Why are Threading Drafts Read from Right to Left?

Handwoven MagazineAsk Madelyn


Hi Madelyn!

This isn’t the usual kind of question, but I am curious as to why the threading drafts in most sources are read from right to left instead of the way we read words (left to right). I’ve found left-to-right drafts in only a very few sources. Does it make a difference?


Hi Marianne!

A threading draft is supposed to present an exact picture of the threading order you’d see if you stood in front of the loom. So if the first thread is on shaft 4 at the far left of the draft, a thread should be on shaft 4 at the left of the loom. If a thread on shaft 1 is at the far right of the draft, it should be the first thread on the right at the loom. When we “read” the draft, we usually start at the right (with the tie-up and treadling at the right of the threading). The right-to-left order (I am guessing) was established long ago when most weavers were back-to-front warpers and were right-handed. So they started threading the loom, sitting in front of it, from the right side.

It wouldn’t make any difference which direction you read the draft from if your draft looked just like the threading on the loom. If you threaded 1-2-3-4 from the left instead of from the right, however, so that the threading on the loom was flipped horizontally from the way it was written, your twill would be in the opposite direction when you followed the given treadling draft. This would not be a difference most people would notice! For most other weaves, the difference would not even be that great.

The same issue of direction occurs with the treadling. Most sources show the treadling from top to bottom. This is actually the opposite direction from the way the weft goes into the cloth. You make the “bottom” pick first. This, too, doesn’t matter most of the time, but with twills the diagonal would be in the opposite direction from the way it would be if you followed the treadling from bottom to top. In most sources, the treadling is read from top to bottom, but that is only because it seems easier for us to read directions from top to bottom.

So why, you might ask, can’t we write threading drafts so they are read from left to right since it is easier to read that way and it doesn’t make much difference? Well, because that’s the way it’s “always" been done. The change might be too big a shock.


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