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Weaves vs. Designs/Weave Evaluation
Article © MAIL User: Nárrína

Part 1: Weaves vs. Designs

In recent years, there have been a lot of misconceptions over the issue of 'weaves' vs. 'designs.' It is my hope that this article will put most of them to rest, and prevent future misunderstandings.

So, what is a weave? Is it just a repetition of ring patterns? While a repeating pattern is certainly required for creating a weave, it is not what a weave is. Designs, you see, also generally require repetition and so repetition cannot solely define what a weave is. So what, then, is a weave?

Weaves are determined by a unified structure. This structure is composed of eye connections and specific ring interactions. There are many different ring interactions currently known and I'm sure many more to still be discovered. Each of these ring interactions has a set behaviour, and can be combined with other interactions. When this happens new structures are created, and thus, new weaves. (Some interactions will actually over-ride the behaviour of other ring interactions.) There are also some non-structural changes that can be made to a weave which cause a weave to be classified as a 'modification.'

Creating new weaves is about discovering new behaviours of known ring interactions and discovering altogether new ring interactions. It is purely a technical exploration of what happens when rings connect to, intersect with, go around, etc. other rings. It is the engineering, mathematics, etc. behind chainmaille. It's not about how pretty and interesting you can make a chain, sheet, unit, etc. look, but about learning what makes the rings behave the way they do in a weave. It's science, not art.

This is the science behind weaves, so what then is a design? A design is an application of a weave. Again, they can be created in many different ways, and are not just when you add beads, colour, different ring sizes, etc. to a weave. Some designs are created by combining sections of other weaves together in a more creative fashion. Others are created through non-structural additions to a weave and are reactions based purely on aesthetic to achieve the desired 'look.' They are most often achieved through making small changes to a weave and can be pretty much synonymous at times with a 'minor modification.' Some of the ways to do this may be with bolting (joining two chains/units together by a ring that, most often, has no part of the weaves structure); kinging (the doubling, tripling, etc. of rings when only a single ring is needed for the structure); mobizing (replacing a ring with a mobius ball); edging (giving a weave a 'decorate' edge that has no impact on the weaves structure). These are just a few of the most common examples and each method of weave modification is well represented in the weave library and so any further examples are nothing new. While it is possible for each of these types of changes to be used to create a new weave, most every time they occur will create a design/minor modification.

Weaves and designs also serve two distinctly different purposes.

Designs are the beautiful creations, and elements of creations, that show off the true level of creativity and skill that a mailler possesses. They create a body of work that is as unique as the person that made them and allow others to recognize your work just by its style and so may serve as a mailler's 'signature.' It is when designing that one's full creativity and skill are allowed to work and expand.

Weaves, however, serve a completely different function, and in some ways, do not have the same 'prestige' that can be attached to designs. Their function is the study of weave behaviour, structure, and possibilities. Weaves are the engineers, scientists, and construction workers of chainmaille while designs are the artists. Weaves form the foundation for you to then go on and create designs. They are a framework, a tool; designing is what you do with it.

Although some may look at weaves and designs and attach a greater 'glory' to creating one or the other, in reality neither is above the other, just different. They both cause a mailler to stretch their ability in some form. With weaves, your technical understanding of chainmaille is tested causing it to expand. With designs, your creativity is able to be shown, and grow as you try new things. Both the creation of new weaves and of designs provide a great deal of inspiration for others. Some people can better imagine new ideas from looking at designs, while others get their inspiration from weaves, but both are just as valuable.

Part 2: Weave Evaluation

The Basics:

Evaluating a potential weave can be a very complicated and drawn-out procedure. It is not a cut-and-dry “this = that” issue. A type of change that when applied to one weave may result in a new weave may not yield the same result when applied to some other weave. Kinging, for example, is commonly a method of weave alteration that will result in a minor modification, yet there have been times when it has been used in a structural fashion and resulted in a new weave variant rather than a modification (European 4 in 1 Thrice is an example of this).

When evaluating a weave, the first thing that needs to be identified is(are) the base weave(s). Once it is known what the weave is based off of it is easier to tell whether the changes made to it are structural, purely appearance changes, or a design application/alteration of the base weave.

The type of change and its affect on the base weave(s) is the next thing that is looked at. A close examination needs to be made of the original connections and ring interactions and the method of change identified.

If the changes are found to be structural changes then the weave is either an alpha weave or a weave variant. The 'alpha' tag is reserved for the weaves where a new interaction has been created (these are the weaves that start new 'families' or 'sub-families'); so this tag is not often used as most weaves use/alter known interactions to create weave variants.

The most difficult evaluations, however, are when the changes made are not structural changes. As mentioned before, the line between a weave modification and design can be very, very difficult to discern. Important things to consider are: (again) the type of change, the degree of change, the amount of new information that is gained by this change, and even if you've seen this type of change demonstrated in other weaves in the library before and, if so, how many other examples of the change exist in the weaves library already. For example, kinged modifications: the degree of change is very small (all that was done was doubling some rings), the new information gained by this change is also very small (that the weave will still work with doubled rings), and this method of change has been (too) thoroughly demonstrated and documented in the weave library, and so, no more kinged modifications are needed in the weave library.

