There are many different looms you can use for tabletweaving. But are they all equally easy to use? And which ones are derived from historical examples from, say, Viking times or the Middle Ages?
At first, I thought that the loom had a big part to play in how beautiful your work will look. This is not entirely true. The loom makes your work easier. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages. And for each technique, I have developed personal preferences. Learning tabletweaving is mainly a question of trial and error.
Side note: I am not a historian, all the information I have here I have found on the internet and in books. Pictures of historical paintings I have added the information where known, pictures I have used of others I have named to the maker. If you have any additions, please let me know!
In this way you tie the warp between yourself and a "fixed" point in your environment. This can be a door handle, but also a table, tree, pole, hook in the wall, etc. The simplest way to attach the warp to yourself is by tying or looping them to the buckle of a sturdy belt. But there are also ingenious devices (called a band lock, see picture below) to make this easier.
Advantages: you can easily regulate the tension of the threads, you don't need much equipment, takes up little space, easy to transport and simple to store.
Disadvantages: Because you are constantly hunched over in the same position, it can cause back pain. And you can't get up quickly to grab a cup of tea, for example (Been there, done that. When I was teaching myself tabletweaving, this was the first way I tried it. After an hour of fiddling, I wanted to get up and stretch my back and legs. Let's just say that standing up quickly with a strap tied to your waist is not very helpful for your already existing back pain).
History: Because this method of weaving requires few or no objects, there are no historical finds of it. However, it is very likely that people used to weave in this way.
You tie/loop the beginning of your strap to your belt buckle. This way, you regulate the tension yourself by leaning slightly forward or backward.
A tyre lock. Photo by: https://www.belindarose.co.uk/product/lock-band/
The name says it all; a board on which you stretch the warp between two fixed pieces. The board can be as long or short as you like. The first board I have was made by my grandfather. It consists of a straight piece of wood with rectangular pieces attached to the ends by bolts and wing nuts. The wing nuts allow me to separate the pieces of wood. I clamp the warp between them. The other side of the warp (the loose threads) I tie around the round piece, or I attach them as on the first side between the pieces of wood with the wing nuts.
Of course, the design of a weaving board can also look different with different fasteners.
Advantages: you can easily leave the warp when you don't want to weave. If you keep the weaving board quite compact, storing it is no problem. For shorter bands (under 4 metres) I personally find the weaving board the best!
Cons: For bands longer than 4 meters, or for bands where you get a lot of twist (build up of twist in the threads) the weaving board is again not so functional. Since you have to loosen the side of the loose threads to push out any twist with your hands, it is very difficult when you are dealing with a long length. There are other systems of weaving that I will explain later (warp weighted looms).
History: As far as I know there are no historical findings of the weaving board.
This is the weaving board, a simple design with two crossbars and a round beam. This weaving board can be used as a weight loom (the threads hang off the loom) and as a stand; by attaching the threads to the round beam or cross beam.
This weaving board is without metal wing nuts, so it can be taken to historical events. The round bars can be adjusted so that one does not have to take the strap off the loom.
Warp Weighted Loom
This method of weaving uses weights on the unwoven side of the band. The weights keep the threads under tension. Because you have not attached the threads as a large bundle to a fixed point, you can easily push out the twist with your fingers. The weights can be made of stone, but also of clay, metal or wood. The weights I used (not historicly accurate at all) are heavy metal bolts. On the bolt I have stretched the complete warp. The rule is: one bolt per card. So in standard card weaving, there are 4 threads wrapped around one bolt. I attach the bundle of 4 threads by making a simple loop knot (see photo series, this will follow). The bolt rotates around its own axis until the twist is completely gone.
Advantages: for bands longer than 4 metres, this way of weaving is ideal! You can spin all the remaining thread on the bolts without them getting tangled. Also for patterns where there is a lot of twist, this is one of the nicest ways to weave. You don't have to spend hours untangling the threads.
Disadvantages: it takes up a bit more space because you have the weights hanging down. A warp weighted loom is also a challenge to transport. So you must first secure the weights. Also, if you buy a set of 24 bolts at a DIY store, you will quickly lose about 25 euros. So you also have to take that into account.
History: A warp weighted loom specifically for card weaving has not been found. However, weights have been found that were used on large standing looms, on which beautiful carpets and other pieces of textile could be made. This way of weaving has been practised since the Stone Age, roughly 1200 years ago.
