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.