Generally, I start in Illustrator. I have some ideas in mind about the pattern and the colour schemes I want to build. By working with different transparent layers, the mixing of colours in double weaves can be approached quite realistically. One just has to bear in mind that the vibrant gradients on screen will be much duller and less subtle when translated into textiles. This has all to do with additive versus subtractive colour mixing and the fact that most available weaving yarns have a quite limited colour range. The mercerised Nm34/2 cotton I am using has 113 colours.

In the next step, the design has to be translated into a weaving draft. The yarn I use will be woven at 24 threads/cm (as it is a double weave with a plain weave texture, 12 threads will show on the surface, the other 12 on the back side). A weaving that is 100 cm wide will therefore contain 2400 threads in the warp. The gradient has to be translated into my cotton colour palette. Using a Pantone textiles colour guide to get the right RGB values, I have already made a swatch palette in Illustrator as well as in my weaving programme to make sure that the colours will not change when I switch from one programme to the other. In the weaving draft, this is shown in the colour strips on the top and the far right. The colours alternate between the two layers. The main field shows how the double weave will look. The challenge here is to get a good gradient with limited colors, avoiding stripes or blocks. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to get this right in a fast way (at least not for double weaves in my weaving programme). You just have to try and colour every thread diligently by hand.

Making a double weave like this is not exactly intuitive work. During the whole project, I make annotations about the things I am doing to improve the work flow for the next time. For example, a spreadsheet that shows the position of each thread on the warp is extremely helpful. Each row of the sheet is one of the 2 cm sections of the warp and shows its corresponding threads and the required yarn colour numbers.

Once the draft preparations are finished, the warp will be set up. I am using a sectional warp beam, which means that you can wind 2 cm wide sections onto the warp beam instead of having to warp them all at the same time. The above mentioned colour schemes in the weave draft have to be brought onto the warp in exactly the same order. The front of the picture shows a bobbin rack with 48 bobbins for a 2 cm section. Every color from the spreadsheet is wound on a bobbin and placed on its designated spot in the rack.    

A tedious part of the process begins: winding up a section onto the warp beam. The 48 threads are lead through a tension box, which ensures that all threads are wound up neatly in the desired order and at the same tension. For the next section, the bobbins in the rack are replaced with new colours and the last steps are repeated time and again till all threads are on the warp beam.    


Now every thread has to be lead through its own heddle. Heddles are connected to the shafts of a loom (my loom has 16). Lifting a certain combination of shafts in each row you weave is what makes the pattern.    

The weaving has not started yet, the threads of the upper and lower layer lie relaxed one-by-one next to each other.

Now all warp threads are tied and on tension. The weaving can begin!

The first rows. This is not yet the intended pattern, just some crazy rows to get the tension of the warp right.

Starting to weave the pattern. This is the moment to check if nothing went wrong in the warping and tieup and to correct it, if necessary. Like the warp, the weft consists of alternating rows in the colours of the two layers. To get a good gradient, I often weave with six or more colours at a time.

The pattern emerges.

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