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Archive for February, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things: #8 – 100-year-old Russian weaving pattern book

Weaving drafts are a pretty fabulous!  Drafts provide us with a way to document what we’re weaving and to communicate with others.  They represent the past, present, and future.  Plus, they can help us transcend language barriers.  This brings me to my latest favorite thing I would like to share . . . a Russian weaving pattern book published in 1912.  (Wow!  That’s 100 years ago!).

I don’t read or speak Russian (except for a poem I recited when I was a senior in high school), but I can read a draft.  So, it was exciting the first time I looked at Al’bom tkachestva uzorvb (translated – Album of Weaving Patterns).  I couldn’t read the text, but I could easily read the drafts.  I enjoyed scanning the pages and looking at the drafts and the accompanying samples.  There are a couple that I found intriguing . . . but, for the most part they look like drafts I would find in many of the books and magazines on my shelves.  But, what I find remarkable is the connection it provides me with those that were weaving over 100 years ago half way across the world.

For the most part, the drafts may be modest . . . but, I think it would be entertaining to use the drafts and combine them with my favorite weaving yarns and setts to create something (probably dish towels, because they’re my favorite thing to weave) . . . and then add text to the hang tag that the pattern was from a century-old Russian weaving pattern book.  I think it would add that little something extra to make it more intriguing to a customer.

I’ve included some images below to give a peek inside.

To download a copy of this book, go to http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books/dd_patt.pdf


These are a few of my favorite things – #7: Tim’s Rudimentary Treadle Reducer

All looms have limitations.  The most frequent limitation we hear discussed is about the number of shafts a loom has available . . . no matter how many we have, every once in a while all of us seem to want a few more.  But, just as challenging is the possibility for looms to run out of treadles.

For a modest four-shaft loom, there are a total of 14 possible ways to tie-up a treadle as shown in the image below.

Tie-up possibilities for a four-shaft loom

I have yet to see a four-shaft loom with 14 treadles (although, I know of one in LaConner, WA that has 12).  If a treadling sequence for a particular pattern requires more treadles than the loom has, it’s easy to do a direct tie-up.  This means treadle 1 is tied to shaft 1, treadle 2 is tied to shaft 2, and so forth and so on.

Four-shaft direct tie-up

To treadle a direct tie-up, one or more treadles will be stepped on for each weft pick as shown in the following image

2/2 twill treadling on a four-shaft direct tie-up

Another approach that may be possible is to tie-up the treadles as a “skeleton” tie-up.  This is similar to a direct tie-up because weaving may require more than one treadle to be stepped on for a single weft pick . . . however, a skeleton tie-up differs from a direct tie-up since more than one shaft may be tied to a treadle.  Below is the most common skeleton tie-up I use when I weave double weaves on a four-shaft loom.

One way to tie-up and treadle a four-shaft double weave

All of this is manageable on a four shaft loom; however, things get a little more complicated when more than four shafts are involved.  It becomes easier to run out of treadles when one considers that there are over 250 possibilities for tying up a treadle on an eight-shaft loom . . . over 65,000 possibilities for a 16-shaft loom . . . and by the time we move on to 24 shafts, there are nearly 17 million possibilities.  Looms, rooms, and hips are definitely not wide enough.  So, what’s a weaver to do?  Imagine if an eight-shaft loom only had eight treadles . . . How could the following be treadled?

Eight-shaft, 10-treadle sequence

Well, would a direct tie-up be possible?  Probably not for this particular example.  Why?  The direct tie-up treadling sequence for the above 10-treadle sequence shows a weaver would need up to four feet at a given time for some picks.

An impossible direct tie-up treadling sequence for an eight-shaft loom

This is an opportunity for a skeleton tie-up.  There are two challenges when figuring out a skeleton tie-up.  1)  Determining whether a skeleton tie-up is an option, and 2)  If a skeleton tie-up is possible, what it looks like.  This is where my latest “favorite things” comes in handy in helping make the process easier and faster . . . Tim’s Rudimentary Treadle Reducer  http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~timm/treadle/index.php.  This is an on-line tool available to aid weavers in figuring out whether a skeleton tie-up is possible and if so, dissecting the original tie-up into fewer treadles.

First, enter the number of shafts and treadles for the original draft and the number of available treadles on the loom.

Next, enter the tie-up for the original draft.

Within seconds, it will give you one of two results.  It will confirm if a skeleton tie-up is not possible.  If it is, it will provide an alternative skeleton tie-up.

10-treadle tie-up reduce to eight treadles

It will also provide the reduced treadle equivalent for the skeleton tie-up.  In this particular example, each pick will require two treadles to be stepped on for each weft pick.

Unfortunately, not all drafts can be reduced into fewer treadles and woven with a skeleton tie-up.  But, this is one of the reasons dobby mechanisms are so helpful.

In the meantime, I would like to publicly thank Tim McLarnan, Tremewan Professor of Mathematics who developed Tim’s Rudimentary Treadle Reducer  http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~timm/treadle/index.php.  It has saved me a great deal of time and numerous moments of aggravation.

