Tablet Weaving
- An Introduction -
By Lady Pelagia

Egyptian Diagonals


This method is called Egyptian Diagonals, as the woven pattern often resembles designs on clothing depicted in ancient Egyptian paintings. However, there is no physical evidence for tablet weaving earlier than the 22nd dynasty.

Warp with two light/two dark threads per card for the pattern to the right, per the diagram.

Turn all cards away for four turns.

Then, at the right hand side, slide two cards forward of the main pack. Turn those cards toward you while turning the main pack away for two turns.

Move two more cards to the forward pack. Turn the forward pack toward you while turning the main pack away for two turns.

Continue this procedure until all the cards are in the forward pack.

Then, begin the process again. However, this time move the cards starting on the left side, and move them to a new pack behind the main pack.

The rearrangement of cards into the new pack occur at the dots on the diagram to the right.

A (very brief) History

The earliest piece of tablet weaving comes from Egypt and dates to the 22nd dynasty (945 -745 BC). The next known examples of tablet weaving come from the Coptic period (7-10 century AD).

In Scandanavia, the tablet weaving dates back to the Celtic bronze age (2nd century AD) and to the Iron Age (8th century AD). These bands were often part of cloth created on a warp weighted loom. The tablet weaving is the heading for the loom, the weft of the tablet weaving being the warp of the warp weighted loom.

The oldest tablets found were discovered in Denmark, dating from the early Iron Age (Dejbjerg Bog, c. 100 BC). The greatest treasure regarding tablet weaving, however, may be that found in the Oseberg ship burial from Norway, dating to about 850 AD. A tablet weaving loom with fifty-two threaded cards, a partially woven band, and a number of other tablet woven bands were found.

For brocaded bands, especially, the finds at the Viking trading center of Birka, Sweden, are significant. Dated to about 800-975 AD, some of the bands are brocaded in gold, others are of pure silk, and some are a combination of linen and silk.

Although tablet weaving was know in Western Europe from Roman times, most of the early bands use natural undyed wools. Trade with the East in the 9th century brought silk and fine tablet weavings to European trade centers. Textiles preserved from the MiddleAges indicate that tablet weaving quickly became a highly refined technique not only of craftsmen, but of court ladies as well, and decreased in popularity only with end of Renaissance.

Warping Your Cards


The pattern is represented using a graph. Each column of four squares represents one card with its four holes. A letter ‘S’ or ‘Z’ or sometimes a slash ( / or \ ) designates the way the card is oriented while weaving. This angle determines how the surface of the finished textile looks, and also affects the color pattern.

One threading, only change between each band is the direction of the cards (S or Z)

Two methods of warping:

Continuous Warp – works best when all cards have same thread arrangement.

Cards individually warped – use when each card requires a different color arrangement.

For the purposes of this handout, we will use the continuous warp as the pattern requires two dark and two light threads per card.

Adjust the cards so that they are in the appropriate direction (S or Z) and flip them if necessary. Then, turn each card so that the pattern of the threads matches the pattern diagram. The shed is changed by turning the entire pack forwards or backwards one quarter turn. One reverses the rotation to either create a change in pattern (diamond vs chevron as shown in variation 4) or once one has turned as far in one direction as allowed by the build up of twist behind the cards.

The difference between the pattern variations 3 & 4 is card direction alone. Try both - each has its charm.


Here are some blank charts to experiment with.


Warp measuring: C-clamps, warping board, or inkle loom.

Yarn: 4 balls or cones of the desired colors

Shuttle: Belt shuttle, netting shuttle, or butterfly with weaving sword.

Warp Tension: use inkle loom, or a weight or doorknob plus a clip to hold the band to your belt.

Continuous Warp:

One can use either an inkle loom or pegs (C-clamps can also be used) to measure the warp using this method. If using pegs or clamps on a table, situate them as far apart as you want your warp to be long.

Thread the ends of the yarn balls through the holes in the whole pack of cards. So, yarn A goes thru all the holes marked 'A'in the cards, B goes thru the holes marked 'B' and so forth. Do not separate the cards, but thread thru the entire pack at one time.

Tie the thread onto the first peg, and while holding the pack of cards, move them toward the second peg. Halfway between, drop one card. Bring the yarn around the second peg and bring the cards back toward the first peg, dropping another card next to the previous card. Continue wrapping the yarn around the pegs, dropping a card every time the warp comes past the accumulating pack developing on the warp.

After all cards have been transferred from your hand to the pack on the warp, cut the yarn from the balls, leaving enough to tie onto peg one again.

Take a length of strong yarn, and tie it around the warp where it goes around the far end of peg 2. This marks the center, and is what you will be tying onto your belt.

Lift the warp from peg one, and tie it into an overhand knot. Make sure that all the warp threads are equal in length. This knot will be affixed to the weight or doorknob.


Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Tablet Weaving, 1982, Watson-Guptill, New York. Paperback edition 1996, Robin & Russ Handweavers, McMinnville, OR.

Crockett, Candace, 1973. Card Weaving, New York and London. 1991, Card Weaving, Interweave Press (Revised Edition)

Bird, Eileen. 1974. Introducing Tablet Weaving. London.

Snow, Marjorie, and William. 1973. Step by Step Tablet Weaving. New York.

Spies, Nancy. Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance: A Thousand Years of Brocaded Tabletwoven Bands. Self published.

Katz, Ruth J. 1977. Cardweaving. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. New York ISBN 0422242611

Moodey, Cerese. Beginning Cardweaving. Complex Weavers Medieval Textiles. Issue 35 March 2003

Moodey, Cerese. Brocaded Cardweaving. Complex Weavers Medieval Textiles. Issue 36 June 2003

Moodey, Cerese. Open Hold Cardweaving: AViking and Pre-Viking Sample. Complex Weavers Medieval Textiles. Issue 38 Dec. 2003

© 2006 Nancy M. McKenna, All Rights Reserved

Last updated: 7/13/2006