I've decided that my ideal tablet weaving cards are actually playing cards. You can get a couple of decks of playing cards from the dollar store and make lots and lots of tablet weaving cards for not much money. They're designed to hold up to shuffling etc, and they're coated with something that makes them nice and smooth.
All you have to do is sacrifice one card as a template, fold it diagonally so that you can cut along the short edge to get a nice square, then round the corners. To punch the holes, I folded the card diagonally the other way, so that I knew where the center point was. Then I used a compass to draw a circle that just touched the edges of the card. Finally, I punched a hole on each of the diagonal lines just on the inside of the circle. Then I just held that template card on top of a few cards at a time to give me a guide on how much to cut off to make a square and then where to punch my holes.
Whatever you use as your cards (and I started out using cards I cut out of cereal boxes individually), make sure that you clearly number your cards and label the front and the back. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. Numbering them makes it easy to tell which cards you need to flip on the more complicated patterns and labeling the fronts and backs makes it easy to tell which cards you've already flipped. Also, if you ever (argh!) drop your deck, when you pick up your scattered cards you will have a much better chance of getting them back in order if they're labeled. The nice thing about the playing cards is that they already have a front and a back, and lo and behold, they even have numbers :)
When you start feeding the weft through, leave a 4 - 6" tail on the first pass. It can be reintegrated when you're finishing the piece, and it provides resistance so you don't accidentally pull it all the way through on the first couple of passes.
Tension is your friend and your enemy. Too much and the cards can rip and warp threads can stretch (both bad) or even break (disaster!) Too little tension and the strings can catch on the cards or get tangled and the pattern can become irregular. It should be consistent; enough that the cards shouldn't want to wobble or flip too much while you're beating down the weft etc, but if you can pluck the warp like a bow or harp string, ease off!
Tablet weaving is a great pursuit for those people who are a little bit... retentive. On the really basic patterns, there are only a couple of things to keep track of. Most important, you have to keep track of the cards. Later on, you will be flipping and turning cards individually, which gets pretty complicated. From the very beginning, however, you want to turn the deck in a consistent direction (usually forward, where the top of the deck is rolling away from you). Many patterns call for you to do something like 2 turns forward, 2 turns back ad nauseum. If you want your weave to come out right, you need to keep track of which direction you're supposed to be turning in at any particular moment. Next you have to remember which face of your pattern is on top, and which is on bottom. This sounds painfully simple, but actually on many of the beginning patterns it looks the same on both sides. However, if you accidentally start weaving with the band flipped (for example when you set your weaving down and come back to it later) it is the same as suddenly changing the direction you're rotating the deck. Depending on what pattern you're working on, the effects can range from non-existent to disastrous.
Obviously, if you're tying one end of the weaving to your belt you can't just wander off at random. Even if you've got your weaving on some sort of loom (or tied to two solidish objects) there are some things you should do before you leave.
The basic sampler uses 10 cards = 40 threads. The two exterior cards are the border, and are all one color. The eight interior cards are threaded with two threads of the same color as the border and two threads of a secondary color. Thus you have 24 threads of your primary color, and 16 threads of your secondary color. You will also have your warp thread. It will only show on the very outside edges, so you want it to be the same color as your exterior cards (though of course you can experiment with other colors if you like).
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
D \ ( ( ( ( ) ) ) ) / / & \ indicate your primary color
C \ ( ( ( ( ) ) ) ) / and ( & ) your secondary color. The
B \ / / / / \ \ \ \ / direction of the slant indicates whether
A \ / / / / \ \ \ \ / the card should be Z or S threaded.
Note: Patterns such as this are meant to be read from the bottom up, as if you were looking at your weaving. I learned the other way, so if one of my patterns doesn't make sense, ask me if I'm explaining it in the correct direction.
For this first project, you get your loom already threaded. It will be all set up like in the diagram above, ready to start the first pattern, stripes. All the cards will be set to the same orientation -- the little drawing on the back of each card will be pointing the same way. On your sampler if you ever get tangled or confused and I'm not around to help, you can just reset all the cards so they're all the same, and start anew from there.
Pass the shuttle (holding your weft thread) through the shed (the space between the warp threads)
Once you get it set up, chevron has the same weaving process as stripes but first you must rotate your cards to a different starting position.
1 & 10 -- no change
2 & 9 -- no change
3 & 8 -- forward 1/4 turn
4 & 7 -- forward 1/2 turn
5 & 6 -- forward 3/4 turn = back 1/4 turn
To change the direction of the chevron, you can either just keep weaving and change the direction of rotation that you're turning your cards in as you weave (start turning them backward instead of forward) or you can rotate your cards to a new starting position. To rotate your cards, first rotate them back to the original starting position and then rotate them in the other direction. From the original chevron position, this ends up being:
1 & 10 -- no change
2 & 9 -- no change
3 & 8 -- backward 1/2 turn
4 & 7 -- no change
5 & 6 -- backward 1/2 turn
Please note that depending on the threading of your cards, one of these chevron orientations will look better than the other. That's because the threads end up looking like they're slanting either "with" or "against" the pattern.
Once you get it set up, checks has the same weaving process as stripes but first you must rotate your cards to a different starting position. If you were just doing chevron, reverse the changes you made to set it up. Then set it up to:
1 & 10 -- no change
2 & 3, 6 & 7 -- no change
4 & 5, 8 & 9 -- forward 1/2 turn
Other patterns can be found on the other handout, as well as in books and online. Try searching Google (http://www.google.com) for tablet+weaving+patterns.