Roving Reporter: John Mullarkey’s Top 4 Tips for Card Weaving Handspun Bands

Have you seen the Spring 2018 issue of Spin Off? Spinning for weaving is a hot topic, and one of my favorite spinner/weavers is John Mullarkey. John is known for card weaving incredible silk bands, his clear and comfortable teaching, and good humor. I asked him to share a few spinning tips for those of us delving deeper into spinning for delicious bands.

Card weaving, also known as tablet weaving, is a method for weaving beautifully designed bands using cards (affiliate link) (or tablets) with holes punched in them as the shafts and heddles of a loom. John says, “Even though it does not offer as much structural variety as a floor loom, card weaving has more pattern flexibility.”

card weaving

Weaving well: John teaches workshops around the United States and abroad.

1. What are your favorite fibers to spin for tablet weaving?
I LOVE spinning silk and using it in my bands. I’ve spun wool and used it for card weaving, but it is harder to weave than silk and not nearly as luscious. As a result, I avoid short-stapled fibers for card weaving—especially cotton.

card weaving

Boneyard Boogie, handspun and woven by John Mullarkey. “This project is a perfect example of why one would spin their own yarn for card weaving,” John says. “The depth of color in the night sky can only be achieved by spinning the handpainted fiber. If I had spun white silk and dyed it after, I never would have gotten the rich colors I got by spinning the dyed fibers.”

2. How much twist do you add to your tablet-weaving yarns?
Because card weaving actually changes the nature of the underlying yarn (adds twist or removes twist depending on the direction the cards are turning), I put lots of twist in my silk both the singles and the plying. I almost always use 2-ply yarns.

3. What is your best piece of advice for spinning for card weaving?
Again, lots of twist! And the smoother the yarn the better. I love spinning and weaving bombyx silk, but I don’t like tussah. Even when spun with a worsted draw with lots of twist, tussah silk tends to be fuzzier and doesn’t spin nearly as smooth, which is important for card weaving.

4. Have you ever planned and spun the yarn for a band that didn’t work well? What happened?
Oh, yes. I had a band that was two colors: gold and purple. I thought the purple was dark and the gold was light, so I wove it all up and there wasn’t enough contrast. The gold was too dark and the purple was lighter than expected. Hence you couldn’t see the pattern at all. My lesson learned was to always check value and don’t just assume a color is light or dark because of hue.

card weaving

Beautiful, but low contrast band. Photo courtesy of John Mullarkey

John teaches tablet weaving workshops for raw beginners, intermediate weavers looking to learn more, and advanced students continuing to expand their band repertoire. You can find him at workshops throughout the year, including Stitches United (Connecticut) and Convergence (Nevada). Find his full schedule.

There’s still time to sign up and join John Mullarkey at Interweave Yarn Fest March 27–31, 2019 in Loveland, Colorado. He’ll be teaching Tablet Weaving: Woven Shoelaces, Tablet Weaving: Threaded-In Designs, and Tablet Weaving: Coptic Diamonds. Hope to see you there!

—Kate Larson

Featured Image: Handspun silk warp makes a spectacular tablet-woven band. Photos by Kate Larson.

Originally posted March 15, 2018. Updated January 23, 2019.

Weave your own handspun bands with tablet weaving

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