Linen Weave

Marcy Petrini

October, 2021


In the September / October 2021 issue of Handwoven, Judy Steward reviewing Shanta Eri silk for the Yarn Lab article, shows an example of “Linen Weave”. I had not thought about “linen weave” in decades, I remembered it as a textured weave, which Judy’s sample also shows.

I came across linen weave at a time when I didn’t really understand weaving classification of any type, so everything seemed to be a weave of sorts – linen weave, waffle weave, boundweave, etc.

Judy referenced Davison’s book in her article, so I had to look up linen weave. There are four entries for it in Marguerite Porter Davison’s book, A Handweaver’s Pattern Book. Judy’s version of the book is the 1944 edition, mine 1994, so I didn’t know exactly which of the four linen weaves Judy used. Time to explore.

The first linen weave is in the Canvas Weaves chapter, one threading with three treadlings (see drawdown below in the same order as in Davison). If we look at the third treadling, we see why this linen weave is in this chapter, it is a double block canvas weave. I decided it to adapt for a current project I am weaving which will be for a later blog.



The other two treadlings form columns of warp-dominant and weft-dominant stripes, accentuated by the sleying of cramming 4 threads in one dent, and then leaving one empty.

The second reference of linen weave in Davison’s book is by Caroline Halvorsen’s No 180, in the Texture Weaves chapter, Judy may have used this one for her sample, hard to tell from a small photograph. Looking at it, I realized that it is twill blocks, two blocks on four shafts. The threading is similar to the twill blocks I have used before, the entry for which is in the Pictionary©, but the treadling produces more pronounced differences, the blocks are more warp or weft dominant. Below is the drawdown; this, too, is a structure I would like to try. There are relatively long floats, 5-threads, but they contribute to the warp or weft dominant look.




The next two linen weave examples are from the chapter called Thousand Flowers; Davison says that “All of the patterns given in this chapter are four-unit overshot weaves…” Confusing terminology since overshot is not a unit weave.

The first sample, Linen Weave Unit has two treadling options, one with tabby and one without. The drawdown for the one woven with the tabby is below:




The second without a tabby is next:




The final example is called Linen Weave Plaid; it has two blocks, block A is the same threading as the Linen Weave Unit, the second block B is inverted. Block A is repeated 5 times, then to form the “plaid”, there is a block B, block A, block B. The thread on shaft 1 is omitted when the following block is different. The treadling uses a tabby. In the drawdown below I used 3 repeats of block A threading and treadling to make it more easily seen.




Even though Davison says that these structures are overshot weaves, I was intrigued by the Linen Weave Unit. Could it be woven as a unit weave? From the threading, it appeared that it could be classified as a double (2 pattern shafts per block), two tie (1, 2), unpaired (ties not next to each other) with a ratio of 1:4 (1 thread on a tie shaft for every 4 pattern threads). It could be easily expanded to more shafts for more blocks, three on 8 shafts, A, B, and C.

The treadling could be the classical way: the two pattern shafts for each block with each tie-down thread; that is, to weave block A, we would treadle: 1 & 3 & 4 vs. 2 & 3 & 4. Here is the drawdown, the first repeat shows the units, the second repeat shows how it is woven with the alternating tabby:




It can, in fact, be woven as a unit weave. As I looked at the drawdown, it looked awfully familiar. Because I was scheduled to lead a seminar on unit weaves at Convergence 2020 – and now moved to Convergence 2022 – I have been exploring and weaving unit weaves. I went back to my notes and there it was!

Below is the front of double, two unpaired ties with a 1:4 ratio, followed by the back of the sample:




This unit weave is sometimes called 4:1 Beiderwand. However, Donna Sullivan, in her book Summer and Winter A Weave for All Seasons, explains why she does not like the beiderwand designation for unit weaves because true beiderwand is a double weave cloth, with two warps and two wefts. Madelyn van der Hoogt has written a nice explanation of beiderwand in her “Ask Madelyn” column of November 24, 2015 (


Happy Weaving and Exploring!