Weaving Napkins

After finally figuring out how to draft a design in block theory, I spent a long time designing my actual napkins for the International Napkin Exchange. I wanted to do something with a sort of architectural feel to it, something that reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sensibilities. This sounded relatively straightforward to me. HAH!

I should know by now that it takes more skill to make a clean, attractive, simple design than one that’s crowded with activity. Frank certainly was a master of his craft, and I would certainly not call myself a master weaver!

So I spent hours drawing. First on graph paper, then on my weaving software. Then I realized that I didn’t have the graph paper design right, and I didn’t have enough graph paper to do what I wanted, so I went to Excel and created a grid that resembled the squares of graph paper. I spent hours getting the design that I thought I wanted, then went back to the weaving software.

Hmmm….still not right. The basis of a summer & winter pattern, which is what I wanted, is that what’s light on one side is dark on the other. To keep me happy, I had to like both sides of this piece. So back to the drawing board.

To add to the challenge, the napkins had to be a certain size, 18″ to 22″ square. So I had to have the right number of threads across both the width and length of the piece. Again, my obsessive-compulsive nature slowed my design time — I really wanted a pattern that was completely symmetrical, both left to right and top to bottom. And one that had a reasonable balance of light and dark on both the top and the bottom.

FINALLY I got a design that I liked, got the warp prepared and on the loom, and started weaving.
handwoven napkins on loom

The above picture shows you both the top side and underside of the weaving, so you can see how the colors reverse themselves. It still amazes me that I can do this bit of weaving magic, particularly on my little 4 harness counterbalance loom. This type of weaving is possible by using two shuttles, one with your background color (white) and one with the alternate color (purple for the napkin below).
weaving with two shuttles
To make things look the way I wanted them to, I had to use two of my colored threads and one thinner white thread. If I were a spinner, I’d have spun those two or maybe even three purple threads together to make one fatter thread, but alas, I don’t spin. So I had to be satisfied with two threads and use my double shuttle for the purple, sending both through simultaneously.

I’m pleased with the way they’re weaving up. The warp is presenting some problems, however. The right side is substantially looser than the left. I’ve hung weights on it to even out the tension, but I doubt that this will be enough for the entire length of the warp. Time will tell.

Your turn: do you make things harder than they need to be, or can you be satisfied with changing your plans?

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