Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Until now, describing yarn structure has been more art than science, especially for complex yarns and cordage like those encountered at Cerrillos, a Paracas (ca. 900-100 B.C.E.) site in the Ica Valley of Peru, where yarns and cordage frequently involve multiple colors, sub-structures, and materials (e.g., Image 1). My early attempts at describing yarn structures using notation were essentially undecipherable to others. Likewise, narrative methods proved too wordy and no less confusing. (For instance, a narrative description of the structure of specimen 2001-L185-B1654- S001, a rope-like yarn pictured in Images 2 and 3, would be: Twelve Z-spun-singly-ply yarns Ztwisted with six two-ply yarns, each Z-spun-S-plied, the resulting yarn being doubled and twisted S.) Using a depictive (diagrammatic) method of recording structure (Image 4), albeit unambiguous, nonetheless proved difficult-to-impossible to reproduce as text on a printed page (i.e., it must be treated as an image). As an alternative to these unsatisfactory methods, I developed a new technique called parenthetical notation, which can describe any yarn, however complex, in a way that is both intuitive and flexible. Using parenthetical notation, the yarn in Images 2 and 3, for instance, is described as S(2z(12z+6S(2z))). Among its other practical benefits, parenthetical notation makes it easy for researchers to tabulate yarn structures so they can be sorted and statistically analyzed. In this talk, aside from presenting a brief history of yarnstructure notation, using examples from my research, I will demonstrate how parenthetical notation works so people can apply it to their own projects.