Egyptian Diagonals with John Mullarkey

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Egyptian diagonals are a gift to tablet weavers. Even beginner weavers can produce these bold, eye-catching designs. But these designs aren’t just for beginners. John Mullarkey has released a new
course, Egyptian Diagonals, as a download or DVD, that reveals the potential of these designs for every tablet weaver.

The course is organized into eleven primary sections plus a bonus section. You can open each section independently. The first section is an introduction to the concept of “Egyptian” diagonals,
where John credits the work of Mary Meigs Atwater in promoting tablet weaving in the early 20th century and admits there is no evidence that the ancient Egyptians did any tablet weaving.

Setting Up

The material in the next three sections is applicable to any tablet weaving project using a continuous warp. Although John states the course is not intended for complete beginners, he explains the
entire weaving process without assumptions of previous knowledge. In Section 2, John reviews tools and materials, reminding us that tablet weaving has a low cost of entry. He discusses color, showing that light/dark contrast is more important than hue contrast for creating a vivid pattern. Section 3 is a very detailed demonstration of making a continuous warp and section 4 describes the “warp checkout” required before you can weave. Even if you have years of experience, I highly recommend these sections for spelling out every problem that might arise and how to fix it.

Starting to Weave

In Section 5, John describes how to position the tablets so they will weave diagonals. There is the inevitable discussion of S and Z orientation. Then in Section 6, he finally begins to weave. He does not assert that his method is superior to others, but merely states “I prefer to do it this way.” The first diagonal pattern he explores is “lazy waves,” where he turns the entire pack together with occasional reversals of turning direction. (The video closeup of the “sawtooth” pattern doesn’t show up as well as it should – the only production flaw I noticed in the entire course.) Then in Section 7, he gives us a set of rules to create more complex designs that preserve the smooth diagonal properties: to split up the pack into even-numbered groups, and turn them for an even number of turns before reversing turning direction. These rules allow you to create a vast number of beautiful patterns where frequent turning reversal avoids the buildup of twist. In Section 8, John
explains why these rules work and helps us learn to “read the weaving.

Drafting and Trouble-Shooting

Now that we know how to create patterns, John shows us in Section 9 how to record and plan patterns. He reminds us that because tablet weavers generally “work in islands” there is no recognized standard for encoding table weaving drafts. He shows us what needs to be recorded (threading, S or Z slant, and turning directions) and a method that works. Section 10 explores the very important subject of correcting mistakes. John describes an analytical technique that can go a long way towards reducing weaver frustration.

Hexagonal Tablets and the Bonus

After our grounding in four-holed tablets, in Section 11, John introduces six-holed tablets. Weaving with hexagonal tablets offers additional options over squares, but introduces extra wrinkles.
With a square tablet, changing the
S/Z orientation or reversing the turning direction weaves the same sequence, but this feature does not always hold for hexagons. John shows us both two- and three-colored diagonals, and how to modify the rules we learned for making diagonals with square tablets. He gives a detailed demonstration of a technique he calls “wiggle and scootch” for controlling the shallow sheds created by the hexagonal tablets. The Bonus Section is the story of a vest John made from Egyptian diagonal bands where the design process used a random number generator.

Ergonomics

Throughout this course, we get to see detailed shots of how John uses his hands to make the warp, prepare to weave, then turn a single or double pack of tablets. Many of us may have never had an
opportunity for a close examination of an experienced weaver’s work practices. John has thought through every step required to produce beautiful bands. So while you’re learning about diagonal patterns, you are also getting an excellent lesson in weaving ergonomics.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this course for anyone who does tablet weaving. John’s deep knowledge and thorough preparation makes the course both useful and enjoyable. The professional production of the video is a plus: lighting and camera positions make the details easy to see. The sections can be played sequentially or in any order. In many places, graphical overlays on the screen reinforce John’s descriptions. I had many yards of original Egyptian diagonal designs under my belt before I began viewing this course and wondered whether I would learn anything new. I learned a great deal, and have improved my weaving practices as a result. John is an excellent teacher, and as tablet weavers, we are all fortunate to have this stimulating and practical course to visit and revisit.

DVD review by Carla Gladstone

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