No Weaving Software, Just Pencil and Paper: A Primer on Network Drafting

This post is for folks who wonder what network drafting means -- people who hear the term and have only a vague idea of curves and circles -- and want to know more.

(For those who understand the concept and want to dig further, I suggest you buy a copy of Network Drafting: An Introduction, the definitive work on the subject written by Alice Schlein and available by clicking here on Amazon. Schlein is the brilliant weaver and designer who introduced network drafting to the weaving community back in the 1990s through a series of articles in Weaver's magazine.)

Fundamentally, computers and weaving software have brought the world of network drafting to the weaving community at large. Still, the best way to learn how it works, according to Schlein, is to begin with a pencil and graph paper. This way you will understand the basics of network drafting -- instead of not knowing what happens when you tell your computer software to "Redraw on network" after you've created a design line. Also, the pencil and paper method gives you a lot more control if you want to create your own designs.

Moving on: For this blog post, I created a downloadable design grid based on an initial of 4, which is the most commonly used initial. Just click on this link:

Network drafting grid

Here's what it looks like.

If you look closely, you'll notice that there are three empty squares between every gray square, both horizontally and vertically. That means this network is based an initial of 4.

The "initial" can be defined as the foundation or scaffold for your threading. An initial of 4 means that every possible threading on your network is always on the gray squares above, each of which is 4 squares away from the next one, both horizontally and vertically. In essence you have a twill-based threading plan.

(You'll notice that the grid looks something like a twill fabric. I think of it as the twill lines you see on your blue jeans: one warp end up, three weft ends across -- that's how it weaves. Cut the fabric up in a wavy, curving ribbon and thread only the warp pattern on that ribbon and you have the idea of a networked threading.)

Please remember, this tutorial is really just a first step -- a baby step at that. There are so many options and variations, but let's assume you're working with 8 shafts. (Schlein offers many options with 8 shafts alone, but again, this is just a basic tutorial.)

So take your pencil, turn your grid horizontally, and draw a horizontal line across the page. Now draw a second line, this one 8 squares on the grid above the first.

Now draw a curving line across the 8-square-high space you've created on the grid. The line should travel the grid from top to bottom continuously, as with the break you see, which ends at the top and continues at the bottom, as if it were wrapped around the space we're working in. (This is much like an advancing twill line on 8 shafts, which can only go as far as shaft 8, so the next thread can't go on shaft 9 and therefore begins again on shaft 1.)

Now create a second line that is 4 squares above the blue line on your grid. When you can't go above any further, return to square 1 and begin there.

This defines your threading ribbon, which uses an initial of 4 squares for its height. (Remember the ribbon we've cut from our jeans, as mentioned above?) Remember that whenever you reach the top of the black horizontal line, you need to circle around to the first square again. 

Now you want to fill in your ribbon, like so.

At this point I will admit, I'm not much of a graphic artist. But I'm hoping you get the idea.

Finally we create our networked threading, by marking every gray-shaded square that falls within our ribbon. Here's what our example looks like.

Here's what the threading looks like when entered into weaving software. (Keep in mind that I've tweaked our practice ribbon a bit here and there. It's just for the sake of demonstration.)

And here's what our threading looks like when woven as Jin on a 5-thread advancing-point twill.

Not a home run, perhaps, but a good beginning. Remember that networked designs -- as with most weaving designs -- take a good bit of trial and error, lots of playing with the computer, and lots of sampling, before we achieve loom-worthy results.

Thanks for reading!


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