Woven Typography

Typography refers to type style, including fonts, sizing and arrangements for ease of reading. When I think of typography I want to know how readable is it. First and foremost. When I look at woven words, I often think, not so much.

The woven words that I have attempted so far have a vague relationship to, but still not what I would call even remotely, readable. Depends on the letter. Some are kind of squished. Others stand out from the background, because of their simplicity. The better ones have a good amount of negative space and strong positive space. The lesser ones are only called letters because I say so.

The technique I’ve been using to create woven text for 16 harnesses calls on the type faces included in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. The idea is to make a new file, exactly 12 pixels wide, and pick a vertical type face that is strong, usually Arial Black or Arial Bold, and type something. Then the frustrating part begins. Editing the type so that it only consists of black or white pixels (no gray allowed!). Also editing out black pixels in favor or more white pixels so that the negative space more clearly defines the letter (see above).

I have to say here that I am not a Photoshop newbie. In my professional life I was a Curator of Visual Resources in the College of Design at Iowa State University. I used Photoshop every day of my working life. I taught Photoshop skills to student employees. But. Making letters play nice in Photoshop is a whole different ball game. It is extremely fiddly. And life is short.

So I got the idea to look around for cross stitch patterns of the alphabet. They exist is vast numbers on Etsy for very little money, it turns out. Cross stitch patterns work pretty well with weave design. They are blocky. They fill up little squares. Weavers use them for Summer and Winter and other block weaves. I found a couple of cross stitch alphabets that were the right size and blocky but not too blocky. Credit goes to The Cross Elephant on Etsy:

Now the process gets tedious, but the work involved once all the letters have been extracted and saved suddenly gets greatly reduced.

One by one I copied each capital letter into its own file. Now they are ready and waiting to be copied into a new weaving text. Each letter is its own layer, so by the time I have finished a text, I might have close to 20 layers in the file. So, I flatten the image, and continue on with the process of inserting patterns on foreground and background. Such a difference!

This is the next towel slated for weaving. I have a 6/2 cotton warp wound and ready to tie on to the previous Kitchen Towel Warp. But time and motion move slowly Chez Iowaweaver, so patience is required.


Weaving “Kitchen Towel”s

These towels are my first attempt at weaving text on my 16 harness Ashford table loom. I used 8/2 unmercerized cotton sett at 20 ends per inch. I had doubts about setting this yarn at 20epi. The structure used is 3/1 and 1/3 broken twill, and the resulting weight and hand of the fabric is thin. Not anywhere near the beefy feel of my Turned Taqueté towels which are sett at 24epi. But the design dictated the sett, and I really wanted to try the design out, so I just went ahead with it.

The colors are shades of blue in a kind of ombré effect, but they are pretty unsaturated in these quick iphone pictures. The text on the left mirrors the text on the right, as depicted in the drawdown below. I wove the towels as you see in the drawdown, and the upside down letters wove right side up. Magic!

Weaving text with 16 harnesses using Photoshop and Photoshop Elements for designing with pattern presets is tricky but doable. As woven here, the font images are barely readable. Because, with 16 harnesses, the design grid in the liftplan can only be 16 squares across. Four of those squares are dedicated to background structure. Thus, 12 squares are left for the actual font, and take up harnesses 16 to 5 in the threading. That’s only a little over half an inch, .6″ to be exact.

It doesn’t get better if I go to 24 epi. Then the font goes down to .5″. So, rather than adjust the sett, my next move is to go to a thicker yarn and keep the sett at 20. I will go to 6/2 unmercerized cotton. And see how it goes.

I’m going to have an awful lot of “Kitchen Towels”!

Weaving Words

Just when I thought I might never stop geeking out on woven circles, along comes a new obsession. This one is harder to get my head around. It is imprecise. It takes a lot of technical deep diving. It hardly ever turns out the way I picture it. But it is so intriguing that I can’t stop. Won’t stop.

Weaving words.

Here is the drawdown for my first weaving since back surgery. Mind you, I haven’t even wound the warp yet. It has taken me pretty much the entire recuperation month to get this far. But soon, I will be winding a warp for towels on my 16 shaft Ashford. You are looking at front and back, upside down:

I got inspired for this when I was going through the tutorials in Alice Schlein’s book The Liftplan Connection: Designing for Dobby Looms with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Along with all the other chapters (including one one circles!), she has a chapter on weaving text. Granted, this technique works better with 24 and 32 harnesses, but it is still possible with 16.

