Not dead yet …

It’s been a rough 2020, especially after the breast cancer diagnosis June 1st.  Surgery June 4th, extra surgery June 27th or so to remove the infected bits, then one more surgery to install the port just in time for chemo.

We’re on radiation now.

Today I noticed the site had been hacked, for which I apologize: it has been cleaned up with malice etc.

Weaving posts should resume in 2021, when I have the energy to do some weaving.  It may be the most basic of weaving, but at some point I will weave again.


Backstrap Weaving – Making Heddles

Backstrap weaving using the minimum required while making fabric, and can be improvised anywhere you can acquire stick like objects.

I’ve been diving into youtube looking for helpful videos on how to set up and weave, and this is an unordered collection of links to videos and sites that intrigued me:

I am intrigued by the variety of heddles and how tightly they are attached to the heddle stick, because these three offer three separate options.  If you want to weave using more than 2 sheds, you can add additional heddle sticks to accomplish that.  The biggest challenge seems to be keeping the length of the heddles consistent: this is less of a problem with the first two methods, where the loops aren’t tied in place.

Playing with Colours

Consider the following two patterns: they look very, very different.  The first one is basically a broken diamond twill with 12×12 squares, and I’ve been weaving various sizes of those for a while now.

But the second looks drastically different.  There’s a spiral effect, and this is highly reminiscent of greek key patterns.  Again graphed with 2 pattern repeats.

But what absolutely fascinates me is how similar the two patterns are, structurally.  If you look carefully at the warping and treadling setups, you may notice that the two patterns differ in only one way.  In the first pattern, all the warp is white and all the weft is blue.  In the second pattern both the weft and the warp alternate blue and white.

I foresee some experimentation coming up.

Class Notes for Geometric Drawing

So next week Saturday I’m going to be teaching a class on geometric drawing, using only a compass and a straight edge.  Thought I’d better get some course notes together.  So here they are.

Geometric Drawing 01 Handout

Students, you will need a ruler aka straight edge, a compass, a pencil and quality eraser, and probably one or more pens.  Paper would be really really useful too.


Playing with 12 harness patterns

So while I’ve been quiet here, I’ve finally been weaving on the 12 harness Leclerc.  The design of the loom, it turns out, has some major, and annoying, flaws. Worst is the way I can’t adjust the harnesses so that the string, traveling from back to front beam, lies flat.  Since the heddle eyes are below this level, the strings all come off the backbeam, slant down, go through the heddle, and then slant back up.  There’s enough distance between the first and twelfth harness that when all the harnesses are down there’s a visible deformation … And there’s tension issues, too.  Between that, and getting the loom warped, and then trying to fix it, it took a little longer to get weaving than I had hoped.

But as long as I’m weaving relatively narrow ware, and am careful, I can make it work. So I’ve been working on the rug mugs. In this picture you can see the pattern below, as well as previous pattern. The warp’s path was particularly problematical when the higher-numbered harnesses were down. The edges are not ideal (I keep meaning to weight those two edges, and then I keep forgetting, but …)


The pattern I used for the latest rug mug is an earlier variation of the one on the left.  The other challenge of that pattern is that in some places there are floats over 5 strings.

So the next two mug rugs are going to be a) the left pattern, and then b) the right pattern.

And I’m still playing with the same warp so I haven’t changed the threading through the heddles on the harnesses at all.  There is still so much room to play here …

Planning the First Voyageur Mug Rugs

So last night my new 12 shaft Voyageur Leclerc table loom arrived.  Unpacking her was an adventure; she was packed in a wood shipping crate in a cardboard box, with much tape.  Pity the customs inspector who had to open her up.  (Although I don’t think anyone did, actually.  She arrived ship shape and bristol clean, as it were.)

So my first project is going to be a series of mug rugs.  My goal is to experiment with the weave structures, so I’ve measure up about 5 yards, give or take, of 4/8 superwash wool (which is heat resistant and flame resistant).  79 ends, which I will be using at 12 ends per inch.  One copy of the pattern is 22 threads, so this gives me enough room for 3 repeats, with about 5 threads on each end.

So patterns.  Turns out you can do a lot with 12 harnesses … The following are just a small collection of possible patterns, all warped identically.  It’s how the harnesses are lifted and in what order that makes all the difference …






























So much twill …

Playing with Weaving Drafts II

So in happy anticipation of an oncoming birthday gift from hubby — 12 harness table loom where each harness is manipulated separately using a lever — I have been playing more with different weaving patterns and trying to make sense out of them.  (I’ve also learned how amazeballs having software to work out these patterns is, because doing this by hand would make my brain hurt.  Hurt worse.)

The first thing I learned is that it’s all about symmetries, reflections, and translations.  So I started with a very basic building block: Each column here represents all 12 harnesses, (each square is one harness), and if the square is black, the harness is lifted on this pick.  If I just kept repeating this block I would get diagonal lines across the surface.

So then I started playing with symmetries. Now in these symmetries I’m reflecting both the warp threads and the raising and lowering of harnesses as I weave, so I can’t move seamlessly form one pattern to the next.  But I’m trying to develop the intuition for how reflections work so that’s what I start with.

