As a handweaver who designs and weaves textiles in small quantities and offers many different designs, one of my challenges is to be able to respond quickly to bespoke orders or requests for customisation, or to be able to weave one design followed immediately by a different one, without needing to change the threading or put on a new warp.
So I set myself a challenge three years ago, to create a threading that would allow me to weave a really wide range of very different designs all on the same warp. Let me explain…
The pattern in my throws is dictated by the order in which the different warp threads are placed on the many shafts on my loom. In weaving a throw, the pattern emerges as a result of the order in which these shafts are lifted, either separately or collectively.
Having a threading that would only allow you to weave one pattern would not be practical because I would need to change this threading each time I wanted to weave a different pattern… and with more than 800 threads in one throw this would take me hours.
A versatile threading pattern
So I developed a unique and complex threading pattern which is done using many small blocks of threads placed on different shafts, and started experimenting with how many designs I could come up with before I needed to consider a new threading.
The possibilities are proving virtually limitless and the combinations of shafts and the order in which they are lifted is so vast.
Whenever I have some spare time for design work I go to my original threading plan and play with these possibilities. I use specialist software to aid me in my design work. Below is a simple example of how this software can help with these experiments – a task that my weaving ancestors would have had to draw out laboriously by hand. And whilst I could do this if I wanted there really are not enough hours in the day to warrant it, and I would rather be weaving and testing the results.
To date I have more than 50 beautiful and workable designs which I could weave on my threading making my weaving life much easier, and my ability to respond quickly to custom orders really easy. And that is so important to me too!
So an example would be when I am weaving a set of four throws, one in each colour of my ‘Coverlet’ design and I get a call from someone who wants eight throws in my ‘Dukagang’ design for a boutique hotel. I don’t have to panic and I don’t have to say no because I can stop what I am doing when I get to the end of the throw I am currently weaving, and start weaving the ‘Dukagang’ design in my new clients chosen colours. Easy!
It’s like having many, many looms in my one studio space. And it is great for me because I like to have variety in my work. Just some of the joys of being a traditional handweaver in the 21st century.