2009 Weave of the week #33: Smallville


Smallville front view

Hi,  I’m back to blogging, and this week’s featured weave — which I call “Smallville” (though the mountains certainly don’t suggest Clark Kent’s  Smallville, Kansas) — is an unusual supplementary-warp weave from my swatch collection (see above).  It came from a book of vintage European swatches, and the fabric appears to be cotton.

Supplementary-warp designs (aka “embroidery weaves” or “dobby weaves”) were everywhere when I worked in the textile industry in the 1970s.  I have already written some blog articles about them, and will write more, but except for fine shirtings, like the ones in this post, most domestic fabrications looked more like this,


than like the Lilliputian scene in “Smallville” (detail shown below), which is less than 1/2-inch high.


I didn’t take the swatch apart to analyze it, but under magnification I could see that all the details came from threading the blue and green supplementary-warp stripes on twelve harnesses.  Allowing two harnesses for the ground tabby still leaves another four harnesses — on a sixteen-or-more-harness loom — free for the ribbed orange stripes.  The treadling is a different matter, which I did not try to analyze (too much like work).

Below is the back of the fabric, which looks a lot like the front, except that the weave shows up more clearly.  In a construction this fine and tight, floats are not a problem, but in a coarser construction, like the unicorn shown above, long  floats would not have been practical.  Floats can be clipped, as they were in fine cotton shirtings (see link above), but inexpensive synthetic fabric would more likely have been backed.

Smallville back view

Smallville back view

Yes, it is small, but what really impresses me about this design is that it looks like a drawing in thread.   I was surprised at how few lines it takes, if they are put together creatively enough, to make an entire landscape that can be woven on a shaft loom.


4 Responses

  1. Designing supplemetary-warp weaves can be a lot fun because there’s so much you can do with them, even without 16-harnesses. Good to hear from you, Eva. Glad you liked the post.


  2. Welcome back, Fern. These tiny weaves are lovely, especially the Smallville one. I haven’t really explored supplementary warp techniques but this inspires me to try it. Thanks for the post!


  3. Great that you learned fabric analysis! Kudos.

    I appreciated the time off but am glad to be back blogging. Thanks for the welcome.


  4. If I were ever to devote myself to studying one aspect of weaving in depth, it would be woven figures. I love them and love that there are so many ways to accomplish them!!

    I finally learned how to do fabric analysis this summer at NEWS. It’s very empowering to be able to figure out how something is made….and to apply that knowledge to block weaves too.

    Glad your back! Hope your vacation was wonderful!


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