CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

A Tablet Weaver Rejoices

I often ponder the exact moment in time when inspiration struck, and a revolutionary improvement was made in the tools we need for our crafts. The lightning bolt idea that put the first flyer assembly on a spinning wheel. The very first harness and heddle combination on a loom. These revolutionary changes were most likely fueled by necessity: a faster way to make yarn; a more efficient way to create cloth. But they also contain a mental leap, from the need, to the brilliant idea, to the prototype, to the “final” version of what we now consider our classic tools.

I cannot go back in time to question whomever experienced these flashes of brilliance and then made them work. So when I find a modern day corollary, I want to explore this process. In this case, it’s the new tablet weaving loom from weaver Gudrun Polak and woodwork artist Don Betterley.


Gudrun demonstrated her fine weaving on the new loom. Notice how ergonomic this is. Plus, room for shuttles and pattern nearby


Perhaps I’m a little hyperbolical here, but I’m going to predict that this tablet loom will become one of the classic standards for all to come. It’s a beautiful piece of work, perfect for its function, artistically designed, pretty and portable and contains that genius “tweak” which may change everything.

Here’s my qualification: I’ve been an avid tablet weaver for a number of years now, and as one of your typical fiberarts enthusiasts, I have in my possession 99.8% of every tablet weaving device in the known universe. I see it, I buy it -you know the symptoms of that disease- I try it out, I like it okay for some applications.

But this one is different. It’s working fantastically for every pace I put it through. The front of the loom is basically a small improvement on the device
that Gudrun, a renowned tablet weaver and teacher, has had on her website for years ( Don found less obtrusive clamps for it, and added a slightly squishy cork bottom (these two things really make a difference on my little weaving table). Plus, Don added his own art to this part of the loom, with a weaverly looking turquoise inlay, and of course his careful sanding and polishing.


Gudrun’s design, Don’s tweaking and inlay Artwork


The other, far end of the device is what I call the genius part of this new loom. And it came about, yes, as a flash of inspiration on Don’s part but only after careful discussion with Gudrun. Just as with my earlier historic examples, there was a need, and there was an aha moment, and there was a new idea, and a new design. (Followed, of course, by testing and modification).

Tablet weavers know that a warp with some separation at the far end is much easier to weave. In the past, for this function, I’ve used old hair combs (clean! Haha), and there are also wood and nail warp separators on the market. But Gudrun wanted a better solution, with the requisite that she often works with very fine threads, so nothing could be designed that would snag these warp ends. Weighing the tablets separately for even tension was
also an issue.


A different tablet project on the loom. (Dog leash pattern from Linda Henderson)


Gudrun and Don talked about the “back beam” needing a smooth surface, and warp separation, and then came the moment: Don thought that a very tight fitting spring, on a very well smoothed dowel, could do the trick.

It turns out, he was right. And to our knowledge, no one has ever done it exactly like this before.


Back of the loom: Gudrun’s input, Don’s Genius moment.


There are still a few challenges: the supply of these exactly right springs is limited. And they are all a tiny bit different from each other, so each spring has to be matched perfectly to its dowel. Don says this is time consuming. But wow, what a result.

This mighty little loom also packs away into a tiny space: The front beam fits inside the back. Plus, clipping your work to the front beam is easy, pinless, and a snap to advance. It’s hard to get either Don or Gudrun to pat themselves on the backs for creating what I consider to be the best tablet loom on the planet. But that’s the kind of folks they are. And I suspect, if I were to go back in time,  that’s how the other creators of great improvements would be, too. They’d say, as these two do, “We saw a need and figured out how to fill it.”

A different

Gudrun & Don’s newly designed tablet loom in use(pattern from Marijke van Epen)


Don Betterley keeps his creation of weaving tools very informal. For information on made to order tablet and other looms, contact him at betloom(at) To contact Gudrun, go to


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