Birka tablet woven belt

A long, long time ago, in a suburb far, far away …

… I wound a very looong warp for tablet weaving a belt. A 292 cm long belt!


I used 20 tablets (in reality, playing cards cut into a square shape, with four holes punched at the corners). Each tablet was threaded according to my pattern, which was based on a twining motif from band found at Birka.


I used instructions from Shelagh Lewins’ site, which is a fantastic resource for patterns based on historical finds. The pattern uses missed-hole technique, but looking at my finished band, I believe I threaded all of my tablets with four colours.

I think I started weaving this belt in April last year, and with such a long warp I quickly decided I wanted a better way to manage my tension. So I did some Pinterest research (as you do) and decided to try weighting each individual tablet so that I could get even tension and remove the twist as I wove.


Enter my collection of small preserving jars that were sitting idle in my cupboard! Each jar plus lid weighs about 135g, which turned out to be quite nice for attaching to the four threads in each tablet.

The spreader is my improvised weaving raddle I made after reading these instructions from Peggy Osterkamp. Each nail in the raddle is spaced by half and inch, which makes it easy to separate the individual tablets.

I soon realised that the raddle separated my pack and made it hard to turn the cards, so I wound together two rods using t-shirt yarn, to keep the back of the pack close together.


The tension system was fantastic, but it was a fiddle to adjust when I needed to advance the warp, and was a bit of a pain to transport around the house. The jars clattered together and required quite a large amount of vertical space in order to weave.

By the end of the weaving, I decided to shell out for some proper weights, so I purchased 115g fishing sinkers to replace my jars. These are vastly more convenient because I can hang them in a line. They are easier to adjust, too.


I’m now devising a warp-weighted loom that can accomodate a comfortable weaving distance when I have two or three separate packs going at once. For now I’m very happy to find a place to tie-up my weaving (tensioned using the piano lid, or the back of some chairs, or clamped to a table).

Watch this space. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Birka tablet woven belt

  1. Hi, you have made me feel so comfortable about having a go. I love your improv, that’s what I was looking for as a beginner. Best wishes, Rhonda in Merewether.

  2. I have been looking at this pattern on Shelagh Lewins’ site and really want to give it a go but not sure how to incorporate 20 cards as the pattern uses 10. I would love to try 20 as I normally only use 10 so want something wider and more challenging! Any tips or how your cards were threaded and which ways to turn the extra cards?

    Also on the patter from Shelagh Lewins’ site, did you follow just figure 8 or also figure 9 as well (the reversed)?

    Sorry for all the questions your work looks superb!

    1. Thank you! It’s been a long time since I wove this band, I can’t really remember. I think I used only two threads in the pattern cards, and let the weft show through (or considered that at least). The finished face looks flat, though, so, … I’m sorry I can’t recall what I did!

      Probably I did just follow the pattern. If I were to widen this for extra cards, I’d balance the S and Z against the original. I’ve not tried to change the patterns before, though (I’d find it challenging to work out how to add another partial repeat and have it look good).

      Good luck with your weaving!

  3. Actually, looking again at this band, I think to widen the band I added tablets with all four holes threaded the same colour, blue on the outside edge, and natural linen in between.

    You could experiment with alternating S and Z threading, or have the LHS threaded S and the RHS threaded Z for balance. The edging really finishes off the pattern, I think. Hope you give it a go!

    1. Thanks Martha! How heavy are your weights (generally?) I find that cottolin in works nicely with four strands per weight, but wool might need less, do you think? I’m going to start experimenting with other fibres soon.

I really love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment! :)

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