Weaving that Almost Isn’t. April Fool!

Jan Hudson wove 2 scarves on a whim, and I asked her to make the April Fools Day post.

I used a variegated rayon knitting yarn as warp on the orange and blue scarf. The weft is a very thin unidentified cotton yarn I had in my stash but sewing thread would work also.

The sett was “guesstimated” at 5 epi. I wove 3 pics, then placed a 2 cm spacer cardboard in the shed, and wove 3 more pics, repeating the process to the end of the scarf!

The technique is used in Guatemala on textiles made on a backstrap loom. This time I wove a few more pics before leaving the spaces.

It’s only plain weave, so only 2 shafts are required! Peggy adds: So what if the ends don’t end up the same length!

Cocoon Scarf: Another Two-shaft Idea

This is my 834th post! I began them in November, 2010.  Before that on my original website I had posted over 100 weaving tips. They are still available and used today on this website. For the last year Bob, my tech guy and I have posted nearly every other day. I enjoy making the posts and still have ideas for more. I love getting comments! Any suggestions for posts are welcome, too.

I got this beautiful, fine silk scarf in Japan. We visited the silk grower who showed us his refrigerated storage shed for cocoons ready for making threads. Usually, silk threads are made up of several strands—that is from several cocoons. His breed of silkworms are not grown commercially and his processing is not done commercially. His weavers weave these scarves with threads of single cocoons. I treasure my scarf so here are several photos.

My scarf is generous in size: 18” x 72” not including the fringe. In a pile about the size of a dinner plate, it is gossamer.

I love the structure, too. There are two breads of silkworms used. I have a cocoon from each one. The thick threads are from a different breed from the thin ones.

Of course the selvedges are perfection. I’m inspired by the structure. Putting that little thicker thread in regularly makes it so you notice the fabric.  Another two-shaft idea which doesn’t have to use such fine threads, of course.

A close-up. I find it looks really great close and at a distance. And, amazingly enough, it doesn’t snag on my sort-of-rough hands!

Here’s how the fringe was handled. Again perfection!

More Inspiration for Hand Manipulated Weaves – And another two-shaft weave

Mary Balzar Buskirk is the artist who wove the piece shown in the previous post, dated March 20, 2021.

I love textiles that interest me, especially ones that are weavable or peak my curiosity. This linen-like piece fits all of the criteria. Often when I come across a fabric I remember where I got it and have a nice memory or story behind it. This one I don’t remember at all. I’m getting back into my studio and doing a bit of sorting and somehow, this piece turned up. It is 14” wide so that means it probably came from Japan.

The cloth is so simple. It is yardage so the groups of tassels repeat the entire length.

So my curiosity took me to see what they did at the selvedges with the tassel wefts. The thick weft is carried up a little shy of ½”. That seems just right and not disfiguring. In fact, I think it adds a subtle bit of interest.

I put my macro lens on my iPhone to see just what the wefts were doing. I needed to see how the tassel weft fit into the plain weave. The thick weft goes halfway across the fabric in its own shed. It’s interesting that the wefts before and after it are in the same shed with just the thick weft in the opposite shed and going only halfway across the width of the cloth.

Here we can see that the thick weft has its own shed—but we know that it only goes ½ way across the

Also interesting to see what makes up the thick weft. Several strands and not alike.

Often there are clues at the cut end of a cloth.

An Inspiration for a Hand Manipulated Weave: Another two shaft weave

This is a black and white photo I’ve saved for many years. In real life, it is very colorful with LOTS of color changes. If I remember correctly it was woven by Mary Balzar Buskirk. I googled her name and found she died in 1981 at the age of 52 and lived in Pennsylvania. It’s really hand manipulated and slow to weave, but has a lot of potential.

Here is a detail of another area. I think it’s interesting that she left some modules unwoven. It looks like the warp threads were black and spaced as sections in the reed.

