Weaving Broken Twill on a 4 harness loom

These are notes for a project currently on my 4 harness loom.  The wool I’m using is 8/2 Jaggerspun wool, from the Maine line, in royal blue and dark green.  I wanted to make fabric that was stripey and that displayed the broken twill diamonds encountered in Viking weaving.  The final fabric will be used to make a bag with Hedeby handles, as described in https://nattmal.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/haithabu-bag/. Unlike her bag, however, I will be using a tabletwoven rather than a leather strap.

The measured warp: 208 eights, in 13 groups of 16, to produce a striped fabric.
The measured warp: 208 eights, in 13 groups of 16, to produce a striped fabric.

Step 1 was to measure out the warp.   As a computer programmer, binary in all its glories is very attractive, so I decided the diamonds would be 16 threads wide, and 16 picks high.  Sizes can vary of course.  So I measured out 13 strips of 16 ends each, on the horizontal warping mill; to make counting easier, the white thread groups the warp in bundles of 8 threads each.  This allows me to easily stretch the threads across the width of the backbeam using the raddle.  Since the epi for this wool is listed as 15-18 for twill, I decided to start with 16 epi, so the diamonds should be about an inch square.


Step 2 was to wind the warp on to the backbeam; to do this I used what some call “Angel Wings”: a pair of dowels which are put through the warp on both sides of the cross, and kept together with hairbands.  I use loops of string to hold the dowels in place.  This allows me to wind the warp on to the backbeam while maintaining the cross.  It usually maintains a nice even tension too, although here the wool was being very sticky and obstreperous.

Threading the heddles in groups of 8
Threading the heddles in groups of 8

Step 3: threading the heddles.  We left the dowel sticks in place and heddles from right to left.  The pattern repeats: first 8 heddles 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 and then 8 heddles 2-1-4-3-2-1-4-3.  Keeping track of count was easy since everything was being done in bundles of 8.  The outermost thread on each side was not heddled, and will form the floating selvage.

The reed I have for this loom is 10 ends per inch, so it took me a while to puzzle out how to thread it to get 16 ends to the inch.  Finally I decided that solving 8 ends to the half inch (and 5 slots) was easier, and threaded in a 2 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 pattern through the slots.


Broken twill, alternating between two shuttles every 16 picks.
Broken twill, alternating between two shuttles every 16 picks.

Step 4: We weave!  Took a bit of monochrome weaving to get the edges right, and I realized that perhaps I could have set the threads closer together on the outside on both sides, but I got it to square up eventually.  And that’s when I added the second colour.  There are two shuttles loaded with blue and green respectively, and the one not in use is perched on the desk next to me.  The shuttle in use treats the thread from the other colour as a second floating selvage, so there’s a little bit of oddness on the right hand side of the fabric.

For now, though, my concern is still on getting the edges even, and trying to keep the squares … we.. square, which means managing the interplay between the tension of the warp threads, and the force with which I beat.  (And when a bobbin runs out, as you can see in the green, you just double up for an inch or so and keep going.)

The last picture, btw, was taken with flash so that you can really see the structure.  In natural light the patterning – especially in the monochrome areas – is much more subtle.

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.

Playing with Baltic Pickup style inkle weaving (Part 3)

I’ve had a few requests about the rest of the Baltic pickup style patterns I came up with.  Like the previous, these are all woven on the same warp, and again, the patterns are designed so that you are always pushing threads down from the upper row and never lifting threads up from the lower row.  This speeds up the weaving immensely.

Variations 2Variations 3Variations 4
And that’s when I realized that two of the patterns are duplicated, but a little judicious work with a pencil will fix that quite easily.  :)

Pulling a Pattern from a Picture

So a friend of mine asked me about the trim in https://www.pinterest.com/pin/120400990016540518/, which is a picture (source unknown, because pinterest) of the neckline of a tunic that has been embroidered and embellished by trim.

Looking at the trim, you can see that the outermost three cards on each edge have been threaded with four threads of the same colour; 2 cards are tan next to the pattern, the outermost card is all black.  Now when I first saw the picture I couldn’t see it up-close, so I didn’t notice that the inner pattern was actually three colours (each card has 2 white, 1 black and 1 dark blue thread), but the pattern is obviously based on the Egyptian Diagonals technique using 10 cards.

Weaving Reversed S keysWeaving S KeysMy first stab at the pattern; the 10 cards are each threaded identically with 2 dark and 2 light, and then arranged so that if all the cards were turned forwards you would get chevrons pointing up.  You can see the starting position below the squares: the two circles represent the colours of the threads in the two top holes; bottom row is closest to the weaver, top row is furthest from the weaver, and the | or / indicates the direction the string travels through the card.

