Although most of our recent explorations have been about sounds and mechanisms, a couple weeks ago I decided to take a detour into trying my hand at weaving. Weaving and looms are an ancient technology, and one thing that I find fascinating about them is how they are inherently computational. We have some Cricket looms I pulled out of storage to experiment with. The first step was just getting it set up and trying a simple over-under pattern for making an even textile. The loom keeps one set of threads at the center level (blue yarn), and moves a second set above or below them so when you pass the shuttle through (green yarn) it makes an even woven pattern.
I knew with some looms it was possible to make more complex patterns, which was the next challenge I set for myself. I marked out four threads that I would skip on each pass, thinking this would make a square. For my first attempts, I skipped those ones moving the shuttle both directions, but it made the pattern look messy. For the second attempt, I only skipped those ones when passing the shuttle right to left and it made a much cleaner pattern.
The next challenge was to see if I could make a checker board so I marked out eight different threads to skip. The pattern was six passes skipping the ones marked with a blue dot, then six passes skipping the ones marked with a red dot.
I like that the fabric shows evidence of my learning over time. The process of figuring out how to shuttle the green thread across, when to skip blue threads, and even some "bugs" of mistakes are all apparent when you look at the fabric itself. For future explorations, I think it could be really interesting to try making a simple Jacquard-style loom that allows you to manually choose which threads to "skip" and potentially make more complex patterns than just squares. Another option could be to try making a simple scratch program that could draw out a pattern you could then recreate with physical materials.