Without going into too much technical stuff, it is necessary to have installed a set of pattern presets in Photoshop. Working with layers, the presets are copied into designs on a grid, foreground and background. When finished, the grid represents a liftplan that can then be pasted into a weaving program. Thanks to the Complex Weavers’ lending library, I was able to gain access to the preset library from the book The Woven Pixel by Alice Schlein and Bhakti Ziek.

I also consulted an online tutorial by Margaret Coe, which was much less comprehensive, but still helpful, and began using Photoshop Elements in addition to Photoshop 2020.

You can see already that this is a fly by the seat of my pants operation. Photoshop 2020 does most of what I want very well. Photoshop Elements picks up the slack. (This is much like my relationship with Fiberworks and PixeLoom. They each have their strengths.)

I plan to wind a prototype warp and weave a couple of towels for myself. Glad to be about to be weaving again! FYI, I am slowly opening up my Etsy shop to other items besides the digital patterns. Yay!

Jitterbug Revisited

A reader sent me an email recently asking where to find an overshot version of the Jitterbug pattern. The only place I know of where it is published is in A Handweaver’s Source Book, edited by Marguerite Porter Davison. The pattern is credited to Bertha Gray Hayes and looks like this:

The threading is written in a kind of short hand which must be expanded. The tie-up is assumed to be written according to overshot rules, and the treadling is assumed to be written “as drawn in”.

I had already put the pattern into a design line and profile draft when I was doing it in Turned Taquete.

So I took the profile draft, and using the block substitution tool in PixeLoom for 4-shaft overshot, I transformed the design into overshot.

I had to adjust the weft thickness to thick and thin and add a tabby. But it seems to be a rough approximation of the Jitterbug idea. (P.S. It might be upside down. Not sure. Not sorry.)

Overshot patterns can be scaled down so that the floats are not so long. Weaving it in fine threads sett closely together would also mitigate the long floats issue. I am aware that Hayes wrote a book about overshot miniatures, and that this pattern may be published there in an easier to weave version. If anyone has the book, and it is in there, please let me know!

I am willing to email the Wif file to those who might want to try it out.

I am on the other side of my back surgery and everything is fine! No pain! I just have to wait a month before I can resume regular activities.

New Pattern!

Just a quick post to announce the arrival of my new pattern in my Etsy shop. This is Turned Summer and Winter Dots or Checks Scarves. It is written for 8 shafts and the dots require 11 treadles (10 if you retie one, which is only needed for the beginning and end), while the checks require only 7 treadles. I wove these in Dragon Tale 8/2 rayon from Earth Guild, sett at 24 epi. Other yarns suitable for that sett will work just as well. You receive a PDF for an 11 page booklet, and two WIF files. You can link to my shop with the button on the right.

It was a slow process getting these scarves off the loom, as I am experiencing a considerable slow-down in my activities due to low back pain and sciatica. Further testing revealed L4/5 nerve root compression for which I will be having surgery next week. Wish me luck!

On Dots, Part Two

When I last signed in I promised an 8 harness version of the 9 harness Turned Summer and Winter Dots pattern. That was, like, months ago, I know. I worked it up, and put it on the table loom. I also had some yardage on the floor loom, 6 yards of it, and I also developed a nasty case of sciatica. So, what with one thing and another, time passes, and eventually weaving happens. I present to you, Turned Summer and Winter Dots and Checks for 8 harnesses!

I used 8/2 rayon for warp, pattern warp, and weft, sett at 24 epi. The background is undyed and the pattern colors are my own space dyed colors in the Iris colorway. I adjusted the colors to line up in three different sections, which meant leaving a lot of warp on the cutting room floor so to speak. This was a first for me, and I learned stuff. The colors I chose to align might have been slightly different, but the experiment worked well enough and it was pretty fun seeing the changes as I wove.

The difference between the 9 harness version and the 8 harness was side to side spacing between the dots. You can weave as much space vertically as you want, but the horizontal ranks are as close as they can be.

As a refresher, here is the 9 harness version. There is a 2 thread space which was threaded on the extra harness.

Compare with the 8 harness checks version. No space.

My plan next is to weave the 8 harness version on my 8 harness treadle loom using all commercial yarns and put together a pattern for my Etsy shop. So, stay tuned. I hope the next version doesn’t take so long!

Black Friday Sale!

No supply chain issues here, folks. I am running a Black Friday sale on all of my handwoven scarves in my Etsy shop. From now until November 26, there is 25% off my scarves, some of which are pictured here:

To visit my shop just click on the link on the right! Cheers!

