Iron Age Finnish Mantle – Integrated Tablet Woven Band

September 22, 2013

The Iron Age Finnish Mantle project, completed in July 2013, was a wonderful opportunity to learn a variety of new-to-me textile techniques. One of those new experiences was creating table woven bands integrated with the body of the mantle. These bands served a dual purpose in that they were both decorative and functional, keeping the cloth from raveling.

tablet-weaving threading pattern

Nine card threading pattern for the tablet-woven bands.

Each woven band consisted of nine tablets, six of which are threaded with skipped holes in a typically Finnish pattern. The draft I used is at right. The edge tablets were threaded with dark orange 100% wool yarn (Jaggerspun Maine Line 2/8). The body tablets were threaded in yellow. Tablet one was always placed closed to the body of the cloth while tablets eight and nine functioned as a “lock” on the weft threads and were placed closest to the fringe.

While I am not new to tablet weaving in general, I had never used the warp of one textile as the weft in another. One of the first problems wiith which I was faced was how to support the body of the mantle while tablet-weaving. My concern had to do with threads in the mantle being pulled or distorted. I considered several options, before turning my dining room table into a card loom through the use of a couple of “C-clamps” anchoring the ends of the warp.

Tablet weaving on my dining room table with C-clamps.

Tablet weaving on my dining room table with C-clamps.

C-clamps are inexpensive, portable and even give a measure of tension control. The warp is secured to the clamps at opposite ends of the table near one long edge and the mantle is supported by the table. To tighten the tension, I simply rotated the clamp to one side. By the way, that silver contraption the tablets are sitting on? Its a grooved marver used in lampworking. It was useful to keep the tablets from falling over on their sides as I selected the next thread to pass through the shed.

The tablet woven band showing correct tensioning of the beat to the cloth ends per inch.

The tablet woven band showing tensioning of the beat to the ends per inch of the cloth.

To start the band weaving, using a short strand of orange wool for the weft, I made eight quarter turns of the cards. This was to anchor the weaving and establish the width of the band. Next, I started using the warp threads of the mantle as weft for the tablet weaving. To begin, I wove in the hollow selvedge yarns, doubling up those threads in the table woven shed. Once past the hollow selvedge threads, one mantle yarn was passed through each shed per quarter turn of the tablets, in order.

If you try this yourself, keep in mind that the beat of your tablet weaving needs to mirror the EPI (ends per inch) of the cloth with which you are working. The mantle was woven at twenty ends per inch, so the tablet weaving beat needed to be twenty quarter turns per inch. Too dense of a beat will pucker the cloth; too loose a beat and the weave spreads apart, resulting in a band that is wider than then the cloth. Since there are coiled wire ornamentation on each long edge, that’s not an option.

Keeping the correct turns per inch was tricky. Every few inches, I would relax the tension on the warp to make sure my beat was correct. If it wasn’t, and I could, I adjusted my beat to compensate. If that wasn’t possible, I unwove that section and did it again.

Tablet weaving showing a missed thread.

Tablet weaving showing a missed thread.

Speaking of unweaving, the picture above shows one of the mistakes I made which was caught before I got too far. The picture is of the underside of the tablet weaving. The gray yarn traveling next to the tablet-weaving was missed and later picked up and inserted into the shed. The only way to fix this was to unweave back to the missed thread, get everything back in order and start again. After this, I frequently checked the underside of the weaving and, thankfully, I only made this mistake one time.

One thing that might not occur to you is that in regular tablet weaving, the width of the band is determined by the weft thread traveling back and forth through the piece. With this piece, the weft threads weren’t reused in the sheds so there wasn’t anything keeping the tablets grouped together.

Tablet woven band showing the tablets separating.

Tablet woven band showing the tablets separating.

I never figured out a way to keep the tablets from separating, so every inch or two, I stopped to tighten up the band, taking great care not to pull so much on the weft threads that they distorted the cloth above.

There are a total of four tablet woven bands on this piece providing much opportunity for practice. For folks who don’t weave cloth, I think this technique is easily adaptable to commercial cloth. Simply fringe your cloth about 12-14 inches back and you are set to go. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me and I’ll do my best to answer.

Integrated tablet woven band

Integrated tablet woven band

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Mervi Pasanen, one of the  authors of “Applesies and fox Noses: Finnish Tabletwoven Bands” for her assistance in learning this technique.  It was through her knowledge and gracious patience that this was possible.  You can follow Mervi online at her blog, http://hibernaatio.blogspot.com/.

This is a continuation of a series of posts on the interpretation of an Iron Age Finnish Mantle completed in July 2013. To read the entire series, click on the Finnish Mantle tag.

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One Response to Iron Age Finnish Mantle – Integrated Tablet Woven Band

  1. September 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Lovely work.

    To prevent the warp spreading, I have seen two options used before. 1) Use a fine thread as the true weft and the threads from the fabric as supplementary wefts. 2) Weave each thread from the fabric through two or three sheds in sequence. If you use two sheds, you can clip the thread short close to the fabric and have no visible fringe. If you use three, you will still have a fringe. You could mix (i.e. every second or third thread makes three passes) to result in a more sparse fringe. In either case, you would be passing multiple wefts through the band at once.

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