Tablet Weaving with Handspun Silk Hankies

The pros and cons of tablet weaving using handspun silk hankies.

John Mullarkey Dec 1, 2021 - 4 min read

Tablet Weaving with Handspun Silk Hankies Primary Image

Handspun silk for tablet weaving, all warped and ready to go. Photos by author.

My good friend and handspinner Devin Helmen sent me a beautiful batch of 2-ply yarn they made from hand-dyed silk hankies. We’ve collaborated before with handspun cotton, and the deal is Devin gets half of the band I’ve woven out of the material they spun.


Handspun silk fresh out of the mailbox.

For my project, I decided that I had to get creative because there wasn’t too much of any one color. I put up the mini skeins on small cones so I could see what I had to work with. I find that it’s also much easier to warp when put up on cones.

Thread on cones

Cones of silk ready for warping.

I wanted a pattern that would show off the colors, so I decided to go with a Double-Card Double-Turn Diagonals design. I had a good amount of the fuchsia yarn, so I used that for two holes of every card. For the other two holes, I threaded eight cards with the yellow, eight with green, and eight with blue. This gave me a rainbow effect across the band and the fuchsia tied it all together. The borders and weft were green because that was the color I had the most of after the fuchsia. The border actually has two different colors of green, but I often do that with commercial yarns because it adds more visual interest.

Weaving has begun

Weaving is underway!

I’m very glad that Devin did the spinning because I am not a fan of spinning hankies. Don’t get me wrong, I love spinning silk, but I want a nice smooth bombyx top to spin. Having tried spinning hankies, I knew it would be strong enough, especially being a 2-ply, but I wasn’t sure how easily it would weave up. The warp went on easily enough. The weaving itself, however, was very time consuming. It turns out that tablet weaving with yarn from silk hankies is as difficult and finicky as weaving with wool. Every shed turned out to be a sticky mess that had to be physically pulled apart. I expected a little of that, but I did not expect to have to do it with every shed.

Sticky shed

Sticky sheds to work apart.

I was very happy with the finished product, however. The slubs added texture to the surface of the band, and the drape of the band is as luscious as you would expect from silk. It does feel different though. It feels almost like parchment, which came as a bit of a surprise.


The finished band.

All right Devin, what material are you going to spin for me next?

John Mullarkey is an internationally recognized author and teacher of tablet weaving. He is constantly pushing this ancient weaving technique into new and contemporary directions. Learn more at

And check out John's video, Tablet Weaving Made Easy, available in the Long Thread Media shop.