Ask Madelyn: Correlating Warp Color Orders and Drafts

Sometimes the relationship between the warp color order and the weaving draft isn't obvious and you have to read them carefully to understand their connection. Madelyn explains how.

Madelyn van der Hoogt May 10, 2023 - 4 min read

Ask Madelyn: Correlating Warp Color Orders and Drafts Primary Image

Palaka-Inspired Canvas Weave runner by Kate Lange Mckibben. Photo by Matt Graves

Hi, Madelyn,

I’m having trouble reading some of the drafts in Handwoven. Many of the threading drafts show the warp threads in color, but others don’t. Instead, there is a “warp color order.” These don’t really tell me which color goes on which shaft. I’m looking at the Bauhaus Weaver Hand Towels in the March/April 2021 issue, page 52. I’m new to the shaft loom and haven’t used drafts like this for my rigid-heddle loom.

— Charlotte

Christine Novotny Bauhaus Weaver Hand TowelsBauhaus Weaver Hand Towels by Christine Novotny. Photo by Matt Graves.

Hi Charlotte!

When I got your question, I thought: What a great opportunity to address this issue! New weavers are often unsure how warp color orders and threading drafts correlate. Then, I opened the March/April 2021 issue to check out the Bauhaus Hand Towels and discovered that I have written notes all over the warp color order and the threading draft, trying to mark the correlations, because changes in the warp colors don’t coincide with changes in the threading.

First, note that a warp color order is read from right to left, just like a threading draft. You use the color order to wind the warp—in the Bauhaus towels: 24 Naturel (the floating selvedges in this draft are added later), 4 Noir/4 Naturel alternating six times, then 4 Noir, 116 Light Grey, etc. When you thread the heddles, you follow the threading draft, taking the threads in the exact order in which you wound them: 1-3-2-3 6x for the first 24 threads of Naturel, for example, then 4 threads Noir alternating with 4 threads Naturel on shafts 1-4-2-4 6x, then 4 threads Noir 1x—still threaded on shafts 1-4-2-4. The threading then continues on shafts 1-4-2-4 (all within that 30x threading section), but the color order changes to Light Grey. Then, the threading changes to shafts 1-3-2-3 6x, still using Light Grey.

It is usually much easier to see how warp color orders and threading drafts correlate. A typical example is the one shown below for huck mats. Notice that the 8x repeat of 1 red/1 yellow in the warp color order coincides with the 2-1 threaded 8x in the draft. The next 7x section in the threading (70 threads) coincides with the 35x repeat of 1 yellow/1 green, and so on.

The weft color order is read from top to bottom just like the treadling draft. (I flipped the cloth vertically to show the connection, since when we weave, we actually place the threads at the bottom of the cloth first.)

You’ll usually find it easy to see the connection between the draft, the warp and weft color orders, and the finished cloth. When you don’t, you can use a computer program to enter the colors as given to check how they work together. Simply following both (the color orders and the draft) as written will work, but if you make an unintended error, some of the colors may not fall in the intended place.

— Madelyn