Bergdala Spinnhus

Older weaving books, variations of threading notations


Part 1: books and graph paper compared to computer software – different possibilities

Sometimes, when you read older (or foreign) weaving books, you can hardly recognize the threading and treadling diagrams...
When I started weaving (at the end of the 1970:ies), us Swedish handweavers-to-be were drilled to understand some things automatically: a draft in red and white was always depicting a detail draft (red squares meant visible weft), one in blue and white was always representing a block draft (blue squares were "pattern", white were "background"). If there were yellow squares we were probably looking at a double weave. Black squares in the tie-up meant that shafts should be tied to sink. Some books were printed in black and white - then black squares in the draft meant visible weft. A couple of examples:
rackel weave
profile draft
herringbone, variation
"Rackel" weave from
Lundell: Stora vävboken
Profile draft from
Stora vävboken
Herringbone from Cyrus:
Handbok i vävning, fig 39A

The colour codes were enormously important. For some weaving teachers it was so important that, when weaving software started to appear, they did not think software would ever be of interest: print-outs were in black and white, which meant one could not understand what they were supposed to represent...

Software versus books

Starting at the modern end, with weaving software: to begin with, everybody said the best feature was that one could get a picture of the cloth. Several softwares were marketed with the colour handling as the primary advantage (one program, if memory serves, was delivered with a standard colour chart, numbers and all, from a big yarn seller). Some programs also had a "cloth view": one could see it draped over a corner of a table. This cloth view has been taken out in later updates.

Nowadays, there are other marketing arguments - "libraries" to use in block substitution is a common example.
One of my favourite functions is the "interlacement view" - instead of a coloured square grid it shows "threads". Compare these pictures:

rackel weave
rackel weave
I find it much easier to "see" what the grid illustrates.
A "colour-and-weave effect" from Cyrus:Handbok i vävning, figure 218 F. To the left is what it looks like in the book, to the right in "interlacement view" with colour added. I chose somewhat different greens, because I find it easier to read the draft that way.

In many softwares you can also change the thread thickness, which also helps. Compare these pictures from Cyrus:Handbok i vävning, figure 86F. The text says (my translation): " should be woven with two yarns with very different grist". This structure will change a lot with wet finishing, as can be seen from the photo.
fig 86F
fig 86F
86F, photo

I believe that most authors would have been very happy to have had the possibilities of the modern sofrware...

Most weaving software (for handweavers) come from USA or Canada, which means that they, as a standard, follow American traditions. This means that their tie-ups are opposite to what we are accustomed to (rising shed, as opposed to our sinking shed). They also number the shafts and treadles "backwards" - shaft 1 is nearest the weaver, treadle 1 is to the left.
Most can be changed to show sinking shed.
Most have the threading diagram at the top. From now on, I will keep the threading at the top, as my favourite software, Fiberworks PCW, produces pictures like these. I will try to ascertain that the tie-ups are for sinking shed.

Nowadays there are many weaving softwares to be found - on this web page we can find a long list (which probably not is complete). Some programs are free to download, but most have to be bought. Most have a demo version to try out before paying. Some can be changed so that they show the draft like we are used to: threading at the bottom, treadling to the right, sinking shed. The only software (that I know of) that "speaks Swedish" is Weavepoint.

Addendum 2020: nowadays there is a lot more software to be found, some of it made for tablets and other hand-held devices.
I have not tried any of them, but the basic principles still hold.

More about different notations in older books, and from some foreign books, can be found here.

  •   Lundell: Stora vävboken, 1:st ed, 8:th printing 1984 - ISBN 91-534-0388-6.
    (New revised edition 2005, ISBN 91-534-2460-3)
    English edition: The big book of weaving, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84340-456-9.
  •   Cyrus-Zetterström: Handbok i vävning, 6:th ed 1980, ISBN 91-36-01301-3
    English edition Manual of Swedish handweaving, 3:rd ed 1984, ISBN 91-36-02139-3
    French edition Manuel de tissage la main, 1977, ISBN 91-36-00646-7
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  © Kerstin Fröberg 2009