Post #3049: Colour theory in weaving


This here (above) is my most recent project on the loom. A wool-silk scarf with multiple twill patterns, threaded at 24 ends per inch. I did not choose the colours or the draft, it is entirely a project straight from a book (Next Steps in Weaving) because I’m still in beginner stage and I wanted to make something using suggested materials to get more of a feel for my loom and the weaving process.

img_20161219_162249932This scarf here (on the left) is my second scarf. It has very subtle shading in the weft that does not show up nearly as well as I had hoped. I gave this to my step-daughter for Christmas because what it lacks in colour-popping beauty, it makes up for in luxurious warmth and softness (sport-weight  merino). It’s got some quirks, but they aren’t noticeable when worn. One of the things I love about making things for M. is that she is always roundly appreciative and I’ve noticed over time that she uses them all (she is what knitters call knit-worthy).

Since I got my little loom up and running last month, I’ve been a bit obsessed with weaving – I don’t think the loom has been without a project on it for more than a day at a time, and each time I am mid-way through one project, I gather the materials for the next. This level of obsessiveness is pretty much a requirement when I learn anything – – I have to engage so thoroughly that nothing else interests me for a period of time.

One thing I’ve really started to understand about weaving is that colour works quite differently than it does in crochet or knitting or even sewing – because the colours don’t just lay beside each other, they work with and through each other. It’s a little like painting in that way – how things blend is more important than how they look side by side, and *value* becomes much more important because the contrast between warp and weft is so important to the overall effect.

Colour theory is something I was never exposed to in my younger life, because I took no visual arts in junior high or high school (it was impressed upon me that I did not have visual or manual dexterity and that I should leave visual art alone – I now realize that I suffered from a lack of patience and self-confidence mostly, and the same dexterity I use for playing the fiddle adapts well to pretty much everything else that requires fine muscle control in the digits).

When I choose fabrics or yarn for a project – it is entirely intuitive and with no actual knowledge about why I might pick one thing over another. This lack of understanding about colour has lead to some disappointing results in my sewing life. Such as this quilt:

Finally! This quilt has a home!

Finally! This quilt has a home!

Which turned out just fine, but was not the effect I was going for when I started it. Because I did not expect the colour to come together as it did – I ditched this quilt top for the better part of a decade before finally finishing it last summer. While all the shades “go together” what I hadn’t factored in was colour values. I had wanted the feature squares to be the dark green ones with the leaves, but because the batik four-patches were so much brighter, they dominated the quilt in a way I did not expect. On the other hand, my colour intuition is pretty good without any book-learning, so most of the things I make turn out alright.

I am now at a place where I would like to do more than alright, and approach colour theory in a more systematic way – though I do not have the time or means to drop out of everything and go to art school (and I missed the boat on Jane Stafford’s weaving workshops for this year). So I’m working with a few things I’ve picked up in the last couple of years to choose new palettes for weaving.

A couple of years ago I took a creative skills workshop where the instructor showed us how to make palettes using nature photographs – picking up the shade, tone, and colour elements by mixing watercolours which could then be applied to another project. I was fairly interested in this process, as I had never thought much about the colour symmetry in nature until doing a few of these exercises and creating a beautiful array of choices for applying any number of ways.

Thinking about that over the holidays, and inspired by some photographs from the Hubble space telescope – I decided to run a few of the more spectacular ones through Color Palette FX which allows you to plug any photograph in and then select five shades to create your palette. From there I grey-scaled them to help determine the value balance among my choices – because, as noted in my above quilt example – value is as important as hue when putting colours side by side!

As an example, this is the photo and palette I have decided to experiment with (with the greyscale for value analysis below):

colortheory

From this palette, I selected 5 shades of 8/2 cotton from which I plan to make plain weave towels – using the lightest value (ivory) as the background) with the darker values striped through the weft. We’ll see how it turns out – I was trying to get away from “typical” tea towel colours – though my finished product will be nowhere as spectacular as the hubble photo that inspired it!

As I have a weaving on the loom at the moment, I won’t be able to warp again for at least a few days (I’m hoping to weave the scarf off this weekend, and set up my dish towels after that) – so until I do, we won’t get to see how my colour play works out – but I promise to share here when I am warped, and again when I am finished. There is nothing I like more than a hand woven dish towel so even if it doesn’t turn out to be the perfect blend of value and hue, there will still be a usable item at the end.

One thought on “Post #3049: Colour theory in weaving

  1. Pingback: Post #3053: Restoration, self and loom. | Red Cedar

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