Inkle Weaving: Color and Design

Color is a core element in designing any weaving project, predicting the complex interaction of warp and weft colors, yarn textures, and color proportions. Even for a warp-faced inkle band, there are many interesting choices to be made. Here's Handwoven editor emerita Jane Patrick to tell you about some of her design process for inkle weaving. —Anita

Pure, clear color is one of the appeals of weaving inkle bands. What I mean by this is that in a traditional inkle band only the warp shows, so the color is not affected by the weft crossings. The weft barely peeks out at the selvedge or edge where it exits one shed and enters the next. The warp yarns, drawn closely together to form a warp-faced band, are unaffected by the weft which is safely locked inside.

In playing around with inkle band designs, I like to take a particular threading and explore. One of my favorites is horizontal bars. These are a perennial favorite for a few reasons: I have an affinity for stripes (in my childhood family of girls, we were stripes and plaid gals, not a feminine floral lot—it stuck!). Stripes have a graphic appeal and the alternating colors make warp pick-up easy. And also, because I have a weakness for short cuts, you can measure two yarns at once when alternating warp colors, thus shortening your warping time by half. Who can resist that?

  Inkle Bookmarks
  Various inkle bookmarks using the variations of the
same horizontal bar pattern in different colorways.
  Inkle band on loom

Band on a Schacht inkle loom illustrating weft variations.
The first uses the same 5/2 weft as used for warp,
the other alternates a thick and thin weft for a
rep-weave look. To make a thicker weft, Jane plied
4 strands of 5/2 pearl cotton on her spinning wheel.
Because you don’t need a lot of weft yarn for an
inkle band, this task is done fairly quickly.

In considering color and horizontal bars, here are several examples with similar threadings in different colorways. Note: To thread horizontal bars, just alternate two colors, one color threaded in a heddle, the other left open. You’ll need to decide ahead of time, though, which color you want to use for pattern (if you’re planning a pick-up pattern) and which is intended for background. For the blue and gray band at right, for example, the gray threads are the open threads, which are easily picked up.

I should add, too, that some contrast in the colors will help the pattern stand out, as well as make it easier to see which threads are to be picked up.

As for color, two of the bands shown here feature bright, contrasting yellow borders. These serve to frame the interior of the band and lend a bold look. In contrast, the ecru and navy blue band is more subtle. The border of solid ecru accented with a 2-end stripe of navy and a 2-end stripe of orange frames the interior without overwhelming it. I think this variation is more sophisticated, both because of the tone of the colors and the subdued border accents.

The pick-up sampler (pictured at bottom), with broad chocolate borders and rust and lavender bars is another variation. Here, because the borders are proportionally wider, they have a strong impact on the design even though the color contrast is not as great as the bands with narrower, bright yellow borders.

Another technique to try with horizontal bars is to alternate a thick and a thin weft, à la rep weave, thus highlighting one color. This also makes a slightly thicker band which might be desirable for a belt or carrying strap.

Really, truly, I think you could spend a lifetime just exploring horizontal bars. Think about leaving one yarn constant and the other yarn changing, try blocks of bars to make a checkerboard, try alternating yarns of different textures, or juxtaposing a shiny yarn against a matte-finish one. See what I mean? The ideas just keep coming. And remember: inkle weaving is good for you!

All bands are woven with 5/2 pearl cotton—making a perfect weight for a bookmark.

—Jane Patrick


Inkle Sampler

Pick-up sampler using a background of horizontal bars. The orange pattern threads are
the open threads. Pick-up patterns are made block-fashion. A sampler is a great way to
explore pattern. Crossstitch patterns can be great for pick-up pattern inspiration.

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