From My Book Back in Print

Part 3: A Fairy Tale to Explain the Automatic Tension System

Order Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps HERE

When I was writing the book, I wanted to explain the tension system on the Ahrens looms I had and on AVL looms. Since Jim Ahrens is the “A” part of AVL and I was consulting with him when writing my book, I had to make sure I made it clear. I could never explain right. Finally, Jim said, “You still don’t understand it, I’ll tell you a story that I think can explain it. The system was used centuries ago; in fact, all the looms in Diderot’s Encyclopedie (1751-17172) show it. It might have been discovered like this story.” Hence “A Fairy Tale” on pages 140, 141 repeated here.

Once upon a time long, long ago before there were ratchets for looms, ways to tension the warp were very primitive. One day a weaver found a new way to put tension on the warp beam.
He put a sturdy stick, like a peg, vertically in his warp beam, hooked a rope on it, wound it around and around the beam, and hung a big rock on it. With the weight off the floor, he had full warp tension, and he was very pleased with himself. As he wove along and advanced the warp, the rope wound up on the beam and the rock rose higher and higher off the ground. Prety soon he had to stop because the rock was up on the warp beam, and he had to unwind the rope to let it down. Then he wove along until the rock got too high, stopped to unwind some rope and let it down again. This worked fine and he was very, very pleased with himself.

One time when he was unwinding the rope, he pulled out the peg and the rope slipped off the stick into his hand. He was surprised when he held the end of the rope, that he didn’t have to pull hard on it at all to keep the rope from slipping around the beam. In fact, he could hold the loop in the end of the rope with one finger and the rope around the beam didn’t slip. The big rock still hung in place putting full tension on the warp!

He had been winding the rope, say, ½ dozen times around the beam, so he decided to see if he could wind fewer times. He found with only 3 turns on the beam there was still not much weight needed on the end of the rope. So he hung a small rock on the end of the rope and began weaving.

As he wove along, the big rock rose and the little rock fell until it hit the floor. Then the most amazing surprise came.

When the warp threads were lifted to open the shed, the beam rolled forward slightly, raising the big rock and lowering the small rock to the floor. The little rock touching the floor took the tension off that end of the rope for an instant. As soon as it did, the rope slipped a bit on the beam. As soon as the beam slipped, the big rock put tension back on the rope pulling the small rock up off the floor again. The slippage let the warp move forward a few thousandths of an inch—just enough to compensate for the take-up of the warp for the weft!

The big rock was off the floor, obviously, while the small rock dangled just above the floor, where it bounced and dangled on and off the floor as he wove along.

Not he didn’t have to get up and unwind the rope to let the big rock down! He could weave along continuously, and the big rock would hold the full warp tension. The little rock would let the warp beam slip a bit with each weft and also would let it slip when he advanced the warp. The two rocks remained in these positions all during his weaving. This pleased him very, very, very much.

When the shed closed, our weaver realized that the beam rolled backwards to its starting place. The tension on the warp threads never changed even when the warp threads were lifted to open the sheds, because the wight (the big rock) was always the same. This was perfect for fine silk warp threads that couldn’t stand the stress of stretching with old locked beam systems. He was enormously pleased with himself!

Rocks (with on rock ten time heavier than the other) and the weaver’s invention are still used today! (Peggy’s note: I’ve seen this over and over in my travels.)

When Jim Ahrens began using the wight-counter weight system he tried the two weights and noticed the two weights jerked when the rope slipped. Then he got the idea to use a small spring in place of the counterweight. The spring let the rope slip slowly so there was no jerk or sudden change, just smooth weaving. He came up with the idea on his own, but never claims to have invented it; he said, “I always found someone else had done the things I worked out on my own.”

When he needed to make smaller looms, there wasn’t enough room for the big weight so he substituted a heavy spring for the weight. “It was no big advance, there was no place for the weight,” he said. It works the same way as the weight and small spring. Today some AVL looms use the two-spring system, and some use an arm with a weight and the small spring.

The heavy spring (or weighted arm) puts the tension on the warp; the small spring is the counterweight. When the shed opens, the warp beam rolls forward a bit loosening the tension on the other end of the rope at the small spring. The rope slips a little. The heavy spring takes over again, putting the rope back under tension. When the shed closes the warp beam rolls back to its starting point. The slippage is a few thousandths of an inch, and the warp stays under constant tension.

As you crank the warp forward you exert more force on the warp than the force of the weight or heavy spring, causing the cord to slip. This allows the beam to turn and the warp to unwind.

Jim prefers using the combination of a heavy weight and the small spring because he can beat harder than with just the two springs. But the double springs are a good enough substitute if you don’t beat too hard.

There is a Big Chapter on Adjusting Looms in My Back in Print Book

Order your copy of Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps HERE

The chapter is comprehensive, but I want to give a glance at what is there. Much more information is required to fully understand how various looms work and are adjusted. This is just a short introduction.

Part 2: Preview of How Looms Work

Variations of Jack and Rising Shaft Looms

These looms have shafts that only move up when treadles are pressed. The top of the shed is made by lifting shafts and the bottom of the shed is where the warp threads rest and remain unmoved. Any number of shafts can be lifted: from on to all-but-one, making this loom favorite of American weavers because of this flexibility.

Often, but not always, the mechanism for lifting the shafts is a “jack”—a lever with a pivot in the middle. The levers work like a balance scale in that when one side of the lever (jack) is pulled down by a treadle, the other end goes up and lifts or pushes the shafts upward. Jacks can be under the shafts or above them. Usually there are two jacks for each shaft, one at each end. 

Sinking Shaft Looms

A few looms are made so the shafts go down when the treadles are pressed. The weight of the foot on the treadles keeps the bottom of the shed flat. I’ve only seen one sinking shaft loom: it was my first loom, and it was homemade.

