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One Warp, Many Fabrics

 The power of the Internet. You’ve got to watch what you say or it may come back to bite you in the butt!

Here’s the story. Back in June there was a conversation on WeaveTech (a Yahoo group list) about ergonomics and weaving. I chimed in that it was a passion of mine and thought I’d take up the suggestion of Karen at Synergo Arts and make a weaving bench cushion. This was not a short-term goal. It was a “one of these days when I get time” idea.

Well, a friend and fellow committee member in the Spinning & Weaving Association, Liz, also happens to be the editor of Handwoven magazine. She caught me. Could I please weave it for an upcoming issue? came the question in an email. Hmmm. Sure. When is it due? AUGUST 1. Of course between the time she asked me and when it was due I had two conferences to attend and a festival to produce. But, let it never be said that I don’t enjoy a good challenge.

coversLuckily, I was hit by a lightening bolt during a seminar I took at the Complex Weaver’s conferece led by Robyn Spady (who is teaching here at the shop next spring). Robyn talked on a style of weaving using a twill structure called “echo weave.” Echos can be woven in the warp or the weft or both (more specifics below). I worked on the laptop on the way home from Florida designing the pattern and finished when we got back. I was happy.

Then Liz asked, could I please use the colors of the issue: red, orange, purple and turquoise. Not colors I would have chosen, but they were a challenge, too.

I had fun planning and weaving (and meeting the deadline). What was most fun was discovering how many different “looks” I got from one warp. Each side of the bench cover was distinctly different. Once I got the piece done and in the mail, I still had plenty of warp left to play with. So, play I did. At left below are six different patterns that came from this single warp. Click on the photo to see them closer up. The warp runs horizontally in all the photos.


 Following is what I wrote for Handwoven (before Madelyn’s edits):

Semantic discussions and serious weavers seem to go hand in hand. Some think that “echo” weave should really be called “shadow” weave. Unfortunately, that name was already taken and thus conjures up the wrong images to “in the know” weavers. Echo weave has been around a while – Helene Bress discusses it in “The Weaving Book” published in 1981 and she references a newsletter by Bertha Needham published in the 1930s. I learned about it from Robyn Spady at this year’s Complex Weaver’s Conference and it captured my imagination. Echo structures are simple to design, fun to weave and quite stunning when executed in vibrant, contrasty colors. The theories have been applied to overshot, monk’s belt and twill.


The two sides of this bench cushion apply “echo” in two ways to a twill structure. First in the threading and second in the threading and treadling. The striped side of this bench pad relies on echo threading that is woven with a simple point twill treadling. The flip side is woven using the same threading and tie up but is woven using echo treadling.


In echo threading, the thread count is doubled by inserting a thread (the echo) between each of the existing threads. A four shaft example is: 1 _ 2 _ 3 _ 4 _. The next step is to insert the echoing thread a consistent distance from the original thread. This example might then become: 1 3 2 4 3 1 4 2, where each inserted thread is two shafts away from the original thread. The more shafts you have, the greater the distance you can put between the original thread and the echo thread. This sample is quite easy to weave because only one shuttle is used at a time.


In echo treadling, each pick is expanded to a series of six picks. A “set” of picks becomes, for example: 1 2 10 1 2 9 where shafts 1 – 8 are traditional twill tie ups and shafts 9 and 10 are tie down shafts (almost tabby). To achieve a flowing design you must put sets next to each other. On an 8-shaft loom the sets are (1 2) (2 3) (3 4) (4 5) (5 6) (6 7) (7 8) (8 1). Refer to the chart to start your fabric, then, as you become comfortable with the pattern, “wander” around the sets moving up or down as you desire. If you work from set (1 2) up to set (8 1) and continue again from the beginning, you will create a chevron-like pattern. If you move up and down the sets randomly, you will get a more organic looking fabric such as that illustrated here.


Weaving the echo treadling is a little trickier because you are juggling three shuttles. If you always place the shuttles in the same order when they are resting, you won’t loose your place and the threads will interlock appropriately at the selvedges. Because no selvedges are visible in this bench cushion, you can leave all your ends at the selvedge and not worry about working them in. This is a good piece to weave if you have a little stress in your day – since it will be upholstery, it stands up to a heavy hand on the beater!


I found that I underestimated how much the fabric would change off the loom and wished I had woven a bit extra to allow more choice when centering the fabric on the cushion. When I first started weaving,  I worried about having the beginning and ending of the cushion being mirror images of each other. Then I decided to “get over it” and enjoy the weaving experience. That made weaving much more pleasurable. The pattern is so active that your eye doesn’t look for symmetry (in the non-stripe side). In fact, once I wove through the pattern I had planned, I found that I could weave from jotted notes that looked like this 12, 23, 34, 45, 34, 23, etc. Using this weaving “shorthand” made the weaving much easier once I understood the flow of the shuttles. So, I challenge you: once you understand the way the echo treadling works, play a little and enjoy the magic of weaving and create a truly one-of-a-kind piece.

Comments on: "One Warp, Many Fabrics" (3)

  1. Beautiful fabrics, Joan! You never cease to amaze me with your ability to multi-task with your knitting, weaving, and spinning.

  2. I LOVE this cushion. The colors are so vibrant! It makes me want to try Echo Weave as I can truly picture this as vest fabric.
    Deb H

  3. Each and every time I attempt to access the page, this message comes up: “403 Forbidden – You don’t have permission to access / on this server. Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.” I’ve never came across a problem like this before; is this through some mistake of mine, or possibly is there something wrong with the website itself?

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