Your definition of complexity


So what is your definition of complexity on 4-shafts? There must be so many ways of accomplishing this. I'd love to hear other peoples' ideas.

I've been playing with highly twisted yarn, differential fulling, gauze, unusual yarns such as paper, reeds, metal, etc. mostly in plain weave, but also in twill sometimes with varying setts.




Posted on Sun, 11/01/2009 - 17:37

That's a good question.  I assumed that complex meant creating weave structures that were more challenging with 4 shafts than they might be with 8 or more.  Like advancing twill or undulating twill.  I believe there are ways to do these with 4 shafts but have only explored doing them with 8.

I also love the look of turned twill and plaited twill.  Can they be done on 4 shafts?


Posted on Mon, 11/02/2009 - 05:09

Turned twill and plaited twill could be done by pick-up but not loom-controlled unless you have 6S or more.  You can do weft-wise stripes of 3/1 and 1/3 twill (or 2/1 and 1/2), but can't get the stripes in the warp.  I've tried drafting smaller plaited twills but they just don't work (would love to see it if someone else has derived one for 4S). You can do a form of overlapping twill blocks, more akin to advancing twill:  A=123, B=234, C=341, D=412, and advancing points will give you a crackle threading.  You can play with networking both (and or combining them) for more complexity.  Undulating twills can be very beautiful on 4S.

Other forms of complexity on 4S in addition to the good ones Debbie mentioned include all the forms of pick-up, tapestry, inlay, embroidery weaves, finger laces, boutonne, etc. I like the pickup techniques in Nancy Searles book, which has easy ways of combining two or more treadlings to give damask-like (and other) effects. You can combine the finger techniques with a loom controlled structure (for example, I've done boutonne on overshot base, embroidery weave on lace bronson base, and tapestry on a leno base).

Then there are the treadling variations such as on opposites, woven as, honeycomb, spetsvav, boundweave, polychrome, etc.  Alternate two colors, two grists, two textures, etc. (or cycle with three or more) in weft and/or warp.  Try a thick tabby and a thin pattern for a shadow effect.

Turned polychrome gives you 4 warp-faced blocks on straight draw.  If your multi-shuttle weave has only 4 (or less) sheds you can turn it and weave with one shuttle on 4S with amazing results.

Fan reeds, curved or shaped beaters (ondule), differential tension on warp threads.

Velvet, eyelash/corderoy.  Rya/flossa and other knotted pile techniques.

Color and weave.  Shadow weave.  Interleave two completely different patterns, each with its own color.

Devore, cut and remove some wefts or warps, discontinuous/clasped/ladder warps and wefts, cut and turn some warps into wefts or vv. 

Felting resists, loom-controlled shibori, true ikat, painted warps and/or wefts, twice woven wefts, etc.

Very complex patterning can be done with 3 or 4 blocks - look at overshot for examples, then change the symmetry, distort, change proportions, etc. 

More blocks than are normal for 4S.  Zielinsky talks about 12 blocks of crackle on 4S rather than the normal 4. 

I gave my advanced/master students the task of coming up with as many variations as they could find using only 4S straight draw.  As a group we came up with over 2000.  There is a huge world of complexity out there that does not take a lot of shafts!

Laurie Autio



Posted on Mon, 11/02/2009 - 13:31

In addition to the excellent list Laurie has provided, you can play with space denting - i.e. cramming some dents and leaving others open, to get some complex effects.  Color can be used to create weaves that appear to be very complex.  Add in felting, dyeing and other forms of surface design and items woven on a 4 shaft loom can become quite complex.



Posted on Mon, 11/02/2009 - 15:21

Su, yes - cramming and spacing can have some seriously interesting effects.  You can turn a simple straight twill into an undulating one, or work with two structures, etc. 

Yesterday I saw a NEWS (New England Weavers Seminar) sample from the early 80's that doubled one thread of straight draw in a mathematical progression (11234122341233412344, etc.) to create a fabric that at first resembled canvas, but was just twill. Color and reflectivity choices made it both effective and complex in appearance. 

Algebraic (Ada Dietz) and name drafting can also be very complex.  Multiple tabby weaves (see Bateman) are another arena for exploration.

I was trying come up with a definition of complexity.  My first thought was uncommon, or unusual, but many uncommon things are quite simple, and common 4S drafts (overshot) can be very complex.  Capitalizing on the unexpected, stretching definitions, combining two or more ideas, going beyond the obvious, finding rhythm and focus without repeats or mirrors, using mathematical bases, etc could all lead to complexity.

In my draft work I often try to find the real limits of a weave (rather than its traditional form), and then work backwards to form effective designs from the lot or subsets.  Effective is much harder than complex!


Posted on Mon, 11/02/2009 - 19:32

It looks like Debbie really got things rolling.  I feel like the novice I truly am.  Laurie has named a few weaves I am familiar with and have tried but I am feeling a little overwhelmed with all the information.

Can anyone recommend some books to see these weave structures and start working on samples for myself?



Posted on Tue, 11/03/2009 - 13:49

I put together a huge reference list last night and then lost it by hitting the back button rather than send.  Frustration!  I will try to recreate it later.


Posted on Tue, 11/03/2009 - 13:51

I hate when that happens. I'm sorry, it's so annoying. And we have all done it one time or another.

Thanks Laurie, I look forward to seeing it.


Posted on Wed, 11/04/2009 - 13:37

Hey Laurie or Su,

Would either of you like to put together a weave-along. 

I am running one on the Rigid heddlers group and my Baby Wolf is almost empty and would love to work on something a little more challenging than average. 

There isn't much to it.  Pick a structure and if you have a draft, provide it for all to see.  We can choose whatever yarn we want and whatever item, if any, to weave.  It's really simple.  Only part that requires work is to post to the group daily and provide pictures as you produce the item we are all working on.

I'm happy to do samples.  There must be a couple things we could work on that have similar threadings? 

In addition to the people in this group, I am working with Halcyon yarn to host our Weave-along on one of their blogs, newsletters or website.  They have a knit-along and I am bugging Halcyon to link to the WAL from here.  So, this is a great opportunity for an audience beyond Weavolution.

BTW, did you know we have close to 4000 members on Weavolution?

Claudia, Weavolution co-founder

Posted on Wed, 11/04/2009 - 14:10

Thank you, Laurie and Su, for such a complete list. I've had fun tracking down some of the structures you've mentioned. I thought there was a lot out there, but it looks like it's a larger world than any of us would have time to fully explore in a lifetime.


Posted on Wed, 11/04/2009 - 14:13

As far as 4-harness books, I love Malin Selander's Swedish Swatches. Great structures, great color work.

Then, for the area I'm currently exploring there's Collapse Weave by Anne Field and Magiske Materialer - i væven  by Lotte Dalgaard. This last one has an english translation CD available for purchase.

Posted on Fri, 11/06/2009 - 13:10

Claudia, from the other thread it looks like you found someone?  I am not familiar with the weave-along format.

Yes, I saw the near 4000 number when I posted about the Weavers Guild of Boston sale this weekend.  Congratulations!!  I was one of 14 people jurying for the sale yesterday and saw amazing complexity and beauty amongst the 4 shaft pieces (maybe half of the submitted work).  It was a real inspiration to come back and think about this group.  For example, one scarf was plain weave with differential spacing, single color warp, different color weft, extremely effective.  Lots of surface design (dyeing effects, beading), complex color and weave with many colors, traditional overshots, laces, reflectivity effects, etc.  The guild will probably be posting new photos here in the next few days:


Laurie, Dean (pres) of WGBoston