Counterbalance Looms

When shafts on counterbalance looms are tied to a treadle, the shafts go down when the treadle is pressed and the untreadled shafts automatically go up like a balance scale.

A counterbalance Loom with Horses

There are rollers, pulley, or short bars called horses that are attached so every shaft has a balancing shaft. The action is like a balance scale in that what goes down with the treadle forces a matching set of shafts to rise. Only the shafts that are to be lowered are attached to the treadles.

A Counterbalance loom with Rollers

The weight of the foot on the treadle keeps the bottom of the shed down and forces the top of the shed to stay up. With gravity working on your side to lower the shafts and with the counterbalance action, the shafts can be very lightweight, and you can weave faster and easier. If the loom is deep enough it can make large, clean sheds with the warp under high tension.

A Countermarch Loom

Countermarch systems vary but all of the systems are designed so the shafts are both raised and lowered. The shafts work independently rather than being connected to each other like in counterbalance looms. Between the shafts and the treadles there are two sets of lams, which are levers or bars. The upper set of lams is usually shorter and the lower set of lams, longer.

Most countermarch systems have above each shaft a jack or a pair of jacks (levers with pivots in the middle). When one end of the jack is pulled down, the other end goes up.

The lower set of lams is attached to the jacks overhead, and the upper set of lams is directly attached to the bottoms of the shafts. Think “Long lams lift; short lams sink”

The sheds are made by tying up the treadles so all the shafts that are to be lifted are connected to the lower set of lams, and all the shafts that are to sink are tied to the upper set of lams.

Usually, the lams pivot at the side of the loom (like railroad gates); however, some countermarch systems are designed with lams that are not attached to the side of the loom.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!
Big Chapter on Adjusting Looms in Book Reprint

Order your copy of “Warping Your Loom & Tying on New Warps” HERE

In this post I share the beginning of the chapter about shed geometry which applies to all types of looms. In future posts, I’ll briefly explain how different looms work. The complete chapter in the book has comprehensive directions on how to adjust jack, counterbalance, and countermarch looms.

Part I: Why to put the most threads on the first shafts.

Before the loom is ready for weaving, it may be necessary to adjust it so the warp, treadles, and lams are in the best position to make good sheds, to make the best quality cloth, and to make your weaving comfortable.
If the bottom of the shed isn’t flat, the shuttle will skip threads as it passes through. If the warp isn’t the correct starting position, ridges can appear in the cloth.

Many weavers know counterbalance and countermarch looms need special adjusting, but they don’t know that jack looms can need some adjusting, too. Before you can adjust anything though, you need to understand how things ought to be and why. A little bit of loom geometry also helps in many situations.

Weavers know that when the shed is open to receive the shuttle, some warp threads are up and some down. But it’s also important where the bottom and top of the shed are located, and where the shed itself is open the most. If you visualize the open shed, you know that it is open the widest at the heddle eyes, where the individual warp threads are being held up and down. The size of the shed gets smaller and smaller going away from that point, until it barely opens at all at the fell of the cloth (the last weft woven) and at the back beam. In the illustration you see a shed but there is also an extra cord with a weight at each end going through the center of the shed. I call that a temporary diagnostic string. It can help clarify where the top and bottom of a shed are. For a clearer view see the final illustration in this post.

To help to understand lams, treadles, and sheds, think of a railroad crossing gate. Compare the size of a gate crossing a country lane to the size of a gate crossing a wide boulevard. When the longer gate swings up and down, its far end must travel a great deal more distance than when the short gate swings up. But the gates are alike where they’re attached at the pivot—neither moves much distance at all. When either gate swings up or down, its far end moves a much greater distance than the pivot end. Another way to help visualize the different distances travelled whether you’re close or far from the pivot point is to think of ice skaters making a pinwheel. The ones nearest the center of the circle move very little, while those at the outside have to skate like mad and skate much further to keep up.

I use these images in teaching whenever there is an angle or a pivot on the loom: sheds make angles; treadles, lams, and jacks have pivots. These principles can guide you through setting up and adjusting any kind of loom.

The application of the gate idea explains why in some looms (especially those with many shafts), the shaft that is the farthest away from the fell (the “last” shaft) is designed to raise or lower the threads more than the front shaft that is closest to the fell. See the illustration. This means that all the warps threaded on the back shaft travel more than the other warp threads—taking more effort from you to lift or lower them.
For this reason, if some shafts in a weave draft have many more threads than others, put those threads on shafts near the front of the loom, e.g. shafts 1 and 2. This creates less strain on you and the threads. You won’t have to lift the threads so high, and the threads won’t have to move so far.

Some looms raise and/or lower all the shafts the same distance, and the threads lifted by the back shaft aren’t raised higher than the front ones. See the illustration. Notice that the threads on the last shaft are getting lower and lower as they approach the fell of the cloth, and at the position of the beater where you throw the shuttle, the threads on shaft one are lifted higher than those on the back shaft. This is another reason to put the most threads on the first shafts. Notice also that the height of the shed is reduced by the threads from the back shafts. This also might be a feature to keep in mind when buying a multi-shaft loom.

The depth of the loom from the shafts to the back beam allows the shed geometry to work or not. Remember, the pivot or stationary place at the back of the loom is the back beam and the moving end of the railroad gate is at the heddle eyes, where the warp threads go up and down. If there are many shafts, there needs to be enough room for the threads to move the distance required. If the loom is too shallow, it puts too much strain on the warp threads and tends to prevent the shafts from moving.

My point is that some looms simply don’t work very well because their designer didn’t understand loom geometry. For this reason, I don’t recommend building a homemade loom. A lot of effort could be put into a loom that won’t work well.

As promised: an illustration of just the temporary diagnostic string. It is used when adjusting looms.