Changing 2-shaft Weaves to 4 Shafts

All but two illustrations are from my book, Weaving for Beginners. The 2-shaft drafts come from the book shown in a previous post, Adventures in Weaving on a 2-harness loom. NOTE: harness is a common word used for shafts. Shaft is the more correct word and is used here and in my books.

The book, Adventures in Weaving on a 2-harness loom” shows the threading for 2 shafts like in the illustration. (Shafts are often called harnesses.) The two rows represent the 2 shafts. Dots show every other thread on the bottom line and the alternate threads on the top line. And, to show a different color of threads for a stripe, the squares of the graph paper are filled in. In other words, for one color area, both shafts are that color and for another area, both shafts are threaded with another color. The first shaft is always indicated on the bottom line and shaft #2 is on the line above it in American books.

To change from 2 shafts to 4 shafts we often think of odd and even numbers. With a threading on 2 shafts, you could think of shafts 1 & 2 alternating as “odd, even, odd, even, etc. rather than 1,2,1,2,1,2. You would use that idea to switch to 4 shafts. The odd shafts are 1 & 3 and evens are 2 & 4.  Then you would use the rows in the threading draft 1 & 3 instead of the bottom row (shaft #1) and 2 & 4 for shaft #2. In the illustration the sequence of 1,2,3,4 is shown for the threading.  When weaving, you would raise shafts 1 & 3 for a row and 2 & 4 for the alternate rows. Then you would be getting the same plain weave (or “tabby”) as though you were weaving on only 2 shafts, alternating rows with shafts 1 & 2.

In weaving drafts for more than 2 shafts, the American convention is always to show shaft #1 on the bottom line and each additional shaft on the lines going upwards from the bottom. The illustration shows how the threading for 4 shafts would work. If there were 8 shafts, shaft #1 would still be on the bottom line, but there would be 7 more lines above that to indicate 8 shafts. The same principle would be for 12, 16, or 32 shafts, etc.

In my previous post on January 27, 2021, Log Cabin patterns were the subject. That particular pattern depends on threading alternate threads in light and dark. The illustration shows an example of a threading and some patterns on 2 shafts. In the illustration, dots represent light threads and solid squares, dark threads. Note that in the area on the left the lights (dots) are on shaft #1 with darks on #2. In the right area of the draft, it is the reverse with darks on shaft #1 and lights on shaft #2.

To change from 2 shafts to 4 shafts, think again of odds and evens. What was shaft #1 becomes #1 & # 3 –both odd numbers. What was on shaft #2 becomes #2 & #4 –even numbers. And notice carefully that in the illustration, the lights are on the odd shafts on the 4 threads at the ends of the draft and the darks are on the odd shafts for the center 8 threads.

The illustration shows that by switching the placing of the lights and darks, the pattern changes. Note too, that the WEFTS also alternate dark and light to create the patterns and the changes. This is typical log cabin. Often the blocks are all the same size, but they don’t have to be. The widths in the threading determine the widths of the blocks. The height of the blocks is determined by the number of rows woven in a light/dark sequence.

This illustration shows a different way to think of 2-shaft weaves. With 4 shafts you can think of 2 looms: 2 shafts (1 and 2) for one loom. And shafts 3 & 4 can be thought of another 2-shaft loom. That means you could have two different things going on at once. For example, log cabin on shafts 1 & 2 and what every you might like on 3 & 4 for example solid areas or stripes. We call the different “looms” block A and Block B. With more shafts and different patterns, you can have more blocks, say C and D.

Another illustration of 2 blocks. This would be a good idea when using thick and thin WEFTS like in my post on January 29, 2021. You decide what you want to show in Block A, (e.g., lights) and in Block B: lights as well, or darks. Because the blocks are on different shafts they can act independently. See the next illustration.

Thick and thin wefts are woven in this variation of rep weave. Notice that the 2 blocks can be alike (at the top) or different when weaving. The threading can never change, but which shafts you choose to have showing at any one time is up to the weaver. More information about this weave is in Weaving for Beginners. Here I just want to show how 4 shafts can be thought of as 2 looms with 2 shafts each.

