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Apr 14

Summer and Winter – Melissa Ludden Hankens

A wall hanging done in a classic summer/ winter weaving pattern

A long time ago, in a lifetime that seems far, far away, I took a beginning 4-shaft weaving class at Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder, Colorado. I was smitten with weaving from day one, but even more so after the summer & winter lesson. It appealed to me aesthetically, and the resulting cloth was durable and reversible with no long weft floats.

Some seem to feel the origin of the weave is uncertain. Marguerite Porter Davison suggests that its origin is Finland, with many fine coverlet examples later found in Pennsylvania Dutch country here in the U.S. Origin aside, the cloth, being reversible, is traditionally woven on a light warp with a dark pattern thread used in the weft. The resulting cloth has a distinctly light side and a distinctly dark side—the light side meant for the summer months and the dark side for the winter. That said, to achieve this using two blocks, the number of blocks available to you if you are using a 4-shaft loom, you will need to weave a larger volume of one block than the other to create the color differences from one side to the other. You will see that not all of my samples achieve this.

Let’s focus on weaving summer & winter on a 4-shaft loom. To weave traditional summer & winter, you will need two shuttles and two colors of yarn – a blue pattern yarn and a white warp/tabby are traditional, but certainly not a requirement. I would suggest choosing one light and one dark color when starting out, as this will enable you to more clearly see the contrast.

The pattern yarn is typically double the thickness of the warp/tabby yarn. I used 10/2 pearl cotton in color Safari (pale tan) for the warp and tabby, and my primary pattern yarn was 5/2 pearl cotton in color Quarry (dark blue). I also experimented with some bright blue Harrisville Highland as well as a bulky white cotton yarn for the pattern picks. There is so much opportunity for experimentation here!

Summer & winter consists of 4-thread units, called blocks. You can repeat a unit as many times as you want in either warp or weft. On a 4-shaft loom, you can have 2 blocks. Block A is threaded 1-3-2-3 and Block B is threaded 1-4-2-4. I used shafts one and two for the plain weave threads and shafts three (Block A) and four (Block B) for the pattern threads.

A quick way to design your threading sequence for summer & winter is to use a profile draft. A profile draft is like the Cliff Notes version of your threading. I’ve sketched out a 16 thread pattern and it’s equivalent profile draft, so you can see how this approach can save you time and take up less space. You can note this on graph paper or as letters.

Block A = 1,3,2,3

Diagram for pattern Block A

Block B = 1,4,2,4

Diagram for pattern Block B

A threading pattern looks like this: 1-3-2-3-1-3-2-3-1-4-2-4-1-4-2-4, or in graph form:

Threading Draft for winter/ summer weave

A profile draft expressed in letters looks like this: A-A-B-B, or in graph form:

Profile for Threading Draft of the winter/ summer weave


Weaving summer & winter

Every other pick is a tabby (plain weave) pick woven with the fine weft yarn, and every other pick is a pattern pick woven with the heavy weft yarn. You build up blocks by repeatedly weaving Block A or Block B. Since very other pick is tabby, your pattern threads are frequently secured, and long floats are not possible. This makes a very stable fabric.

Let’s look at the profile draft for this sampler. First, here is the profile draft expressed in letters:

A-B-A-A-A-B-A-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-A-A-A-A-A-B-B-B-A-B Repeat in reverse starting with B.

Here is the profile draft expressed on graph paper:

hanging draft

The profile draft above, tells you to thread your loom as follows: 1 unit of Block A (1-3-2-3), 1 unit of Block B (1-4-2-4), 3 units of Block A (1-3-2-3-1-3-2-3-1-3-2-3). 1 unit of Block B (1-4-2-4), 1 unit of Block A (1-3-2-3), and so on.

