Sunday, October 2, 2016

Squeezing the Numbers to Design a Weaving Draft

When mathematicians become interested in weaving, the first thing they turn to are ways to express weaving design using the tools they already know so well.  It works in reverse too.  Weavers start using numerical sequences, algebraic equations and more to make their weaving more interesting and give it a new dimension. 

The first mathematical sequence I learned to use in weaving (well, in knitting too) was a stripe generator called the Fibonacci Sequence.  For years, I used the first numbers in the sequence, not even thinking that maybe I only needed to use just a portion to make interesting designs.  Instead of starting with 0,1,1,1,2,3  maybe I could cut to 3,5,8,13 or just leave it at 3.5.8.  It really only occurred to me recently that I didn't need to reserve the sequence for stripes - it could be also used for profile drafts.  3 - 5 - 8.  Reverse it for a symmetry, add color and you have a fine piece to work from. Another trick to change the look of this profile - change the tie up box and see what happens.

When you start looking for these ideas, they seem to just pop out of the woodwork.  I was taking a trip around my Handwoven magazine collection, seeing what I could find in the way of interesting designs for towels.  I ran across an article in Jan/Feb 1998 called Algebraic Expressions:  Design for Weaving written by Lana Schneider. She described a method of design developed by a math teacher called Ada K. Dietz in 1946.  Ada used algebraic equations to create profile drafts, color sequences and even thread by thread sequences for weaving.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could actually read Ada's work?  Turns out, the PDF file is available from the and it's a free download.
Well, this was just too good to be true.  It seems Ada instinctively knew that many of us had forgotten what we once knew about the square or cube of a binomial.  She spelled it out for us and gave us some examples showing how she used (a + b)²  The breakdown is in her article, so you don't need to sweat out her procedure all by yourself.  The Handwoven article is nice and tidy and easier to read, so if you have access to that, use it.
After reading the document about Ada's work, I jotted down  the letter sequences to use in a variety of.  The draft above was based on the cube of a binomial.  (a + b)³.  When broken down to its most basic form it becomes aaa + aabaabaab + abbabbabb + bbb regroup aaaaa b aa b aa b a bb a bb a bbbbb  (24 units).  I used this sequence as the basis for my twill tie up and then used the sequence again for color in the warp and weft. Once you have pulled the sequences out of Ada's work, you can experiment with a variety of ways to use them.
Here is the square of a trinomial represented in a profile draft with colors following the sequence as well.  (a + b + c)²    aa + abab + acac +  bb + bcbc + cc 18 units
Then, on to Pascal's triangle.  It's fun to google these topics because you come up with  great tutorials for kids (and adults) .  Here is a good one about Pascal's triangle.  I used the fifth row of numbers in Pascal's Triangle for blocks ( 1-4-6-4-1), then mirrored that configuration in the warp.  For the weft, I used the fourth row of numbers (1-3-3-1) and mirrored it as well.  Here is one possible profile draft.  Others can be created by changing the tie-up.
These drafts are similar to those built on words.  They are a means to an end and if you don't particularly like what you have created, you can always tweek it to make it more pleasing.  Using this technique for design does help to break down barriers and gets your brain moving in the right direction.  Start with one of these math equations or numerical sequence ideas, expand it  and go from there into something uniquely your own.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Floating selvedges that break

A couple of months ago at a weaver's meeting, someone asked the group  for a solution to a floating selvedge that was constantly breaking.  In the back of my mind, I remembered a paper that Alice Schlein had written about the subject for the Complex Weavers CADE study group, but couldn’t really recall the details well enough to give an answer at that time.  As these things go, I had a warp with floating selvedges on my loom and the one on the right side started unplying and breaking frequently.  I looked up my copy of Alice’s article and found that she has a pretty good answer to the problem and one that you aren’t going to find with a Google search.

Alice explains that when your shuttle goes over a plied thread, it either increases or decreases the twist.  If you decrease the twist enough, it eventually frays and breaks.  The solution Alice proposed  is to determine whether your selvedge thread has been plied S or Z.  Most commercial yarns are plied S and you can check yours with a hand magnifier if necessary.  If your yarn has been plied S, you will pass your shuttle over both floating selvedges when your shuttle travels from left to right and under both of them on the return trip from right to left.  If your floating selvedge yarn is plied Z, then you reverse these instructions by going under both floaters from left to right and over when you throw the shuttle right to left. 

It takes a bit of time to learn this technique of going over or under both threads, but after you have practiced a while, everything falls into place and your selvedges look better too.

While doing my online research about this subject, I found that many people recommended a temple, which helps if there is too much draw in from your reed to the fell line. But I am firmly convinced that Alice's explanation is really the answer to selvedge breakage on one side of your warp.