EXTRA!! Read All About It! – Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps is in Print Again!

Almost a year ago I sent my books to a shop in Australia, called the Weaving Room. That’s when Sharon Harris, the owner of the shop, 13,000 km away contacted me because she thought my 2nd book needed to be back in print.

Then a most beautiful thing happened when we two women who don’t know each other, worked together across the world to produce an “amazing book “(her words) that has been out of print for years. The First Edition came out 26 years ago and has been in demand consistently ever since. This is the Fourth Edition.

The books were printed in Australia, and they arrived in the US and are available on my website here:

It has been available only as a pdf for several years until now.

The cost may surprise you, but 26 years after the first books were printed costs have increased as you can imagine. The price will be $55. For those people who bought the original pdf, I offer a 15% discount off the new printed edition. To take advantage, send a message in the comments section with your name, address, and email address. (I have a record of all who ordered the PDF). I’ll email you how to send your payment by PayPal.

The cost of the PDF will remain the same as before: $27.50. I’m thrilled to see it in print again. When I look at the chapters, I see that much of the information is valuable and not in any of the other books at all. Of course, thorough explanations of warping the loom are included. In addition, there are chapters on:
Sectional beaming, Tying On New Warps, Adjusting Looms, Two or More Warps, Designing Random Stripes, Knots and more.
In a future post I’ll show example pages. I think you’ll see that “having her books at your loom is like having a patient, knowledgeable teacher at your side” as the back cover says.

Knots, Knots and More Knots

A couple of years ago my tech guy suggested we make a Kindle booklet on hemstitching since it was the number one inquiry in my weaving tips section on my website. I use it at my loom every time I do hemstitching. The second booklet is on knots—something I thought really would be useful right next to the loom on an iPhone, or other devices.

The slip knot is my absolute favorite knot. I can remember the days when how to tie it was so elusive. It was shown to me over and over but I just didn’t “get” it for a long time.  I guess I learned it by trial and error until it became as familiar as my right hand; my hands knew how to tie it.  It was a big part of the motivation to include a knots chapter in my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps.  I wanted to SHOW how it was tied so others could learn it. I’ve included it below. (The whole knots chapter is in the Kindle booklet. See below.)

Slip knot
A slip knot is a temporary knot that secures a single thread or groups of threads. Its  reatest asset is that it can be quickly untied with a jerk with one hand. It’s often used to tie groups of warp ends after they have been threaded in the heddles so they won’t slip out. Every weaver should know the slip knot because it is used so often—whenever you want to secure something temporarily. It’s my favorite knot, and it’s the one I almost  always automatically tie—just in case I’ll need to undo it.

To make a slip knot: To make the first loop, you can use either the tail or the standing end, whichever seems easier to tie in the situation. In this example I’m using the standing end, but you could just as easily make the loop with the tail and proceed as follows.

  1. Make a loop. (I take the standing end over the back of my left hand or over a few fingers and cross the standing end on top of the tail of the string.) Hold where the  hreads cross in a pinch between your thumb and forefinger.
  1. Reach through the loop with the right forefinger and thumb and grasp the standing end and pull it through the loop, so that it makes a loop within the first loop. (If you were to begin the knot with the tail making the first loop, and the tail were being drawn through as the second loop, make sure you pull the tail only part way through, not completely through. If you pulled the tail through, you wouldn’t have the second loop.)
  1. Be sure to tighten the knot until you feel it bite. To do that you pull the loop and the tail in opposite directions.

To release the knot: Just jerk on the end you made the loops with, in this case the standing end.

I made this little booklet so you could have it on your iPhone or other devices. Want to know how to tie a weaver’s knot? There are 3 ways shown as well as “how to undo a weaver’s knot. Of course, square and granny knots are included, as is the lark’s head knot, and other knots for weavers. I like it because you can have it at the loom up close when you need it. The cost is $2.99 and you can order from Amazon.

Looking at Log Cabin Again

Log cabin weave has been mentioned in previous texts: 5/15/2019, 1/27/2021, 1/29/21, and 2/8/2021 and. You can search for them by clicking on the magnifying glass in the upper right area of this home page and typing in “log cabin”. Be sure to use the quote marks. Then hit Enter and the posts should show up. You can search for your own ideas in the same manner.

The simplicity of the design of this shawl makes it truly beautiful and very wearable. In a previous post (Dec. 2, 2021) I mentioned a quote I found from Anni Albers: “It’s the middle color that’s important/interesting.” This very large supple shawl is a fine example. Here we see sections of dark, medium, and light values.

The dark areas in the corners stand out. The mixture of black and white form the middle value on the bottom and sides. The light value area is in the middle.   

The main part of the shawl is the pattern that weavers call “log cabin”. Its mysterious pattern intrigued me so much that I wove it in my beginning weaving class project.  This can be woven on a rigid heddle loom with 2. Go to the post dated 1/27/2021 .

In my book, “Weaving for Beginners” I say: “This is a weave with vertical and horizontal lines appearing in the cloth. It is actually plain weave but looks like an entirely different structure. When the structure is disguised by the colors of the yarns, we call this phenomenon, “color and weave effect.” These weave effects are based on dark and light threads in the warp and/or the weft.”

Here is how the dark and light threads are threaded in the heddles. You can modify this threading to make vertical as well as horizontal lines. Look at the threading closely at the next illustration. Under the letter “A” note that the dark and light yarns are threaded (reading right to left) dark, light, dark, light, etc. Now inspect the threading in the area at “B”. The colors are threaded LIGHT, DARK, LIGHT, DARK, etc. The same principle works for the rigid heddle loom’s 2 shafts.

You will need two shuttles: one shuttle with dark yarn and the other with light. Vertical and horizontal lines will appear as you weave along when you use the appropriate weft color with the appropriate lifted shafts. Read on.

