Card weaving

unimus-KHM-photoCardweaving is a very old form of weaving were you don’t work on a loom but make patterns in your work by turning little cards. The treats run through holes in the corners of these cards. By turning the cards, you can change which colour threat is on the top and visible in the pattern.The technique was first used about 5000 years ago in ancient China and reached Europe through the silk route.
In Egypt several old pieces of cardweaving have been found dating from the Coptic period and at an excavation of Gayet at Antinoe, cards were found as old as the 4th and 5th century A.D. The oldest examples of cardweaving from Egypt are from the 22th dynasty (945-745 B.C.). The oldest pieces found in Scandinavia are as early as the 2thh century A.D. The prettiest are those found and the Oseberg-ship, dated 850 A.D. Among other things a cardweaving loom was found that still had 52 threaded cards and a number of bands. But also in Birka (Sweden) some beautiful and technically complicated have been recovered. (about 800-975 A.D.). Other examples have been found in Hochdorf, Germany and Apremont, France.(From ‘cardweaving’ by Candace Crockett)

Two days of cardweaving

On 24 and 25 august 2008 Ronald and Blue did a workshop cardweaving by Marijke van Epen at the Buitencentrum Wilhelminaoord. We thought that we knew cardweaving, but we soon found out we had barely covered the basics, there was so much more to learn… In the past we fastened one end of our weaving to out belt and the other end to a table leg or a door. During this workshop we worked with a ‘weaving plank’ which was new for us. A simple wooden plank and some brackets and clasps is al you need.



We had done some cardweaving before and had soon found out that warping the chain of threats is the hardest part and it takes a lot of time…
It has led to lots of cursing and swearing in the past. Sometimes the chain got so knotted we just gave up.


Marijke taught us a different way to thread the cards that’s much easier and faster. If you want to make a pattern that needs several cards thread with the same colour combination, these cards are threaded as a ‘block’.

A block of cards

If the pattern asks for all cards to have a different combination of colours, this will not help you but during the workshop we made patterns that allowed us to work with these blocks.

Colour combination

The pattern that Ronald wanted to make asked for cards that had two yellow threads and two green threads running through each card. The balls of wool are in two boxes under the table making it easy to unroll the wool.


Here you can clearly see that one yellow thread is still missing. When all the treads are in place you tie the beginning of the treads to a fixed point, here we used clamps.

Warping the chain

You hold the block of cards in your left hand and lead the threads with your right hand. You do this not on the end of the treads close to the balls of wool but on the end that has been fixed (see picture).
When you reach the other side of the weavingplank you leave one two cards at this end, one on each side of the clamp.

Side by side

This way you end up with all the card side by side on the same end of the chain. If you use this method for all the cards you need, start with the ones in the middle of the pattern and work towards the outside, the cards that make the border going on last.


If all the cards have been laced, you tie the threads on the cards side of the chain. This does not seem like an important thing, but trust us: it is!
If you need to loosen your chain at some point and forgot to do this, you’ll find out why it is so important. Blue forgot to do it the first time and ended up with a huge knot.

Binding the cards

Also tie the cards themselves. It does not matter if they’re not placed as the pattern needs, you can fix that later. This fixing of the cards is also very important if you don’t want the treads to tangle up. you’ll regret not doing it later on.

Here you can see a small part of a band Blue made during the workshop, she tied the cards because she wanted to take a break from work.

Cut and knot

The other end of the chain is then detached and the loops on that end cut. Now the side of the chain with the cards is fixed but the other side is not. Now that you got rid of the loops, you divide the threads in two group and tie this end of the chain to the other end of the weavingplank the way the picture shows.


When the tension on the threads is about the same, you check if all the cards are in the right position for the pattern you wish to make. They rarely are…so fix that.


Now the actual weaving can begin. The weft is pulled through the chain. The treads on the top of the cards, furthest away from you will show in the band.


After having pulled trough the weft, we turn the cards. With this pattern we could turn the cards as a single block, this is not always the case.

How to hold them?

In this case the cards are turned away from you. Look carefully how Ronald holds the block of cards in the picture. In our experience this is the best way to hold the block, but you don’t have to agree.


By shifting the cards back and forth a few timers you let the treads fall back into place. don’t overdo this for to much rubbing against the treads can lead to wearing and breaking of the threads.


Don’t forget to use your weaving sword to strike your work, this is important if you want to work to be tidy. Marijke used wooden pancake knives instead. They worked really well but you can also sand down one side of a paint strip for an cheap but effective tool.


This is the pattern Ronald made during the workshop.

It is created by flipping the cards. The effect is very beautiful and was often used during our beloved early mediaeval period.


The next few pictures show how you flip your cards. You don’t flip them up side down, but in their other direction. The side that was furthest away from your body, becomes the closest.

Flipping the cards becomes more difficult as the tension in the threads builds. The trick is to try and keep enough room to to manoeuvre your card around.
As you flip the cards a single tread can sometimes get caught on one of the cards. Before you proceed weaving it is best to check but if you don’t you’ll soon find out if any threads got caught…
The number of cards you flip and when you flip them determine the pattern.
The pattern that Ronald made requires demands flipping 2 cards, weaving 2 rows, then flip the next 2 cards.


This pattern was made in a simpeler way but the waever also changed the direction in which she turned the cards.
This gives further pattern varieties. In the picture you can see how a simple paper mold is used to check the width of the band.

Volg het bord Textile~Cardweaving van DenBlauwen op Pinterest.


To give you an idea of the many different patterns one can make in this technique, we have made a special Pinterest board for it.

Volg het bord Cardweaving~Patterns van DenBlauwen op Pinterest.