On Dots

Here is my latest turned draft: Turned Summer and Winter Dots. Dots as opposed to circles, which are really nothing more than big dots. It’s all a matter of scale. 😉

The origin of this draft began in the January/February 2015 issue of Handwoven Magazine with the Summer and Winter with a Twist Polka-Dot Towels by Linda Adamson. This is an 8-shaft draft with a tie-up that requires a whole lot of treadles, with the best case scenario being that you just keep re-tieing (if you don’t have 18 treadles on your loom!). I’ve always wanted to try this draft, but the tie-up was a road-block. Naturally, I thought turning the draft might be a solution.

The first time I turned the draft I got a 10-shaft result and I thought “cool!” and immediately put a warp on my Ashford table loom. This black rayon chenille with the multi-color dots was my first try. It worked great. But. I was about 75% finished when I realized that shaft number 3 had not been threaded at all. This wasn’t my error though. Fiberworks just left it out when it turned the draft. So…. I ran the optimize draft function (might have been in Pixeloom, I can’t really remember) and that reduced the draft to 9 shafts.

This 8/2 rayon scarf is the 9-shaft version. It worked just fine as you can see. Notice that the dots are treadled with more repeats in the center. Scaling down widthwise due to yarn thickness caused me to scale up lengthwise. Dots are fussy like that.

I’m not sharing the draft yet, because I’m hoping to edit the draft to 8 shafts. I very much like the 8/2 rayon. I sett it at 24 epi, and each dot is 16 ends wide including spaces between them.

Lest you think that all I do is weave circles: I have some woven yardage in my future, which I will use for sewing some pants. I will be using up odds and ends of 10/2 cotton in colors that play well together. I’ve also been weaving a selection of rayon chenille scarves for my Etsy shop.

Last but not least, I want to thank all my readers who purchased a copy of the Turned Taqueté Circles Placemats Weaving Pattern PDF + WIF from my Etsy shop. Your response was really exciting. Next I want to see examples of your work!

Digitally Speaking

Yesterday I launched a new direction for my weaving. I posted downloadable PDF directions and the WIF file for Turned Taqueté Circles Placemats in my Etsy shop. The pattern is written for 5/2 perle cotton with suggestions for two different color palettes, the Blues pictured above, and for Mid-Century Modern colors.

For literally years I have provided my Circles Turned Taquete Towels draft for free to folks who visit my blog, and I have been happy to do so. The time seemed to be right to take it on the road, so to speak, and get a little return on my investment. I published my towels pattern in the March/April 2019 issue of Handwoven Magazine. You might think that I made money on it from that publication. But you would be wrong. Handwoven was on the verge of bankruptcy at that point, and it went down without making good on many payments to their content providers, including me.

So. This is my way of getting a little bit back, and if you have enjoyed using my towels pattern, perhaps, you might be interested in purchasing my placemats pattern. My Etsy shop is linked on the right hand side of this blog entry.


At Last

When we last touched base I was busily working on a draft for Turned Summer and Winter Dukagang Style in a circles design. The fabulous Tippy was going through her quarantine after radioactive iodine treatment. She no sooner got sprung when she went back into cat confinement because of an infected abscess (don’t ask where) and she had to wear the cone of shame and she didn’t handle it at all well. But she is healed and healthy now and all is well.

Finally, I got back to weaving, and this is what I have to show now. The first draft is the final one derived from my profile draft (see previous post), and the second is the cut back version. The first one wove ovals, as one would expect.

The second one, which looks like turned ovals, actually wove circles. Yayyy!

I chose 12/2 Tencel for ground and pattern warps and for weft, and hand painted all of it. The ground warp was all dark purple, and the pattern warp alternated between purple/space dyed Ferns and purple/space dyed Caribbean. (Ferns and Caribbean are colorways that often appear in my Etsy shop, BTW.) I sett the warp at 32 epi and wove with purple on one shuttle throughout. This worked very well on my table loom, because, on a table loom there’s enough to worry about with the levers and the iPad, etc. At 32 epi, each circle was 1.875″ wide. With finer yarns sett at 36 or 48 the circles will naturally shrink to dots. 🙂

So, the big reveal:

The front and back are visible here, and we can see the vertical emphasis of weaving Dukagang style. The scarf is very light in feel, and notice that you can see through the cloth, giving a lacy quality to the whole fabric.

Next up, you might think I am done with dots, but you would be wrong. Stay tuned!