Reference: Schlein, Alice. "The Selvedge Dilemma: Dealing with Breakage" Complex Weavers Computer Aided Design Exchange. October, 2003

Monday, March 28, 2016

Obsession with Braided Twills

In a weaving group that I belong to, one of our members brought a braided twill scarf for show and tell. Warp and weft were the same color, so the design was subtle, but very beautiful.  It started me on a search for simple braided twills that could be woven on four or eight shafts.  I have found a few and will add to this collection as I find more.
Here's a lovely four shaft version
I found this one in Carol Strickler's book of 8 shaft drafts #355

This one, or something very similar also appears in Carol's book, but it is part of a gamp.  Here it is using 10 treadles.

This draft is quite lovely and again only uses 10 treadles.

The advantage to this draft is that it is on a straight draw threading and straight treadling. I tried a treadling advance of four with this tie up which is shown below.

Unfortunately, this increased the float length to 6 in the warp direction.  Still, it might be nice in fine threads.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Igor's Japanese Inspired Shawl

The Reno Fiber Guild is doing a year long study of Japanese Textiles.  Igor Raven started out with the idea of weaving a furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloth) but wanted enough warp to weave a shawl too.  The furoshiki is still waiting to be hemmed, but the shawl has made it through the many layered process and is now a reality. 
The first step was to choose a draft.  The has drafts from the Japanese book,  Orimono Soshiki Hen by Yoshida, Kiju which was published in 1903.  Igor chose draft 44385.  He wanted some gold threads in his piece, so he added another two shafts to the original draft for some plain weave stripes in metallic.  Also, there are 10 plain weave threads on each selvedge to form a border.

Igor's main warp stripes were 10/2 Tencel in bronze and red.  The metallic was a 20/3 thread (incidentally made in Japan) and he used two gold warp threads as one in the stripe between the pattern blocks.

He had planned the warp for 24 epi and a total of 611 threads plus 2 for floating selvedges (weighted separately).  That was 7 pattern repeats and would have used the full width of the special 26" reed for his Baby Wolf loom.  After he started weaving, it became apparent that the sett should be closer, so he resleyed the reed at 25 epi - thus losing that extra width he had planned on.


The weft yarns were two shades of lavender used in alternating shots - also 10/2 Tencel. These colors add an iridescent quality to the cloth when it catches the light at different angles.

Before washing the cloth the fringe was cut to 7 inches and twisted with seed beads added. Washing was by hand in hot water, wrapped in towels and then dried flat.

 It's a luxurious shawl - long and very fluid.  The beads in the fringe catch the light and sparkle.  A successful piece.
A little addendum to this post.  Igor's shawl won the best of the handwoven division at the Nevada County Fair (August 2016). 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Weaving scarves for the CNCH Yarn-Storm

The Reno Fiber Guild has an outreach project in which little warped cardboard looms are supplied for kids of all ages to try their hand at handweaving.  See the blog post here.  Because supplies were getting low and the guild was making more kits for an event in early summer, I asked for donations of bits and pieces of knitting yarns to be used as wefts in the little kits that we hand out.  I was overwhelmed by the generous bags of yarn that came my way - much more than could be used on these little cardboard loom weavings.

Someone in the guild refreshed my memory about the Yarn-Storm event that will be held at CNCH in Modesto this April and suggested that some of the donated yarns would be perfect to make scarves.  Yarns were brought to the Sage Weavers meeting and people took enough for a project, but still my box of yarn was full to overflowing.  So, I put a 10 yard cotton/rayon warp  on my Wolf Pup and looked up some drafts in my archives and also on  I settled on several drafts that looked interesting.   Some used alternating thick and thin, which turned out to be perfect for using up little balls of thinner wool along with some of the heavier knitting yarns.  I didn't concern myself with mixing cellulose and protein fibers.  If they were the right grist - I mixed them and I let my color imagination soar.  This turned out to be some of the most entertaining weaving I have done in a long time.

These two scarves were woven with the same draft. In weaving this draft, there are two picks of fine and one pick of heavy indicated by the double picks in the treadling.  Note that the back of the scarf is much different than the front - but the draft does show off the fancy yarn well.  In the purple and orange scarf, I used a ball of variegated chenille from the late Dee Jones' stash.  She will be going to CNCH again this year, if only in spirit.

I started weaving this scarf with a sparkly kntting yarn weft, but realized that it was going to be scratchy.  So, I switched to some heavy wool/cotton yarns I had for the middle of the scarf, then finished up with the scratchy yarn again at the ends.  Note that in this draft you use fine weft in the four pick sequence and a heavy weft on the fifth pick. Like the last two scarves, this scarf is also more dramatic on one side than the other.


