Tim's Rudimentary
Treadle Reducer


The mathematical problem behind the Treadle Reducer was suggested to me by my Earlham College Math Department colleague Tekla Lewin, (another non-weaver), whose friend Elaine Zimmerman suggested it to her. Tekla's subsequent drive and enthusiasm kept me going on the project, and she brought me into contact with weavers. My Earlham CS colleagues Ray Ontko and, especially, Charlie Peck had helpful suggestions on programming and web delivery issues. Elaine Zimmerman and Seana Saxon encouraged the early stages of the project and were patient when my other commitments forced me to set it aside for several months. Several other members of the weaving mailing list hosted at quilt.net also offered enthusiasm and helped keep me on task. Earlham College weaver Nancy Taylor also helped with books and enthusiasm. She and her weaving students were consistently gracious and helpful as I wandered about in their class and studio trying to figure out what the connection between Tekla's set-theoretic problem and the world of fabric might be. They also helped me with the terminology when all those heddles and treadles and raddles had become one great muddle.

Limitations of the Software

The treadle reducer is a one-trick pony providing therapy for treadle envy. It is not by any means a general-purpose weaving program. Those looking for general software for weavers (which does not, however, solve the problem addressed here) might try DB_Weave, WeavePoint, FiberWorks, Patternland, or WeaveIt. I've never used any of these, and can't give you advice on which is best.

The treadle reducer is also a rather rough and ready piece of work. It finds one reduction, not all reductions. It makes no attempt to optimize the single solution it delivers. It can take a long time to run, but this is partly because of the nature of the problem. It looks only for reductions in which at most 2 treadles are used at once, so it will not find solutions in which the weaver is asked to press 2 treadles with one foot and 1 with the other. Some of these limitations are deliberate design choices; some are part of the intrinsic nature of things; some are due to the . . .

Limitations of the Author

The principal ones relevant to this project are:

  1. I'm not a weaver.
  2. I'm not a web designer.
  3. I'm busy.

There are lots of others. My wife would be a good source for a more complete picture. So would my kids, who might give you a slightly different list.

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Tim McLarnan,
Tremewan Professor of Mathematics
Earlham College,
Richmond, IN 47374 USA

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Page last updated: March 7, 2005