Czech Anthem Scarf Finished

Czech Anthem ScarfWell, here is the finished product – My Czech National Anthem Scarf, combining the arts of music and weaving.  The colored bands are actually a musical score for the Czech National Anthem, for violin.  There is a wonderful connection between playing music and weaving cloth, as you can see here.  The blue, white and red sections are the colors of the Czech Republic flag.Czech Anthem Score

Starting from the bottom and reading up, this scarf can be played just like this sheet music:


And it sounds like this:



This scarf is a gift for my Czech violin teacher, and is not for sale.  But I am open to inquiries for special orders.  Musical pieces should have no more than 8 different notes of varying lengths between 1/8 and whole, and in the public domain.  Baroque and Classical pieces preferred.   Price depends upon the difficulty of the piece, but it will not be cheap! Long lead times are likely.  Design (C) 2016 by Walter William Melnyk. All rights reserved.

~ Will

Kde domov muj – The Weaving Begins, Part II

All the preliminary work is done to transform the sheet music for the Czech National Anthem into a weaving pattern.  The warp is on the loom, the weft yarns are in the shuttles, and the weaving has begun.

Here are the first two bars, plus one more note to complete a phrase:

Anthem 1

The notes are: Quarter Rest,  A (half), B (eighth), A (eighth), E (quarter), G (half), F (eighth), E(eighth), and a low D (dotted half.)

The words are:  “Where is my home, where is my home?  A delightfully rhetorical question, which is about to be answered with the beauties of the Czech Republic.

The frequency and length of the musical notes are represented by the wavelength and width of the color bands.

With all the color changes, the weaving is very slow going.  Not for sale – it’s a gift for someone in Prague.

~ Will

Weaving Music, Step by Step

I’ve gotten the warp on my loom for weaving a scarf with the Czech National Anthem, and I thought I’d take you through it step by step.

Czech Anthem ScoreStep One:  The Musical Score

Here is the score arranged for (among others) Violin.  There are eight different notes, ranging from a low to a high D.

Where is my home, where is my home?
Streams are rushing over meadows,
In the mountains sigh fragrant pine groves,
Orchards bloom in bright array;
Paradise on earth display!
And it is that beautiful country:
The Czech Country, my home,
The Czech country, my home!

Step Two:  Create the Weaving PatternCzech Weaving Pattern

Choose a different color to represent each different note, plus black to indicate bar lines and note separations.  In this case, there will be nine (!) colors.  An eighth note will have four strands of weft yarn, a quarter note will have eight, etc.

Czech Warp BoardStep Three:  The Warp

Decide on a warp design, and measure the warp on the warping board.  For this project, I’ve chosen a neutral beige to provide a good background, framed on each side with the colors of the Czech Flag.

This warp will be ten yards long, enough to weave three scarves.  Decide the length of your project, add 10% for shrinkage on the loom, and an extra yard for loom waste.  (Ever wonder why small batch handwovens are so expensive?)

Next step – the loom!

Step Four:  Sley the ReedCzech Sley Reed

Using a special hook, thread each end of yarn through the spaces in the reed.  This yarn is 5/2 mercerized cotton.  There are 84 ends (a relatively small project!) and the reed has 12 spaces per inch.  The width on the loom will be 7 inches, but draw-in will reduce the finished width to 5.5″ or 6″.

Taking the warp off the warping board, you loop it into a chain to make it shorter and easier to handle.


Czech Back Beam

Step Five:  Through the Heddles and Onto the Back Beam.

Another kind of hook is used to pull each end of yard through the heddles.  The heddles are guides attached to four moveable “shafts.”  The shafts are attached to foot treadles.  The order in which you thread the treadles, and the order in which you do the treadling, determine the weave pattern.  This will be a simple “Plain Weave”:  The heddles on the four shafts are threaded 1-2-3-4 & etc.  And only two treadles will be used: Left, Right, Left, Right, etc.

Then tie the yarn onto the Back Beam (aka the Warp Beam) and wind the entire length of the warp through the reed and heddles onto the Warp Beam.  (It’s called the Warp Beam, because it holds the warp!)

