Back in the Day [2]

This is the second in my series of occasional postings about my earlier days weaving. This blog post was originally published May 12, 2015 on my first blog site, which is no longer in existence.

We left off with my description of Taquete (or Polychrome Summer and Winter on Opposites) rugs. I wove these rugs on heavy linen warps sett 5 epi. For some rugs I used heavy rug wool that I ordered undyed. I then dyed the wool in small batches and created a whole range of colors that would blend together as I wove.

Plaited Rug 2

The rug pictured above is titled Plaited Rug #2, and was designed and woven in Feburary of 1988, following from the rug titled “Plaited Rug” in the previous BITD post. That first Plaited Rug was more straightforward. The blocks were all the same size, with only the colors changing. Plaited Rug #2 combines color progression creating a sense of receding space with stretching and squashing the motifs’ sizes. I exhibited this rug with the title “Flying Carpet”.

Here is a detail of that rug:

Plaited Rug 2 detail 1

The profile draft for this rug was a straight draw, using each block twice. The design resided in the tie-up and the treadling draft followed an undulating twill. To wit:

Plaited Rug Profile Draft

Later that year, in December 1988, I did another one of these Plaited Rugs. The idea was pretty much the same, creating a sense of space with color blending and bending and stretching the design motif in various ways.


Here is a detail:


Here is a scanned page from my notebook showing the color gradations (which didn’t scan very well!) I used in my profile draft:

Plaited Rug 3 Notebook Page

Eventually I decided that these kinds of weavings were too expensive both to make and to sell, and too cumbersome to store and exhibit.

I did some rugs with commercially dyed rug wool, and it was this one that set me on a path:


Ironically, that path was not to weave more rugs, but to weave small tapestries with cotton warps and cotton wefts. The technique, though, Taquete, would remain the same.
I called this rug Straight Draw Rug #1 (working title, not exhibition title). and it was the prototype for my method of design from quite a while after that.

More next time!

Back in the Day

(This blog post was originally published March 11, 2015 on my first blog site, which is no longer in existence.)

In which I begin an occasional series of blog postings on the body of my work that began seriously in the late 1980’s.

Back in the day, I produced a lot of weft-faced rugs and small loom-controlled tapestries based on block weaves, mostly 6-block Summer and Winter, woven on my 8-harness loom. I could squeeze a lot of design out of six blocks. There would be a background, and for contrast, up to three other shuttles with different colors. I rotated the shuttles carefully, always keeping them in a certain order, and would change the colors out as the design progressed.

While I referred to the technique I used so often as “Polychrome Boundweave on Summer and Winter”, many now have replaced those six words with the very economical term Taquete. Woven without a tabby, the pattern blocks are woven on opposites, combined and defined by the weft colors.

The rug above is an example of this technique and was part of my Master’s thesis, written in 1987, titled “Computer Design in the Handweaving Process” at Iowa State University. (There is a scanned copy of my thesis available on-line now (sans pictures). You can find it here.) Titled “MacKintosh Variation #2”, this rug is one of several riffs I did off the design work of Charles Rennie MacKintosh, a Scottish architect working at the turn of the 20th century. I did two other rugs as part of that thesis. Then I graduated.

Another piece titled “Plaited Rug”, woven later that same year, and using the same technique, is shown here:

Here is a detail, which shows the color blending a lot better:

Here is a copy of the page from my weaving notebook, showing how I planned this piece:

The draft shown is a profile draft with 6 blocks. (Going back through my old records I am constantly amazed at how consistent my design ideas have remained!)  My rubric was using a straight draw in the threading quadrant and in the treadling quadrant, and finding the design in the tie-up. I wanted to express the image of a plaited twill. I used at least two shuttles. When there was solid gray, I used two shuttles to maintain the same texture throughout. Mostly, I would alternate between gray and a pattern color, but there were times when I would need three shuttles, when there were three different color areas across the same row. Since this didn’t happen often, I guess I must have figured the overall look of the rug wouldn’t suffer.