The pattern is read bottom to top, where each square is one column, each row of squares = 1 turn of the pattern.  When the square’s background is grey, the card turn backwards towards the weaver; when it’s white the card turns forwards away from the weaver.  As you can see, most of the time the cards turn together, but there is a central part of the pattern where half the cards turn in one direction and the other half turn in the opposite direction.  It is because of these central 4 rows that the pattern is not twist neutral which is why – if using an inkle loom or similar to weave the trim – a weaver will often alternate between the two versions of the trim, since weaving one copy of each will result in a twist neutral pattern.

Note that the bottom and top 4 rows are not included in the repeat.

s_keys_2s_keys_2_reversedStill, looking at the picture, this pattern made the crossover point of the black X’s awfully narrow, and looking more closely at the picture I could see the crossover point should be wider.  Which is an easy fix: by making the repeating portion of the pattern one row shorter top and bottom, the X’s crossover point becomes wider.  It also fixes the width of the black dots at the sides, which was previously too wide.

(And here the top and bottom 5 rows are not part of the repeat.)

Musings about Pickup in the large …

The inkle pickup band I completed a while back and described in the two entries part 1 and part 2 (now with more patterns!) got me thinking about weave structures.  In inkle pickup, the warp threads are manipulated so that some warp threads (the pattern threads) either float above or below the band to create the patterns.  On an inkle band this can be done by hand; you’re usually working with less than a dozen pattern threads so while the picking of individual threads is tedious, it’s not insurmountable.

But that got me wondering how similar manipulations would work on wider fabrics.  After all, making clothes (or even pillows and bags) out of bands that are usually an inch or two wide is tedious.   And then I ran into a fascinating book A Practical Study of the Development of Weaving Techniques in China, Western Asia and Europe by John Becker, published posthumously after his collaborator Don Wagner tidied and reset it a little.  The book starts in China with essentially the same kinds of pickup patterns I had been doing, with monochrome silk weaving that had patterns based on the way the warp was manipulated.  I’ve been fascinated with the opportunities ever since.

That, in turn, led to reading the later chapters that discuss the drawloom.  In the drawloom, each pattern warp thread is threaded through it’s own separate “heald” which can be used to pull the thread up and down.  Usually the pattern would repeat across the width of the fabric, and each repeat would be called a “comber”.  Each heald is goes through the comber board (which has one hole per heald) but then the healds will be joined to pulley threads.  There are as many pulley threads as there are pattern threads in a singe width repeat of the pattern, and the relative heald in each comber (or repeat) is hooked on to the corresponding pulley thread, so that as the pulley thread is pulled up, the corresponding thread in each repeat is raised.

So let’s look at the implications of that.  Let’s say that we wanted to weave a fabric 21 inches wide, using a set of 20 epi (ends to the inch).  That’s 21×20 = 420 warp threads, ignoring for the moment selvage threads etc.  Now let’s say that our pattern was 28 ends wide per repeat.  The on the one hand, each pulley thread is attached to 15 healds (since 420/28 = 15) but on the other hand for every row I only have to manipulate 28 pulley threads.  In comparison for the baltic inkle pickup, I was manipulating 8 or 9 threads per row, so this is a three fold increase in numbers of cords to manipulate, for a 21 fold increase in width.  Sounds like an excellent improvement in efficiency.

Of course there are trade-offs; the warping will be a lot slower, as the set up for the pulleys will be a lot more complicated.  But the pulleys can be set up once, for that pattern width, and then reused.  The warp does need to be threaded through each heald individually but weaving on a 4 harness loom we’re threading the warp strings through heddles, so the time increase is not insurmountable there, either.  And if we warp long lengths at a time, we can improve efficiency.  After all, with the drawloom we can create any 28 thread pattern we like.

And the biggest tradeoff; finding a drawloom.  Inkle looms are easy to find or build, and inkle heddles can be knotted up while watching telly.  A drawloom gets more complicated.  Although I did find a book with drawloom plans, available online at The New Drawloom, (part 2) hosted by the University of Arizona ((Front Page).

So now my options are to find a drawloom for sale, or convince my long-suffering hubby to build me one.  Or possibly to frankenstein it on top of one of the looms I already own.

Instructions for a simple 3/1 broken twill pattern without a graph

Diamond in 3/1 broken twill3/1 broken twill is a type of tablet weaving that produces a very pronounced diagonal structure in the weave.  This weave is particularly suitable for designs that are very diagonal, and in this case a friend requested a yellow belt with hollow green diamonds.  In this article I am going to write how I set up the cards and arranged the turning sequences so that the weaving speed was maximized.

