Monday, 10 June 2013

Tablet Weaving Lesson #1: Backstrap weaving a simple diamond motif

This is the first in a series of video and photo tutorials showing basic to advanced tablet-weaving concepts.

These lessons shall each build on the last and hopefully take the viewer from simple diamond patterns up to more complicated double face pattern weaving with finer yarns and eventually onto the heady heights of brocading and other fancy techniques (just as soon as I learn how to do them myself).

In this first lesson we'll learn the basic weaving steps involved in weaving a diamond pattern in the backstrap style.

This lesson is meant for someone who has purchased a ready-made warp from me. The next lesson shall detail how to design and make this warp oneself.

And we begin

This is the basic pattern we are making. The woven band is tied to my waist with another strap. I am holding a small stick shuttle in my right hand which contains the weft.

In front of me are the cards, each card has 4 warp threads going through it. The gap that you can see is called the shed, this is what the weft shall pass through. Each time we turn the cards we cause the warp ends (threads in weaving are called ends if they are of the warp and picks if they are of the weft) to twist around each other, this traps the weft in place.

The following steps I demonstrate are using a practiced hand. Initially when I was learning I often turned the cards using both hands. If you find this easier then please feel free to turn the cards and insert the weft anyway you feel comfortable.

First we need to move the cards up the warp. Place your thumb on top of the warp and your pinky finger below. Place your first finger in the back shed and use your two other fingers to hold the pack steady. In this way you can keep all the cards together when you move them so none of them turn in a funny way that they're not meant to.

Now push the cards up a bit. This gives you a bit more space to get the shuttle in. It's always nicer to have a decent working space for putting the shuttle in, rather than trying to squeeze it into a small space.

Now, get one hand into the shed and use that to pull through the shuttle. I do it this way as I find that if I just push the shuttle in unguided it sometimes catches on warp threads, which isn't good.

Then pull the shuttle through to insert the weft.

Leave a small loop of weft sticking out the side. The purpose of this is to allow you to finely control the width of the band. If we were to pull the weft all the way in upon insertion then the band would tend to become narrower and narrower. This is not so much of a great issue with a chunky band like this, where you're unlikely to notice a small difference of a few millimetres in the width of the band, but when one is weaving very fine threads and making detailed work later on it becomes very important to maintain consistency. If you like you can weave a small amount to find the perfect width for your band and then use a small marked stick or a measuring tape to measure the band every now and again and make sure you are not deviating from your desired width.

Now, to turn the cards, place your hand upon it like so . . 

. . . and roll them backwards . . . 

. . . a full 45 degrees.

This is called one turn. You will notice that I have placed my hands around the cards again in such a way that all cards are held in my hand simultaneously and they all move together. If you have smaller hands or are using more cards, you may find it more useful to turn the cards with two hands or to move them in groups. It's entirely up to what is comfortable with yourself.

Now we're ready for the next pick. Get your hand in front of the cards again . . .

. . . and push the pack backwards to make space.

Again, insert the weft . . .

Now we are ready to "tuck" the previous pick of weft. Hold the tucking side of the band with one hand and pull the weft from the other side with your other, taking care not to pull too tightly. Some designs may call for you to leave a small loop on the outside for artistic effect, but generally you don't want to weft to show too much.

Now the weft has been fully tucked.

And we beat the fell. The "fell" is the point at which the woven cloth or band meets the unwoven weft. The purposed of beating the fell is to push the previous pick of weft into position and to tighten up the woven face of the band. The strength of the beating determines the tightness of the pattern. I prefer a heavy beat as it's easier to maintain consistency and it allows you to get more pattern into a smaller space.

Something to consider when doing this is the nature of the yarn you're using for your warp. If, as is likely, you're learning to tablet weave for historical purposes, then you're likely to be using wool. Wool is very catchy, and if you simply try to push the shuttle down to the fell in the manner that I demonstrate in the following video, you're likely to cause yarns to snarl on each other. In this case it may be better to take the bottom and the top of the shed and pull them apart with your hands in order to separate the top and bottom layers of warp threads before you beat down the fell. This is less likely to be an issue using silk, cotton or acrylic, or for that matter nylon, which is my favourite material for practicing new TW techniques as it's fine, strong and nice and shiny.

And there you have it anyway, your second pick is in place, you have a wee loop sticking out the side and you're now ready to turn the cards again and continue weaving

Now, to observe all these steps in motion, see the following video.


Dorothy said...

Love this lesson - would you like to write for publication in YarnMaker? I have been trying to find someone to write about weaving bands with woollen yarns, and a series of tutorials would be fab. I'm always looking for ways to get weaving in the magazine, currently running a series by Hilary Charlesworth on tapestry weaving.

Andrew Kieran said...

Hello Dorothy :-)

That sounds very intriguing, am I to contact you at the Yarnmaker editor's address?

draw4fun said...

Andrew, this is so good and you describe it very well!

Ma's just started a blog:

Tina said...

Andrew, I finally found a tablet weaving instructor I can understand! I have stared hopelessly at patterns and a full book with patterns and instructions for longer than I want to admit. NOW, I think I will be able to do this! Thanks, Tina