Here’s a draft showing an example of the shaft numbers for a two-block design: a center field with borders on the edges.

Plaids On Two Shafts: They Don’t Have to Look Plaid

This picture is from the book: Adventures and Weaving on a 2Harness Loom by Alice K. Cripps

These ideas take “plaids” to different levels. I just realized that all of these projects must have been made on the same warp! The same warp stripe system is in all of them. Cleverly, the tote bag has the pattern turned 90 degrees for another idea and look. What the wefts do make very different designs.
I think of setting up a little system when making a plaid. Here a medium tone (value) color has a narrower light stripe on either side of it.

You want to be sure to think about the edges of the design and often, as in this case, want to end with the same width stripe that you began with. Or another way to put it is to have matching borders on each side with your plaid system between them.
I’ve seen directions that say at the end after all the repeats: add some threads ”to balance”. That way you have matching borders on both sides.

What a Difference the Warp Makes (and the weft, too): – Inspiration from a 2-shaft lesson

Slide the vertical line in the photo back and forth and see the difference the color of the warp makes on this weft ikat cloth. We visited a young weaver in Japan who made these 2 different cloths using the same weft threads she ikat dyed.

When I turned back to see what the first lesson was in the 2-shaft book, I liked the idea of one warp color with different colored weft stripes. Weavers with any number of shafts should not forget about this possibility. Often, we weavers sample different wefts to see which we like the best, but seldom make stripes with different colors. Even though the warp changes all the weft colors a bit, many combinations of colors can make good-looking fabric. Using the example from the previous photo, the same idea could apply with a dark warp. This is what inspired this whole post.

This is the traditional way we are used to seeing these cotton weft-ikat fabrics in Japan. White threads for the weft are tied and then dyed in indigo. This results with the pattern being white with a dark background when the warp is also dark.

A close-up of the dark warp with the ikat weft.

I only saw one other example of using a white warp with indigo dyed ikat weft patterning at one other studio—It was a piece displayed on the wall designed by the weaver’s wife’s mother who was an artist. Our young weaver used the non-traditional in the same unique way: using a white warp instead of the traditional dark one.

Two Shafts with thick and Thin Wefts

Lesson 6 in the Adventures in Weaving on a 2 Harness Loom makes stripes in the warp and weft but these are thicker cloths. How thick depends upon the thicknesses of the weft yarns. Usually the warp yarns are about the size of a thinner yarn. However, all of this can be experimental and just how thick or how thin is the choice of the weaver and whether you want a fabric or a mat or a rug and which colors you want to dominate or recede.

An example of a thick yarn is a rug wool which has 250 yards per pound.

A thin yarn can be 5/2 cotton at 2100 yards per pound.

Notice that in the threading draft, some areas are threaded with 2 colors alternating like in log cabin. Other areas are threaded in all one color.

All the examples in the book are woven with only thick weft yarns. You get a fine stripe in the areas where the warp colors alternate and solid color when only one color is used in a warp stripe.

In my book, Weaving for Beginners, I describe a variation where thick and thin wefts alternate, and 2 colors alternate in the warp. This lets you choose which warp color you want to dominate. You do that by having that color warp threads up when you throw the thick weft. Alternately, when the thin weft passes, the other color will recede. The illustration shows how you can have one or the other dominate as you choose for your design.

Log Cabin on Two Shafts

This book from 1950 was in my Two-Shaft file. It specializes in color placement in the warp and weft using Maysville yarns. I’m not sure if they exist anymore.

I like the weave structure, log cabin. There were interesting photos in the book.

Here is the draft from my book, Weaving for Beginners, which shows how the dark and light threads in the warp and weft create the pattern for 4 shafts. The next photo shows how this could be threaded on just 2 shafts.

