Reading 4 harness weaving drafts

(Right after I started planning out 10 days of posts, I got hit by the crud, so these posts will be a bit delayed.  Sigh.

At Gulfwars this year, I picked up a lovely little 4 harness loom – a Wolf Pup LT. It’s got an 18 inch weaving width, which is perfect for sampling and trying to work out how patterns work. That, along with a copy of Anne Dixon’s The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory, meant that I could start experimenting with patterns.  First weaving some of the many many patterns in her book, and eventually moving on to my own.  (Not there yet.)

So today I’m going to talk a little about patterns.  Now the way they’re drafted in her book, you have the threading along the top, the treadling (which treadles are pressed for each row) along the right hand side, and the tie-ups (which harnesses are lifted when a treadle is pressed) in the top right hand corner.

Consider for instance Warped threadsthis set up.  Here the tie-ups and treadling aren’t listed yet, and all we’re concerned with is the warp threads.  The warp threads grid is structured as follows: each row represents one of the harnesses, and each column represents one thread.  For now, each thread will be controlled by only one harness.

Later when I’m trying out more complicated patterns I may switch to a different type of heddle.  The loom currently uses eye heddles which means that the thread high is controlled by the harness; if the harness goes up, so does the thread, and if the harness stays down … the thread can’t rise.  If I use an open heddle, lifting the harness will raise the thread, but lowering the harness won’t force the thread down.

In any case, in this set up the threads are set up so that from left to right you have one thread each through harness 1, 2, 3, and 4, and then you repeat.

Simple 2/2 TwillNow we add the tie-ups and the treadling.  This is a standard 2/2 twill tie up: the first treadle lifts harnesses 1 and 2, the second lifts harness 2 and 3, then the third lifts 3 and 4, and the last lifts 4 and 1.

The treadling is actually read from the bottom up, since when weaving on modern looms you usually weave away from you.  (On standing looms it would be quite plausible to read the pattern from the top down.  Unlike cardweaving there’s no twist to worry about, so either way would work.)

The nice thing about this setup is that as long as the twill goes in the same direction, you can just keep treading 1-2-3-4 over and over.  (Or for a twill in the other direction, 4-3-2-1 repeated ad nauseum.)


Simple 2/2 twill with reversalBut let’s say, for the sake of argument, you want diagonals that change direction after every fourth throw of the shuttle.  You can start with 1-2-3-4 for the first four rows, but following that up with 4-3-2-1 gives an odd effect (or rather, you end up unweaving what you just wove, unless you have a floating selvage), so that doesn’t really work.

Instead, when you reverse the direction of twill, you will weave 4 rows, but start with 3-2-1-4 , and by doing that you get a lovely zig zag.

But notice the long stretches of purple thread on the edges?  Those are – as I discovered on my first piece – going to be a problem because the weft won’t go out to the very edge.  The simplest solution is a “floating selvage”, which is an extra warp string on each side that isn’t passed through any heddles.  Then while weaving, you push the shuttle underneath the first free floating string, and over the second on the far side, so that the shuttle always ends up going around the selvage strings on each side.

For an even nicer edge, you could use multiple selvage strings, but I confess, I haven’t figured out how to tie them into the harnesses yet to get some sort of tabby weave.  Having two extra harnesses would really come in handy here.

Celtic Knotwork exemplars

In Zen and the Art of Celtic Knots I talk about a fairly foolproof technique for making square Celtic knots.  I’m still working on the journal I started before that post.

Adding red
Adding red

The first thing I did was start adding a little colour, just to highlight ribbons.  Now in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels the ribbons can change colour in midstream, but here I was experimenting with the effect of highlighting one ribbon.

Adding multiple colours
Adding multiple colours

Then I started adding a second colour, to see how things popped.   And the gold is much shinier, of course, in real life.  I noticed, too, in the blue knotwork that the inner squares became subtly visible.   Sort of a shadow play.  So of course I had to go a little bigger and experiment more.

Hiding structure
Hiding structure

Here the blue and the black knots both have the same basic structure, but the black knot is drawn on a bigger field making the cross quite definitely more subtle.


Interlocking boxes
Interlocking boxes

The last successful experiment were these interlocking boxes, especially the one in the center where the colours emphasize the various ribbons intertwining.


I’ve found that it’s easy at this point to make Celtic knots that cover a large area, but it is more challenging to arrange the outside and inside walls so that the large knot becomes, as it were, a tangle of smaller knots that combine to make a whole.  And I am working on developing that ability because after that, I can turn the knots into brickstitch patterns.

P.S.  This post inspired by Esperanza de Navarra’s 10 day challenge.