A warp weighted loom without cards. From West Stow. Micel Folcland.
The bolts I used weigh about 50 grams, for a silk band. If you use a thicker thread, you will obviously need more weight.
This is actually a loom for tabletweaving with a rigid heddle, but of course it can also be used for tabletweaving. The box loom works basically the same way as the weaving board, but it has raised sides and looks like a "box" with spars on either side to attach your band to. These box looms are often small and easy to use on your lap.
Advantages: very small and therefore easy to transport and store. Easy to use on your lap or on a table.
Disadvantages: your weaving space is also very small so you will often have to loosen your band to take out the twist and continue weaving. But if you use a slow weaving technique like brocading it is not necessarily a disadvantage.
History: The box loom was mainly used from the 16th to the 19th century for band weaving. Maybe it was also used for tabletweaving, but I can find no evidence of this.
Christine de Pizan Epitre d'Orthea, The Hague KB 74 G27 fol. 59v
Do you want to weave the most historically accurate weave? Then this is the loom you will come across the most. From the Viking era to the Middle Ages, this model of loom was used many times.
This loom is actually deceptively simple; it consists of one or two horizontal slats, and two vertical slats. You stretch your threads between the vertical slats. The technique works in much the same way as with the boardloom. That is, you twist the unwoven threads around the lath and loosen them when you need to get the twist out.
Advantages: this loom can be completely dismantled if you want (like my grandfather made for me) so that you end up with a small package to take to events or demonstrations. But you can also make it as a solid loom of course. This historically correct loom is an interesting object to look at for visitors of historical events, furthermore it is easy to weave when you sit next to it with a stool.
Cons: Because it is a rather long loom, it is a challenge to keep the tension on the threads equal. This can sometimes be quite annoying, depending on which material you use.
History: In the Oseberg burial (dating from ca. 834, near Tønsberg, Norway), finds have been made of this model of loom, even strung up with 52 (!) cards. The grave belonged to two women who were richly buried in the so-called Oseberg ship. Tablet woven bands were also found in the grave. I will go into this in more detail another time.
But also in the middle ages you see this model of loom often in paintings. You can also see variations on this, with a high horizontal 3rd beam. Perhaps the beam was raised to make the weaving easier and to prevent you from pushing against the beam with your knees (this is from my own experience).
Book of Hours, MS M.395 fol. 26v. The Morgan Library & Museum
Sketches of the Oseberg Loom.
15th century France, Cambridge Harvard University Houghton Library, MS Richardsom 042, fol. 20
Officially this is not a tablet weaving loom, but a inkle loom, as the name suggests of course. But it is also very suitable for card-weaving. You tighten the threads around all the poles, and knot them back to the beginning of your threads, and in this way you can make your band quite long without having to deal with a bundle of loose threads like with the weaving board or the Oseberg loom. Because the threads are like one infinite loop, and the total length of the threads shrinks by the weaving, it is important to regulate the tension with the adjusting stick.
Advantages: handy loom to store and to make a band of decent length without having to deal with a bundle of loose threads that can get tangled.
Cons: the twist of the threads can be easily pushed over each stick of the inkle loom with your fingers. Until you reach the starting point of the band. Then the twist builds up there and you will end up with a tension difference of the threads or a too heavy twist build up which makes the weaving more difficult. To solve this problem you can use fishing swivels. You knot the beginning of the thread to the swivel, stretch the thread over the required poles and knot the end of the thread to the other side of the swivel. When twisting, you push the twist towards the swivel. The swivel will turn around its own axis and the twist will be solved! A very ingenious way but it takes some practice and patience to fix all the threads in this way.
History: somewhere between the 18th and 19th century, the now familiar Inkle Loom originated in England. From there it has become known in other countries and has made its appearance as the standard loom for band weaving. The technique behind bandweaving already existed and was done with a rigid heddle.
This is the inkle loom I have, which is specially designed for card weaving. On "standard" inkle looms, the poles are in slightly different places. In the picture above, it is not stretched correctly, but it gives you a rough idea that you can also weave cards on an inkle loom.
In the pictures below there are rigid heddles to be seen.
Universiteitsbibliotheek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848
Grosse Heidelberger Liederhandschrift Codex Manesse, Zürich, ca. 1300 bis ca. 1340
Young Girl Weaving by Carl Larsson 1905