Thursday, May 21, 2009

Designing Interesting Warps for Public Weaving

I belong to a great Complex Weavers study group called the Computer Aided Design Exchange. Each year we are required to write a paper on some aspect of weaving design using our weaving or other computer software. Beyond those simple rules, the subject matter is entirely up to us. Everyone who belongs or has belonged to this group, will attest to the value of seeing other people's design work and finding out how it was achieved. Sometimes ideas are still being formed when a paper is written and the entire process will play out over a year or two while the designer experiments and refines their drafts

This past March, I needed to write up my own yearly contribution to the group and I had some ideas percolating in the back of my head that I had wanted to put into written form for a long time.

I have believed for some time that weavers are an endangered species; there just aren't that many young ones! One of the ways that we can entice new people to take up weaving, is by doing public weaving demonstrations. There is nothing like seeing the creation of a piece of cloth to astound and inspire. But, I also believe that we weavers, often take an easy road when we warp those demonstration looms. When the opportunity came about several years ago to warp a loom for guild members to weave off the during the county fair, I decided to design a warp that had complexity in the threading, that would be suitable for many different tie ups and would be interesting with a straight draw or point treadling.

It really wasn't as difficult as I had imagined. Straight draw threading along both sides gave the piece a border. I added an advancing threading and repeated it several times, then I put in some point threading. Once I had gotten to the middle of the warp , I mirrored the whole thing. What you see above is a very shortened version of the entire threading.

I used Ralph Griswold's weaving document site to download lots of great 8 shaft tie ups, but the Handweaving net is now available and today I would probably use it as my source. I wanted tie ups that had floats no longer than three threads and preferably only two threads. I plugged potential tie ups into my threading draft one by one and saw how they looked with a straight draw or point treadling. After each try I checked the length of the floats in the draw down. The very best designs were those whose floats were only 3 or 4 threads. I printed out drafts and drawdowns for about 20 designs that would work with the threading. (There were actually many more than that -- I just printed the best ones).

The loom was warped with 13 yards of yellow 8/2 cotton. When fair time rolled around, our volunteer weavers brought their own wefts or used some donated ones to weave a towel. Each person picked a design they liked and one or the other of us who didn't mind crawling under the loom, changed the tie up for the desired pattern. During the fair we wove off almost the entire warp to large audiences. The straight or point treadling was easy for weavers to keep track of and we provided someone to talk to the public to relieve the weaver of unnecessary chit chat while they wove.

Once the fair had ended, I took the loom home and a couple of us wove off the rest of the warp using more complicated treadling sequences (which had also been checked for suitablity with weaving software). At the next guild meeting, everyone who wove a towel had a wonderful piece of show and tell. Each towel was different -- even those that had used the same pattern because the weft colors were different.

Questions from our audiences ranged from basic to advanced and more than one person had an "aha" moment when they saw how pattern was being created by different shafts being raised and seeing how multiple shafts were tied to treadles. Did we inspire anyone to run out and buy a loom? We will probably never know. But I think we did plant seeds that may, in time, grow into weavers!


  1. I agree that we always seem to choose a simple weave structure for demos. Is this inadvertant sabotage? I sincerely hope not! I really love the fancy twill you chose for the project - well done!

  2. How fun this seem. Both the work on writing a paper that often makes you think just one step longer and I realy liked the ide with the 8 shaft variation.