These are a few of my favorite things – #6: John Becker’s book “Pattern and Loom”

I’ve been part of the weaving community for a long time.  One thing I love about the weaving community is observing how big a weaver’s heart can be.  In an era of Occupy Wall Street protesters rallying against capitalism and greed, it’s nice to have a reminder of those acts of kindness by those that wanted nothing for themselves but to enrich the life of a weaver . . . or the entire weaving community.

One of the most coveted weaving books is John Becker’s Pattern and Loom.  It was published in 1986 and has been out-of-print for nearly 20 years.   Becker’s Pattern and Loom is often referred to as simply Becker . . . for example one weaver may say to another weaver I looked it up in Becker.  In other words, it’s a book often referred to by it’s author’s name as opposed to its title.   Pattern and Loom is a book for serious weavers that are interested in learning more about some pretty advanced topics.  It’s one of the references I often go to when I’m working on samitum, double cloth, and lampas.

Cover of John Becker’s Pattern and Loom

Over the years, I along with many other weavers, searched high-and-low in an effort to obtain a copy.  Then several years ago, I was having lunch with a very dear friend of mine.  In the middle of lunch (and wine), she asked me Do you have a copy of Becker’s Pattern and Loom?   I thought she might be looking for a copy too.  When I told her I didn’t have a copy she then asked me Would you like a copy?  My first thought was Heck, yeah!  My second thought was How much is this going to set me back?  It turns out she had a copy and was offering to give it to me.  I was stunned.  I was doubly stunned when it arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later.  An amazing act of kindness that has motivated me many times.

But, since that fateful day, Becker’s Pattern and Loom is more accessible than ever with little more than a mouse click (and a darn good Internet connection).  In 2009, Don Wagner (with whom John Becker collaborated on Pattern and Loom) made the entire book available on-line when he inherited the copyright of the book after the Becker’s widow passed away.  When I first learned this, I wondered What’s the catch?  After all, if it’s too good to be true, it must be . . . right?  Well, I learned there is no catch, just access to an incredible book . . . and yes, another act of kindness to get this book into the hands of interested weavers.  It’s a sizable document to download . . . it tips the scales at nearly 24 MB . . . so, if you want it, I hope you’re not on dial-up.  Below are a couple of pages from the book.

For some reason, this book seems to bring out the good in many people.  Hard copies of Pattern and Loom are still sought after by some weavers, but we don’t have to do without it.  The following link will take you to the website if you are interested in downloading a copy of it http://donwagner.dk/Pattern-and-Loom.html


These are a few of my favorite things: #5 – Vintage Textiles

I believe I can find inspiration anywhere . . . but, vintage textiles and garments are one of my favorite sources of inspiration.  Perhaps it’s my love of Jane Austen novels, which conjure up fantasies of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley . . . or even my current fascination with Downton Abbey.  Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to spend time at museums in their archives or behind the scenes at their exhibits taking a close look at some truly amazing garments.

There’s nothing quite like seeing the garments and textiles in person, especially when I can look underneath and see how the garment was assembled.  Unfortunately, museums are not something one can get to on a day-to-day basis.  That’s why I thought sharing a few of my favorite websites for vintage textiles might be of interest to others.  There are quite a few . . . but, what I love about these three are the images available for many of the garments that show the outfit from different angles . . . and even details of the craftsmanship in the construction and embellishments.  I can easily indulge myself by wandering through the pages dreaming of what it must have been like to waltz in a Victorian ballroom while wearing a Worth ballgown . . . until I come to my senses and realize how grateful I am for not having to don a corset and wear layer upon layer of under garments.

I hope you enjoy some of the tidbits below as examples of what you can find at each of the three websites.  If you know of others, please let me know . . . I’m always interested in inspiration wherever I can find it!

Vintage Textile – http://vintagetextile.com/

This is probably my all-time favorite website for vintage textiles.  It’s frequently updated and the garments are organized into different categories.  I usually go directly to the Victorian and Edwardian categories.  I can easily peruse the garments and their descriptions . . . but, by clicking on the image, I am treated to a multitude of images of the garment showing me different angles and marvelous close-up images . . . and a write-up of it’s history.  Some garments even have a lengthy provenance outlining the garment’s history . . . and even historical significance in some cases.  Below are a few garments you can find there now.

Mittens from 1837

Gown from 1876

Tea gown from 1912

A stunning Worth ballgown

1930's wool coat

Adrienne Landau 1920's evening coat


The Frock – http://thefrock.com/

In addition to gorgeous vintage garments, The Frock also has some garments from celebrity wardrobes such as Mae West, Sophia Loren, Lucille Ball, and more.

Edwardian silk chiffon cocoon coat

30's era gown


The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Collection – http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections?ft=costume&noqs=true

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a costume collection with over 45,000 pieces available for review from the comfort of your computer.  The above link is for the place on their website where you can enter your search criteria.  I entered a few terms and here’s what I got:

  • House of Balenciaga – 9,431 results
  • House of Chanel – 9,359 results
  • Charles Fredrick Worth -13,953 results
  • Hand woven – 19, 440 results

Worth gown

Balenciaga Spanish jacket

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