20 May 2013

Music, math, and fabric

I was looking around for interesting ideas for what to weave next, and I stumbled across a kit for some tea towels that were called Mozart Towels: the colour progression was based on the Jupiter Symphony, with different notes associated with different colours, and the number of threads used in sequence based on the duration of the note.

Well, now that’s a cool idea!

So, I thought about my favourite music, and immediately decided on the Ode to Joy.

(If you haven’t seen this video, please do take the time to watch it. It makes me cry with happiness every time I see it … especially when the little kids start directing in the background!)

Okay, let me just dry my eyes here …. good heavens, I love that music!

Right. : sniff : So.

The hymn version of the Ode to Joy is 16 bars long, and only requires six notes to map the melody line. Six notes, six colours. Sixteen bars, at twenty four threads per bar and twenty ends per inch, that’ll be a bit under twenty inches. Perfect.

So I sat down with the sheet music and a spreadsheet and started counting out music notes, then I laid out my yarn cones in an octave and tapped out the melody to see how the colours worked. I settled on a colour mapping that went from black and gray in the lower notes to bright orange and red in the upper, and got it all planned out in Excel.

Then, I wound each two inch segment of the warp on warping pegs, counting out the threads (six for a quarter note, three for a half) and beamed each segment onto the loom as it was completed.


Beam onto the loom…

And there’s the entire score!

Read it from top to bottom (which will be left to right on the loom) …

Joyful, joyful we adore Thee

God of Glory, Lord of love

Hearts unfold like flowers before thee

Opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness

Drive the dark of doubt away

Giver of immortal gladness

Fill us with the light of day.


Threading will be an adventure for tomorrow or the next day.


  1. This is awesome.. music and threads! The video is amazing too.. love this music.
    Waiting to see the final result!!

    Are you SURE you're our kid? LOL

  2. Ode to Joy Towels - that's awesome!

  3. Of course I'm your kid! I learned to love music from Dad, and I learned to sew and work with fabric from you! :)

    Ev, I knew you'd like these. It's a bit persnickety winding the warp with the thread counts having to be "just so" but it is such a cool way of working with colour and music and fibre that I had to try it!

  4. Anonymous9:39 am

    yep Lonna....you are indeed their kid. Joy has been sewing and working with colour forever, and I remember your dad playing in the Kiwanis festival......the nuns were ecstatic that a boy child was playing. I remember the comment that girls are OK at the piano, but this boy is something special!


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