Tools Day: Swedish Weaving Draft

Cooks have recipes, builders have blueprints, and handweavers have weaving drafts. There are a few different formats, but all drafts carry the same essential information. There is the tie-up box, the threading pattern, and the treadling sequence. Finally, there’s the drawdown, a graphic representation of how all the threads intersect.

The two formats I see most often are the typical American draft (e.g., Handwoven), and the Swedish draft (e.g., VÄV Magasinet). Many American drafts assume jack looms; whereas, Swedish drafts usually assume counterbalance or countermarch looms. However, any loom can weave from any draft.

As Madelyn van der Hoogt says in The Complete Book of Drafting, “Any tie-up can be used for any type of loom. Discover from the tie-up which shafts must be up and which down for each shed, and do to the loom whatever is required to get them there.”

All the draft formats have this in common: The tie-up box is the starting point. The threading pattern and treadling sequence begin at that point, and go out from there.

The Swedish draft makes perfect sense (remember, of course, I weave on Swedish countermarch looms). I picture the draft as if it is lying flat in front of me.

Becky Ashenden says in the forward to Weave Structures the Swedish Way, “With this orientation of tie-up, treadling, and threading, the draft has a direct relationship to the weaving of the fabric. The tie-up’s location in the lower right-hand corner of the draft allows all other information to match as closely as possible the physical aspects of the loom.”

Here is a comparison of the Swedish and American draft formats:

Swedish Draft

Reading a Swedish draft.

Swedish draft, with a weft drawdown.

  • Weft drawdown (filled-in squares show lowered warp threads, weft passing over)
  • Tie-up is in lower right corner, and uses black squares to designate shafts that sink / white squares for shafts that rise
  • Threading is below the drawdown
  • Shafts are numbered from back of the loom to front, with the first shaft the furthest from the weaver seated at the loom
  • Treadling sequence is on the right, and reads from bottom to top
  • Treadles are numbered from right to left
  • For a “sinking shed” loom (countermarch or counterbalance loom), use the black squares to tie up sinking shafts
  • For a “rising shed loom” (jack loom), use the white squares to tie up rising shafts

American Draft

Reading weaving drafts.

American draft, with a warp drawdown.

  • Warp drawdown (filled-in squares show raised warp threads, weft passing under)
  • Tie-up is in upper right corner, and uses numerals to designate shafts that rise / white squares for shafts that sink
  • Threading is above the drawdown
  • Shafts are numbered from front of loom to the back, with the first shaft the closest to the weaver seated at the loom
  • Treadling sequence is on the right, and reads from top to bottom
  • Treadles are numbered from left to right
  • For a “sinking shed” loom (countermarch or counterbalance loom), use the white squares to tie up sinking shafts
  • For a “rising shed loom” (jack loom), use the squares with numerals to tie up rising shafts

Similarities between Swedish and American Drafts

  • Threading reads right to left
  • Squares in the tie-up box represent treadle cords that attach treadles to corresponding shafts
Weaving draft in place for weaving mug rugs.

Draft is hanging at the corner of the loom. The fabric logically grows in the same direction as the sequence of weft picks as seen on the treadling draft.

Resources
Getzmann, Ulla, and Becky Ashenden. Weave Structures the Swedish Way. Shelburne, MA: Väv Stuga Press, 2006.
Hoogt, Madelyn Van der. The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers. Coupeville, WA: Shuttle-Craft Books, 1993.

May you flourish at your loom.

All the best,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for this comparison of the two ways to write drafts, this will make translation much easier.

    One question. You say, “For a “rising shed loom” (jack loom), use the white squares (or numerals) to tie up rising shafts”. Do you mean this to apply to the American way of writing the draft?

    Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      Julia, Thank you for asking this question. I need to edit what I wrote and make a correction.

      The American way of writing the draft usually has numerals for the rising shafts. For a jack loom, use the squares with numerals to tie up rising shafts. The white squares, in this case, are used to tie up sinking shafts.

