Not Written in Stone

Reading drafts is one of the challenging parts of learning to weave, in part because there can be many ways to draft the same pattern. Here’s Laura Fry, expert weaver, teacher, and author of Magic in the Water, to address some common questions about weaving drafts. ––Anita


Sometimes new weavers get a bit confused when reading weaving drafts. These drafts are simply a graphic representation of how the threads move in the particular weave structure being shown. 

Twill Draft 1
Draft for a 4-shaft straight twill

The draft consists of four parts. Generally there is a row of four (or more) horizontal bars on which the threading sequence is shown. Think of them as an overhead view of the shafts in the loom. To the right (or left) of these horizontal bars is the section that shows how the shafts are tied up to the treadles. In some cases the tie-up is shown as a solid square or a blank.


Some weaving software will show the tie up as numbers, indicating the shaft. Below the tie-up area is the treadling sequence. Below the horizontal bars and beside the treadling sequence is the drawdown, or how the threads interlace.


In order to read the draft above, the threading begins on the right hand side (if you’re left-handed you may wish to thread from the left towards the right) with the first thread being entered into a heddle on shaft 4. The next thread will be on shaft 3, then 2, then 1. And repeat. This is called a straight progression, or sometimes a twill progression. For the tie up I have indicated that the plain weave treadles are to the far left and far right hand side with the twill tie up on the four treadles in the centre.



  Fry Twill Draft 2
  4-shaft twill with plain-weave on treadles 1 and 2


The above draft could as easily have been written like the one at right. Which is correct? They both are. How a weaver ties up their loom will depend on how they prefer to treadle.



I like to use the outside treadles for the plain weave because it makes more ‘sense’ to me, especially if I’m weaving a weave structure that requires a plain weave pick in between pattern picks, such as when weaving an overshot pattern. I also find threading the loom more efficient to work from the rear-most shaft forward when setting up a straight, or twill, progression.


Huck Draft 1
Spacer 5x5 pixelsHuck variation 1
Huck Draft 2
Huck variation 2

Let’s look at another weave structure: huck or huckaback. At left is one way to write huck and below it is another way to write the same weave structure. 



For people wanting to expand huck to more than four shafts, huck is quite often written this way with the foundation threads on shafts one and two with pattern threads on the rest of the shafts.


All of these drafts are correct. Which one you use will depend on how you process information and what makes most visual sense to you.


Another area that new weavers sometimes find confusing is how plain weave is formed. If you have begun with twill or overshot, as many new weavers do, you might assume that plain weave is always tied up with shafts 1 and 3 on one treadle and shafts 2 and 4 on a second treadle, as in the above examples. Plain weave can be other combinations depending on the weave structure.


Take a look at the Bronson lace draft below. Notice that for Bronson lace plain weave consists of one treadle tied to shaft one with the other plain weave treadle tied to shafts 2, 3, and 4. Plain weave is whatever shaft combination will give you a plain weave structure.


Fry Bronson Draft
Bronson Lace
Draft Without Plain Weave

With this combined twill pattern, it is not

possible to weave a true plain weave.

And then there are weave structures where no true plain weave is possible, as in the draft below the Bronson lace. Notice in this sequence of straight and broken twill progression that rather than plain weave in the broken progression areas, what results is a “half-basket” weave.



Understanding what a draft means and how to read it is the first step in being able to plan your own projects. Some people do crosswords. Some weavers do drawdowns!



If you want to get started on exploring different drafts from a variety of structures before you take to creating your own, the Best of  Handwoven eBooks feature projects in twill, Atwater-Bronson lace, overshot, and more! 



—Laura Fry

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