The Circle Craze

Did it start in spring of 2019, with the May/June issue of “Handwoven” magazine? That was the first time I saw Susan Poague’s tempting pattern for woven circles. It only took 8 harnesses to make a row of circles offset by the next row of circles. I was crazy for them, and it seemed that everyone else was too! These dishtowels were showing up in guild show and tells and on social media everywhere.

There they are, in the lower left corner of the cover. Around that time I also found them on Etsy, woven by the author of the article herself. I bought them to use onboard Pandora because the colors were perfect for that setting. Here they are on the table of our outdoor dining room.

My friend Marilyn weaves things so quickly she’s done with a project before I finish reading the source where she got the idea. That was the case with her version of dishtowels with circles. She had a whole set coming off her loom while I was still gazing at the photo on the cover.

Susan Poague’s towels on the cover of “Handwoven” and her placemats that were for sale on Etsy are a structure called taquete that she has turned, so that the colors for all those circles are in the warp, and the weaving is done with just the one background color.

When I saw this project for turned taquete I immediately thought of my grandchildren and a blanket. Wouldn’t those circles look terrific bigger and in lots of bright colors? Oh, yeah! It’s hard to make things for three grandchildren who all live in the same family. I generally make just one and hope they’ll share until I get to the next project. Our oldest is four years old, and she deserves the next handmade thing, especially since her first blanket in knitted lace accidentally turned into a doll’s blanket (about the size of a placemat) when it got thrown in the dryer after washing. This blanket will be easy care.

Before I began to work on designing a draft for the larger circles, I thought I’d better learn a bit about taquete. I just happened to have a book on weft-faced pattern weaves in my library, and it just happens to be the best resource on this subject.

The author describes Taquete as a weft-faced compound tabby weave. I often find descriptions and definitions of weave structures hard to understand before I’ve actually made a warp and woven the structure. That was certainly the case with taquete. One surprose for me was that although every other shed in the treadling looked like plain weave, raising all odd shafts, then a pattern shed, then raising all odd shafts, those odd/even sheds were not the plain weave. Plain weave occurred when I raised shafts 1-8 and then shafts 9-16. It was a head-scratcher.

When I looked at a number of drawdowns for this structure I saw parallel threadings. In fact, when I wrote the draft for my circles, I used parallel threadings with one set of circles based on shafts 1 – 8, and the other based on shafts 9 – 16. Hoskins explains the structure further here. Examples of taquete textiles were found in Coptic Egypt from the 2nd century BCE, and in other sites in the Near East. Eva Stossel has a good description of the structure here, as well as photos of her designs. It’s a treat to see what she’s done with this weave structure, for which she credits Bonnie Inouye, and her scarves are far more adventurous than my circles!

So, circles. I wanted them to be bigger than what I saw people weaving for their kitchen linens. I had two options for bigger circles: heavier materials and more shafts. I decided to take advantage of both. Of course I should have sampled, but I don’t have heavy cotton threads in my stash. I had to order a ton of colors for this project, so I jumped in and figured I’d do some sampling at the beginning of the blanket warp. I ordered eight colors of 6/2 cotton, seven bright colors for the circles and a medium grey for the background. I planned to set the warp at 20 ends per inch. The 6/2 cotton (from WEBs) comes on giant cones that weigh more than a pound each, so I am well stocked in bright colors. Next came resizing the circles on 16 shafts. That took some trial and error, and I am so thankful I could do this with software on my computer rather graph paper. I use Fiberworks PCW. The pattern published in “Handwoven” uses 10/2 cotton set at 24 ends per inch. Each circles takes 24 threads, so the resulting circles are about 1″ in diameter. Each of my circles takes 50 threads, and at 20 ends per inch, my circles are 2 1/2″ in diameter. I have 19 circles going across the warp for a total of 950 threads. I had a plan.

Here is the draft I settled on after some trial and error.

The last thread on the warp drawdown is a background color (grey in my design), and the first thread of this drawdown is also a grey on shaft 9. Do not repeat that thread! I didn’t know how to remove it from the document! Mea Culpa!

When I checked my photos I discovered that I warped the loom back in January. It sure took me a long time to get this project going.

Then came threading the pattern through the heddles on the 16 shafts during some snowy days in February.

Next came sleying the 950 threads through the reed, two threads per dent in the 10 dent reed.

And on the very last days of February I started weaving. Voila! Circles.

I am quite happy with this project. Today is March 1, the snow has begun to melt, there is a full moon at night, and I am on cloud 9. I may be the last to arrive at the circle party, but I am a happy to be here. I am a happy weaver.

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4 Responses to The Circle Craze

  1. Joan Ahern says:

    It’s wonderful Brenda! I’ve been a slug during lockdown but the hope of spring coming has me moving. I scheduled the painter for my studio mid March so the big cleanup is happening. I only wish the guild was meeting, I have so much I’d love to share.
    You’re always an inspiration, your fiber efforts, be they knitting or weaving, are fabulous. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll get something on my loom; I have to get that issue out. I think my niece’s mid century house will enjoy those placemats. Miss you. Hope to be able to visit soon. Say hi to Bob.

  2. Melody Serra says:

    These photos are so great!

  3. Den says:

    Hello, could you tell me what kind of loom you have? You say it is 16 shaft. How many treadles do you have? What make? Thank You!

    • ozweaver says:

      Den, The loom is an AVL 16S with computerized dobby head. It is a very early model, so it’s likely the dobby head was added at a later date. Dobbies, whether mechanical or computerized, only has two treadles. One treadle opens the shed and the other closes the shed and advances to the next shed. The sheds are determined either by a mechanical dobby head, where you peg out your design on dobby bars that advance as you treadle, or the computer head ‘reads’ the design you’ve made from a computer program. I hope I’ve described this well enough to understand!

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