Bronson and Barley Corn

Marcy Petrini

September 2019



Do you recognize this fabric? On the left we have blocks with weft floats, on the right we have blocks with warp floats.

The cloth is characteristic of grouped or unit weaves, one-shuttle structures that make lacey fabrics. If we look closely, we can see that a warp thread is shared by adjacent blocks. This is a characteristic of Spot Bronson.




Below is the drawdown for a sinking shed loom; even though I weave on rising shed looms, I find it easier to think of a block being woven when it is covered by weft, which occurs with a sinking shed loom. On and off the loom, weft floats appear on one side of the fabric, warp floats on the other.

The drawdown shows some important characteristics of the structure: there are three blocks; what is generally called A is threaded on shaft 2, B on 3 and C on 4. I like to think of these shafts as pattern shafts; in each block, the respective pattern shaft alternates with a thread on shaft 1 for the width of the block. This is the reason why adjacent blocks share a thread, they share shaft 1.

This means that it is possible to weave plain weave across the fabric by treadling 1 vs. 2 & 3 &4, since every other thread is on shaft 1 and the alternate thread is on a pattern shaft; this is shown in the drawdown but not the fabric. The two alternating plain weave picks are sometimes called tabbies, since Spot Bronson is traditionally woven with the same size warp and weft, so that the plain weave area can be a true tabby.

This characteristic of treadling 1 vs. all pattern shafts, makes me think of a tied-unit weave (for example summer-and-winter), but Spot Bronson is not, for two main reasons.


  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


The most important reason is that the floats are not delimited by a tie-thread, but by the pattern thread of the adjacent block. If we look at block C (1, 4, 1, 4, 1), the first block starting on the right in the drawdown, we see that the weft thread covers the block for its 5 warp threads, (including the warp thread shared on shaft 1), and it stops with shaft 3 of the following block (1, 3, 1, 3, 1). This is similar to what happens with huck.

The other reason that this is not a tied-unit weave is related to the first: the block can be as wide as we wish – for block C, for example, 1, 4, can be repeated many times, ending with 1 – being mindful that the float may be too long. This variable float length, too, is similar to huck.

In treadling a block we alternate the tabby 2 & 3 & 4 with a pick that uses shaft 1 plus the shaft of the block; the treadling for block C, for example, is 2 & 3 & 4 vs. 1 & 4.

What makes Spot Bronson intriguing is that there are 3 blocks on 4 shafts, unusual for unit weaves. This increases the design possibilities as can be seen from the drawdown and fabric.

But the extra block comes with a cost: it is not possible to weave plain weave down the length of the fabric, even though the two blocks not being woven produce plain weave. This emphasizes the design, but even with floating selvages, the floats are one thread away from the edge.

Enter Lace Bronson, also called Bronson Lace: since plain weave is formed on the blocks not being woven, we could use one of them to produce plain weave down the length of the fabric. We would gain another option: placing between blocks the pattern shaft of the block used for plain weave; this allows us to repeat a block without long floats.

Block A of Spot Bronson is traditionally used for the plain weave to turn it into Lace Bronson. Below are both sides of the fabric of Lace Bronson.




The drawdown that follows shows how the 1, 2, threading results in a plain weave border and how the pattern thread on shaft 2 can separate repeats of the same block. Look at the two repeats of block on 1, 3, a thread on shaft 2 prevents the long float, in effect functioning as a tie-down thread. 


   Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Same block threading, two structures with different characteristics resulting from some block re-arrangement and changes in treadling.

But, wait, there is more!

Last year at the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild meeting, my friend Gio Chinchar was presenting a program on weaving towels when she showed one woven as Barley Corn, which is basically Bronson, she said.

I hadn’t thought about Barley Corn since the 90s and I seemed to remember that there was something unusual about the Bronson of the Barley Corn. So, down the Barley Corn rabbit hole I went.

Barley Corn is Spot Bronson and it is usually – but not always – woven with a fat weft for the pick using the pattern shaft; the warp and the tabby (2 & 3 & 4) weft are the same, the fat weft is of the same proportions that we would use for a supplementary weft, for example in overshot.

Ultimately, I decided to weave “Detail from Flowers of Caanan” from A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison, “the green book” where there is an entire chapter devoted to Barley Corn.

Below is the drawdown of the Flowers of Caanan followed by the front and back of the fabric. The threading is that of the Spot Bronson drawdown shown above. The treadling uses two wefts. The tabby weft is the same as the warp as can be seen from the fabric, 10/2 mercerized cotton; in the drawdown it is shown in lighter blue to make the plain weave obvious; it is always 2 & 3 & 4. The pattern shot is woven with Brown Sheep Nature Spun, color Sunburst Gold; the fatter yarn makes the pattern more visible, gold in the drawdown.


   Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Davison says that the motifs of Barley Corn can resemble overshot.


Because the tabby weft is fatter, the fabric is heavier than Spot Bronson, it would make great pillows or other household textiles where overshot may be used.

Barley Corn has been added to the Pictionary. Spot Bronson and Lace Bronson have been part of the original set of Pictionary. Download the pdfs as you wish.

Use some of your favorite Spot Bronson patterns and convert them to Barley Corn! And for me, I can’t wait to see what my friend Gio is going to weave next, because she always seems to dig up interesting weaves.


 Happy weaving!

  Please email comments and questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..