To maximize weaving speed, you need to arrange the cards so that they can be turned as a group, and are manipulated as little as possible.  Here, the only manipulation of cards will occur when we flip a card around its vertical axis.


Basic Set up

The pattern area consists of 32 cards, each threaded with two dark (green), and  two (yellow) threads.  For the first 16 cards (counting from the left) we thread the cards as below, where the woven area extends to the left, and the warp to the right, and repeating the cycle of four cards four times (since 4×4=16).

Setting up the Cards

Note that cards 1 and 3 “mirror each other” in that they have the threads going through the same holes, and similarly cards 2 and 4 mirror one another.

For the second set of 16 cards we mirror the first 16 from the centre out, so that card 17 is threaded like 2, card 18 like 1, card 19 like 4 and card 20 like 3, and then keep repeating.

Lastly we divide the cards into two packs we call “Odd and “Even”.  The “Odd cards” include all the odd numbered cards from 1 – 15, and all the even numbered cards from 18 – 32.  The “Even cards” include all the even numbered cards from 2 – 16 and all the odd numbered cards from 17 – 31.  Note that all the “Odd” cards should have the light in the front two holes, and all the “Even” cards should have the light in the top two holes.

Basic Setup (short version):

The cards are all threaded 2 dark, 2 light.  Threading alternates in pairs (i.e. SSZZ).  Separate the cards out into two packs:

  • The Odds include the odd numbered cards between 1 and 16 and the even numbered cards between 17 and 32.
  • The Evens include the even numbered cards between 1 and 16 and the odd numbered cards between 17 and 32.

Checking the Setup

If the cards were threaded correctly, all the Odds should all have the light in the front two holes (Top and bottom), the Evens should have all the light threads in the top two holes, and in each of the two packs the threading should now alternate between S and Z.

This position is called the home position. The Odds are in Vertical Front and the Evens are in Horizontal position.

Turning directions

When you first start turning, you want to use the following turning directions.  This should produce a structural background consisting of diagonals meeting at a point in the center.

Pick Oddish Pack Even Pack
1 Forward Forward
2 Forward Back
3 Back Back
4 Back Forward

To reverse the direction of the chevrons, your options are to either flip all the cards in the Even pack when the cards are in the home position or to switch over to the alternate turning sequence, where the Oddish Pack still moves exactly as before, but the Even pack changes directions, resulting in:

Pick Oddish Pack Even Pack
1 Forward Back
2 Forward Forward
3 Back Forward
4 Back Back

It is important that you flip the cards, or change the turning direction, when the Even pack is in the Horizontal position.  Other wise, they all suddenly switch to the foreground colour, which is known as an oops.

Adding the Pattern

After weaving the background for a while, it’s time to start adding the pattern.  Colour changes happen by flipping a card on its vertical axis when it is in Vertical position.  Hence if the light (yellow) thread was in the two holes closest to you, they would now be in the two holes furthest away after the flip.  Also, the threading direction is reversed.

The diamond pattern is very basic.  The first change is made after pick 3: the two center cards – both in the Evenish decl – are flipped.  Then the next turn is made.  (If the points do not make a V, undo the turn, unflip the cards, and weave picks 4 and 1.)

On the next pick, the Oddish cards are in vertical position: flip the middle 2 cards.  They will be the cards just to the outside of the central cards in the Evenish deck.  Weave the next pick.

On the next pick the Evenish cards are in vertical position.  Flip the cards outside the 2 previously flipped cards, and unflip the previously flipped cards.  Weave the next pick.

Keep repeating the flipping of the next outwards cards (and unflipping the current cards) until you reach the width you want.  I’m going to assume that you kept expanding the diamond until the Evenish cards are in horizontal position and you are about to weave pick 1.  Instead of flipping cards, switch from one set of turning directions to the other.

After this first pick, again flip cards as you did before, but instead of flipping the next card to the outside, flip the next card to the inside.  (You’re walking the diamond back to a point.)  And keep going till all the cards are unflipped again.

If you decide not to unflip cards as you go along you will get a solid coloured diamond instead.

Danskbrogd – a Norwegian Textile technique

The Norwegian Textile Letter is a free online quarterly publication that covers – as the name suggests – a wide variety of Scandinavian textile arts.  Both the current issue and previous issues dating back to 1994 are available online as pdfs, and they make for fascinating reading.