I only have ten treadles on my loom, and the combinations of tie-ups were many more. I would have had to do a a lot of crawling under the loom to keep making changes (I think I’ve blocked that memory out…).

Anyway, this Plaited Rug really marked the beginning of the series of loom-controlled tapestries that I worked on for the next 8 or so years. I quickly shifted to a smaller format, from wool to cotton, from the floor to framed pieces. I have been scanning the slides of the work that I did, and am just beginning to appreciate the intensity and consistency of this body of work.

More to come! I’ll keep you posted 😉

More Towels … with a New Twist

So I wove up a batch of my Circles Turned Taquete towels recently. It kind of went in fits and starts. My notes tell me I began in October. I had ordered a beautiful palette of cotton yarn in what I called “Beachy” colors, and I was, like, game on.  But change was in store…

Change #1. This is 8/2 unmercerized cotton and it was a brave new world of warping and weaving for me. Previously, all my cotton dishtowels have been woven with 10/2 mercerized cotton. But I had come to think that 8/2 unmercerized cotton was really a better choice for towels. It’s easy to find, comes on smaller cones so you can order more colors, and the weaving community seems to have come to a consensus on its appropriateness for the end result. I was a little twitchy about unmercerized vs. mercerized though. Mercerization is a process that renders it more willing to accept dye, improves color and sheen, but renders it less absorbent. Unmercerized cotton colors are perhaps less bright, but the cotton itself is soft and more absorbent, making it ultimately the better choice for hand towels or all sorts.

Beachy Cotton

Change #2. I picked a group of eight colors and wound my warp. This is a new size of cotton, so I had to choose a different sett for my warp. I chose 24 epi (after checking around the interwebs for a bit to see what others were doing ;-)), which meant that I needed to order a new reed! OMG! I haven’t order a new reed. Ever. But It had to be done. So that pushed my timetable back a ways.

But, once I got going, it was smooth sailing. 8/2 cotton wound on the loom like a dream, and was really easy to weave off. I wove four towels in the circles design and two towels in my checked variation.

Here’s a photo of the two different varieties still on the loom:


And here’s a group portrait of all six after they were washed, and hemmed, and ready for their closeup:

Beachy Dish Towels 02 copy

I’m ordering more greens for another batch of towels, probably in a design that doesn’t involve so many dots. Everyone needs variety!

Blast from the Past

(This blog post was originally published May 16, 2013 on my first blog site, which is no longer in existence.)

I wove the rug pictured below in 1988, right after I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Craft Design from Iowa State University. I did an in-depth study of block weaves and computer-aided design. At that time there were a LOT of different little micro-computers and weave design programs. I used a funny little program on an Atari computer to run a compu-dobby attached to a Macomber loom in the university weaving studio. At home I purchased a program for the Apple IIe called “Pattern Master IV” from the company that later became AVL Looms.

I used that program to design this rug, and wrote it up in an article for the long ago defunct weaving magazine The Weaver’s Journal. They wanted to publish it, but they ran out of funding and were never able to do so. So my article sat in a folder ever since then. I always liked my design and the rug I wove. I’m not sure if I still have it. But the design remains one of my favorites.

The rug itself is woven using boundweave on Summer and Winter. This is a weft faced structure in two colors of rug wool with a linen warp. The article (see below) has more specs.

I recently scanned the article to PDF and uploaded it to Scribd, where it is now available to read. But I warn you, there’s a lot of writing about designing double two-tie twills, which kind of made my head explode. Also, there’s a lot of stuff about working with Pattern Master IV, which you can feel free to skip over (after you stop laughing). The article is mainly valuable to me for the profile draft of the woven rug, which I can use in other weave structures. My old fave Diversified Plain Weave comes to mind…

Old Things (continued)

In my previous episode I casually revisted an old project that I turned into armrest covers. The book from which I took the draft for that project named the structure “double two-tie unit weave varied by two weights of yarns.” You will recall that this book is Kathryn Wertenberger’s 8,12…20 An Introduction to Multishaft Weaving. Interweave Press, 1988.