Throw the shuttle with the dark yarn when you lift shafts 1 and 3.
Thrown the shuttle with the light yarn when you lift shafts 2 and 4. You should see vertical and horizontal lines appearing. This is shown in the illustration for the top section of weaving.

When you weave the reverse of what you did in the first section: by throwing the light shuttle when shafts 1 and 3 are lifted, and the dark shuttle when shafts 2 and 4 are raised. You will get the opposite result with the vertical lines being where the horizontal lines were and vice versa.

Again, the same principle applies for weaving on a rigid heddle loom. When you throw the dark shuttle on the front shaft, lines will appear. When you throw the dark weft on the back shaft, the vertical and horizontal lines will reverse.

Look at the illustration and notice that the horizontal margins of the blocks are more distinct where two dark wefts are shown woven one after the other at the second section change. You can make both the horizontal and vertical margins of the blocks solid colors (outlined) if you make both the warp and the weft changes with the dark threads together. In the threading, have two dark threads together at the edges of the sections to make the vertical margins. Weave two dark wefts together at the section changes for the horizontal margins.
If you want the blocks to float, use two light colors as above, instead.

Happy New Year

My New Year’s resolution is to work on the data base for my collection of textiles. It’s a pleasure to get things out and look at them again.  This is the back of an under kimono. Women liked to wear red under their proper outer kimono. The silk is silky, the hem is padded, and the size is ample. I love it and decided to hang it for a while in my bedroom. The last picture is the most precious one.

Here is the front. Hard to imagine it all being covered up by an outer kimono. It must have made a woman feel good.

Here is a close look at the patterns in the outer fabric.

The lining of this under kimono is extremely special because it was dyed with safflowers.  You can tell by the color. It generally is fugitive, meaning it fades in time. The lining is almost tissue thin. A hidden treasure. It must have felt sumptuous to wear.

My Paintings, Continued

A composition using the paints I made in the Michel Garcia workshop at Slow Fiber Studios. I’m playing with value completely. The grid paper is some a friend gave me. I think it is meant for people to use while practicing calligraphy. Chinese? Japanese? The paper is thin–almost like tissue paper. Hence the wrinkles. I did another version with a different set of my indigo paints–and the brush marks don’t show as much. I’m not sure why they show so much with these, but that’s the way they “painted”.

A composition I made as a collage. I made many marks and textures with the paints. Cut them apart and reassembled them. I have a lot more to cut up and put together when I have time!

Here is my pallet. I arranged the two batches in order light to dark for choosing which value of blue I needed for the compositions, etc. The “Maya Blue” set of paints were used for the first photo. I probably didn’t grind the pigment enough and/or didn’t “do” the egg white or egg yolk binders properly. The letter W is for egg white. The Y is for egg yolk and the G for gum arabic which are what I used for binders to make paints out of the pigment. (Made from indigo powder and various clays as binders.)

Here are some of the tubes of paint I made.

Here is my first little composition. It was going to be a weave pattern, but I screwed up the value on the first line so just didn’t follow the order of lights and darks where they were supposed to be. I like it quite a lot.

The Value of Value: A few words from Anni Albers

I’m still painting with the watercolor paints I made with dried indigo leaves. (I got the powder from Slow Fiber Studios). I find coloring in the squares immensely fun! Here is a finished painting using three values of the same color: dark, light, and medium blues. It’s fun figuring out what value (shades) go where. Value in color theory means how dark or light a color is.

I found a scrap of a note from a book by Anni Albers. It says page 221, 222 but I can’t find the book in my library. I hope someone can find it. She says, “It’s the middle color that’s important/interesting.” Here I show my painting without the middle (value) color. It’s just black and white. I think the picture is much more interesting with the middle colors as Anni says. Her quote inspired my paintings since I’m just working with different values of blue paint.

Here is the Star Fashion version. I think the medium blues do enhance it.

Here is a version of the rose version after I’d painted in only the darks and lights. However, if you consider the white paper the very light, you can see that the light blue becomes the “medium” value and does make it pretty interesting. Much better than only the dark and light seen in the second photo.

Indigo Blues Rose & Star Fashion

I’ve been painting with the paints I made from Indigo powder. I began with these block designs. Look for more compositions in future posts. I’m having lots of fun. Each pair of photos was painted with the same paint but maybe lighter or darker. Each one is about 3” square. Can you identify which are the roses and which are the stars?

My first and second Rose and Star paintings. All the paintings are about 3” square. This was my comfort zone for compositions when I began.

The third and fourth ones. I always painted the Rose first so the Star often was in response to how the rose came out.

The last set. All these paintings were using special paints that had egg yolk or egg white for binders. I never could get a smooth water-color look from those. Next, I’ll use the paints that were made using gum arabic. I hope the look will be a lot different from these, but I’m not complaining.

Rose and Star Fashion Pleases Twice – By Lausanne Allen

Just like chopping wood warms twice, Lausanne Allen’s woven Rose and Star Fashion potholders pleased twice: once for the weaving and once (or twice) for giving and receiving the gifts.

A year ago, in the height of not knowing what to expect from our first winter in the pandemic I warped my barn frame loom with what I affectionately called a “gratitude “ warp. It was threaded to this same single block of the Whig Rose pattern, woven to be potholder gifts for everyone on my long list of friends and acquaintances who had made 2020 a more bearable year for my husband and I. Here are some photos to share from my first (blue) warp last December 2020 and a second warp (green) that was finished in mid-January, 2021.

The calming pleasure found in my daily weaving habit grew as did my gratitude list . A second longer warp using a different color prolonged the pleasure as each pad became an opportunity to sample another pattern weft yarn. Each one became a meditation and each one different.

