Sunday, February 24, 2013

Math Anxiety and Weaving

Spinning a pretty braid

Blatent math-anxiety  expressed  by weaver's on a Ravelry thread got me to thinking about the core need for basic arithmetic in crafts.  This is especially true in weaving where doing the math is important for innovation, it is either do some math or forever be tied to published patterns.

Math is truly intrinsic to weaving and I was saddened to see women blithely say they weren't good at math and even seem proud of it.  To me, it's like being illiterate.  How do we do anything in our lives without the foundational computations we learned in grade school?  I can get through a day without trigonometry, but the basics: multiplication, division, fractions and percentage?  Nope, I use those skill every day.

And especially when I weave.  I need to, after all, compute ends per inch based on my pattern choice and the wraps per inch of my yarn.  I like handspun, so this is especially necessary.  After that there is yardage of thread, and then there is how many repeats of a pattern will fit in just so much space.  To make things interesting, and to make them our own, we must use math.

Weaving and math are so interrelated to me, that I've come upon my own theory that the evolution of arithmetic among early humans is related to our need for them in early crafts like weaving.  I'm guessing that research would show (if it hasn't already)  that basic arithmetic is hardwired in us in the same way as language acquisition, so we would naturally develop the ability to count groups of threads and multiply them by the amount of times we want to repeat a pattern.  This is not a stretch when you consider that computer science gained much from the punch card technology that was the basis of the Jacquard Loom.  Weaving complex patterns led eventually to the laptop I am using right now. 

Snugging the warp on Hermione.
One of the things that attracted me to weaving was its complexity, and that includes all the math involved in design.  I saw a craft that would keep my mind engaged well into retirement. It is a lovely and beautiful thing to plan out one's next project, math and all, figuring out what it is necessary. It is very satisfying to see all the figuring work out into a lovely finished project.  

Right now, I'm almost ready to start weaving on that new-to-me loom, Hermione.  You can see above where I am snugging the warp so I can get started with weaving.


  1. I have had a math phobia ever since I was young. In the fifth grade, we were seated according to our State Testing Scores. The teacher alternated between our English scores and Math. When she chose English, I was the first or second student in the seating. When she chose Math, I was usually the last. I've come to understand that I have it is not a character issues, but more likely a cogntive issue. HOWEVER, weaving has forced me to go back to square one and work with my husband. I decided that I needed to be able to master the skills you mentioned if I was going to be a serious weaver. I grew up hearing my mother say, "Math is beyond me, and it's obviously beyond you, too". I'm not buying it anymore. I'm not stellar at it, but it doesn't frighten me anymore. Thank you for this very important message.

  2. I hope weaving can help math click for you! It's sad to hear stories of people discouraged at a young age, but I think weaving is the perfect thing to help remove the block and have the "ahah" moment.