I’ve been suffering badly from depression and stress the last few days, which as you may recall is very dangerous for me, given my proclivity to clinical depression. So, in addition to trying my patented hot chocolate cure, I’ve been looking for something intellectually interesting to plunge into. Curiosity overrules depression for me, unless it’s really bad – one of the reasons I know so much about so many things. If doing something new doesn’t help, and a nice glass of thick, rich hot chocolate (made with real chocolate and heavy cream) doesn’t help, it’s time to call the doctor. Pronto.
Anyway, I had been looking for a way of producing the double-happiness symbol that will produce neater edges than a narrow, loom-woven ribbon. People suggested card weaving and inkle weaving, and the card weaving book arrived first, so I plunged into card weaving. My mom was in town and, being a craftsy sort, decided to try it too. So we opened up Candace Crockett’s Card Weaving, punched out the 24 cards, and were on our way!
We started with her basic 10-card project, a narrow cord. It took us a long time to disentangle the yarns once the cards were threaded- henceforth I will try winding them in color sequence, with a 4-end cross (four threads for each card), and wrap the yarns around a stick to keep them from tangling.
And it worked! It’s very ingenious how it works. There are four layers of warp, but only two show at any given moment. Each square card has four holes in the corners, so when the square is resting on its side, the top threads are raised and the bottom threads are lowered, creating a shed. You beat, pass a narrow shuttle through the shed, and twist the cards a quarter turn, either away from the body or towards the body as the pattern calls for. Now a different pair of holes are up, and you have a new shed. Of the two layers of warp that were on top, one remains on top (this is the one that will show in the finished piece – I think), and the other goes in the bottom layer of warp, where it won’t be seen.
Now, the structure of the weave. It’s pretty apparent to me that basic card weaving with four-holed cards, rotating the entire pack at once, is more or less equivalent to weaving on a four-shaft, four-treadled loom, except that consecutive treadles must be adjacent. If you label the holes A, B, C, D, and line them up together when you thread, all the threads in hole “A” will be up or down at the same time, all the threads in “B” will be up or down in the same time, and so on. This makes it equivalent to raising or lowering the shafts on a table loom, and since there are four holes, you have four “shafts”. Treadles are a bit more complex, but not by much. Each card has only four orientations – AB up, BC up, CD up, DA up. Any time you throw a shot of weft, it has to go through one of those orientations. So there are only four possible orientations, and therefore only four “treadles”.
The treadles must be consecutive because you always (?) turn the cards a quarter-turn. So AB must always be followed by BC or DA; it can never be followed by CD. More restrictive than on a conventional loom.
Where it gets interesting, IMO, is when you start separating the cards into groups and turning the groups separately. Now you have two sets of 4-shaft cards, giving you effectively an 8-shaft loom. There are of course practical limitations on this – mostly having to do with the size of the shed in the cards – but at least in theory, it is quite possible to get lots of “shafts” using different groups of cards. And this is exactly what I will have to do if I want to replicate the double-happiness draft in cardweaving, as it uses 24 shafts.
Where it starts getting really complicated is that you can effectively change an individual set of four threads from one group of four shafts to another, just by sliding the card forward or backward into another group. (Magic!) The four threads must appear on the shafts in the same rotating sequence (because the thread in hole A is still in hole A, etc.), so there are some limitations, but from my beginner’s perspective it looks like you can change the threading pattern on the fly! Very exciting for someone who is used to floor looms where it’s impossible (or very complicated) to change the threading once it’s set.
All this sounds like a wonderfully complex and interesting problem in abstract algebra (which, alas, this margin is too small to contain. 🙂 )
Gudrun, one of my fellow Black Sheep guild members, has created a program for viewing a cardwoven pattern as it will appear in the finished piece, based on your threading pattern – it’s on her website at http://www.theloomybin.com . I will definitely have to check it out, simulate my patterns on it, and see if my theories are correct.
Oh, and I’ve (mostly) quit being depressed. How can you be depressed when there are so many fascinating things going on???