Giving these gifts, whether to the mailman who drove up our long slippery hill with needed packages when we didn’t dare to go out, or to long cherished friends we could now only visit with “virtually” in our winter of self isolation filled my days with a purpose that calmed me.

Weaving these every day on a sturdy barn frame loom became cherished time for me, marked by the steady shoosh of the overhead beater, the occasional squeak of the wooden pulleys and the rhythmic dance of the wooden horses at every press of the oak treadles. A few years ago my husband carved horses, treadles and pulleys for this old loom, so I could remove the shiny polished chrome pulleys that had come with it.  Weaving on this old loom brings such a feeling of contentment. A fresh snowfall provided a sense of wonderland outside my window.

Of course I wove some in each treadling fashion and as I did I tried to analyze why these two different treadling sequences yielded such different results. Your explanation here in terms of blocks makes perfect sense! All I understood then was that if I made a little clock face circle, with 1-2 at noon, 2-3 at 3, 3-4 at 6 and 4-1 at 9 that Rose treadling went clockwise around the circle, and Star treadling went counterclockwise, of course starting from a different place. The clock face made it easy to find my place when interrupted but didn’t explain why in terms of block theory,… As I write I’m feeling the urge coming on to begin a new gratitude list for the shortest days of the year that await us…. Now what shall I weave? Soon the cycle will begin again. What shall be this winter’s gratitude warp I wonder… in what will hopefully be a snowy Vermont again in little more than a month! I think the word is hygge.

(Peggy’s note)
a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). “why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?” It is pronounced “hoo-gah”).

The warp was a soft 8/4 cotton  “Cottontale” and the weft mostly  three strands of a mercerized cabled Dk  weight knitting cotton, called “Cleo” , carefully wound on a rag shuttle so they would display their sheen,  smoothly lofting up  as pattern weft without twisting. It took a little more tweaking to keep them from twisting when being wound but it was worth it I think. 

Star and Rose Fashion: Two treadlings for the same threading – “Tromp as Writ” and “As drawn in” explained

I’ve taken a workshop with Slow Fiber Studios in making paints from indigo leaves and indigo powder. Now that I’ve made the various indigo blue paints, I want to paint something. I’m thinking of painting some block designs. I began thinking about painting the same pattern in both Star and Rose versions. I always get mixed up about how to make Rose Fashion so had to look up the information yet again. My favorite books for this are “Weaves and Pattern Drafting” by John Tovey and The Weaving Book Patterns and Ideas by Helene Bress. These books go into much more detail, but here are the basic principles and that are enough for me at this point.

The two variations are made with the IDENTICAL THREADING. The variation is in the treadling only.
The treadling ORDER is as DRAWN IN. This illustration shows what is meant by “treadle as drawn in”. Another way to think of it as “Tromp as Writ” except we are talking about the order of weaving whole blocks—not thread by thread. In a sense you are copying the threading in the treadling.

First you treadle the first thing that is threaded which I’ve numbered as 1. You weave that block the same LENGTH as it is WIDE. In other words, the first thing in this illustration says to weave block A for as many rows as it takes to make it as tall as it is wide. (a tall block) Then, all the blocks that are threaded as A Block will be that tall as well.

Second, you weave (treadle) the second thing in the threading (2): Block B, for as tall as it is wide in the threading. (another tall block) Again, ALL the B Blocks will be that height or that many picks.

Third, you will weave Block A but in this draft you will weave it for only a few rows because in the threading draft in the (3) position the block isn’t very wide. Again, all the A Blocks will now be woven for only a very few picks this time.

I hope you can see from the illustration how treadled as drawn in follows the order and size of the blocks in the threading.

The 4th thing to treadle is a tall B Block, and the 5th is to treadle a tall Block A.

Star Fashion
Star Fashion is the same as treadle as drawn in which I described above.

The result when you weave Star Fashion is that a diagonal line is formed in the woven pattern.

Rose Fashion
This is the result of weaving Rose Fashion. There is no diagonal.
At first glance, it may appear that Rose Fashion is just the reverse of Star Fashion, and that one side of the cloth weaves Star Fashion while the other side weaves Rose Fashion. This is not true. The inversion of pairs of blocks produces its own, unique effect.

When the treading draft says Block A, you weave Block B instead. And the reverse. Whenever it says Block B, treadle Block A. Notice this reversal in the previous photo (repeated here). Remember, you are treadlingthe height that the block is wide in the threading draft just as before. The only difference is WHICH BLOCK you treadle. And you are following the order and size of blocks as drawn in in the treadling.

This handy chart is found in The Weaving Book by Helene Bress. Every time I wonder how to get Rose Fashion, I come back to this chart.

This is also from the Helene Bress book. I think it clearly shows the diagonal formed with weaving Star Fashion and something completely different when treadling Rose Fashion.

Threading the Loom Without Mistakes

I made the draft of this post when I was threading the loom for my box project. My report is that I only made one mistake and that was missing the heddle eye! A previous post gives 3 tricks for threading. See it here: 5/31/2020

photo 1 of 8

 Here I have the crosses for my two warps hanging vertically over a broom handle behind the heddles. This makes it easier to see the crosses when threading.

The illustration shows a clear picture of the set-up for threading. To stabilize the lease sticks I tie the top one to the broom handle. Look closely and you can see it.

I get as close to the heddles as I can. For my loom, that means taking out the beater and the breast beam.

How to know which shaft a heddle is on.
It’s easier to see what shaft a heddle is on if you look at the bottoms of the shafts. Here is a close-up.

Push all your counted-out heddles to the left (for right-handers) and stagger the heddles on the shafts so you can find which one you need easily as seen here. Left-handers would stagger them the same way but have them over on the right side of the shafts.

I have enough warp available so there is plenty ( I mean plenty) for threading, sleying the reed, AND tying on.

Position the cross (I have two because I made two warps to thread into the heddles) so you can see it easily when you are sitting on your threading stool.

