The Grammar of Drafting

This Article is part of a series about Weaving Drafts

So you have taken a couple weaving classes- or you have been teaching yourself from a book. You are so excited to actually do something other then plain weave. You have in front of you a book of weave structures, not knowing what is in store- you open the pages giddy with excitement. And then...

It is a bunch of grids with beautiful pictures, and you have no idea what any of the terms mean or how to even comprehend.

I have been there.

I have also been where I think I know what something means in a draft, and I am completely wrong.

So today, I will be letting you know what some basic terms are when used in writing and reading a draft. The two books that I learned how to read drafts from were The Handweaver's Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon, and the infamous A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. These are great books to start out with because the drafts are clear, have wonderful samples of what the draft looks in woven form, and they have so many options to show for a four-harness loom.

Basic terms used in drafts:


This is the weaver's pattern record. Here the weaver writes the threading along the top of the grid and the treadling along the side of the grid. In one of the corners (for the books referenced above, this is in the upper right corner) the tie-up of the treadles is recorded. And in the body of the draft is the drawdown. The reason why drafts are shown and drawn out in a grid is because this most closely resembles the interlacement of the warp threads with the weft.

Hounds tooth draft
This is a draft of a four-harness hounds tooth. The threading is along the top, treadling down the right and the tie-up in the upper right corner.


Threading is the way the warp threads are pulled through the heddles. This can either be in a straight draw (1,2,3,4) or in a specific pattern.

Heddles being threaded
These are threads going through the heddles in a designated pattern as specified by the threading.


The treadling order is listed along the side of a draft. This is to indicated what order to press down the treadles in order to lift the specific tie-up pattern. In some cases it will read Tromp as Writ or TAW: this indicates that you will "tromp" the treadles in the same order as the threading pattern. The treadling can also indicate how many times a weft will need to be inserted through the weft at that point.

There will also be an occasion where at the top of treadling diagram it will read Use Tabby. This means that in between each of the pattern shots, you will have to insert a tabby or plain weave shot. This is to help maintain the integrity of the fabric. And writing out use tabby at the top allows for more ease of reading the pattern.


At this point in the draft, this is where it will indicate which harness need to be connected to which treadle. So examining the hopsack draft above: The treadle is connected only to the first harness. The second treadle is connected to harnesses 2,3, and 4. The third treadle is connected to harness 1 and 3 and the fourth is connected to 2 and 4. The last two treadles make a tabby (or plain weave) pattern.

So now, whenever the second treadle is pressed down, harnesses 2,3, and 4 will be lifted creating a shed for you to throw the weft through. You will know which treadle to press and each point in the pattern when following the treadling.

Sample on loom.
This particular sample I changed the tie up every few inches and was able to create different patterns in the cloth using the same threading.


This is the main body of the draft. Some weavers will draw just this image for others to derive information from or an image of the final woven cloth will be shown instead of a graph image. This is the image that will inform the reader of the draft what overall structure of the cloth will look like using this pattern. Some drafts will offer different treadling options for each tie-up to create different patterns. This is a very handy piece of information to have because if you only have this image- you can derive the threading, treadling and tie-up through fabric analysis. But if you have the other information but not the draw-down, you can still create the image to visualize what the pattern will look like by following the instructions of the threading, treadling and tie-up and using your pencil as the weft and warp threads.

These are just some very basic terms for reading a draft. In the next couple weeks I will be going more in depth on how to read and fully utilize a draft to design your own woven cloth. If there is something that you need clarifying, leave a comment and I'd love to help clear things up!

Happy weaving!

  1. Lorna Faye
    Wow! I am delighted to have come across your amazingly helpful website. I took up weaving about a year ago, when I bought 4 different looms on ebay for £16 pounds with the intention of learning how to weave something, anything! One of the looms in the purchase was a rigid heddle loom (Although I didn't know it was called that until very recently) and so I used this loom (the others looked far too complicated) and I taught myself simple weaving....A lot of it was guess work... the looms arrived threaded up so I copied the threading on the simple ridgid heddle and through lots of speculation, began weaving 'tabby'. Since then I've weaved a few tabbys with different colours to make them look more fancy. In January this year (2013) I moved to a new job- and my old work bought me a beautiful 'hand weavers pattern book' ... and with that I dug out my old looms - which had become burried in the garage under all my dad's stuff- because they seemed far too complex to tackle. I have now discovered that one of these weaving looms is a four shafted table loom (I think that's the name!) and so now my excitement is bubbling up again..... and I have had EXACTLY the experience you describe.... this book is beautiful but it might as well be written in Chinese (I can't read chinese one bit!). And so we come to the reason for my writing to you... I am SOO thank ful for your helpful instructions and can't express that enough. With your guide to simple terms and reading drafts, I now feel far better equipped to try to weave one of these beautiful patterns. I get the feeling I'm about to enter the glorious and addictive world of the hand weaver....
  2. Pat
    I agree, this is wonderful! I also have graduated from using my two rigid heddle looms for the past 5 years or so, to trying out my 4-harness table loom. My biggest question has to do to with the tie up for a 4-harness table loom. Since all of the harnesses are directly tied to one of the 4 levers, how do you convert other tie-ups and treading drafts so that you can use the table loom?