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Sewing a smock
Tablet Weaving
Sewing was one of the basic skills which every woman learned, no matter what her status in society. In the lower classes the women had to make all the family’s garments; in the higher echelons of society, even though professional tailors made the majority of the elaborate garments worn, women still took pride in making beautifully embroidered shirts for their men folk. Anne Boleyn was mortally offended when she found that Catherine of Aragon was still making fine shirts for Henry! When everything is hand made, needles and pins are of great value. Pins are often used in securing costume as well as in sewing and may have heads made of coloured glass, pearl or gemstones: hence a woman’s allowance of “pin money”. Lady Anne made the costumes behind the scenes, but in public is rarely to be found without some fine sewing or embroidery and she may also be seen making elaborate braids by tablet weaving – a technique which allows the maker to produce amazing patterns impossible to reproduce by any other means.

The lucet is used to make cord and can also produce narrow braids. In the days before zips, clothes were often fastened with “points”: a length of lucet cord with an “aiglette” at each end. The cord could then be threaded through eyelets in the garments to fasten them. In addition, men’s hose were fastened to their doublet or pourpoint with points; sleeves were often separate to make them detachable or changeable with points.

The braiding disc allows you to make fine or thick cords with a multitude of colours and designs and is quite easy to work. The blue braid shown in the top right of the picture was a member’s very first effort. For this reason, the braiding disc is useful for involving members of the public.

This more detailed picture shows a tablet weaving in progress. The square tablets have a hole in each corner through which the thread passes. Turning the tablets creates the shed of the weave. This complex pattern is created by turning some of the tablets towards the weaver and some away. It is also determined by the threads passing through the tablets either right to left or left to right to maintain the symmetry of the design. Tablet weaving is very satisfying to do as the designs can be as simple or as complex as the weaver wishes.