Step Six:  Tie onto the Front BeamCzech Front Beam

Once you’ve wound the entire warp onto the warp beam, you’ll have just the leading end of the warp at the front of the loom.  This is tied onto the front, or Cloth Beam. (It’s called the Cloth Beam because it will hold the finished cloth!)

Now, remember all those nine weft colors?  The next step will be to wind each color onto a bobbin, and place in a shuttle, and then we’ll be almost ready to weave.  But that’s another post, for another day.

Right now it’s time for Violin practice, and perhaps a bit of the Czech National Anthem.

~ Will



Weaving the Czech National Anthem

When I play this violin – with its amazing Czech heritage – I think of Pavel, who played it after Auschwitz.  And a favorite beautiful piece to play is the Czech National Anthem:

Where is my home, where is my home?
Streams are flowing over meadows
In the mountains sigh fragrant pine groves.
Orchards bloom in bright array:
Paradise on earth display.
And it is that beautiful country,
The Czech country, my home,
The Czech country, my home.

Mozart Scarf 3As you know, I have been working with the mathematical and aesthetical unity of the loom and the violin.  My first effort was a scarf woven out of the music for Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, which I’m wearing at the left.  It looks plaid, because the warp is a number of colored ends, according to the numbers in the Fibonacci Series.

The next project, just begun, is the Czech Anthem, woven into a pattern for a scarf.  As before, the colors indicate the notes, and the width of each color band indicates the length of each note.  This project is a bit more involved, because there are three accidentals, and a number of notes are joined with ligato.  But here is the basic plan:

Where is my home scarf

With a bit of instruction, you can play it like a musical score.  The scarf will be about 8′ long by 6″ wide.  So far, this musical weaving is not for sale.  But I’m willing to consider special orders.

Beautiful colors and beautiful music, for a beautiful country.

~ Will


Mozart’s Handwoven Sonata

Mozart Scarf 3My first venture into the art of the handweaving of Baroque music on a loom is complete.  I am willing to bet that, unless you have been following this blog, you have never seen anything like it.

The horizontal color bands on the scarf are actually the musical score of the beginning theme from Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major (for violin) by W. A. Mozart.  Over my right shoulder it reads from bottom to top; over my left shoulder from top to bottom.  The color indicates the note, the width of the bar indicates the length of the note.  A wide black bar separates measures; a narrow black bar separates notes.

Thus, the first measure (top left, just under the violin) is a dotted quarter note B, an eighth note C, and a quarter note B.  The final measure (bottom left or top right) is a whole G.  You can play by reading the scarf just like a musical score.

The plaid effect comes from the multi-colored warp.  The warp threads are arranged in the Fibonacci Series of numbers (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 – then back down again.  In the center is a single narrow Golden thread, which signifies the Golden Mean.  Golden Mean is another name for the “Golden Section, or Golden Ratio,”  the division of a line so that the whole is to the greater part as that part is to the smaller part (i.e., in a ratio of 1 to 1/2 (√5 + 1)), a proportion that is considered to be particularly pleasing to the eye.  It is the basic concept in esthetically pleasing architecture, and the foundation of Sacred Geometry, used in the construction of the great Cathedrals and the Jerusalem Temple.  It is a ration that exists everywhere in nature, for example the spiral shell of the nautilus.

The Golden Section has great significance in many Gnostic traditions, including esoteric expressions of Freemasonry.  And Mozart was indeed a Freemason, as am I.

The point of the project is the close relationship between musical scores and weaving graphs.  The weaver and the musician are one; a genuine meeting of the Bow and Shuttle.

If you are curious, here is what the scarf “sounds like” when “played” on a piano:

The scarf is woven of mercerized cotton, and is about 8′ long by 6″ wide.

~ Will

Hearing Mozart as Mozart Heard Mozart

Baroque Bow

A Jacob Stainer model violin with a German Baroque style bow.  They just go together.

