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Design for Weavers: Fibonacci & Division of Space

Division of Space In my colour and design workshops, we always look to the world around to gain our initial source of inspiration. Photographs, gardening, travel, and fashion magazines can provide you with images that make your heart sing. I have a huge stash of magazines for students to thumb through, and once they find the right one we get started on the second step of the design process.

It starts with division of space.

The weaver has a canvas in my mind—perhaps a tea towel, blanket, or a scarf. They have already decided what yarns they want to use, what the EPI/PPI is, and the overall size of the canvas. Then they divide up the space on paper.

You can divide a canvas anyway you want, but I usually start with a division of two and build from there. I draw vertical lines first that represent the warp and then I play with horizontal division of space which represents the weft. You can add a frame, you can imagine a darker line or zinger. It’s playtime!

Sketching should be fun, fast, quick. Leave your rulers in the drawer; this isn’t about straight lines.

Our guiding light for division of space is the Fibonacci numeric sequence. Basically, it works like this: Start by counting 1, 2.

1, 2

Now add those together. The sum is your next number: 3.

1, 2, 3

Now just keep going: add the last two numbers in the sequence to get the next number.

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21

…until you want to stop. —Sounds a bit contrived, but this sequence underlies some of the most stunning designs in nature—including your own DNA, the spiral formed by the hairs on your head, the leaves of a lettuce, the seeds of a sunflower, and the shell of the nautilus snail.

Now that’s magic in design. And we can leverage that magic to help us make decisions in weaving.

There are so many ways to use this numerical series. My first decision is the big division of space. I can divide the canvas in 2, 3, 5, or whatever number I want.

I use it to help me create striping sequences, like in the example below.

  • 1 end of yellow
  • 2 ends of orange
  • 3 ends of red
  • 2 ends of orange
  • 1 end of yellow

I use it when I’m working with block structures and it helps me create with unit weaves, like in the example below.

  • 2 units of A
  • 5 units of B
  • 8 units of A
  • 5 units of B
  • 2 units of A

I use it when I trying to figure out how many inches…..hmmmm,

  • 1” of green
  • 3” of blue
  • 2” of purple
  • 3” of blue
  • 1” of green

The numbers don’t have to be used in sequence. Use them however you want.

I never let it lock me in a corner. Say I have a perfect gradation of 7 reds…..and they all move beautifully into each other, I don’t worry that is isn’t a 5 or an 8. I just put them all together.

But if I can’t decide how wide a border should be, then I trust that it will be either 2”, or 3”, or 5” depending on the width of the entire piece. It gives me peace of mind when I need to make decisions and I don’t get analysis paralysis.

After the initial division of space I think about other words…

  • Framing
  • Zingers
  • Stripes
  • Plaid
  • Checks

I can add any of these things to the big division of space. It is a development.

Look at the photos below and see all the different ways the Fibonacci Numerical series has been used.

Plain Weave: Division of Space in 2 with a black zinger. Weft stripes are 3’s with a little zinger between them.
Plain Weave: Stripes are 2,3,5,3,2. Division of Space in 2 with a border and stripes. Weft colours are 3’s and 1’s in the colour changes.
Log Cabin: 5 Blocks of Log Cabin, 3 grey stripes.
Repp Weave:Asymmetrical Division in 3: Solid Left, Centre developed into 3, Right hand 3 blocks.
Repp Weave: Asymmetrical Division 5: Log Cabin Blocks of 3 and 1, Zingers of 2 and 1.

We go into this in great detail in the JST Online Guild – click here to learn more & download your free Project Planning 101 PDF.

Hope you enjoy Fibonacci. If you liked this post, be sure to save it to Pinterest for future reference!

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Weaving Architecture: Step 1 of the Design Process

I start every Colour and Design Workshop off by explaining to my students that there are hundreds of different ways to tackle the subject of design. Every designer has their own particular way of working, of organizing thoughts, and of bringing ideas to fruition.