You will need six treadles for the tie-up, or four levers/treadles if you have a table loom or direct tie-up loom. I organize the treadles on my Baby Wolf with the tabby treadles tied up on the left and the pattern treadles tied up on the right so my left foot treadles Tabby A and Tabby B and my right foot treadles Pattern A1, Pattern A2, Pattern B1, and Pattern B2 (see photo). With every other pick being a tabby pick, this setup enables you to treadle left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

Using masking tape to label treadles for creating the summer/ winter weaving pattern

The treadles are tied up as follows:

Tabby A: 1-2 (this means tie shafts 1 & 2 up to this treadle and so on)

Tabby B: 3-4

Pattern A1: 1-3

Pattern A2: 2-3

Pattern B1: 1-4

Pattern B2: 2-4

Now treadle tromp as writ (or the order in which the loom has been threaded). Here is how that treadling breaks down by block using the tie-ups I just listed:

Block A is treadled: Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby, B, Pattern A2

Block B is treadled: Tabby A, Pattern B1, Tabby B, Pattern B2

So, following the profile draft above, you would treadle as follows:

Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A2

Tabby A, Pattern B1, Tabby B, Pattern B2

Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A2

Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A2

Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A2

Tabby A, Pattern B1, Tabby B, Pattern B2

Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A2

Etc. and repeat.

A weaving sampler looking at a green and white weave vs. a green, red, and white weave

On to the sampler!


Baby Wolf

Warp and tabby weft:

10/2 pearl cotton in color Safari (light tan)

Pattern weft:

5/2 pearl cotton in Quarry (dark blue) (I also experimented with Harrisville Highland and a bulky cotton mystery yarn from my stash. The sky’s the limit!)


20 ends per inch

Number of ends:

200 (50 blocks x 4 threads per block)

Warp length:

3 yd (or less). I warped 3 yards of fabric so that I could create the sampler and then have enough warp left over to weave a narrow runner for a small table in my house (though I ended using it for a hanging–see photo at the beginning of the article). If you are just weaving the sampler, you will need about a yard of warp for the sampler plus loom waste.

The sampler has seven different experiments that explore various treadling sequences and the use of different materials in the pattern weft:

  1. Tromp as writ – weave the entire threading sequence.
  2. Each block woven in a separate color, woven trompe as writ. I used the 5/2 Quarry blue for Pattern A and 5/2 wine tone purple for Pattern B. Again, same treadling sequence as in variation 1.
  3. Still using the blue and purple for blocks A and B, I changed my treadling to A-B-A-B-A-B, repeated. You can see that this creates an even distribution of light and dark areas, contrary to the spirit of summer & winter. I think it appears more as texture than distinct blocks.
  4. Using Harrisville Highland in Peacock Blue for the pattern weft, my treadling sequence was A-A-A-B-B-B repeated. This is a bolder design and I just love the texture!
  5. Now, let’s extend the blocks. Use your original colors. For block A, instead of weaving Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A2, try using each pattern treadle twice in a row by weaving Tabby A, Pattern A1, Tabby B, Pattern A1, Tabby A, Pattern A2, Tabby B, Pattern A2. Make the same change for Block B and weave trompe as writ.
  6. Another change in Pattern: Weave A-A-A-A-A-B-B-B-B-B and repeat.
  7. Here I swapped out the 5/2 pattern weft for a bulky cotton yarn from my stash. I love that you can add texture and a bit of volume this way.

Seven different color and pattern options demonstrated on a sampler

Feel free to experiment. What happens if you skip the tabby picks? Use the tabby weft for one of the pattern blocks and something completely different for the other? There are so many possibilities here!

If you would like to read more about summer & winter and check out some other pattern options, here is a list of books to get you started.

Happy Weaving!

Deborah Chandler, “Learning to Weave” pp. 184-190

Marguerite Porter Davison, “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book” pp. 187-194

Anne Dixon, “The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory” pp. 136 -145

Mary Black, “The Key to Weaving” pp. 311-336

Follow Melissa’s weaving adventures on Instagram.  @mlhankens • Instagram photos and videos