Here is my simplified rendering of the unit structures from this draft. On the left is the front side view, and on the right is the back side view. This is a thick and thin structure, so the drawdown reflects that with the ultra-teeny tie-down threads on harnesses 1 and 2, and the ultra-teeny treadling on the tabby wefts:

In a seemingly unrelated sequence of events, I was sorting magazines and sorting books and making some choices about where to put them on some new bookshelves in my studio, when I was surprised to find the same project by Kathryn Wertenberger for Asian-style mats in a very early issue of the Handwoven Magazine’s Design Collections. No. 2 to be exact. Published in 1981.

In this early version of the project the fabric description is “Modified double summer and winter.” Same mat, same threading and treadling, but different tie-up. Here is my rendering of that draft:

I am inclined to favor the description of the structure as modified double summer and winter (as in the Design Collection magazine). But, I favor the tie-up in the book. So go figure. And don’t get me started on the epi (it is 20, not 21).

Just chalk all this up to ravings of someone who has been weaving so long that I’ve forgotten whole projects. To wit: I found notes for another project in this weave structure that I wove in different colors in 1991, seven years before the purple runner of 1998. Plus. I found another runner of the same design in yet another colorway in a box in the attic with some other woven items that I forgot about (from 1991-ish, I presume) that I have no notes for at all. Bad form. Really bad form.

Those who have both publications in their libraries, should take a look at both drafts. Then scratch your heads.

Technical details: I chose different yarns and setts for my runner projects compared with the published projects. My thin warp and weft was 40/3 cotton and my thick warp and weft was 5/2 cotton. I sett the warp at 32 epi, 4 per dent in my 8 dent reed.

Here is a quick photo of the project-with-no-record in my notebooks:

Thickandthin copy

There. Now it’s documented.

Somthing Old, Something New

You’re looking at our new armrest covers for the couch. Not that a dark purple (officially, Eggplant) couch will show the grime that much, but after a year we wanted to be, uh, proactive.

A little background.

I didn’t weave something specially for this purpose, but I did happen to have a table runner that wasn’t doing anything and that was, lo and behold, the perfect color, and the perfect size, at least width-wise. As soon as I determined that the future of this runner was going to be on the couch I cut it in half and hemmed the cut ends.


I wove this runner as a one-off in February 1998. So, almost 20 years ago. The weave came from 8, 12…20 An Introduction to Multishaft Weaving by Kathryn Wertenberger. It’s a double two-tie unit weave woven on 8 shafts with two weights of yarns in both warp and weft: 40/3 cotton and 5/2 cotton. I really love this weave and I go back to to it occasionally. If you can get hold of a copy of this book the photos are on pp. 46-47, and the draft is on p. 117.



A Little Something Extra (but not quite enough)

I’ve had a dishtowel warp on the loom for months. Oh wait, was it only April? That’s not that long…. sigh.

I wound enough warp for six towels, the most I’ve planned for, ever, because I’m not exactly a production weaver. More like a see-where-my-whims-take-me weaver. But, my pattern seems to be that my measuring/estimating skills are not quite up there with the professionals. That last towel turned out to be a placemat. But I love it anyway…. 😉

Circles and Checks Towels 04

Truth is, just about all, OK all, of my dishtowel warps have just enough left over for a small mat. My collection is growing.

This warp was threaded in my Circles draft for Turned Taquete. I alternated natural color 10/2 cotton with different color stripes of 10/2 cotton from the stash. The idea was to use up some cones, and I did that. I threaded 32 epi.

Here are a couple of shots of the group:

Circles and Checks Towels 02Circles and Checks Towels 03

As you can see I produced dishtowels with the original circles treadling and dishtowels with the checked treadling. I used the 10/2 natural cotton as weft for two of the towels. Then I switched to checks.

As in this drawdown:

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 2.53.17 PM

I alternated natural and brown on one. On the second I rotated natural, tea rose and camelia.

Then I went back to circles and wove one with all mauve. The short number six was woven with all camelia.

Quite a cheerful bunch, I think. Next up, I will get them photographed and in my etsy shop. It’s a good thing, because I am currently all out of dishtowels and I need to stock up!