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  • Sara Nordling

Elements of Design: Shape

Summer and winter stars and stripes

Summer and Winter weave featuring stars and stripes

Shape here refers not to the overall dimensions of an object (format) but to the use of shapes on the surface of a design.

Weavers know some shapes are easier to make than others. Squares and rectangles being the easiest, perfect circles and triangles being much more difficult to achieve.

Shapes can be geometric or organic. Geometric are the ones we can name like squares, triangles, rhomboids and the like. Organic shapes are irregular, often with rounded edges but they can also be spiky and hard edged or a combination of the two. Geometric ones are usually easier to achieve. They are blocks of twill, or satin. They can also be wheels, stars and tables created with overshot or crackle. Organic shapes can be achieved as well without needing to go as technical as a jacquard loom or spending the time on a pick up design. Think about weaves using differential shrinkage, deflected double weave or inlay; crackle can produce pine trees and more on just 4 shafts. Organic shapes may also be achieved through shadow weave looking at the overall pattern or shape made or the contrasting lines.

Deflected double weave front and back sides

Again, you may want to make a list, or add to mine, of all the ways you can think of to create shapes in weaving. In doing this you will create a resource of shapes and ways to create shapes that you can use in the future when designing a project.

Ways to create shape:


Theo Moorman


Profile drafts

Twill blocks

Deflected double weave

Shadow weave

Color and weave, think of pinwheel twills

Summer and Winter

Pick up designs in double weave or other weaves

Very wide lines become shapes

Jacquard weaves

Network twills


When you consider shapes in weaving what may most readily come to mind is a certain motif repeated across the width and possibly also the length of your weaving. I want to remind you to consider the scale of your shapes as well. Do you want many small shapes or one large one? Can you have shapes of multiples sizes? For example: large, medium and small squares.

Satin weave squares within squares

Can you have too many shapes? That depends. There is a limit with most looms on how many different shapes you can make in one weaving. This may be a safeguard against over-designing. However, depending on your design, one shape may be fine and two, too many.

You may be beginning to see that there are many, many possibilities for design. That may lead you to ask, “Can I make a bad design?” My answer is that a design might be improved upon, made better, but seldom is it truly bad. There’s design, good design and better design, for the most part. I will explore this thought in more depth when we work with the principles of design.

For now, building a collection of possible shapes will serve you well when you sit down to design your next project.

Ripsmatta, warp faced geometric design

An aside: I was asked by a friend of mine if these posts on the elements and principles of design would be over her head or too technical for her, a beginning weaver with a rigid heddle loom. My answer to her, and to anyone else is, NO! Anything talked about in this series can work on a rigid heddle loom or a jacquard loom. I’m talking about how you approach making on whatever loom you have so that what you spend all your time, energy and yarn on will be the best end product it can be.

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