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The Architecture of a Draft Part Two: Filling in the Quadrants

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about the four quadrants of a draft. It is valuable to wrap your head around what each quadrant is communicating before you start digging into the details. Most drafts aren’t written for rigid-heddle weavers, they are written for looms that have shafts, and even then there is a wide variety of shaft looms and draft types.

Just like swatching, it isn’t a requirement for you to know how to read or use a draft to weave, but just like swatching, it can be a valuable bit of know-how for your weaving journey. To some, this translation comes naturally, to others it is a struggle. It is easy to make assumptions based on prior experience. After all assumptions are all we have to go on when learning something new. I was on the struggle end, but over time, the mystery is slowly revealing itself to me.

Shaft Looms

For the sake of this brief introduction to the relationship between drafts and structure, I’m using a draft written for a rising shed loom setup for a drawdown. This is one of the most common setups in North American literature. The draft is read from the origin of the draft out. The origin is circled in red and the direction the draft is read moves in the direction of the arrows. (See part one post for more information about this type of draft setup.

Fig.1 Draft Format

Two intersecting red lines with a red circle around the intersection. Blue arrows radiate out in all four direction from the center of the circle.
The correlations between the rigid-heddle loom and shaft looms is a bit circuitous, due to the fact that the rigid-heddle multiple-heddle threading is not an aligned system. The yarns bend in order have each warp end threaded in a hole pass through a single heddle hole. Before we dive in, let’s look at a stripped down view of the relationships between treadles, shafts, and sheds on a rising shed loom.

  Fig.2 Schematic of Treadles, Shafts, and Heddles on a 4-Shaft Floor Loom

Each shaft is assigned a number. Typically, shaft 1 is in the front and moves sequentially to the back. The treadles are tied to the shafts. How the shafts are tied to the treadles can vary depending on the weaver’s preference. Shown here is a direct tie-up, only one shaft is tied to a treadle. Depending on your loom’s mechanics, you may be able to tie more than one shaft to a single treadle as we will do in our example later on.

The drafts we are looking at are for this kind of rising shed loom. There are other loom types where the shafts go down or “sink” and looms where the shafts move in opposition to one another, some go up and some go down. It is important you know which kind of shaft loom the draft is written for and what the symbols mean. If you see an X in the tie-up, it is written for a sinking-shaft loom, if you see an O, it is written for a rising-shed loom. Sometimes there are black boxes, which generally means the indicated shafts go up.

Standard Two-Heddle Threading

The Yarnworker Patreon community, is exploring a number of threadings during our summer study session, including the incredibly powerful standard two-heddle threading, one of the most common threading used and taught. From it, you can create an array of structures, including plain weave, English plain weave, Hopsack, 1/3 twill, pick-up lace, doubleweave, and Summer and Winter.

Fig. 3 Standard Two-Heddle Threading at 200% Density

Reading threading in Fig. 3 from right to left as we would in the draft, the threading repeat is Heddle 1 Hole (H1), Slot 1 (S1), Heddle 2 Hole (H2), and Slot 2 (S2). How the threading is typically taught places half a repeat at the beginning and half at the end. Shown here are also two slotted selvedges, general good practice, but also personal preferences.

In this threading, S2 travels in a different slot from the front to the back (there is a threading that has them traveling in the same slot, but they are prone to twisting). The two slotted ends are what makes this threading so versatile. Notice the ends threaded in a hole, pass through a slot in the other heddle and that none of the ends cross between the heddles.

Many moons ago, I created a YouTube video that walks you through the relationships between 4-shafts and this threading. If you have a copy of Handwoven Home on page 147, I illustrate the relationship between the rigid-heddle loom at the “straight draw”, where the ends are threading on in decanting or assenting order of the shafts. For those who speak shaft, it is easy to think of the standard threading is the same as a straight draw, and while it can weave straight draw threadings, with the magical slotted ends, it can weave more structures than those available on a straight draw.

Standard Two-Heddle Threading in Draft Format

To look at this same threading in draft format, we’ll walk you through an example of a 4-shaft plain weave draft and how it relates to the standard two-heddle threading.

Threading Quadrant

All the information inside the dashed lines in Fig. 4 relate to a shaft loom. All the information outside refer to a rigid-heddle loom. Shaft loom drafts use numbers to indicate the threading order. These numbers also correspond to which shaft to thread the loom to achieve these results (see Fig. 2 above for a schematic). All the numbers tell a rigid-heddle weaver is the order of the threads, it doesn’t tell you how to space or cram the ends. It comes with practice to know if the hole end should pass to the right or left of the other aligned hole.