Here’s my set-up with my low stool. The pillow is for my knees when I struggle to get up!

My Box Project – Seeing Progress, Finally


To make sense of the progress on the loom, check out the post on September 20, 2021, where I show the mockup of the layout for the loom and the box put together. LINK HERE

To see if I could see any progress, I had to take off all the shuttles. It was a challenge to have all 8 shuttles going. And it goes VERY slowly. Just finding which shuttle is next and making sure it enters exactly the right place and isn’t entangled in any of the other wefts is a challenge of patience. When a shuttle falls off onto the floor, it requires some cussing. (When was the last time you heard the word cuss??)

Most of the time two sides are woven separately as I go. The left side has 2 layers. The right side, 3!

To keep track of the weaving I put the sheds on pieces of adding machine tape. For the black and white bands, it takes one piece to weave the white stripe and another for the black. Besides, there is a third layer underneath. The left side has only two layers.

Here you can see where I’ve moved the pin each time a shed has been made. The pin holes help a lot especially when one side or layer gets ahead, and I have to weave only what needs to catch up.

To keep the layers so they all can be beaten in, I needed to be sure the beater was at its perpendicular-to-the-fell position.

Many of the sheds needed clearing. I used a weaving sword a lot to clear. Often, I cleared a shed behind the reed to see which warp threads should be up and which down. Did I mention this went VERY slowly? Checking each shed carefully, keeping track of both sides weaving different things, and getting the proper shuttle took an amazing amount of patience. I guess one gets into a zone and just goes along. I felt this must be what a tapestry weaver does.

The biggest shed is always closest to the reed. That helped a great deal.

Winding Bobbins: Important Information

Since my shuttles I’m using are tiny, I am winding bobbins often and thinking how important that is. Two previous posts were about boat shuttles which you can see HERE and HERE.

You want to place the bobbin inn the shuttle with the weft coming off the bottom of the bobbin. This is shown in the photo. The ensures the thread comes off without tangling.

Also, the bobbins should be wound FLAT. (no lumps at the ends) If you make lumps the thread will come off at different speeds and can tangle in the shuttle.

Lots of shuttles means they need to be small. Still sampling for the box. I keep getting new ideas and epiphanies. The warp will be used for sampling. I’m hoping for other warp yarns when the time comes.

Estate Sale Goodies: From the Estate of Barbara Shawcroft

Barbara Shawcroft was a textile artist in the 60’s and onward. She collected wonderful things during her life. The sale of her things attracted the heavy-duty textile people in the Bay Area. It started at 9:00 on Friday. I went with a friend at noon. By then the rush was over and what they missed was left to be discovered. What I missed were many fabulous pieces.

This is a bag from Uzbekistan. The inside fabric is Russian and much sought after. So brilliant the colors.

Here is the bag closed. Have you ever seen red and green so nicely together? The braid trim and long tie add tiny details.

A furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloth). I never have enough of these. The Japanese use them to carry things and wrap gifts. I have small to really big ones. What makes this one interesting is that the color in each quarter is different, so can be wrapped in different ways for different looks. This one is about a yard square.

The furoshiki opened out flat. Notice the iridescence especially in the purple quadrant. It comes from the warp and weft being different colors. This piece was woven this way with the color’s crossings in mind.

A genuine Barbara Shawcroft work. She also made huge balls and huge people. Her huge creation, “Legs” hung in one of the Embarcadero Center buildings for many years. It was originally yellow so when they took it down it was pretty dirty and discolored. My ball is about 18” in diameter. The more I ponder it, the happier I am that the early mob left it behind.

A simple basket that is quite lovely.

 A short Japanese kimono (Haori jacket?). The stencil printed sleeves are a beautiful addition to the blue and white kasuri pattern. All cotton. Very wearable.

I think this was a futon cover. It is made of double ikat squares and stenciled squares. A find.

A close-up of the futon cover. Perfection!

Box Update: Three Months Later

Just in case anyone has forgotten, here is the box I am trying to duplicate. It is in Kay SekimachiI’s show. I see I first posted about it on June 21st! (see it here). I knew it was months ago that I got smitten with it. The post shows other pieces in the show. It closes in October. Information is in the post.

The open box shows the inside black layer. Making the top and bottom in double weave is what makes weaving it need 4 layers. She had some simpler plans, but I hope I can accomplish the 4-layer plan.

Here is my mock-up.

Here with the box open.

Here is how it is to be woven: flat, of course, and in one piece.

Here is an update of my mirror installation. I need it to be close to the shed. I don’t want any mistakes that will prevent the layers from separating. That means every shed must be clear. I didn’t have very many mistakes in the sample I cut off, thank goodness. Controlling the shuttles is a big issue as well so the layers stay separated. I see Kay only had 3 layers in places in one plan, so I’m trying new tie-ups to try it. It will be weeks given that I don’t work on it all day, every day. I’m enjoying the process and telling myself that there’s no hurry. Maybe I’m procrastinating just a little.

YPP a Big Help in Finding Appropriate Yarns – Box Update

I’m not completely satisfied with the warp yarn I have on the loom for my box project: i.e., samples. I’ve been constantly consulting the Sett Charts in the back of my book, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle for other possibilities.

Here is the sett chart for linen. There are a total of 14 pages of charts. Half are for plain weave and half are for the same yarns for twill.
What has consumed me this time in checking the charts is comparing the sizes of yarns to see what I can find that will be a good size but also can work on a very, very dense warp. Since there are 4 layers, the sett (ends per inch, epi) will be 4 times what it would be for a single layer. If one layer is 16 epi for example, the total sett will be 16 x 4 = 64 epi. Ideally, I’d like something around 1500 ypp (yards per pound).

