Weaving colour #3

So you have bought a lovely blue yarn and you think how great it will look with that other blue yarn in your stash, but when you put them side by side you realise they don’t look good together. Why? A common reason is that one is a warm blue and the other a cool blue.

What does that mean? Well, when colours have more red or yellow in them they tend to be warm and when they have more blue or green in them they tend to be cool. Usually what you’ll notice is that one seems livelier (warm) and one seems duller (cool). The tricky thing is that it can be hard to see until you compare them.

If you don’t feel that you really get this idea, take a trip to your local hardware store or paint store – anywhere that has one of those collections of colour cards/paint chips. Pick a couple of different greys and put them next to each other and do the same for whites. You should be able to see what’s warm and what’s cool easily with whites and greys.

Then grab different yellows, reds, blues and greens and compare. You should see what’s lively/dull or more pink/more blue (more yellow/more green)!

But what happens if you mix warm and cool colours? Usually you end up with a slightly “flat” result where the colours look dull, but you can get “muddy” colours that take on a brown or grey appearance too.

If you’re not sure about a combo of yarns… sample!

Weaving colour #2

In this post, we’ll look at the effect of the brightness of your yarn colours. Notice I said brightness? This isn’t about how light/dark a colour is, but how bright/dull it is.

The brightness matters because a bright colour seems to ‘come toward’ you while a dull colour seems to ‘move away’ from you. That means:

  • your eye/brain thinks the brighter colour is physically closer, and this is what makes a colour and weave pattern like log cabin seem 3 dimensional (by the way, not everyone can see these 3D effects – depends on your eyesight)
  • your eye/brain notices the bright colour more, so your eye thinks there’s more of that colour, and it also makes any pattern sections in that colour stand out more

To expand on those points… to maximise the 3D effect of log cabin, you need to use colours with a high difference in brightness – i.e. one very dull and one very bright.

In terms of bright yarns standing out, here’s an example I hope shows that:


When you first look at these two samples, you see the brighter teal/aqua first and register the pattern they make. That’s why the two samples look quite different despite both being the same pattern; one has a bright warp and the other a bright weft.

In terms of mixing colours, here’s a small example (not the best pic sorry):

Brightness1Both these samples have exactly the same variegated warp, but the weft on right is much nearer the brightness of the warp, so the colours are less distinct and mix more. The dull black weft (left) causes the warp yarn to really pop and makes its colours seem stronger (might be a little lost in the photo).

Something else to note; while the grey weft is closer in brightness, it is still duller than the warp yarn and so lowers the overall brightness of the sample. If you have a lovely bright yarn and you cross it with a yarn that’s a little duller, you might be disappointed at the overall loss of brightness!

As a final note, value is the term used for brightness in colour theory. So, when people talk about a yarn’s colour having a higher/lower value than another yarn, they’re comparing how bright one yarn is to the other.

Weaving colour #1

Colour is important in weaving, because when you cross warp with weft, you start mixing colours.

The effect isn’t like mixing paint, of course, because you are creating separate dots/lines of warp and weft that sit next to each other, rather than blending. The result of this is more like a picture in a magazine (look closely and you’ll see dots of colour), or pixels on your computer/phone etc.

The main difference between dots and the blending you get with paint, is that the end result is created by the peculiarities of how the eye perceives colour.  What do I mean by that? Well, a basic principle is that the closer you are more likely you are to see separate colours and the further away, the more they blend. Obviously that also depends a bit on how big the dots are.

Again, grab a page of a magazine and see how close you have to be to see the dots. Or if you don’t have one handy, here’s an example:

close up of part of a magazine cover
From a full-on article about colour

What does that mean for weaving? You should sample! Aside from all the other things sampling tells you, it will allow you to take the cloth off the loom and walk away from it to see what the colours you’ve mixed actually look like. Even more so with fluffy yarns, because the fluff gives a different, more blended, result and the fluffy yarn can dominate.

The good news is that you can count on one hand how many concepts you need to grasp to become a whizz at working with colour, and if you’re still not sure, you know you can sample.

More posts to come!

When your weft skips a pick or two

Working with multiple colours in the weft has been a lot of fun, but it does require some thought on how you will carry your “inactive” colour up the selvedge. Well, at least if you’re weaving a complete product, like a scarf, where hairy or loopy selvedges aren’t a good thing.

diagram of wrapping different weft threads around each other
(red is active)

The important thing is to make sure the “active” colour – the one you’re about to put into the shed – wraps around the “inactive” colour. That way it will be pinned to the selvedge and not flop about!

This does get a little trickier when you’re carrying a colour up a few picks of weft, but it’s usually easy to see what you need to do.

Another consideration with two + colours is which side of the web to start them on. If you have the colours come in from opposite sides of the shed initially (and it’s an unvarying alternation of colours) then they kind of leapfrog each other.

And if this is all as clear as mud, I’d recommend doing a small sample, because it’s pretty simple when you see it in action!

When carrying yarn up the selvedge, the key is to be consistent, so you get a nice, neat pattern of colour at the edge.

Something to keep in mind with alternating weft colours/textures is that, if the cloth you’re weaving is for cutting and sewing, then you don’t need to carry them; you can actually just cut the colour off with a tail at the selvedge and re-introduce it on the next pick where it’s needed. Though, I suspect this might waste more yarn than carrying…not sure.

Weaving patterns #1 – colour

So, I’ve mentioned plain, or tabby, weave before. Don’t let the term “plain” fool you because you can do a lot with plain weave!

A good place to start when messing about with it, is to use colour. You can have multiple colours in your weft. You can have multiple colours in your warp. You can do both!

Depending on the alternation of colours you will get plaids, tartans, stripes, houndstooth and even some funky optical illusions. For example, here is a pattern called log cabin, which is about the coolest thing I’ve seen in plain weave so far:

image of log cabin weave cloth Doesn’t it look textured and ridiculously complex? It’s not.

All this pattern is, is plain weave done with warp and weft threads that alternate between light and dark colours. Really!

(I’m itching to try it.)

But this is one of the amazing things about weaving; the colours of the warp and the weft mix to make new colours, or to make patterns.

So, just using colour, you can do stripes, strips and checker board patterns. You can do streaks, splotches or gradients using variegated yarns (just like in knitting).

image of shot silk, showing how it changes from one colour to another as the light hits itAnd, while this isn’t a pattern, this cloth shows another result of changing thread colours… Just by having a different coloured warp to weft, you can create wonderful effects like you see in shot silk, where the cloth  changes from one colour to another as the light hits it. (This is my favourite fabric.)

Trust me, there will be a lot more to be said about colour  and colour in patterns at a future point!