        Fig. 4 Threading Quadrant

Superimposed on the draft is a possible rigid-heddle setup on the standard two-heddle threading. At top and along the side, outside the dashed lines, are two ways to express which heddle positions correlate with the shaft threading positions. It is helpful to think of Heddle 1 Hole as the shaft equivalent of “1” although there are times when you can re-assign this position to another location to make the sett or structure setup optimal.

Shed Configuration Quadrant

In Fig. 5, the dashed lines are eliminated and the rigid-heddle threading positions along the side are abbreviated, moving to a more streamlined look. The slot and hole symbols will stay above the threading order for a visual reference.

        Fig. 5 Threading and Shed Configuration Quadrant

The upper right quadrant indicates the number of sheds and the necessary configurations to weave the structure. In this case, there are two sheds. In the first shed, ends 1 and 3 are up. These ends are threaded in the holes of each heddle. In the second shed, 2 and 4 are up. These ends are threaded in slots. To create these sheds, lift both heddles up to place 1 and 3 on the upper layer of the shed, or down to place 2 and 4 on the upper layer.

Weaving Order Quadrant

The lower right quadrant illustrates the order in which to weave the sheds. In this case, the weaver is alternating between ends 1 and 3 (H1 and H2) and 2 and 4 (S1 and S2). The rigid-heddle weaver often has to lower the heddles in order to place the slotted ends on the upper layer of the shed. A photo of the cloth is placed in the chart area showing the actual interlacements the draft is illustrating. 

Fig.6 Threading, Shed Configurations, and Weaving Order

Chart Quadrant

The lower left quadrant illustrates the woven cloth. A vertical line indicates where a warp travels over the weft and a horizontal line to indicate where the weft travels over the warp. It is common to see a checkerboard with black and white boxes in the cart area. Typically the black box is an up end and the white box is a down end. I find that lines are easier to see the relationship between the chart and the woven cloth.

Fig.7 Threading, Shed Configurations, Weaving Order, and Chart

Reading the weaving order from top to bottom, the first slash indicates that the 1 and 3 threading positions are up causing the weft to pass under them, and the warp is visible in those areas. Conversely, 2 and 4 are down or on the bottom of the shed, so the weft travels over the warp and is visible. The 1 and 3 have vertical lines indicating an up warp end and the 2 and 4 ends have a horizontal line indicating the weft passing over the warp. The next slash indicates 2 and 4 are up, offering the opposite configuration.

This is the kind of material I’ve been puzzling through the last year, trying to find a throughput to help you (and me) make sense of the fascinating world of structure. I’ve been teaching some of this material with the Yarnworker Patreon community to get some feedback and have a little fun weaving some of these structures. Their enthusiasm, feedback, and patience is what keeps me going.

Heddles Up


5 thoughts on “The Architecture of a Draft Part Two: Filling in the Quadrants”

    • Weaving, or mostly anything we care about, is a series of: I got it! I don’t got it. I got it! You can always come back here for the paper trail.

  1. It’s been a while since I wove on a shaft loom and I recall using floating selvages once or twice. Do you have another article/post that talks about using slotted selvage threads on a rigid heddle loom as shown in Fig. 3?

    • I don’t have a public post. During the Yarnworker School Patreon community summer study, I have some resource material where I explain it this way:

      Whenever possible, I place selvedges in a slot. This puts less strain on the selvedge threads and allows you more freedom to pick them up with your shuttle. If necessary, you can weight them using an S-hook or similar object.

      By placing the ends in a slot, you are essentially creating a floating selvedge. It is a term that comes from the shaft-loom world. A floating selvedge is thread through the reed, but not in a heddle hole. It is often weighted independently from the rest of the warp, just like you would do so when fixing a broken warp end. It is tied on the front beam with the other ends. This setup causes the selvedge to lay in the middle of the shed or “float”, and it is easy to scoop in a different order from the structure.

      This free-form end is essentially baked into the rigid-heddle already with our superpower slots. However, because of the nature of the slot/hole construction, the selvedge won’t sit in the middle of the shed, it will either align with the top or bottom layer of the shed.

      You can create similar conditions to a floating selvedge by placing the selvedges in a slot. I prefer to pack the slotted selvedge onto the beam. (The primary reason shaft loom weavers don’t pack them on the beam is to get the selvedge to float.) Sometimes the structure ends or begins on a slot and it is only necessary to add a single additional selvedge.

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