Ada K. Dietz (June 16, 1882 - May 13, 1950) was an American weaver best known for her 1949 monograph Algebraic Expressions in Handwoven Textiles, which defines a novel method for generating weaving patterns based on algebraic patterns. Her method employs the expansion of multivariate polynomials to devise a weaving scheme. Dietz' work is still well-regarded today, by both weavers and mathematicians. Along with the references listed below, Griswold (2001) cites several additional articles on her work.
Ada Dietz developed her algebraic method in 1946 while living in Long Beach, California. An avid weaver, Dietz drew upon her experience as a former math teacher to devise a threading pattern based on a cubic binomial expansion. She describes her idea as follows:
"Taking the cube of a binomial [ (x
], I approached [the pattern] in the way applied algebraic problems are approached - by letting x
equal one unknown and y
equal the other unknown.
"In this case, x
equaled the first and second harnesses, and y
equaled the third and fourth harnesses. Then it was simply a matter of expanding the cube of the binomial and substituting the values of x
to write the threading draft." (Dietz, 1949)
A piece based on the formula (a + b + c + d + e + f)2, submitted to the Little Loomhouse Country Fair in Louisville, Kentucky received such a positive response, which prompted a collaboration between Dietz and Little Loomhouse's founder, Lou Tate. The fruits of the collaboration included the booklet Algebraic Expressions in Handwoven Textiles and a traveling exhibit which continued throughout the 1950s.