Most anytime when you are saying you made such and such a weave and added x, y, or z rings to give it a certain look, what you've made is almost certainly going to be a design as these were design decisions and not structural decisions. The same is true of when you combine segments of more than one weave together. What you get is a combo-design, not a new weave. A true combo-weave or hybrid is achieved through the combination of the interactions that make up a weave to get a new structure and structural behaviour. Simply taking sections of different weaves and putting them together will not do this.


Unit weaves are another tricky subject. Nearly every 'unit' weave created is, in fact, either a design or simply a weave segment, but not a true unit weave. Unit weaves, like all other weaves, still require a repeating ring pattern. In the case of unit weaves, this is, generally, a micro-pattern instead of whole weave segments connected into a ring. Simply making a short chain and connecting and joining the ends to make a ring, will, in most cases, result in a design, not a new weave. Unit weaves do not need to be able to expand into a chain, sheet, etc., this is why they are called units. They have a self-contained pattern that, while it may be possible to expand, does not require expansion. To put it another way, they are a closed circuit, not an open one. This is why 'units' made of Byzantine fail to be true unit weaves. Byzantine's ring pattern is never truly over; it is an open-ended pattern that keeps going. Japanese based weaves also have this problem.


At one point, any number of progressions/regressions were allowed in the weaves library. However, this has since changed as issues arose within weaves. Now, we only allow a weave entry to have, at most, 3 progressions/regressions in the weaves library. The reason for the change is this: after each progression the degree of structural/behavioural (and even appearance) changes drops; it is after about the third progression that the degree of difference becomes negligible. There are, of course, ways to alter progressions so that they are more of a semi-progression/regression than a true progression/regression and so can still be worth experimenting with. Just be sure the changes made are to the structure, and not simply to the appearance.

Orbitals and Captives:

Orbitals and Captives are not always as straight forward as they seem. Because these are both non-structural changes they have to be evaluated carefully. Like with progressions/regressions, all orbitals and captives used to be allowed as new weave entries until they over-bloated the weaves library and helped to cause a number of issues. Now, they are evaluated much more strictly. Orbitals and/or captives can be added to just about any weave, often with little to no change in the base weave, and therein lies the problem with them: little to no change. This, at best, makes most orbitals/captives minor modifications. However, while they are non-structural, they can be used to affect structure. Sometimes they are used to stabilize a weave when no amount of AR changes will work. And there are other ways they can be used to affect structure as well, you just have to be more creative about it.

Conclusion and Other Thoughts:

There are many, many ways to create new weaves/variants/modifications, when you understand the basics of structure, behaviour, and the theory behind it. Even just simple things such as handedness, ARs used, and tilts in a ring's axis can affect structural changes if used in the right way. Simple changes that on their own, may only result in minor modifications or designs, when used in combination with other changes can sometimes create valid new weaves. There are exceptions to every rule, and, when it comes to creative thinking, rules are made to be broken. And a lot of creative and analytically thinking goes into creating new weaves.

Also, remember that sometimes less is more. While there needs to be a recognizable degree of change, there is a point when you can add/combine/take-away too many rings/interactions/etc. Where what you've created is neither a weave nor a design, but what is referred to as 'ring-vomit.' Where you can't make heads-or tails of any discernible weave structure/pattern and really just shudder in horror when you look at it. Often, the more complicated you make it, the more likely it is that it will turn out to be either a design or ring-vomit. Think about what you are doing, but don't over-think it! Just as an artist can over-work a painting to ruin it, so can you over-work a weave attempt and end up with a mess.

Another thing, and this really should go without saying but I'm going to say it anyway: if it is not stable, it is not a weave. Sometimes stability issues are just a sign you're using the wrong AR, but other times it is more than that. If, no matter what AR or AR combos you use, the weave attempt is not stable, then it is not a true weave. This does not mean you can't learn from it. In fact you can. (Thomas Edison did not fail to make a lightbulb 1,000 times; he just learned 1,000 ways how not to make a lightblub.) There are still aspects of weave structure and behaviour to learn by discovering what doesn't work, as opposed to what does work. It may be more frustrating, but it can be just as rewarding in terms of knowledge. Also, it does not mean you have to go back to square one. Sometimes you just need to make some other structural changes/additions to stablize the earlier attempt. However, the final product has to have a range (however slight) of stable ARs in order to be a true weave. Also just to note, stability does not necessarily mean rigidity. It is possible for a weave to be highly flexible, have a slight amount of ring shift, but the structural pattern be completely stable.

So, now that you've read this, go make something, have fun, and don't worry if it doesn't turn out how you wanted it to!
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