There are a few critical milestones that a weaver may cross that makes an enormous difference. Understanding blocks is one of them. Once a weaver understands the fundamentals of blocks, a whole new world opens up.
Blocks can form the fundamental components of a design. By understanding the blocks for a weave structure, this information may be used for the following:
- Aid in the design, set-up, and weaving of fabric
- Maximize the number of shafts on a loom
- Reinterpret a draft to be accommodated on fewer (or greater) shafts. For example, a four-block damask pattern requires a minimum of 20 shafts to weave. A close approximation may be woven on 16 shafts by reinterpreting the draft as a four-end twill.
- Critical to fabric analysis, especially overshot and coverlets
- Understanding the blocks of a weave structure is invaluable to understanding the weave structure and how to develop the tie-up, treadling sequence, and versatility of a single threading.
It does require a bit of time and effort to understand blocks . . . but, I like to think of it as an adventure akin to Robert Langdon, the protagonist in Dan Brown’s novels Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, and The Lost Symbol. figuring out the next clue to unraveling a mystery . . . but, without the annoyance of lift-threatening peril and villains.
Can I summarize blocks in a blog post? Um . . . I doubt it. However, one of my favorite things may be the impetus for many in understanding blocks – The 236-page PDF Block Drafts from Heinrich Leisy’s Pattern Book. In this resource, made available by Ute Bargmann, are over 200 profile drafts (A profile draft is a weaving design made up of blocks and creates a silhouette of the pattern.) The majority of the profile drafts are made from 3- and 4-block designs . . . but, there are some that have more. Below are some examples from this resource.
A block is a shorthand technique for drafting. Each block represents a group of threads in either the warp, weft, or both. A block may be denoted in a variety of ways, but most often is represented by a solid square or a letter. The number of blocks in a draft does not denote how many shafts or threads required to weave the pattern. Four blocks of overshot may be woven on four shafts; however, four blocks of satin will require a minimum of 20 shafts.
The 236-page PDF Block Drafts from Heinrich Leisy’s Pattern Book may be used to jump start a design for a project and can be downloaded at the following link http://handweaving.net/DAItemDetail.aspx?ItemID=2321. When I stumbled upon this resource, I printed it out double-sided and spiral bound it . . . and flipping through it ever since has been inspiring.
If the topic of blocks is still a mystery, the November/December 2011 issue of Handwoven was dedicated to blocks.
Also, Madelyn van der Hoogt’ book, The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers, is excellent for understand blocks . . . in addition to many of other things.
In 1993, Doramay Keasbey published Designing with Blocks . . . and just last year, the book was republished with a new cover design. I purchased my copy at the Eugene Textile Center http://www.eugenetextilecenter.com/. . . although, you may be able to find it at your local store.
For those with an interest in learning more about blocks and have access to past issues of Handwoven, check out the following articles:
- Alderman, Sharon. “Profile Drafting: Getting the Big Picture.” Handwoven, Nov/Dec 1987, pp. 44–45, IS: 6–7.
- Keasbey,. “Rotating Blocks for Dynamic Design.” Handwoven, May/June 2000: pp. 32–35.
- LaLena, Constance. “Blocks in Production.” Handwoven, Nov/Dec 1987, pp. 22, 24.
- Neilson, R. “Eight for Eight: Block Design with Warp Rep.” Handwoven, May/June 2000, pp. 52–57.
- Patrick, J. “Megablocks.” Handwoven, Jan/Feb 1983, pp. 56–59.
- Patrick, J. “Two on Two: Two-Block Log Handwoven, May/June 2000, pp.40–42.
- Scorgie, J.. “Breaking the Block.” Handwoven, Nov/Dec 1994, p. 53.
- Strickler, C. “The Block.” Handwoven, Nov/Dec 1987, pp. 41, 76.
- Strickler, C. “Four Blocks on Eight Shafts.” Handwoven, May/June 1992, pp. 58–60, 90; errata ND92: p. 79.
- Tardy, V. “Cutting a Draft to Fit Your Loom.” Handwoven, May/June 1996, pp. 72–74, 92–93.
- van der Hoogt, M.“Understanding Blocks.” Handwoven, May/June 2000: pp. 24–27; errata Sept/Oct 2000, p. 15.
- Wertenberger, K. “More Harnesses Make the Difference.” Handwoven, May/June 1981, pp. 40–41.
- Wertenberger, K. “Weaver’s Challenge: Block Weaves on Four Shafts.” Handwoven, Jan/Feb 1984, pp. 27.
- West, V. “Taking Charge of Your Design.” Handwoven, Nov/Dec 1987, pp. 46–47,
- Woodbury, D. “Playing with Blocks.” Handwoven, May/June 2000, pg. 80–83.
Or, if access to past issues of Handwoven is limited, there are some articles on blocks and profile drafts available on-line at Handweaving.net http://handweaving.net/DAHome.aspx
- Griswold. R. Block Substitution, Part 1: Basic Concepts, July 2002
- Griswold. R. Block Substitution, Part 2: Initial Patterns.Substitution Blocks. and Color, December 2002
- Griswold. R. Crackle Weave, Part 1: Designing with Blocks and Motifs, April 2004
- Johnson, N.S. Designing Three Block Patterns, June 1938
- Johnson, N.S. Designing Two Block Patterns, July 1939
- Johnson, N.S. Designing Four Block Patterns Based on “Twills and Squares”, July 1942
- Johnson, N.S. Designing Four Harness Threading for Two Block Patterns, August 1938.
- Johnson, N.S. A Variety of Threading Drafts from a Two Block Pattern, June 1940
- “Variations of Four-Block Patterns”, Master Weaver, December 1951
I hope you find a resource here that gives you a reason to have a block party! Enjoy!