-threaded tablets can be used to produce Z-diagonals when turned forward and S-diagonals when turned backward. (Actually, there is another way to weave this chevron pattern, but this is the only method that allows the pack to be turned as a unit.)


Pattern Drafting

Once you understand how one tablet behaves, it isnít any more difficult to understand how many tablets work together. A tablet-woven band can be charted on graph paper with colored pencils. In each square a slash is drawn, which shows both the color of the thread passing across the top of each cord and the twining direction of that


cord. Be careful- this does NOT have to correspond to the turning direction of the tablet. For some complex patterns it is easiest to thread all the tablets S so that / denotes a forward turn and \ a backward turn, but if the pattern requires both S and Z threaded tablets, this is not possible. Iíll use the chevron pattern as my example. Although this pattern is simple, it illustrates all the basic principles of tablet weaving. This is how the finished band will look. I added two reverses (at the heavy lines), where the turning direction of the entire pack was switched. Notice that the first four picks (at the bottom of the diagram) show the same color arrangement as the threading diagram.


There are two different ways to weave this design, as mentioned above. The weaver has the freedom to choose the most appropriate, since the method will not affect the finished product. The original diagram was set up so that the whole pack could be turned as a unit. The alternative is to thread all the tablets using the diagram below. If the pack is turned as a unit, the band will show diagonal stripes rather than chevrons. If the weaver uses the pattern draft at left as a turning chart, however, the two set-ups will have the same final product. Again, if this doesnít make sense to you, the best way to understand is to try it.




There is one more maneuver that should be discussed here. Twisting a tablet about its vertical axis changes its threading direction. If the color pattern of the tablet is not affected, twisting a tablet is the equivalent of changing its turning direction. This is commonly done in the doubleface weaves where the tablets are threaded two light, two dark. If two identical threads are in the top holes, it changes the threading direction without affecting the color pattern, but if two different colors are in the top holes, it both changes the color pattern and reverses the threading direction. The method for weaving 3/1 twill which I describe online uses twisting to create the color patterns so that the tablets can be turned as a unit rather than individually.





In the plain doubleface weave, the face of the band is all one solid color, and the reverse is the other color. One of the distinctive features of this weave are the parallel rows of floats which run across the band. The colors from the front and the back of the band can be interchanged to create patterns. Another characteristic of this weave is the jagged edges of the color borders- most patterns will not have smooth edges. There are at least three ways to weave doubleface, but all of them produce this structure. The cards are threaded with two light and two dark threads, in this example blue and red, in adjacent holes. For the first two methods, the cards are threaded alternately S and Z. To weave the basic doubleface ground, the whole pack is turned as a unit 2xF, 2xB. Because of the alternate threading of the tablets, this produces the structure shown at the beginning (bottom) of the pattern. The difference in these two methods is in the color change, used for making design like the red rectangle in the pattern draft. At the color change point, a tablet can be twisted to change both the threading direction and color pattern, and kept with the pack to continue the same turning sequence. Alternately, the tablet can be slid from the pack to form a second pattern pack with the opposite turning sequence. When the original pack is turned forward, the pattern pack is turned backward. The third method involves setting up the tablets a bit differently. The threading pattern is the same, but all tablets are S-threaded. The pattern draft at left is then used as a turning diagram as well. Which method to choose depends on your personal preference and the complexity of the pattern, and whether you are mixing it with other techniques.


Individual tablets in the doubleface 3/1 twill move exactly like those in the ordinary doubleface weave, but instead of each tablet being in the same step, tablet positions are staggered across the pack. Instead of parallel rows of floats across the band, the floats are in diagonal lines (wales), which can run either in the S or the Z direction. This means that patterns with smooth diagonal lines can be woven, making this one of the most versatile tablet weaving techniques. Care must be taken when designing patterns to ensure that the twill direction is the same as the direction of the color interchange. Make sure that the two

squares on either side of the color interchange have the slashes in the same direction as the desired twill line, and work backwards from there to fill in the remainder of the slashes in the proper direction. This can be seen along the borders of the diamond in the example. In some places, the pattern may require the use of long floats, over five or more picks. Often the pattern can be revised slightly to eliminate the longest floats. If the band is to be heavily used, it may be a good idea to tie down the remaining long floats. Otherwise they may lift up from the surface of the band and snag on things. There are various ways to do this, but all those I am aware of do show on the surface of the band.






There are two ways to weave 3/1 twills. The most straightforward conceptually is to thread the cards all S, and use the pattern draft as the turning diagram. This method is best for complicated patterns or if the twill is being combined with other techniques. The second method, developed by Peter Collingwood, involves setting the cards up so that the two packs formed can be turned as units. Color interchange is accomplished by twisting the tablets. I have found this method to be faster for simple designs. It is discussed in more detail on my web page.




One of the most complex weaves uses tablets threaded identically, usually with four colors. Designs are made by reversing the turning direction of some tablets to produce long floats. This technique is often called Snartemo after the location where a well-known band was found. Although it is theoretically possible to weave these patterns in other ways, in practice Snartemo is always woven by turning tablets individually using the pattern draft as the turning diagram. For convenience, all Snartemo examples will be threaded as shown at left (although the number of tablets may vary). The basic technique is illustrated in the diagram at the left. The turning direction of adjacent tablets is reversed in sequence to create a wide diagonal line made up of red floats. I think the easiest way to understand Snartemo patterns is to look at examples. It also helps to sit down with graph paper, colored pencils, and a practice warp, and try various figures until you see how the technique works.


One thing to be careful of- when you are working with four colors, the color sequence when turning forward is NOT the same as the color sequence turning backward, so not all the diagonals will match up! Threading the tablets in three colors, red blue red yellow for example, would eliminate this problem.


Draw in the first figure of the pattern (the red diamond), then figure out where the colors will be in the proper positions to begin the next figure (the interlocking blue diamond). Red and blue are on opposite corners of each tablet, so that since the pattern started with a red diamond, only blue is going to be conveniently placed to begin the next diamond. Once the main figures are sketched in, go back and add in the surrounding areas. Make sure that the color sequence matches correctly with the turning sequence!

Simple Snartemo Pattern

\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / / / /
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / / / /
/ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / / / \
\ / \ \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / / \ /
\ \ / \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / \ / /
\ \ \ / \ \ \ \ / / / / \ / / /
\ \ \ \ / \ \ \ / / / \ / / / /
\ \ \ \ \ / \ \ / / \ / / / / /
\ \ \ \ \ \ / \ / \ / / / / / /
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ / \ / / / / / / /
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / / / /
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ / / / / / / / /
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