Help for the Color Challenged

Karen Donde, handweaver, teacher, and Weaving Today contributor  
Welcome, Karen!  

Hey, there, weavers. Starting in July, we'll be sending out several more editorial editions of Weaving Today each month. This gives us the opportunity to bring you more Ask Madelyn, more BeWeave It, and also perspectives from some more members of our weaving community. This issue, I'm thrilled to introduce Karen Donde, who will be a regular contributor to Weaving Today. Many of you already know her from her projects in Handwoven, and many more know her as a dedicated weaving teacher. She also has the distinction of being a friend of the ever-curious Regina Phalanges. I believe that the give-and-take in our community is what makes it so precious, so please join me in welcoming Karen to the Weaving Today conversation. Anita


First came eight, then sixteen and twenty-four. It wasn’t until fifth grade that I finally scored the coveted box of sixty-four Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener. I opened the lid and marveled at the neat, tiered rows of all the hues, tints, tones, and shades I could imagine. These days I stand in front of my yarn shelves with the same excitement, pulling down cone after cone and twisting the threads together to envision how they might mix on the loom. When I’m lucky, or really on my game, the color stories come easily. Other times the seemingly infinite possibilities can be paralyzing. Now add immersion dyeing, space dyeing and warp painting to the mix. Sometimes I long for the comforting limits of that sixty-four crayon box.


According to Laura Bryant, the human eye is capable of seeing between 3 and 10 million colors. No wonder we occasionally get confused. Laura is an award-winning textile artist who founded Prism Yarns in 1986, and has been working with and teaching about color and fiber since. Now her popular color theory workshop is as close as the nearest DVD player with A Fiber Artist’s Guide To Color.


   Laura Bryant shows color design with yarn  
  Laura makes a peaceful river from "quite a
pile of yarn."
(Look like your stash?)

Serious color theory involves a lot of physics, with talk of wavelengths, absorption, reflection and other words that tell us nothing about what combinations of color in warp and weft will create pretty scarves, towels or yardage. Laura covers the technical stuff in language fiber folks understand using visuals that make us happy…YARN — balls and skeins and bunches of it — in way more than 64 colors. I’m eager to try her method of arranging hue values by building a “river of color” that positions all kinds of yarns, shiny, dull, variegated or solids, from light to heavy according to their relative color weight. When she shows the whole process again at “warp” speed, you’ll watch the yarn river transition from stage-four rapids to smooth, calm water in a few seconds. So how does this yarn river help you choose colors? Stick to colors from one quadrant, Laura advises, and you’ll be surprised how many different colors that can include.


Good color and design choices add "Wow" to this plaid

Color and pattern variations take this plaid

from garish to "Wow!"


Other exercises using Color-aid® papers and color printouts of computer drafts demonstrate the importance of proportion and color interaction in building successful color stories. For example, start with five consecutive colors in equal-width warp stripes. Repeat this sequence in the treadling to make a pretty garish plaid. Use Fibonacci numbers to vary the width of some of the color stripes. Now remove one of the colors and replace it with a lighter or heavier (her word for darker) value of that color. Do it again with another color. Throw in something unexpected and voila! Textiles go from nice to "Wow!"


Anybody want to color?



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