This violin is a wonderful Jacob Stainer copy.  Stainers are not often played today, because they come from, and hearken back to, an earlier time in violin history.  Stainer made his violins in Absam, near Innsbruck, during the Baroque period, when the likes of Bach and Mozart were writing.  The way they wrote, and heard, their music was as chamber music, in the days before large symphony halls.  It was a quieter, gentler time, and the Stainer violin was well suited to it, with its high back and belly arches.  As violins entered the classical period, they flattened out, and became more powerful so they could reach the far corners of great halls.  Strings went from gut to steel, among other changes.  Today, when we hear the Baroque composers on modern violins we are not hearing what they heard back then.

Life is like that: A constant frenzy for bigger, louder, more powerful.  Sometimes quieter and gentler is, well, quieter and gentler.

Today I acquired a German Baroque style bow.

The German Baroque bow is shorter than the Classical bow, without the pronounced concave camber to the stick, and somewhat less hair.  It is lighter in weight and more subtle.  I am using evah pirazzi strings, which have a synthetic core that approximates gut, with which Baroque violins were strung. (So the gut strings come next.)

I took the bow out of its packing box, rosined it up, and suddenly was playing chamber music with Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, for violin.

A delightful surprise.  But, then, life is like that.

~ Will




The Weaving of Mozart Has Begun

In an earlier post (which see: Weaving Mozart into a Scarf) I talked about the many artistic similarities between weaving and playing the violin.  Especially interesting is how close a correspondence there is between a weaving pattern and a musical score.

Why not, I mused, produce a woven item (say, a scarf) that corresponded to a musical score so perfectly that a violinist could look at it, read it like sheet music, and then play the tune?

Well, the Weaving of Mozart Has Begun!

Here are the first two lines of a simple arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major (look at the very first line in particular):

Mozart Score 1

Now, here is the first line, of four measures, woven into a plainweave pattern on the loom:

Mozart Scarf 1

The different colors signify different notes. (Blue=B, Gold=A, etc.) and the black is a separator between notes and measures.  The width of each color tells you the length of each note. (Dotted Quarter=12, Eighth=4, etc.)  A musician who understands the pattern can play it just like sheet music.

What makes this piece really interesting is that it is woven on to a warp whose threads are arranged according to the Fibonacci Sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21…… the narrow extra gold thread in the center signifies the Golden Mean,) of great interest to esoteric Freemasonry. And Mozart was himself a Mason.

More to come when it’s finished.

No, it’s not for sale.

~ Will

Greatest Joy; Biggest Pain

Strings New

The Greatest Joy?  New Strings.
The Biggest Pain? New Strings.
Life is like that.

Often great joys and big pains seem to come together.  Have you ever noticed that?  In my cynical moments I thinks it’s the Universe’s way of making sure I don’t have too much unalloyed joy all at once.  After all, if I ever experience “Heaven on Earth,” what will be left for hopeful anticipation?  Of course in my optimistic moments I think it’s the Universe’s way of making sure I don’t have too much pain without any enabling consolation.  After all, if I get too “Bummed Out,” how will I ever have strength enough for hope?

Theologically, I suppose we could say that “Balance” is the Universe’s way of keeping us, well, in Balance.

But I suspect it’s simpler than that, and a new set of violin strings give us a really good clue.

The old strings are old.  They’ve vibrated and stretched, and stretched and vibrated through countless musical notes.  As the hymn goes, they are tired, weak, and worn.  No zing.  No “life” in the old string.  The good news is they pretty much stay in tune.  The bad news is it’s a tired tune.

Ah, but the new strings!  Full of life, bursting with energy, whether it be the quiet, sonorous, mellow hum of the G, or the bright, joyous cry of the E.  Put them on, and you and your instrument vibrate together in a new way – joy has arrived.

For a moment.  The problem is new strings are, well, new.  They have to be “broken in” like a new car, or a baseball glove, or a new relationship.  They’ve never been on a violin before, so they’ve never had to settle in.  They have lots of “Give” to give at first.  It’s a new experience for them, as well as for you, so you might as well all enjoy it together.

Anything new is like that in life – it takes a bit of time and patience to settle in before it becomes truly beautiful.

