PENELOPE Laboratory

pattern matrix machine

One can find a lot of how-to’s and tutorials on weaving on a warp-weighted loom. However, from discussions with weaver colleagues I learned that a preconception on weaving frames our mind in a way that makes it difficult to fully explore the possibilities of such a loom.

On the other hand, the process of working with the loom is time consuming and a full exploration of patterning possibilities could take a lifetime. Simulation tools for weaving exist and promise to enhance the design process, however they do not account for the specific qualities of a warp-weighted loom. Especially the framing starting border asks for new simulation tools. This is where our laboratory idea comes in.

If weaving indeed is digital from the very beginning, it should be possible to use digital tools for simulation in a very different way. The first version of our pattern matrix emerged from of a device that Dave Griffiths had built from waste (flotsam) and cheap computers (Raspberry Pi) in order to teach children how to code. The code can be entered by arranging tangible wooden blocks attached to a wooden frame. Dave had used this for several coding tasks, for example for coding minecraft. In a residency at the Sheffield woods we started to use the flotsam keyboard for coding weave patterns which turned out to be very straightforward and easy to understand.

At a residency within the Textile Matrix exhibition in the Museum for Plaster casts we (Ellen, Alex and Dave) tested a prototype for simulating weaves that allowed to use a 5 x 5 scheme and represent the way how the threads bend back into the weave with a 3 D simulation. This enables us to see if the weave holds together at the borders. Based on this, we want to integrate tablet-woven borders in the future.

Coding weaves in the Museum for Plaster Casts, Munich

In the PENELOPEan laboratory we will make more machines of this kind that allow a sort of live coding of weaves for pattern exploration. The vision is to develop a live coding setting for a warp-weighted loom. A big challenge will probably be to construct the mechanism that operates the loom. An even bigger challenge is to mechanise Penelope’s ability to undo the weaving thread by thread.

The Laboratory has been presented to the public in May 2017. On most Wednesdays, Ellen is there from 3 to 5 p.m. but also other activities will take place like a local damasc weaver, Sylvia Wiechmann, weaving a coptic tunic in August/September 2017 (see New Project in the PENELOPE Lab).

Birdview on laboratory (photo: foam Kernow)