sticky stuff

Since yesterday’s brain pain I have been on a journey through the weaving books which has become steadily stranger and stranger. The root of the problem is a structure called Brighton honeycomb. It isn’t a structure that I have ever used before, and I am inclined to think that an awful lot of other people can say the same. (It is just possible that there is a tremendous conspiracy about it, but as I am an anti-conspiracy theorist I prefer my first hypothesis.) In any case, there is scant reference to it online and no trace at all in any of the message boards I’ve searched. However, it appears in quite a number of books as an alternative to the “ordinary” honeycomb, aka waffle weave.

The problem is that in most of the books the 8-shaft draft is wrong. This wrongness goes back years and I rather suspect it has been copied from one book to another. Some of the books also include photos of woven samples and I have been peering at the samples to see whether they correspond to the draft or not; however, the distorted surface of the fabric (it is a honeycomb, after all) makes it rather tricky to analyse a photo – the only way to see for certain will be to try it “wrong” for myself and compare it with “right”.

So three hundred cheers for Sharon Alderman, whose Mastering Weave Structures does actually get it right – albeit in the online errata and not in the printed copy which I happen to own. From yesterday’s position of complete ignorance about the structure, I am now prepared to proclaim hers the definitive and correct version for the simple reason that it makes sense.

Brighton honeycomb needs a multiple of four shafts, with a minimum of eight. The 8-shaft version is the one most widely presented, but – as the smallest – it is also the most fiddly, and I can see why a few interlacements might get missed. It is easier to look at if you start with the 12-shaft version, which everyone seems to get right.

It is threaded on a straight draw so that part’s super-easy. The tie-up is where stuff happens. Its basis is a single diagonal from bottom left to top right crossed with a double diagonal going the other way. Like this.

In the spaces around the crossed diagonals, you fill in diamonds like this.

Notice that each diamond includes part of the double (blue) diagonal, but that the single (red) diagonal is always a step away. The left and right diamonds fit into the space quite neatly, but the top and bottom diamonds need to be wrapped around. When it is repeated, the pattern looks like this.

Interlocking diamonds, rather jauntily off-centre!

Now that we know how that works, we can see the 8-shaft pattern does the same thing even though the diamonds show only as little tiny crosses. Here are its diagonal lines and the complete tie-up.

And here is the repeated pattern. The busy-ness makes it harder to see the overall structure, but if you squint at it, tilt your head to one side etc etc then the diagonal lines do reveal themselves. Honestly. The tilting is especially helpful.

It all seems fine and logical. However, what I have found in every other book is this.

Note that there are two crosses missing in the top row (positions 3 & 4) and two more missing in the bottom row (positions 5 & 6). These are the “wraparound” parts of the top and bottom diamonds, and without them you get a very peculiar shape in the repeat.

It looks rather as though the moths have been at it, don’t you think?

One reason why I got so bogged down in this is that I couldn’t quite believe that so many books were wrong. This draft is given by Ann Sutton in The Structure of Weaving, by Anne Field in The Ashford Book of Weaving, by Marianne Straub in Handweaving and Cloth Design and in several other random books I started pulling off the shelves. Not completing the wraparound actually seems to be a habit of Marianne Straub, as her 12-shaft version also peters out at the bottom – although in that case she shows a couple of repeats so the problem isn’t fatal. The incorrect draft is also picked up and explicitly referenced by others, e.g. in Carol Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, the Brighton honeycomb is taken from Ann Sutton. As I said above, I suspect this incorrect draft has just got stuck in the system and been reproduced from one book to another.

Until Sharon Alderman got it sorted! However, another cause for confusion is that Alderman gives a step-by-step guide to deriving the design which is not the “based on crossed diagonals” one that other sources use. Her tie-up works, but it is actually a different segment of the pattern and therefore tricky to compare with the others. Even when I was working with the correct version it took me a while to find the way in which it almost-matches-but-doesn’t.

Well after all this I am about ready to write a dissertation on Brighton honeycomb* even though I still haven’t used it! I have to use it now, don’t I? Well, it’s certainly part of the plan — although what I really want to do is network it with plain weave so I’ve only got myself to square one so far. An improvement on square zero though.

*Oh look, I just have.

sticky stuff” was posted by Cally on 13 June 2011 at

Creative Commons License

17 Responses

  1. Belinda Rose

    This rung a distinct bell and I find deep in my hard drive notes I made during a much less in depth investigation. Some notes I made for a study group…”Despite several attempts I achieved little bumpiness using Straub’s draft, so I tried Sharon Alderman’s draft from her book Mastering Weave Structures. Both writers use a straight entry but Alderman’s tie up is slightly different…I am underwhelmed by the result.”

