Potholders in Patterns from Egyptian Card Weaving
Card weaving, also called tablet weaving, is a very ancient textile technique that uses a set of cards with holes in the corners for weaving. In ancient times these cards were made of any hard substance such as bone, wood or horn. These tablets or cards are threaded in a pattern and turned to create the shed through which the weft is passed. A long narrow band can be woven.
Some of the ancient Egyptian patterns used in these potholders come from “The Linen Girdle of Rameses III”, which is now in the Liverpool Museum. It was woven in about 1200 BC during the reign of Rameses III and includes the “ankh figure”, denoting life and prosperity, and the zigzag “river” motif, which represents the Nile’s fertility and abundance.
I came to this technique because Gretchen Muller, my friend and former neighbor, had for years experimented with adapting 4-holed card weaving patterns to a point twill on the 4-harness loom. She saw that this idea, though not particularly emphasized, was in Mary Meigs Atwater's book “Byways in Hand-Weaving”. Gretchen found that by using thick weft, the figures can be made larger than with fine weft yarn, which is perfect for potholders. For three decades she produced colorful, useful potholders and when she stopped she inspired me to continue the technique of loom-woven Egyptian card weaving patterns.