Here is the threading draft in the Adventures in Weaving book. Dark and light threads alternate.

Of course the blocks don’t have to be all the same width in the warp. Or the same height in the weft, either. Another photo from the 2-shaft book.

Thick and Textured Yarns on Two Shafts

Fine and coarse yarns are designed in the warp and weft in this example.

The same warp threads, but a different look when thick, textured yarns are in used for some of the wefts. They wouldn’t be good choice for warp threads because of getting caught in the heddles or abrasion from the reed but make good choices for wefts.

Again, the same warp threads with a different design for entering the wefts.

Two-Shaft Threading Drafts Ideas

Rather than thread every other thread on shafts 1 and 2 or every 2 threads, you might try this variation of every 3 threads, or any number. Of course, you could do the same or something different in the treadling.

This could be an interesting threading variation. Think of how you could use different colors of threads as well in different areas.

Here’s a variation of the draft above.

Color Drafting


In this post I go through the process of color drafting the 2-shaft weave from the previous post. For those who are new at drafting, there’s a whole chapter on drafting in my book Weaving for Beginners. Note that I begin the threading on the right and work right-to-left.

Be sure to use pencil and have a good eraser. You’ll see that I had to use it. This was my 3rd start on this, it’s easier to start over when you find mistakes.

First draw the lines defining the part of a weave draft. The chapter on drafting in my book Weaving for Beginners explains the parts of a weave draft.

Put in what you can see on the cloth—both the warps and wefts.

Assign threading to those known. I saw the weft floats first, so I assigned them to Shaft #1. Remember, I work a draft from right to left here and in my books.

Assign what colors you know: the wefts are the horizonal lines.

Add the warp colors now, the vertical lines.

Then I looked for what I could find next: verticals for warps on top on either side of yellow weft areas. NOTE: the colors are not always in the same place! Assign them a shaft: see in the tie up that shaft #2 is lifted so all the lifted warps must be on shaft #2.

Now discover what the last warp threads will be. Now I need to look below to the rows below to discover those and I see the first is orange. Again, looking for vertical threads in the cloth.

Fill in the same way for the missing spaces: see that they are all shaft 1’s and watch out to get the colors right. I see below, a warp lifted in the first rows is followed by a weft every time.

We know the weft color from the photo of the cloth so fill in the wefts (horizontals).

We see on the cloth that each warp missing is orange. See that the single warps have 1 orange and one yellow since we know the yellows (wefts) already, so the rest must be orange.

 Now we know all the warps in the threading draft AND we know some of their colors, too. So fill in the colors we know. Then we can fill in the yellow wefts but that’s easy. We still have to determine the colors of some of the warps. Again, look for rows below for the clues needed. The vertical floats are easy to see.

Now put in the treadling 1 & 2.
What’s under the grey floats, check wefts so check the image and you can see shaft 1 should be up from the treadling and see the color from the photo or further down the draft. Notice I tried to erase grey in rows 5 & 7. They should be yellow wefts colored in the treadling draft.

What goes on under all the floats you can check out first in the treadling draft: what shaft is up. Then, fill in the blanks for the wefts (horizontals). Then clean up the draft and you’re done. (I hope I haven’t made any mistakes! Let me know if you find any.)

Two-Shaft (harness) Weaving: Part One

I discovered weavers with many shafts often become interested in weaves for just two shafts. I’ve kept a file, and these fabric samples were on top. The label on the sample card says Konwiser inc. When I looked them up on the web, I found they are on the MoMa website with two furnishing fabrics dated before 1955. I don’t think they are in business now.

There are 6 colorways in the collection: all the same weave.

The third in the stack of samples. So interesting how the different colors make such a difference.

These are 52% cotton and 48% wool upholstery fabrics.

The price on the label is $14.25 and the width, 54”.

The name given to this collection is “Bahia”. My next post will be about drafting these and color drafting. In the meantime, see if you can work out the draft and if we agree.