How do you decide what colors to use in your weaving? Sometimes I have a sense of color family – towels to match the kitchen, a throw to complement the couch, my sister’s favorite color for a shawl. But even then I have to decide which shade to use, which colors to combine in warp and/or weft. I talked in a previous post about the Color Grid, which helps me come up with a palette that is both interesting and harmonious. The next step is to look at how to place those colors to achieve the look and feel that I want.
I recently fell in love (again) with a lovely cotton/linen yarn from Juniper Moon called Zooey. One of the things that drew me to this yarn was the incredible depth and saturation of the colors. It is also soft and cool and I knew I wanted to weave fabric for a simple summer top. I started by choosing an assortment of colors and went to work on figuring out out to arrange them in a way to showcase their vibrant beauty.
Because the colors will be the focus, I decided to weave this on my rigid heddle in plain weave. A great and inexpensive way to look at color combos is to do a wrap – take a piece of cardstock or an index card and fold it into a strip that is approximately 1-2″ tall and 5-6″ wide. Warp several strips with different color combos and compare them to see what you like. Here are the wraps that I tried. In the top one I wrapped the colors randomly in stripes of varying widths. While I didn’t like the asymmetry, it did help to see how the colors played next to each other. For the next one, I wrapped five of the colors as single stripes repeating in the same order – didn’t like that at all, it was muddy and boring. The bottom wrap shows stripes of green separated by a progression of the other colors. That was a winner for me; I liked the strong lines of green and it looked good with all of the other colors.
The next step was choosing the weft. For this step I put a 10″ wide warp on the loom. I wanted it to be big enough to really see the effect of the weft, plus I wanted to check the hand of the fabric. My test weft yarns were all lighter weight than the warp because I wanted a fabric with a light hand and good drape. I tested 3 different yarns, using a different color in each (and was absurdly proud of covering 2 facets in one warp). After weaving the samples, I serged the edges and cut them apart, then washed and dried them.
Here’s what they looked like. The top sample was woven with Brassard 8/2 Cottolin (Royal c0963), the swatch in the middle used Valley Cotton 8/2 (Algiers Blue 2194), and the bottom was with Valley Cotton 6/2 (Aubergine). The verdict? I eliminated the bottom swatch because it was too heavy and the colors looked indistinct. The other two were equally nice in terms of drape and hand, so it came down to the colors. Although I liked the light blue in the middle swatch, it felt a bit washed out and I really wanted to see the vivid colors. The result is that the top swatch came out on top because it captures both the look and feel I want for my summer top.
I know many weavers groan about the idea of sampling. It is time-consuming, not to mention yarn-consuming, to sample. But for me it’s a good investment, because I’m not gambling with my project. I know that the cloth I take off the loom will be what I wanted to create. I’ve got the loom warped up and I’ll give you a peek when I’m done with the next step.
How do you decide on colors?