Anne Blinks Textile Study Collection

Tablet Weaving

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Tablet weaving is a very ancient European and Asian technique used to create warp faced twined narrow bands. The method for raising and lowering the sheds is a "pack of cards" with holes punched in each corner. The early tablets were made of thin slices of bone or wood, or of leather. The warp yarns are threaded through the holes, the yarns tensioned between two posts or between the weaver and something stationary. The tablets are turned, usually as a pack, and as the warp yarns change position with the turning, the yarns twine about each other into cords. Wefts can be inserted to hold the cords together. In addition to animal gear, these bands were used as decorative bands on clothing. One of the oldest extant tablet weavings was found as starting borders for warp weighted loom woven cloth from an archeological dig in Germany dated 600 B.C.

Anne probably first saw examples of ancient tablet weaving in Swedish museums when in Stockholm in 1949. When she and Lawrence lived in Cambridge in 1958-59, she had a chance to copy some of the Anglo-Saxon (6th C.) bands that were excavated after WWII and housed there. Grace Crowfoot had published on these and other tablet woven bands and Anne had expected to meet her that year. Unfortunately Crowfoot died the week before they were to get together. The British Museum people put her in touch with Grace's daughter Elizabeth who graciously encouraged Anne to look at her mother's research, Anne meticulously copied by hand the text and the drawings of many of Crowfoot's publications and later made typescripts of them for her own use. Elizabeth continued her mother's work and has published many papers on the archeological textiles in Britain, and she and Anne corresponded over the years.

Anne learned how to weave on the warp weighted loom, warping it properly with a tablet woven starting band, inserting the weft with long loops such that it becomes warp for the blanket or clothing to be woven on the upright loom. [See photo insets.] Tablet weaving was also used this way to set up a warp for sprang pieces, particularly bonnets. Visit the Sprang section to read about this type of textile. Anne demonstrated these techniques to handweaving guilds and at conferences, but did not publish on them. We have a set of historical slides in the Collection showing how to set up and weave on a warp weighted loom, likely from one of the Scandinavian living museums.

The tablet weaving textile group consists of about 30 samples and completed bands. There are several that reflect Anne's working out the possibilities with the structure - stripes, diagonals, diamonds, countered twining, transposed warps, etc. There is a goat hair and cotton band Anne purchased in Tehran on her way home from Cambridge (traveling the long way home). And there are others that reflect her interest in the historical and ethnic traditions: missed hole technique; two-color bands with stripes threaded one color 2-hole, the other 4-hole; a double face weave from Pakistan, a pair of bands in an Anatolian ram's horn pattern; a Scandinavian pattern with a weft fringe on one side; a replica in tapestry wool of a cotton fragment that Gloria Adamson brought to her from Nepal. There are two "neckties", with instructions for reducing and increasing width from Loom Music. And the copies she made of the Anglo-Saxon bands while at Cambridge.

Camel Girth from Tehran, C. 1959

Missed hole sample

Anne's copy of an Anglo-Saxon fragment

Setting up a warp for the warp-weighted loom [from a slide taken by Anne in 1971]

Closeup of setting up the warp

If you have information on Anne's tablet weaving adventures, please send them to us.

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