What Is Advanced Tablet Weaving?

Handwoven May/June 2014. Photo by Joe Coca

Christina Garton’s Color-and-Weave Pinwheel napkins. Handwoven May/June 2014. Photo by Joe Coca.

I tend to view myself as a beginning weaver–if I’m feeling generous I might go so far as to say advanced beginner. I can read a draft, thread a loom without problems (usually), and I’m actually rather good at keeping track of my treadling, but I know that in my six years of weaving I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to know. I had a set of color-and-weave pinwheel napkins published in the May/June 2014 issue of Handwoven. I felt the napkins were fairly simple: easy to warp and simple to treadle. Lo and behold, after they published, several extremely talented weavers–weavers who have woven for many years longer than me and whom I admire–sent me emails saying how much they liked my napkins and that it inspired them to get the courage to try a 2-shuttle weave. I had no idea that a 2-shuttle weave was difficult (it really wasn’t!) and so I approached the project as one appropriate for a beginner such as myself.

This made me muse about the notions of advanced and beginner weaving–what to me was a simple and straightforward technique made others nervous. Similarly, the notion of advanced tablet weaving has always made me a bit squeamish. In the post below, tablet weaver extraordinaire John Mullarkey dispels the myths surrounding “advanced” card weaving and shows us that advanced doesn’t always mean difficult.
—Christina Garton

I don’t believe there are advanced techniques and beginner techniques in tablet weaving. There are just different techniques.

If you know how to warp the cards, turn the cards, and throw the shuttle, you are card weaving. But here is why some believe there is advanced card weaving: each technique has its own rules for reading the draft for setup and turning. Does each row on that graph represent one turn, two turns, or four turns? Does each column of that draft represent one card or more? Do I need to be concerned about the letters on the cards for this technique or not? Which pack is turning which direction and what does that pack represent? Here are some examples:

Threaded-in card weaving requires very specific threads be in a very specific order for the pattern to work. The turning for threaded-in bands is very simple. All cards get turned four times forward, and four times back. Very easy treadling system. So many believe this is a beginner card weaving technique. But let me tell you, it requires a very difficult warping process. You have to pay attention to the color of each and every thread for each hole of every card, and which direction through the card that thread goes. Not so beginner now, is it?

3/1 Broken Twill double-faced bands require you to turn each card a different direction each and every pick following a chart exactly. That sounds fairly advanced. But guess what, warping is a cinch! Every card has 2 light and 2 dark threads. Using the circular warping method I can warp 20 cards in 10 minutes. And that chart? Once you learn how to read it, it gives you a complete map of every card turn in that band, so fixing a mistake is easy. Just follow the map back until you find the wrong turn.

Card Weaving with John Mullarkey

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced weaver, you’re bound to have a rewarding experience with tablet weaving!

Egyptian Diagonals is one of my all-time favorite techniques. Double card, double turn diagonals. Is it an advanced or a beginner’s technique? Well that depends. With two simple rules I can tell you how to do free-form diagonal patterns that are beautiful and don’t require you to follow any charts at all. Or it can be as complicated as weaving diagonal transitions under strict rules and documenting what you’ve done so you can replicate it later.

Here’s what I tell my students about what the distinctions between beginner and advanced card weavers are. And here’s a clue, it isn’t based on any technique. Beginning card weavers never fix mistakes – they just weave through them. Advanced card weavers unweave mistakes, and let me tell you, unweaving mistakes in card weaving is a science unto itself! And master card weavers…never make mistakes!

So if there is a card weaving technique out there you’ve been wanting to try, but you weren’t sure you were good enough or experienced enough, throw those misconceptions aside, and dive right in.

—John Mullarkey

Updated April 19, 2017. Originally posted May 20, 2015.

Tablet Weaving is now available as a course!



  1. Norma B at 7:57 am April 26, 2017

    why is there a photo of an inkle loom in an article about tablet weaving??? Shame on you.

    • Anne M at 2:51 pm May 9, 2017

      Although John does make a small quantity of looms especially for cardweaving, he generally recommends that weavers try inkle looms for card or tablet weaving. They’re nicely portable, hold good (adjustable) tension, and are easy to hold in a comfortable position. What sort of loom do you use for it?

    • Janelle Z at 9:06 am January 1, 2018

      I have recently learned card weaving at our weaving guild. We learned on two pegs on a long board but the inkle loom was highly recommended. Since it seemed shameful to show this loom with cards on it, I’m curious to know what your or other card weavers recommend instead.

  2. Shirley I at 8:09 am April 26, 2017

    Yes, thank-you for asking Norma B… I was wondering the very same thing.

  3. Reba S at 8:41 am April 26, 2017

    I believe the inkle loom is just a convenient way to hold the warp threads under tension. Though it would be good to see where the cards are! They are just above his hands.

    • Mary A at 9:07 am April 26, 2017

      Yes, Reba. It’s just a convenience. We were taught that a loom is simply a device for holding a warp under tension. No matter how many bells and whistles a loom has, it’s primary purpose to hold the warp in such a way you don’t invite insanity.

      I do card weaving on my floor loom – remove the beater, push the heddles aside and wind on. The idea of being tied to a doorknob or the bed post just doesn’t appeal to me. 😉 An inkle loom is a great way to keep the warp where you want it. I just don’t happen to own one.

    • Anne M at 2:53 pm May 9, 2017

      Interesting point! Looking closely at the woven section I can see that the surface is clearly cardweaving, but at first glance it might look like inkle.

  4. Joann K at 12:57 pm April 26, 2017

    I already have both books and video. Does the course cover more advanced material than can be found in what I already have?

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