All I can do, as a designer and a teacher, is to share my own system. It isn’t necessarily better than any other system. But it works for me, and it seems to provide my students with a good strong solid foundation around the process of designing.

I didn’t always work this way, early on there was a lot of hit and miss. But gradually, I paid attention to things that worked, I analyzed why they work, and I developed my system. I’m still refining it, and hopefully I will be able to work on it until the day I die. I want to weave forever. I will never ever tire of making beautiful simple cloth.

We all have pivotal moments in our lives, and one such pivotal moment for me was having the opportunity to be the Teaching Assistant for Jack Lenor Larson at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1984. Jack and Randall Darwall taught a course called “The Consummate Cloth.”

It turned out to be three weeks of doing nothing but studying sett and finishing our cloth. We wove everything mostly in white yarn and in 2 structures: plain weave and four-shaft twills. We sampled. And sampled. And sampled. And sampled. —And over a three-week period, the 12 students attending created hundreds of samples striving for our teachers’ vision of “the consummate cloth.” Their criteria were simple⎼the end product had to have all of exceptional drape, hand, and bias.

This experience formed the basis of my design process. I break this process down into three main components, which I identify as Architecture, Graphic, and Colour. In today’s post, I’ll start with Architecture. When I think about the architecture of a piece of cloth, I liken it to the architecture of a building.

  • Buildings have good foundations; cloth has hemstitching or a straight header upon which to build.
  • Buildings have studs; cloth has warp threads.
  • Buildings have floors; cloth has weft threads.
  • Buildings have a strong beam structure for exterior walls; cloth has a selvedge.

I build a piece of cloth the way I imagine a carpenter builds a house. And I feel that the most important decision that I make—the very first decision I have to make, right at the outset—is what my ends per inch (epi) are going to be. Ninety percent of what I weave is balanced cloth, because I generally make simple items—scarves, stoles, towels, blankies—things that we can wrap ourselves in. Highly functional and useful. Now, all of these items need to have optimal drape. And what I know is that a 50/50 piece of cloth will have the best drape possible, because it will have perfect bias. (For any newbies out there, a 50/50 cloth has the same number of ends per inch and picks per inch.)

I have spent the last 35 years weaving with many of the same yarns over and over again and I have learned that there is not just one sett for any one yarn even if the structure never changes. For instance, consider the number of setts possible for a 8/2 cotton:

For our visual learners, these photos of finished pieces should give you a better idea of the many possibilities for handwoven cloth:

8/2 cotton warp and weft sett at 22 EPI /22 PPI woven in twill
8/2 cotton sett at 12 EPI woven with boucle cotton at 12 PPI woven in PW
8/2 warp and weft sett at 18 EPI /18 PPI woven in PW
8/2 warp and 20/2 silk weft sett at 18 EPI/18 PPI woven in Twill….crazy huh!
8/2 warp and 20/2 silk weft sett at 16 EPI/16PPI woven in PW
8/4 cotton warp and 7 gauge bambu weft sett at 36 EPI for Repp Weave and then resleyed and opened up to 12 EPI/ 12 PPI in Plain Weave….two dramatically different fabrics from one yarn.

Two things of note….

  1. We can only weave the open setts if we have great technique and know how to control our beater.
  2. As our sett increases there will come a point when we will no longer be able to weave the cloth balanced no matter how hard we beat because the fabric is heading towards warp-predominance. That’s not a bad thing, and under some circumstances might be just what you’re looking for.

At 40 EPI, 8/2 cotton will be totally warp faced. So if you want to use this yarn to weave Repp….you got it baby! One yarn, many different setts and many different types of fabric. How cool is that! So many possibilities hidden in one yarn and it is knowing how to use your reed that makes it all possible.

I sample in plain weave then twill and finally explore supplementary weft structures.

From this testing, I develop what I call my “canvases”—and once I have those canvases I get to add graphic and colour, which I’ll get into in greater detail on the next blog post. Click here to receive future posts in your inbox so you don’t miss out!

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