grids, curves, shapes, patterns

posted in: Blog | 7

Something which interests me is the broad idea of ‘pattern’ in woven cloth. I’ve occasionally had some very surprised reactions to my weaving style, especially when people know that I have a loom with ‘lots of shafts’. My use of this loom seems to suggest to some that I must weave very intricate designs — this kind of thing — but that is not my taste at all. There are always exceptions, of course, but in general I have something of a distaste for the intricate in most artforms. Apart from cornices, which should be as baroque as possible*. My own design instincts run in the opposite direction: how can I use clear, simple shapes to make a compelling design? In fact, how can I make clear, simple shapes at all? Because things which are simple in appearance are not necessarily simple to make.

There are those who love the grid — the verticals and the horizontals which are the basis of weaving — and there are those who seek to break free of it. I’m in both camps, I think. I love to use network drafting to make big sweeping curves. I love to use differential shrinkage to distort the surface of the cloth. I also love block designs. Blocks can be very hungry for shafts and an apparently simple arrangement may be challenging in practice.

I’ve been playing around with climate data from the Met Office to make scarves incorporating bar charts… as one does… and it’s been interesting to think about which structures to use. For these lightweight summer scarves I used huck lace as a background and plain weave to make the pattern. Then I discovered how difficult it is to photograph lace!

highland summer purple

highland summer green 2

Since I like the abstract effect of the different patterns of squares — hope you can see ’em! — I have started thinking about other structures I can use and what sort of fabrics they will make. Perhaps diversified plain weave for a woollier version, summer & winter for something sturdy and so on. More on this later, no doubt.

There’s one grid pattern, however, which I don’t like at all. Put it down to over-exposure if you like, but tartan really makes me squirm. However, the topic came up at an event I attended a couple of weeks ago, so it has been on my mind. And then, after weaving a couple more high twist scarves, I had a bit of stripy warp left over. This seemed like an ideal opportunity to practice anti-idolatry by making something I don’t like. Of course, I didn’t really weave a tartan. The open sett I was using with the over-twisted wool weft meant that for a ‘normal’ yarn plain weave was a more sensible choice than a twill, and rather than match the warp colours I used random bits of yarn left on bobbins — but I do have 18″ or so of a multi-coloured plaid.


Oops, that’s the wrong way round. The warp is left-right in that picture. Anyway, it’s good to do things I don’t like from time to time (and I should probably also discipline myself to make a list of intricate things that I do like) but the exercise has also reminded me how little I enjoy changing weft colours.

Currently on the loom: four-colour double weave. At last! And not a grid in sight.

*Update – other areas where I like intricacy are illuminated manuscripts (although I like contemporary work which isn’t as well) and papercuts. I’m sure more will come to me… there’s nothing like a generalisation, even one about myself, to bring out my inner quibbler.

grids, curves, shapes, patterns” was posted by Cally on 19 May 2013 at

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7 Responses

  1. Brenda
    | Reply

    Lovely work! I agree with your design aesthetics and applaud how well you described it (complex, but simple and subtle rather than fussily busy!)…. these lace scarves are beautiful and so are the shadow weaves scarves you reference!

  2. Bonnie Inouye
    | Reply

    I am eager to see your four-color double weave! Will you peg the tie-up and manipulate the bars? You could do this if you change the format for the treadling first.

    I have seen the fabrics used for the photographs in the book, 16 Harness Twills, the Fanciest…by Irene Wood. Her husband brought two long wall hangings that she made with her sample strips for the book and let CW use them in our booth during Convergence 1994 (back when CW was given a booth at Convergence). Irene Wood’s cloth did not look at all like yours or mine, Cally. She used very fine wool in pretty, feminine pastels. The little stars and such are rather small. She used a few runs of straight draw at the sides, points in the center, to get samples of both on one cloth. The drafts on the screen through show one repeat of each tie-up. When repeated, they look small, sweet, dainty and traditional. Irene was very active in the guild there in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and was much missed during Convergence.

    • Cally
      | Reply

      Good point about scale – I’m definitely one for large scale in general, although teeny-tiny makes sense to me too, especially where it makes textural rather than visual patterns. It is something I still have to deliberately prompt myself to think about, to make sure that the draft + yarns I’m considering will achieve a scale I’m happy with!

      • Bonnie Inouye
        | Reply

        Your lace scarves are very successful. Large-scale, contemporary woven lace is rare, and most of the woven lace pieces I have seen are white or pale colours.

  3. Jacquie Reith
    | Reply

    Cally, I really love your lace scarves, both the pattern and the lucsious colors. Also like your anti-tartan. I only wove tartan once — I guess to prove to my Glaswegian Mom that I could. Always love to see what you are weaving.

  4. neki rivera
    | Reply


  5. Dot
    | Reply

    I am very taken with the colours of your plaid, what fun!

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