    I wove it with wool and cotton in blocks in the warp and weft, so each fibre wove together. One sample was “midway fulled” and one sample fulled a bit further on a 60º C wash for colourfast cotton, but I only achieved a more felt like background finish, rather than more bump. I can send you scans if you like.

    i like your trail through the books. B.

    • Cally

      Yes please! I’d especially like to see how it looks with those extra floats – if it’s not too fulled to show.

  2. Belinda Rose

    BTW Thanks for clearing all the book errors up! B

  3. Janet

    Now I want to try it, too! I’ve only got 10 shafts, alas, so will have to experiment with the 8S version. Thanks for doing all this legwork! I’m going to print this off and put it on the bookshelf along with my books, then put notes in the front of those you’ve mentioned to go find the right draft in my binder.

  4. Laura

    Doris Goerner got it right, I think, and that is the reference I generally use.

    • Cally

      Yes, she did! But she doesn’t have the 8-shaft tie-up – for some reason that’s where it has gone wrong elsewhere.

  5. Julia

    I don’t know about a whole dissertation, but at the very least it sounds like an interesting article! Good for you for figuring it out!

  6. Meg in Nelson

    Cally the Detective! Good for you for not giving up. I can’t wait to see the picture of the cloth washed and fulled!

  7. Geodyne

    Goodness me, no wonder your brain was fried! I’m glad it was your brain and not mine.

    I’ve never tried Brighton honeycomb, but I’ve long ben inspired by the lovely fabrics Alderman presents. I’m grateful to you for sharing your discoveries. I’m going to file those away for when I do get around to trying it.

  8. Margreet

    Cally, how frustrations and well done to have found the correct way! Thanks for posting about it!! After reading your post I had a look at Janet Phillips book The Weaver’s Book of Fabric Design to see what she says, and she give a correct version for 16 shafts. I had this structure earmarked in Alderman’s book as a weave to try one day. (But I have all her corrections printed out and glued into the book as there were so many……) I might well be tempted to try it sooner than later now.

  9. Cally

    I just made a couple of edits to highlight the fact that it is specifically the 8-shaft version which is almost universally wrong. The larger versions all look fine — barring the incomplete drawdown in Handweaving and Cloth Design — but I think you’d notice the gap much more with the larger diamonds, so it would be harder for the mistake to slip through. Happy to be corrected though, if anyone spots a faulty 12- or 16-shaft variant!

    Sounds as though everyone is going to be trying it now, so I shall have to get a move on.

  10. Evelyn

    I am curious about where the name and structure originated. Wouldn’t that have a bearing on what is considered “right”?

    • Bonnie Inouye

      Do you have Oelsner? Figure 747 looks like the 12-shaft draft you included. It is draft number 34370 on
      Oelsner has a short chapter called Honeycomb Weaves. He has some standard drawdowns for what we call Waffle Weave in North America with some more unusual drafts, too. Figure 746 is related but different- this will be draft 34369 on
      I have seen “Brighton Honeycomb” in one of my older books but have not woven it. I have never owned an 8-shaft loom but you have me wondering what these will look like after washing. With regular and with network drafted waffle weave (USA waffle) I had best results with rather closely sett and firmly beat cotton in all one size.

      • Cally

        I don’t but I’ve just looked it up on, thanks! I rather like the elongated shapes in 746 too. In older books the Brighton honeycomb seems to feature as 12 shafts or above, and I am definitely attracted to the 12-shaft version which looks as though it will give a nice size of cell.

        • Bonnie Inouye

          Cally, the Oelsner book is inexpensive and there are lots of used copies. Dover Press reprinted it in paperback. I keep one in the summer cabin- it was $5 when new but I got it used for less. G.H.Oelsner, A Handbook of Weaves. It is also available through The text at the beginning of each chapter is concise and interesting and often dense but useful. I refer to this book in chapter 2 of my book, which I know you have.

  11. Susannah Day

    Eleven years later …
    Tovey (1969) gets it right, but gives an 11 x 12 square for the 8 shaft version, which could have confused later weavers.
    Great investigation – thanks for writing it up!

    • Cally

      It’s nice to know this post is still useful 🙂 Thanks for the reference, and the additional clue to the possible origins of the error!