Monday, June 2, 2014

Learning Card Weaving- Adjusting from Inkle to Card

This year I decided to make the jump from inkle weaving to card weaving. I’ve been inkle weaving for some time now, and while I greatly enjoy it, I have been feeling that familiar itch to learn something new (Crafter's A.D.D is rampant in my house). Card weaving introduces a whole new warping technique, as well as an amended weaving technique, but provides a huge variance in patterns. The vast amount of patterns possible with card weaving was, in fact, a huge draw for me. Because the shed is manipulated by rotating cards with up to four strings each, you can make more shapes, (actual curves, YAY) and use color more easily. (Tardis trim? Pac Man trim? Soo many options!!)

Obviously, there are a lot of similarities between the two, but there are also plenty of differences, and some of them are more subtle than you might think. The intention of this post is to make a  list of some of the differences I have noticed between the two forms so far, and what to look out for if you are also making this transition.

1) There are many, many ways to learn and understand the concepts. Dig around until you find the right one for you.
Card weaving introduces more strings, and rotational patterns. Now, I'm dyslexic, and for me, rotational direction and right-left relations just happen to be my personal brand of suck, so naturally at first this was really...really hard. The good news is, there are many ways to go about understanding the mechanics. I must admit, I have had been a little spoiled being in the SCA. Weaving is a popular skill, and as such I have had access to multiple teachers. That being said, each had their own style of teaching and weaving. 

For example, one of the teachers doesn't really bother with  the motion of the threads at all, and depends strictly on the pattern.  The patterns always alternates between rolling the cards forwards or backwards. She uses an indicator with one clearly marked end to remind herself if she is turning her cards towards her, or away from her for a particular row.  This is a good technique for starting out for me, I need to start weaving and get the basics down before I start trying to understand the machinations. I always start by just copying an established pattern and established instructions. But then inevitably, I screw up, or I get distracted, or the cat knocks my pointer off the couch for kicks (cause he's a cat). That leads me to woefully stare at my loom trying to remember which way to turn next, which leads the next technique and to our next teacher.

Teacher two prefers to be able to tell which way to rotate the cards nest by looking at the movement of the strings in the shed. In this manner she doesn't need a pointer, and she can pick up and drop off at any time. Great! This can be done by looking at the strings in the warp, and then rotating the cards in a test direction to see if the correct string of the card drops down below the weft.  Hmm. There are four strings on this card, and 36 cards. Which string is supposed to go down? I can't freaking tell. Now I am in a conundrum. I prefer the second teacher's method where I don't need the pointer, but I don't have enough experience to understand what she's seeing when the thread “drops.”

The matter was finally resolved when I found a third way. This technique involves looking at just the cards. Say you have a simple two color pattern. White, and green. You put all your background threads in one pack (white), and all your pattern threads in another (green). Great, now which pack rotates which way? The answer is this, the color thread that will ultimately show in the next row is the thread on the card that rotates up and over the other color. So, say your pattern cards  have all the green thread in the upper back hole.  You need these green to show. Roll the cards towards you so the green comes up and over the white. The white is in the upper front? Roll them away from you to make them go up and the green.   This simplifies matter because you are only dealing with the top of the card.  With my dyslexia, this eliminated my issues with rotation.  It made it about "up and down." (which I have no problem with) instead of clockwise and counter clockwise.

Now, this may not work for you, you may prefer one of the previous methods, but that is exactly what I mean. There are so many ways to go about understanding your patterns and threads. Watch videos on YouTube or other crafting sites. Look at different types of techniques, and then set up a beginners sample you can play on that you aren't afraid to mess up. Play and see what works for you.

Don't forget that unless you are starting with a pattern that is neutral twist, you will have to deal with reversing the pattern every now and then, or pushing the twisted threads back along your loom. This is another new addition when you switch over to card.

2) Your loom and card quality matter
In my eagerness to get started, I dashed in and tried to warp up my new loom right away. I didn't have enough store bought cards. I thought “Hey, I have this shiny, very thin cardboard box downstairs, surely it can make cards.” Turns out, what looked like very thin to me, was very NOT on the loom, and the pack was monstrously large. (Which causes the string to catch on the top edge and not rotate properly. ) I really, highly suggest good old fashioned playing cards. They are still a cheap solution, and they work like a charm. If you are going to try a new material, I suggest putting them in a pile, running some string through them and seeing how they interact before you warp up. (Seems obvious, perhaps, but I always like to challenge myself by skipping the 'obvious' thoughts.

The loom is where it gets a little tricky, and potentially more expensive. I am weaving on a beautiful loom my friend made me, but it is my inkle loom. This comes with a few challenges. My front arm isn't quite long enough for card weaving, and as a result, my shed is a little short to deal with cards and the shuttle. My cards fit in, but I do have to change the shed much more often then I'd like. Secondly, as I will go into more detail below, card weaving requires significantly more tension than inkle weaving, so you have to make sure your loom pegs are up to the pressure. My loom, sadly, is going back to purely inkle only after this little adventure, because one of the bottom pegs is leaning in because of the tension.

All in all inkle looms can work with some fudging, but if card weaving is something you are going to be doing a lot of in the future, it may be prudent to invest in a loom designed for cards. (Or a t least a loom with strongly reinforced pegs. If you or someone you know is handy with woodworking, that is a great option that will save you a lot of money. I myself will be building one this summer.

3) Your tension and selvage edges are even more important then before
Don't get me wrong, tension is always important, but card weaving really requires a good sturdy tension peg and some strong arm muscle. Four times the string means potential for a lot more slack here and there throughout your strings, (even if you thought you warped it perfect and tight), which ultimately means you will need to pull tighter to get everything nice and even. Secondly, loose tension means the cards aren't held tightly in place, and they will have the wiggle room to jump one another or tangle. This is quite unpleasant. Until you tighten it, you will spend every row coaxing cards back into place before you set the pattern and throw the shuttle. Finally, because of all the strings in play, and all the strings that have to hide underneath the top row each pass, loose tension can result in your pattern not coming out as cleanly. Strings that should be hidden pop up and interrupt the pattern much easier than with inkle. The same goes for your selvages. Make sure to pull them nice and snug and firm. Letting it loosen up can cause disruption in your pattern. Trust me, I learned that one from experience.

4) Mistakes are much harder to undo.
My final piece of advice is to walk away and take breaks when needed. If you are frustrated, tired or things aren't going well, walk away. Mistakes in card weaving are much more annoying to back out. That's because unlike with inkle, where it is a simple matter of reversing the shed and pulling the weft back through, with cards you have to undo the rotation as well. If you fail to get the card position back to the previous setting, you will leave a twist in the threads which will then interrupt the pattern. Don't panic! It's not impossible, but if you are already frustrated, it may be best to just take a break.

In the end, I really enjoy card weaving. It did seem daunting at first, but keeping these things in mind, I am definitely getting the hang of it. I hope that my learning experiences throughout this process help other beginning weavers make the transition from inkle to card weaving smoother. Above all have fun!

Thanks for reading. No really, if you got all the way through that, thanks for reading! Have fun and weave on!

~ By GoblinGal

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