      Thanks for helping me clarify!

      Karen

  • Thanks Karen, a good blog to explain the differences quite clearly. I prefer the swedish way (and yes I have a a Glimåkra floor loom, but it just makes sense to me. Sometimes I get them mixed up but I think it’s good to know both methods. It’s a bit like preferring to beam the warp from the front or the back – you just tend to find what works for you. Thank you again.
    Blessings,
    Alison

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison, I get them mixed up, too. I am so accustomed to the Swedish format that I have to go back and review my notes if I want to “translate” an American draft.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    Thanks for the comparison post. It will be good to refer new weaver’s to it, so they know there is more than one way for patterns to be written.

    Here is a bit of additional information for American weaver’s used to jack loom drafts. Many own the book, A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite Davison. It was published back when counterbalance looms were the norm. Her drafts are written in the American way, with threading and tie-up at the top. Her tie-up is written for a sinking shed, so marked boxes go down. If someone owns a jack loom, in order to see the pattern while weaving, they should tie up the blank squares instead of the x’s. I think other older drafts, such as Atwater, Bertha Hayes, and others also tie up for counterbalanced looms.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, I’m glad you mentioned this! It’s important for a weaver to understand the format of a draft and how to interpret it.

      My first project on a floor loom was from Davison’s book. My instructor carefully pointed out the author’s note that tells that the drafts are written for counterbalance looms.

      Thank you so much for adding this important information for weavers used to drafts written for jack looms.

      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Karen, I’m new to all of this, and I’m not able to perceive what you are referring to as black and white squares. Are those the empty squares? So you would tie up all of those, vs one black thread?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy, Empty or white? It’s a matter of perception. Yes, in a draft written for sinking shed looms, such as a Swedish draft, you would tie up the empty squares if you are using a jack loom. I don’t think of the squares as “empty,” because for my countermarch loom, I tie up the black squares to the shafts that sink, and I tie up those “white” squares to the shafts that rise.

      I hope that makes sense.
      Karen

  • Randi says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m a new weaver and have a counterbalance loom. I’ve ordered the book you mentioned.

    I also really enjoy your posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Randi, You are welcome! I wanted this kind of information when I was starting out, so I’m hoping it is useful for others. The Getzmann/Ashenden book does a great job of explaining the whole drafting concept and procedure. So does the Van der Hoogt book, for that matter. You can’t have too many weaving books! 🙂

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I’m sure it will be very helpful to many of those seeking to expand our repertoire.

    A friend recently sent me some drafts written in the Swedish manner and, while I figured out most of it, I misinterpreted how the shafts are numbered in relation to the weaver. I’ll have to go back to my Fiberworks entry and edit it or I’ll mess up my weaving.

    I have two looms, one a computer controlled dobby that uses a programme in the American style. My other loom is a four shaft counterbalance that I brought home from Europe, so I’m somewhat used to reversing the tie-up when I weave with it. My first project ended up upside down on the loom!

    • Karen says:

      Sandy, You are going to become an expert on reading different formats of weaving drafts! Bravo! I’m guessing that just about every weaver has accidentally woven a fabric upside down. I know I have.

      The thing about reversing the order of the shafts and the treadles is that it usually doesn’t really matter all that much. As long as you are consistent, most things will come out just fine, even if they are upside down.

      Happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Sue Seymour says:

    I have learned – the hard way – to read the Intro material in any new book I purchase so as to learn which way the author is writing drafts, treadling, and tie-up. It seems there is always a new wrinkle. Even though I have a Swedish countermarche loom, I prefer the American way of drafting, which is what I learned way back when there were only three weaving books available, Mary Black, Mary Atwater, and the Davison book.

    • Karen says:

      Sue, Yes, read the intro material. It’s not unusual for you to prefer the American way of drafting. I’m sure it’s second nature for you. And those three books should still be in every weaver’s library.

      All the best,
      Karen

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