The Weaving Draft

It doesn’t take long when learning to weave until you encounter your first drafts, and it took me a while to figure out what they were and how they worked. I thought I’d write about how I learned to understand a weaving draft.

A draft can be considered to be the equivalent of a knitting pattern. Actually, not really. It’s more like a chart in a knitting pattern. Its not enough information for a weaver to start a particular project – details such as sett, yardage, material, finished project dimensions are all absent , but it provides information on how to set the loom up and work it to produce a cloth with a particular interlacement.

Drafts are usually divided into four quadrants. In the draft below of a 2/2 twill, I’ve labelled the quadrants A to D.

The Threading (A)

This section shows how the harnesses/shafts of a loom must be threaded. (Editor’s note: I used the term shafts and harnesses interchangeably without realizing and didn’t have time to fix it.) A harnesses job is to raise the threads that are assigned to it so that the weft yarn can pass underneath them. This section tells the weaver what threads each harness lifts and in what order.

The horizontal lines represent each individual harness. The bottom line is the harness closest to you if you’re sitting in front of the loom. You can also tell how many shafts your loom has to have to weave the draft by looking at how many rows are in this section.

Though there are many ways to thread the loom, two common ways to thread is straight threading and point threading.

In straight threading, a warp yarn goes through harness 1, the next yarn goes to harness 2 and so on. After you thread a heddle on the last harness, you go back to harness 1 and continue.

In point threading, you also thread harnesses 1 at a time. When you reach the end however, you change direction and thread the harnesses in the reverse order instead of starting back at harness 1. The original draft is shown below, with the only thing changed is the threading from straight to point threading. The diagonal stripes become horizontal zig zags.

The Tie Up (B)

Treadles (the floor pedals of a loom) are used to raise 1 or more shafts at the same time. The treadles on most loomes are usually fully configurable and can be set up to raise any combination of shafts you want it to. By doing so, the treadles provide the weaver a way to quickly raise combinations of shafts that form a pattern without having to think in terms of indiviaual harnesses (which is the case for my table loom). This section tells the weaver how to connect the treadles to the shafts.

Each column in quadrant B represents a treadle. Column 1 is for the first treadle and so on. If a row of that column is marked with a figure (usually an ‘O’ or its filled in), it means that the treadle needs to be connected to the shaft it is next to.

The Treadling (C)

This section simply tells you what order to press the pedals in to form a particular pattern the cloth. Like the threading, common treadlings are straight and point treadlings – they operate in the same way.

In the example of our 2/2 twill above, if we change the treadling from straight to point, we now get diamond patterns:

You can probably notice by now that by using a point pattern on the threading, treadling, or both, introduces a lines of horizontal and vertical symmetry into the cloth. You can also see in drafts such as this that the pattern in the cloth can be seen in the the tie-up quadrant of the draft.

A final note about our example, you’ll notice that in this draft, the threading and the treadling order is exactly the same. You’ll see the instruction “tromp as writ” come up from time to time, sometimes in drafts where the treadling is absent. This means to simply treadle in the same order as is threaded, I imagine its an old way of saying “treadle as written”.

The Drawdown (D)

This section gives you an idea what the finished cloth pattern will look like – it basically shows you the resulting interesction of the warp and weft yarns, usually with the implicit assumption that the warp is a black yarn and the weft is a white yarn.

Sometimes, more than one repeat is shown in either direction so you can see how one repeat connects with one another when they are laid side by side.

In the diagram below, you can see how you can figure out how to draw this section if you know what’s in the other three. I show how the second pick (weft row) is drawn in our 2/2 point twill draft:

  1. First you look at the tie up associated with the treadle that is being pressed and determine which shafts are being raised.
  2. Next you look across the shafts and every column that is filled with a number represents the threads that that are being lifted
  3. Finally, in the current pick that is being drawn, you darken each square that is directly below the squares being lifted.Continue the process for each pick and you’re done.
One last note before signing off – what you’re seeing in quadrant D is a drawdown, the  key word being down. When we weave however, the cloth is actually formed in the other direction (from bottom to top). For that reason, sometimes you’ll see drafts with quadrants A and B at the bottom, which will show how the actual cloth will look as it is woven on the loom. For fully symmetrical patterns, the direction doesn’t matter. But for other drafts, such as our simple 2/2 twill at the beginning of the post, this will mean that what looks like a twill that travels in the right direction in the draft will actually travel in the left direction when it is woven!
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One thought on “The Weaving Draft

  1. This is very interesting! I admit it still left me with a spinning head but it would probably make more sense to me if I were actually able to get more familiar with a loom at the same time. When the time comes I will definitely refer to this post for information :)

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