The part of the sett chart that I’m interested in at first is how many yards per pound because that can give me the information I need to know the size of the yarn.

In my case it doesn’t matter if I look at the Plain Weave or Twill charts because I am mainly interested in the size of the yarn, the ypp. However, it is important that I’m looking at the charts for linen. The numbers and sizes vary greatly with the different fibers. See my previous Tip on Yarn Count. (Sept. 24, 2011)

I have a nice yarn I might like in my stash. With this Yarn Balance, I can find out how many ypp and go from there. This valuable scale used to be called a McMorran Balance. Here’s an example of how the balance works. Say the length of the yarn that balances on the scale is 21 ½”. Multiply that number by 100 to get the number of yards there are in a pound. In this case, you get 2,150 yards per pound (21.5 x 100 = 2,150). Another balance is available for meters/kilogram, too.

You can compare two yarns quickly to see if they are the same size by hooking them together as if you linked your two index fingers together. Hold one set of yarns between your thumb and index finger. Twist the other two ends so that both sets twist. If they both feel the same, they are close to the same size.

Note: The term grist is sometimes used when talking about yarn size. For example, one might say, “I want a yarn of the same grist as this other yarn for my project.”

This worksheet to find the yards per pound is in my book, Weaving for Beginners.

This chart is helpful and is also in the beginner book.

These calculations were worked out using Ashenhurst’s Rule. The rule and exceptions are in both books, Weaving for Beginners and Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle and in several of my previous tips.

8 Shuttles! Oh My! – More on the box project

Four layers and the warp is divided in half besides. I wound 4 shuttles, 2 black and 2 white, then realized I needed 2 more, then 2 more than that! A good rule helped a lot. “Wherever the weft changes from one layer to another, we get a fold: wherever the weft weaves back in the same layer, we get a selvedge.” Since I want the layers separate and not joined, I needed to have 2 shuttles for each layer. The layers are divided in the middle at this point which requires more shuttles. “Double Weave on Four to Eight Shafts” by Ursina Arn-Grischott has been a big help.

I realized there would be a lot of tie-ups required for the box so was glad I could tie-up the treadles sitting on a stool. Even that was a chore. However, I’m glad my loom can give good, clean sheds even when 7 shafts are lifted, the 8th will stay down.

I soon realized I needed too many treadles even though I have 10. I made a skeleton tie-up, and it is easy to treadle. I don’t use a computer program, so I listed the lifts for each shed on adding machine paper and pinned it where I could see it.

I’d heard of using a rear-view mirror to see if the sheds are clear so went to Amazon and found these very cheap ones with a sticky back.

I even installed it myself! Just stuck it onto the loom by the shuttle race. It can even be adjusted up and down and sideways!

Here’s the mirror showing a clean shed.

For the top and bottom of the box the warp is further divided. It was a big exercise for me to figure out both the tie-up and the sequence of shuttles and colors.

I put colored threads in where the divisions are so when a shuttle dives in and out of the warp it goes in the same place each time.

The colored threads are at the back of the loom and can advance as needed and I don’t have to worry about them.

Box Update: Beaming the Warp

The warp needs to be wound tightly onto the warp beam. Think of a spool of sewing thread.

I’m trying out warping with a trapeze. I think I’ll like it a lot I could get consistent weight as I wound the warp.

Here’s the trapeze from the front.

It looks like a white warp thread is caught in the raddle. Watch out for this problem. It is a loose thread getting into a tangle.

When I got the warp straightened out you can see it belonged in another raddle space. Because it was so loose, it began to migrate into another dent. That will prohibit the whole warp from moving until the tangle is undone.

The extensions allow you to wind the last bit of the warp, up until you get to the cross to set up for threading.

My Box Project Has Begun! Two Warps on Kitesticks


One previous post shows how to wind the warp onto a kitestick rather than make a chain. Check out the post which was published on May 29, 2020. Whether you warp back to front like I do, or the other way doesn’t matter. A kitestick keeps the threads under tension so they can’t tangle.

Today I feel that my box project is really underway. I made the two linen warps for the 4 layers I will need. They are waiting to be loaded into a raddle, then beamed onto the warp beam.

For this linen warp I don’t want to play around with twist, so the spools are positioned horizontally with the thread coming off the sides of the spools.

I like to use this counting string that comes out fast with a quick jerk. See the next illustration.

Here is an illustration showing how to crochet the counting string so it will come out quickly. It is from my book, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle.

Here I’m getting my strings out to tie all the crosses and make choke ties. My students will remember the string box!

I like to color code the ties so one color is on top and another below the pegs. The crosses at the ends of the warp do not need to coordinate in any way. This avoids twists in the warp.

Here I’ve taken the end of the warp off its peg in preparation to wind the kitestick.

What end of the warp to begin winding on the stick depends on whether you warp back-to-front or front-to-back.
If you warp Back-to-front: You start winding from the top of the warp—where the threading cross is. (For me, the bottom of the warp is where the raddle cross is.) You want access to the end for loading the raddle and beaming so it should end up on the outside of the bundle.
If you warp Front-to-back: Begin winding at the end opposite the one with the threading cross. Then the cross is available to you for threading. (The cross  end is on the outside of the bundle.)

My fingers are in the end loop of the warp ready to put it onto the kitestick.

With the loop at the end of the warp, form a lark’s head knot over the stick. Be sure to include the loops of the first and last warp threads when you begin to form the lark’s head knot. Look carefully where my forefinger and thumb are in the illustration. To form the lark’s head knot, reach with your finger and thumb through the loop and grasp a portion of the warp coming from the warping board. Make a new loop out of the warp itself by pulling some of the warp through the loop and put the newly formed loop onto the stick. Pull up as big a loop as you need to go on to the stick. It’s a little like crocheting. The illustration shows making the knot on the stick. Immediately pull the warp against the lark’s head knot to make if firm.