This is my Tule Fog scarf.  Very subdued and muted.  My stash contained singles wool yarns from a knitted sweater kit my mother used many years ago and the skinny wefts were a mix of greens from an ancient weaving project. I've used this draft many times and with many yarns over the past years.  I found the original draft in Weavers' magazine - issue 12 on the back cover where it was used for a baby blanket.

This scarf was probably my most inspired creation.   Bobbins always have leftover thread on them after a project is done.  I can't bear to throw good yarn away, so it gets wound into little balls or left on the bobbin for headers, etc.  I gathered many of these leftovers  (mostly cotton and rayon) and rolled a bigger ball, knotting the threads together in an overhand knot as I went.  I left the ends about an inch long.  Then, I wound my bobbins with the knotted yarn and wove with abandon.  When I came to a knot, I made sure to pull the ends out so they showed on the surface of the scarf.  Once the scarf was wet finished, I had another inspiration - use up some of my button stash!  With a crochet hook, I drew the threads through the button holes and knotted them together.

I love to weave, so I'm mostly having fun when I'm at the loom.  But this project was especially rewarding.  I used up little bits and pieces of stash, contributed to the CNCH event and learned a lot about color interactions and using thick and thin threads in these interesting little weave structures.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Shafts, More Possibilities

There is absolutely nothing like a multi- shaft loom to make weaving magical.  Recently, I bought a used 40 shaft loom from a friend.  I already had a 24 shaft loom which was and is perfectly fine, but the 40 was on my bucket list and available, so I bought it.  It had to be torn down to be transported and after a few days of anguish thinking that my husband and I might never get it back together, it started to come to life again.
My first warp was on a straight draw threading and some so-so cotton.  I looked in the and found some liftplans and wove off napkins - each in a different design.  All the while, I'm thinking to myself - I don't know how to design for this many shafts!  Then, another warp for scarves.  This time I played around with designs and  used 32 shafts and a four shaft basketweave selvedge.  Fun - yes, but I was still not making my new loom sing. 
Finally, I got out my copy of Marian Stubenitsky's Echo and IrisHer designs only go up to 32 shafts so I knew that I  was going to have to absorb a lot of the information in her book and make it my own for 40 shafts.  My first task was to do a skeleton double weave tie up for 40 shafts.  Trying to keep everything correct for 40 shafts and 80 treadles, proved to be an eye-boggling task.  I finally discovered that I needed to make a straight draw threading and then convert it to a parallel threading, use my skeleton tie up and a straight treadling sequence and look at the draw down.  Errors in my tie up stood out in the draw down and I was able to fix them and then go to the next step.  Turned taqueté and turned samitum were easy design work.  The four color double weave was a bit more challenging. 
I warped the loom, using my tension box and spool rack in four colors.  The sequence was red, blue,  green and yellow.  My designs had three echoes in the threading.
As I watched what was happening on the loom, I was totally enthralled.  The four colors moved around in the pattern and interacted with the weft color or colors.  I finally felt that I was starting to utilize the power behind all those shafts.
Since this warp, I've been designing for the next one.  This time I'll use just one echo  with two colors in the warp and a variety of double weave tie ups.  I'm feeling back in the swing of things and have more ideas than time.  40 shafts are lovely indeed!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Turned Taqueté - Four Block Profile into an 8 Shaft Draft

Turning a four block profile into an 8 shaft turned taqueté draft isn't as easy or straight forward as the two block, four shaft procedure.  First of all, when you turn a draft you are using the same number of shafts as treadles in the unturned draft.  With many four block profiles, your new turned draft will end up needed 12 or 16 shafts so you need to follow some restrictions in order to get a draft that you can weave on your eight shaft loom.

First of all, keeping your new draft to only 8 shafts only seems to work if your tie up is a 2/2 twill as in the profile below.   There may be other tie ups that work, but I  certainly didn't find any.

4 block profile

 Here is the draft translated to turned taqueté.
Threading for turned taquete eight shafts with a 2/2 twill tie up in profile
Block A 1-2-3-4
Block B 5-6-7-8
Block C 2-1-4-3
Block D 6-5-8-7

Tie up treadle (1) 1-2 5-6
treadle (2) 3-4 7-8
Blocks AB 1-3-6-8
Blocks BC 1-3-5-7
Blocks CD 2-4-5-7
Blocks AD 2-4-6-8

Alternate treadle 1 and 2 with pattern treadle.

I made numerous attempts to do color changes in the warp and use a combination of straight threadings on eight shafts.  I could get a few to look OK, but they all had color lines that looked like errors, so I'm sticking with the plan I laid out above.