What the Drawdown tells us

So far in our overview of weaving drafts we have looked at the threading, the tie-up, the treadling and the liftplan. And we could stop right there, since those elements give us all the instruction we need to be able to set up our looms and weave the cloth.

But we still have one quadrant of the draft which we haven’t considered and it is the largest of them all. So what does the drawdown actually do?

The Drawdown

The drawdown is essentially a diagram of the woven cloth. As in the threading, every column represents one warp end. As in the treadling or liftplan, every row represents one weft pick. Taking these together, every square in the grid shows one point of interlacement between warp and weft. At its most basic, a drawdown is shown in black and white: a black square indicates that the warp is on top, a white square that the weft is on top.

Eye Candy

In practice the drawdown is very often what attracts us to a design in the first place. We might be browsing online or in a book, and an intriguing pattern catches our eye: “Oooh, I’d like to weave that!”

Seeing the interaction of the threads, rather than the individual instructions about warp and weft, gives us an idea of whether we want to follow those instructions in the first place. That’s important. Before we spend money on yarn and time on setting up the loom, we typically want to have a sense of what we are aiming for and a drawdown helps us with that.

The example shown above is an advancing point twill on 8 shafts. Twills are generally very pleasing to look at in draft form, and the drawdown often gives a pretty good idea of what the pattern will look like in the finished cloth. However, not every weave structure is quite as accommodating to the grid-like form of the drawdown.

When threads curve

As every weaver knows, threads don’t like the grid. Given half a chance, they will shift and move and take themselves to places where they have a bit more wiggle room. It is this property of our basic material that makes weave so exciting: by choosing our structure carefully, we can work with the yarn to create all kinds of interesting textures and designs. Unfortunately, that does mean that what we see in the drawdown can be a long way from what we see in the finished cloth.

Huck is a favourite structure of mine, as it can create lots of different textures with one threading. In this four-shaft example, warp and weft floats are used to make a little frame around areas of plain weave.

In the drawdown it looks very orderly and square, doesn’t it? But look up at the top right hand corner where there is a # shape in white. Remember that white means the weft is showing on top of the interlacement. So those long white horizontals you see in rows two and four of the drawdown mean that the weft is floating over five consecutive warp ends without interlacing. Further down, the long black verticals mean that the warp is floating over five consecutive weft picks. Threads that float are threads that can move, so in the finished cloth this pattern looks rather different.

In the drawdown the areas of plain weave and the areas with floats appear all the same size. Once the cloth is off the loom and finished, though, the floats all crowd together and look much smaller, while the plain weave area stretches out and takes up more of the space.

Deliberate deflections

An even more extreme example is seen with deflected weft structures such as honeycomb. In the draft below I have used red as well as black and white.

Those large black squares indicate areas where all the warp ends are on top and the weft underneath. In the drawdown this appears as a neat grid of plain weave squares alternating with unwoven squares. The red line separates one row from the next. However, when the cloth is finished, the thread represented by the red line will bend around the woven squares in both rows like this:

The unwoven areas have almost disappeared as the plain weave from the adjacent rows spreads itself out into the vacant space.

Planning, testing and checking

So the drawdown has its limitations as a tool for visualising the woven fabric. This is one reason why experienced weavers say ‘Sample!’ in answer to just about any question. The interaction of your draft and your yarn cannot be known until you actually put them together.

But as long as you know these limitations, the drawdown is still an immensely useful tool for planning out your design and checking that you are going to get – for example – lace where you want lace, and plain weave where you want plain weave.

Colour vision

In all the examples I have shared here, I have focused on the drawdown as a tool for thinking about structure. Of course, it can also be used as a tool for thinking about colour. Whether you are working with software or using coloured pencils on graph paper, you can use the drawdown to explore how colour will appear in your woven cloth.

Colour planning in the drawdown might be as simple as identifying the placement of a highlight: where do I need to thread this contrast colour to get it to appear at the right point in my pattern? One of my favourite twill variants is a cord weave, which offers a lovely opportunity for a narrow warp stripe if it is placed ‘just so’.

Or you may want to test a much more complex warp design, involving several colour stripes and blends. This is a topic in itself so I won’t go down that rabbit hole here and now. (You might find a post I wrote for Craftsy about Fibonacci striping useful, though.)

Putting it all together

So now we have all the basic tools of weave drafting:

If you have any questions about these, feel free to ask. Next: some posts about specific weave structures and how they are drafted.

First posted on weavingspace.co.uk © Cally Booker