This is the base pattern.  There are reflections both horizontally and vertically so that each full repeat of the pattern consists of 4 copies of the basic block.  Every time the diagonals in both the threading (on the horizontal bar) and treadling (the vertical bar) change directions we’re starting a new reflection.

In this version we’re still reflecting the basic square in its entirety, and the size of a single repeat is 22 threads high by 22 threads wide.

It’s pretty, but it’s not really complex.

So let’s up the ante.

What we’ve done here is add some partial reflections, where the threading/treadling change direction after only 6 strings instead of 12.  The basic bloc is still the same size, But a full repeat of the pattern is now 32 threads wide and high.

Of course the next logical experiment is to add translations.  Translations occur when you keep going in the same diagonal direction for more than 12 picks, which you see here in the parallel lines in the pattern.  And the pattern is now 56 threads wide and tall.  (And yes, on the left side I forgot a reflection in the threading, so there’s an unevenness there.  Oops)

And then there’s this last Variation, where translations have been utilized to make the individual building blocks much bigger than they really are.

Playing with Weaving Drafts

So I’ve been idly daydreaming, along with friends, about getting looms with moar harnesses! And wondering how much of a difference it would make, and how I could draft patterns for it …

And I like brick-work.  One of the first patterns I worked out how to tablet-weave from first principles was the woven in version of Birka strapwork.  So here, for my first case of many harness pattern drafting, I present the 8 and 12 harness versions of birka strapwork.  Now all I need is the loom to weave them by …

Developing these was actually an interesting exercise in Escherian tilings; you have an 8×8 (or 12×12) grid that’s tiled horizontally and vertically, and so you want to set it up so that the repeats tile nicely.

Noodling with an MMM WWW Threading

An M-W threading is named for the threading through the heddles, which looks like repeating Ms and Ws on the form. The pattern I was playing with is a modified M W, where each M and W has three high (or low) points.  I’ve warped up umpty yards (he warp was measured for a sampler, so … I forget?), and enough ends for 8 repeats, warped alternating 2 olive repeats and 1 tan repeat.  The goal is to vary the weft in multiple projects.  Unfortunately I forgot to photograph the first two stretches, where the weft was respectively burgundy, and white, so that will have to wait until it comes off the loom.

Once the threading through the headings was decided, and going with a simple twill tie up, the next step is to decide the treadling. (I.e. in which order do the four harnesses get raises, or in what order are the treadles pressed?)  This first version looks more complicated than it actually is, mostly because I didn’t pick the best starting point.

In a simple twill weave, the treadling is 1-2-3-4 and repeat.  A twill diamond pattern, on the other hand, will treadle 1-2-3-4 followed by 3-2-1-4 for a 8 line pattern.  In my way of thinking, that would be a 4 row diamond.  In the pattern above, we have a 6-row diamond twill: 4-1-2-3-4-1 followed by 4-3-2-1-4-3.  This looks confusing at first, but by thinking of it as a six row diamond, I can reuse the muscle memory from previous projects.

On the other hand, the pattern looked very horizontal; it’s hard to make striped with just diamonds, but by golly I managed.  Also; I had woven two 19 or so inch lengths, and was bored.

Time to start playing with alternating treadlings.  This is where I once again thank my husband for the gift of a lovely piece of software (Fiberworks Bronze) which allows me to both typeset and change patterns up quickly and easily.  I’m still far from adept at pattern design, but the software lets me experiment with different treadlings really, really quickly.

My first idea was to treadly the same way as the heddles were threaded in extended Ms and Ws.  As it turned out, that gave a slightly unbalanced pattern and I experimented a little more, resulting in this pattern.

Oddly enough, I didn’t realize that this is still an extended MW treadling, except that if the extended M’s are treadled just as they’re threaded, the extended W’s are shifted one over, resulting in a 3-2-1-4-1-2-3 effect.  There’s exactly 1 extra treadling (using 4) between the M’s and W’s which makes this pattern again really easy to memorize.  Plus there’s lots of visual cues in the weaving, of course.

So what does the fabric look like? The weft is a lighter brown than the tan warp, keeping the pattern visible (albeit more subtle) on the tan stripes. As well, the edges are the best I’ve had on this yardage yet; there’sa floating selvage on both sides, but here I’m always treadling an even treadle when entering from the right, where in the previous bitsy bobs I always entered from the right on an odd treadle.  Funny the different that can make.

Brocading – A Lovely Link

Just a quick entry, as much so that I don’t lose it as anything else.

Anna Neuper had written a book of brocading patterns, which was translated by Nancy Spies. But it turns out that her notebook wasn’t the only book of patterns from that general time and place. Ute Bargmann wrote an article about another such manuscript. The 11 page paper is available at Woven Bands, Medicines and Recipes: Cod. Pal. Germ. 551. The Adventures, Provenance and Contents of a 15th Century Manuscript Held at the Library of Heidelberg University in Germany. and includes several patterns for leaves that would look perfect for a headband or trim.

ETA Heather English was able to find a link to the original manuscript, which is available at