A lifetime of potential (drafts)

When I first decided on getting a rigid heddle loom, I was a bit worried that there wouldn’t be many patterns to weave with just two shafts. Then I came across handweaving.net and was pleasantly surprised at the number of two shaft/two treadle patterns that this wonderful free website has.

Scarily and excitingly, there are a bazillion more for 3+ shafts and treadles. You simply couldn’t weave them all in a lifetime I think!

So, if you’re comfortable with reading drafts and you are looking for inspiration, then check it out. The search function isn’t always perfect and some of the thumbnails are a bit teeny, but those are completely irrelevant quibbles in the context of what an amazing resource it is. I also love that you orient the draft to any of the corners so it doesn’t matter if you prefer your treadling order top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top.

One trick I would suggest though is to print the drafts in greyscale to get a full idea of how the pattern will look. It may just be a personal thing, but some of the colour combo’s get in the way of me really seeing the patterns.

How to read a draft #2

If you read the last post on reading drafts, hopefully you now have a good idea of how they work, but be prepared to come across a couple of variations!

The most common variation is the lack of the “drawdown” so you see just the threading and treadling guides.

The next variation doesn’t use black boxes. Instead, the threading guide, shows the shaft number and the treadling guide uses slashes.

image of a weaving draft

You’ll also notice in this example, that repeats in the pattern are summarised – the 5x notation – and this is a common way to keep drafts a useable size.

Of course, not all weaving instructions are drafts. For plain weave patterns you will sometimes see instructions like this (from a Schacht pattern):

image of a scarf pattern

Here the number of ends in each colour and the colour order is shown – i.e. a threading guide – but the weft colour instruction is in the text accompanying this.

And for rigid heddle patterns – particularly those that use pick up sticks – you will see patterns written out like a knitting pattern; saying “two over, three under, two over” etc.

So, that’s the essentials of navigating patterns and drafts.

How to read a draft #1

Weaving drafts can be a bit brain bending at first, because all you see is a graph without any words. Also, because the little coloured boxes in the draft mean different things depending on which part of the draft you’re looking at! Once you get the hang of them though, they are a great tool.

So, let’s start with a draft for some basket weave, and imagine you’re sitting at your loom looking at this cloth; the bottom edge of the diagram is your cloth beam and the top edge is your fell line.

Because it’s basket weave it goes over, over, under, under:

diagram of basket weave

To create this over, over, under, under structure we need two shafts with pairs of threads alternating between shaft 1 and shaft 2:

threading diagram

So this part of the draft is your threading guide, with the black boxes indicating which warp thread goes on which shaft (for a rigid heddle loom, what goes in slots or holes).

How do you know which lever to press to raise, say, shaft 1? This is shown in another set of boxes to the side of the threading guide and is called the tie-up:

diagram of a tie-up

Here a black box indicates which shaft is tied to which lever or treadle. (With rigid heddle looms these are the up-shed and the down-shed.)

Finally, we need to know which lever / treadle to use for each pick of weft, so in the third set of boxes – the treadling order – a black box indicates a lever:

treadling diagram

And this is what the final draft looks like:

weaving draft for basket weave

The big area in the middle is called the draw-down and shows how the threads interlace. This isn’t always included.

Nor are the two sets of coloured boxes along the outer edge that show the colour order for warp (bottom) and weft (side) always shown.

One final note: In this example I’ve shown the threading guide and tie-up at the bottom of the draft, but you often see drafts where this sits at the top. The only difference when a draft is laid out like that, is you read the treadling order from the top to bottom rather than – as here – bottom to top.

In another post I’ll look at other ways that weaving patterns are written.