~ Will

Stringing a Stainer from Days of Yore

I have had the joy and privilege of playing a  violin that is an old Stainer copy. Age unknown. It’s current history dates back to a Russian soldier in 1945, on the Russian front in Slovakia, but it is much older. Obtained by Czech soldier and carried for several months in sporadic combat in the Carpathians. Repaired by a Luther in Prague some years ago. It has a high arch to the belly and back. About a quarter of an inch on the belly, slightly higher on the back. The back is in one piece. Typical printed label for a Stainer copy: Jacobus Stainer in Absam prop Oenepuntum 16… third and fourth digits handwritten, third could be an 8. It has a gentle, sweet sound, deep, mellow G, clear E. MY QUESTION: Any recommendations for strings? Many thanks to so many folks in the Violin Guild (Facebook) for their suggestions!

Jonas Dufrene Evah pirazzi smile emoticon

Drew Youmans The Thomasik TI strings have a great explosive quality, and good value as well. Use them on my violin which is also on the sweeter side to give it some wheels

Eric Horne Kaplan Vivo

Cheryl Frankfurth Awesome history…how’s the tone?

Matthew Hauck I use tonica on my Stainer

Matthew Hauck BTW she’s a beauty

Andrew Basa gut! smile emoticon

Keven Aland Eva Pirazzi G,D,A Pirastro Gold or Olive E. Closest sound to gut but will stay in tune

Inga Ulokina Evah Pirazzi

Jacob Levy Wow! How the heck that thing survived being schlepped around the eastern front must be an incredible story.

Jesse Calcat Try Passione (if you don’t mind gut G, D, and A), Evah Pirazzi Gold, or Obligato. The regular green Evahs are all right but too many violinists treat them as a one size fits all kinds of string, and there is really no such thing. Stainers are unique and need different treatment from other violins.

Jérémie Bartel I used to put Larsen tzigane on my stainer’s copy, it sounds great, very warm G. It was made in mirecourt in 1860

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The Frazzled Edges of Life

Edges FrazzeledYou can’t see it here, but the edges of this warp are just beginning to show signs of rebellion.  I’ve finished one Fibonacci Rainbow Clergy Stole (8 feet long,) and am three feet from the end of this second one.  And there are yards left on the warp.

The colors are beautiful, the Fibonacci Sequence pattern is great fun, and so far the weaving has been joyfully uneventful.  But now I  see the beginning threat of some frazzling around the edges.

Life’s like that, isn’t it?  Although total disasters are not unheard of they are, blessedly, not the norm.  Most of the time what’s going on center stage in our lives stays pretty much under control.  It’s what’s going on at the edges, just out of our peripheral vision, where the surprises lurk; where dangers can grow slowly, quietly, insidiously, and we don’t see them coming.  The edges begin to frazzle.  It may threaten to become a major life problem, or perhaps (it is to be hoped) just a minor irritation.  We go on blithely, even joyfully, weaving the pattern of life while out there, out of sight, the edges begin to frazzle.

Now a weaver knows the entire width of the warp is of the same importance.  We should be expected to pay attention to all of it.  But it’s at the center of the warp that the pattern is appearing in all its beauty, and that is where our attention is focused.  We pay little attention to the edges, until they become a problem.  When they do, sometimes it can be fixed with minor effort.  Sometimes there’s nothing for it but to tie off the ruined warp, and start over.

Life’s like that, isn’t it?  We decide what we want to be the center of things, and put all our attention there.  It’s what we have relegated to the far edges of life that is likely to cause us a problem sooner or later.  Oftentimes its something just as important as the whole warp of our life:  a loved one we have been neglecting for one reason or another, a social issue that has been sitting annoyingly in our conscience, a obligation we have been putting off fulfilling.  Out there, at the edges, they will sooner of later begin to frazzle, and threaten the integrity of our exciting plans for the center of our desires.

This afternoon, after my violin lesson via Skype from Prague, I’m going to have to get concerned in a very mundane way about those two back threads you see at the edges of my warp.  The first threads in the Fibonacci Sequence that spreads across the stole – 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 . . .  They’re both starting to untwist, which means they’re getting longer than the other threads, which means their tension is loosening, and the edges won’t hold.  There are several possible causes, most of them (Thank You) easy to fix.  But I’ll have to take my eyes off the center for a bit, and pay some attention to the edges.

Have you ever had to do that?

~ Will


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