The current issue is part one of a two-parter (part two publishes on Aug 22nd) that covers the Danskbrogd technique for weaving coverlets.  This technique is defined both by its originating location (Vest Agder, Norway) and by the geometric patterns that are woven in widthwise.  Danskbrogd, A Rich Heritage from a Small Area is the first article in part one, and includes a good overview including some lovely exemplars.  The last picture they include is of a modern design featuring honeycomb and bees.

I have some warp in a warp chain.  I need to get it on a loom and play with it.


Playing with Baltic Pickup style inkle weaving (Part 2)

Baltic Pickup GamesSo I spent some time this weekend playing with the Baltic inkle pickup warp.  The rules of the game were simple: two repeats of the simple diamond with the 4 interior diamonds, alternating with a diamond with some other free-styled pattern.

By keeping the edging pattern between the diamonds and the outer diamond’s dimensions consistent, the band feels cohesive, even though every third diamond is something else.  Below are 16 possible variations I came up with, while enjoying a Columbo marathon.

Variations on a ThemeOh, and just one more thing … there are 25 places where the warp thread can be pushed down, or not, inside the diamond.  That means that there are 2^25= 33554432 possible combinations, but I’m guessing that many of them lack pleasing symmetries.


Back of the envelop suggests that requiring symmetry along one diagonal reduces the possibilities to about 2^10+2^5=1024+32=1056 (the places below the diagonal line plus the diagonal line), but then the diagonal line can itself be flipped …  But the “S” figures are flipped around a vertical or horizontal line; so there are 4 possible axis of symmetry, so 4*1056= 4224 possible combinations that are symmetric.

In short, back of the envelop suggests that I’m going to run out of warp before I run out of possibilities.

Playing with Baltic Pickup style inkle weaving

Threading diagramBaltic pickup style inkle is woven using background threads and pickup threads; the pickup threads are usually either thicker, or doubled up.  In the threading diagram, you can see how each pickup thread is place between two threads in the opposite heddle; the white boxes representing the pickup threads.  In the diagram one row represents the heddled threads and the other the open threads, and the rows aren’t labeled since it actually doesn’t matter which is which in this case, so why complicate things?


The patterns here use 17 background threads; the 5 leftmost and rightmost threads are woven over a green background, while the middle 7 pick up threads lie nestled between dark blue background threads.  The plan is to eventually experiment with the Kostrup patterns, since those are 17 cards wide also, but I needed simple patterns to weave while out and about Monday.

The current patterns are simple diamonds, and by weaving them upside down I only ever have to drop threads from the current row, rather than having to pick up.  In the pattern (Baltic Diamonds) squares with circles in them are the pickup threads that are high in each row.  If a pickup thread is high but has a grey background, then it gets dropped, resulting in the front patterns we see on the left below.

Small Diamonds (back side)Small Diamonds (front side)This is what the pattern with the small diamonds looks like; the predominantly green/blue side is what you see while weaving, the white side is the underside which is much harder to photograph while on the loom.







Large Diamonds (back side)Large Diamonds (front side)Here I was working with larger diamonds, and experimenting a little with alternate patterns like the diamond in a diamond and the inner cross.  Making the outside diamond a little smaller results in a 2×2 grid of the smaller diamonds, or a 3×3 grid of the larger, and then it’s just a matter of dropping a few extra threads here and there.








Final update on the Kostrup weaving

Sunday was the moment the weaving came off the loom. Total woven length is 1.36m.  And the wool used in the brocading is the same weight as the wool used in the weaving, except that the brocade uses doubled threads.  For the weft I used 60/2 silk, and in a next product I might go thinner still.

Kostrup weaving fresh off the loom

As you can see from this first picture, I handled the colour changes by cutting the brocading thread at the end of each colour.  Each woolen brocade thread passed through one weft after it’s done brocading; given the stickiness of this wool, that should be more than enough to anchor it in place. In some cases, like the small triangles, you use two colours at the same time; even beating extra hard I struggled to get both brocading wefts to lie in the weft without a smidge of gappage.  In a next attempt, I think it might be better for those areas if the brocading weft does not go the width of the band, but instead goes only part way.


On the other hand, once the band relaxed off the loom, the occasional gaps between successive lines of brocading improved already.
Kostrup weaving with threads trimmedTrimming the ends of the brocading threads carefully,  you can see that the brocading threads are visible on the back only where it moves from pick to pick; I dropped the brocading threads two cards from the edge (or halfways through the 4 card selvage), so that there wouldn’t be any colourful bumps on the very end.

Next step is to take it to the post office tomorrow and mail it off, and then I want to experiment with some pattern variations.