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  • Sara Nordling

Elements of Design: Format

Woven tiles with pleated accents set of 9, 3 by 3.

Format refers to the overall size and shape of an object. I would also add that it is when what you weave is designed appropriately for its use. A scarf is the size a scarf should be, and drapes as you want it to, for example. Format includes not only appropriate size for the intended purpose but how you use design field and how the material functions. Scarves that are too short, too long, or too stiff my never be worn. Placemats that are too small, too thin or cannot easily be washed may never be used. For that matter scarves where the point of interest is in the folded part of your scarf behind your neck or placemats where the only interesting bit on it is covered by your plate may not be what you want either.

Stars and stripes table runner.

One end of a table runner, the other end has a flipped (top to bottom) image of the stars.

The center of the runner is red and white stripes designed so a

centerpiece could be placed there without disrupting the design.

Shape and size are basic considerations in format. The easiest shape to weave on a loom is a rectangle. If the format of your end product is a circle, you will have to work out how you are cutting and/or piecing to achieve that end. All the subsections, if piecing need to work well together for an overall good design. Yes, you are limited by your loom in terms of width and perhaps even length. However, there are ways around most of these issues if you put your mind to it.

Double weave pick up images in rounded arch frames.

Double weave pick up. Images needed to be the right size to fit in the frames I wanted to use.

A graphic designer chooses the right paper or surface for the design they are making. It is more than just the size they consider it’s the thickness, glossiness, and even the cost or materials when producing a work. In much the same way weavers are concerned about the hand of the fabric and whether it meets the requirements for what is being designed. You don’t want a scarf so stiff it won’t bend around your neck or apron fabric with so much drape it sags on a body. Nor are long floats desired for baby blankets or upholstery. I once wove fabric intended for chef’s aprons. After I washed the fabric the sett had not been close enough and the fabric had a very soft hand. It ended up being a bathrobe instead of chef’s aprons.

Format also touches on the placement and scale of the design elements in the weave. Here considerations include using a small twill pattern for a runway show garment where the overall effect will be minimal if seen at all. Or on the other extreme, using a pattern so large it will not even fit on the width of your fabric.

What are your favorite things to weave? Do you have a go-to size or shape? Do you weave many towels, scarves, shawls, or blankets? Do you do yardage for garments? Keep these favorite shapes in mind as we move forward into the principles of design. It is always a big easier to design in a shapes and size you are familiar with. Just as it would be challenging for a mural painter to paint miniatures (and vice versa), keeping to some standard forms, at least at first, will help take some of the stress out of the design process.

Two tall narrow hanging with pleats on the surface, more on bottom edge than top edge.

This pair of wall hangings have darker, larger and more pleats on the bottom edge to

evoke the feel of gravity pulling and pooling them at the bottom.

Format is the last of the elements we will discuss. From here we will move on to principles of design. Keep all these tools in mind as we move forward into putting them to use in new and exciting ways.

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