Use your S & Z Identifier Tool to Add or Subtract Twist to Yarns

My previous post on July 8, 2020, explained how to identify S & Z twist easily. This post tells why it helped me reduce warp breakage. More S & Z information relating to bobbins, pirns, and weaving is in my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth.

I was making a warp using a singles linen, probably 14/1, that I had in my stash. It kept breaking when it went around the end pegs. Actually, I could see that the thread was pulling apart. I figured that the way the spool was standing up on my spool holder was the problem: I was untwisting the yarn so it became enormously weaker. (Truth be told that was ½ of the breaking problem: the yarn was old.)

Notice the diagonal lines in the yarn and the toilet paper. They are all going in the same direction. That direction is called Z because it is the same direction as the diagonal part of the letter Z. I assume my warp thread was probably a Z twist singles.

I had my spool of yarn on the spool holder this way which was untwisting my yarn and causing it to break. It was set so the yarn was UNTWISTING as it came off the spool. This diagram shows the twist of the yarn in the opposite direction: we say S. That is because the diagonal lines are the same diagonal as the diagonal in the letter S.

I turned my spool end-for-end so then twist was ADDED which made the yarn stronger instead of weaker and the breakage stopped. (However, it didn’t make it strong enough to overcome the old age and the yarns broke instantly when I began to beam the warp! It all had to be thrown out!!)

At times you do not want to add or subtract any twist. Then you take the yarn off a spool on its side!

You can add S or Z twist when you unwind yarn from the end of a spool. When the yarn, as seen from the end of the spool moves in a counter-clockwise direction as it unwinds from the spool, Z twist is added. By turning the spool end-for-end, the yarn will move in a clockwise direction as it unwinds, adding S twist to it. (This option is not available with cones which are made to stand only one way up.) To understand S & Z twist read more in my chapter on shuttles in my book mentioned in the introduction.

Repeating the principle: which end of a spool the yarn come off from dictates the direction of the twist put into the yarn—because the yarn is coming off the end. Take the yarn off a spool on its side and no twist will be added or subtracted.

You can add or subtract twist not only by how you wind a pirn, but also by which end of the spool of yarn you take the yarn off. For consistent cloth you want the wefts to be totally consistent as to twist. However, a novelty cloth can be woven using different twists: depending on how you put a pirn on the winder or stand up a spool of yarn.

Presenting My Dye Project

After putting my favorite colors in my mobile for the China BoND exhibition, I wanted to have more of them. I began dyeing more silks in the same way as before.  (Using old recipes along with information in the book “The Art and Science of Natural Dyes”.) I cut different silk fabrics and put them into bundles. That way there was a variety of tones and shades coming out of one dye pot. My plan is to exhibit them a little distance from a wall and have a light fan gently fluttering them.

I hung a few with Japanese obis behind them. The orange was madder I think (that greatly disappointed me because I wanted red). The browns were from oak galls. The one on the left was in the same dye pot as the blacks. The difference was that the organza ones (undegummed) dyed black, and the silky silks dyed brown. It was interesting to me that always the undegummed ones took the dyes much darker. The white ones were how everything started out.

None of these made it for the mobile but I loved the subtle colors. The lavenders were using different shades of indigo overdyed with cochineal. The oranges were madder. I was disappointed greatly in them until I put them together with the others. The greens were from indigo and weld then some were after-mordanted with copper or iron. The greenish tone one in the middle was a cochineal disaster (it did nothing) after-mordanted with copper.

The purples are from cochineal and the blues from indigo and woad. I strung all the swatches on monofilament (fish line) and made blobs with a glue gun to keep the little bunches in place.

The reds were from cochineal. The reddest one used the recipe for scarlet and the others for crimson. One recipe asked that first dye with turmeric, then mordant with tin before finally dyeing with cochineal. The yellows were dyed with weld and the lavender with indigo and cochineal.

Here they are hanging in my hallway outside my door. The ruffles I wove years ago are hanging in the background.

The other side of my hallway. In front is a gorgeous silk dyed by a friend in India. Look her up on Instagram under “Medium”. They do exquisite shibori works. The framed pieces on the floor were my first projects using different fabrics in the same dye pot. The round piece on my door is a fan I brought back from India. The piece with the little squares I dyed with black walnuts and played with the grain of the silks. The blue circle is a Japanese print and the square piece above it is by Lia Cook.

The little sculpture is a kitchen tool to shred things, I think. Another treasure from India.

Much More Inspiration at the Kay Sekimachi Show, BAMPH, Berkeley, Calif. (ends October 24, 2021)

This is my 4th post about the work of Kay Sekimachi. The others were on June 21, 2021, September 16, 2014, and September 17, 2014. On July 30, I paid my third visit to the exhibition, and I have another one scheduled.  The Textile Arts Council of the DeYoung Museum organized a visit to the show with Kay there to answer questions and receive our adoration.

In the June post, I showed what caught my eye at first. This time here are more subtle pieces that inspire me.

Aka/Kuro II, 2007. Polyester, linen; plain and twill weaves, painted warp, wood dowels, gesso. 38.75” x 5.5”.  Kay calls this one of her scrolls. She has more on the loom at the moment but hasn’t gotten to it in a while. It is stunningly gorgeous and simple.

Detail of above.

Rouge et Noir, 2007. Linen, dye, and lucite. 28 ¾ » x 6 ¾”.

Detail. I love the red at the corner.

Another detail. Notice the care taken at the hem.

Homage to Agnes Martin. Approx.. 12” x 12”. Linen, textile dye, permanent marker. There are several of these pieces. This time I really noticed the subtleties in the painting.

Notice the care in presentation. The linen is stretched over a board and framed with a reveal. There are several of these variations in the show.

Another detail of the frame and more subtilties.