Speaking in Color

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way––things I had no words for. ––Georgia O'Keefe

Handwoven rug in rep weave by Karla Stille  

Color inspiration: Karla Stille's clever

see-through rep weave rugs will be featured

in the next issue of Handwoven.


A couple of years ago, my weaving guild surveyed members to find out what kinds of workshops they most wanted. It turned out that the number one topic on our wish list was a workshop about working with color, which was not surprising to me, and I'll bet it isn't to you either. Color is ubiquitous, evocative, and deeply personal. Friends who've taken textile judging classes tell me that the first lesson is how difficult it is to be objective about color: even the best judge will inwardly cringe while pinning a blue ribbon on an exquisitely made entry in a color that he or she despises.

As weavers, we are blessed with myriad ways to explore color. Painted warps or stripes make plain weave anything but plain. We use color to give depth to graceful twills, trick the eye in shadow weaves, and lend block weaves the appearance of more blocks than our looms will weave. Variegated yarns let colors flow, combine, and pool, while Jacquard weaving can create photorealistic images from minute flashes of yarn color.


  Handwoven scarf in undulating twill

My subtler-than-planned twill scarf is a

 lesson in color and the need for sampling.

Color can surprise or confound us, and either way, we learn. I'm finishing a scarf with two luxurious yarns that contrasted well in the skeins, less so in the cloth (the inevitable consequence of not wanting to sample with expensive yarns). The undulating twill pattern is meant to evoke the red-browns and greens of north Pacific kelp forests. I have hopes that fulling will tighten up the greenish-gray ground cloth and show up my kelp leaves, but if not, I will wear my whisper-soft scarf, congratulate myself on its uncharacteristic subtlety, and contemplate the colors (and samples) I will weave for the next one.

The May/June 2013 issue of Handwoven will celebrate the mysteries and possibilities of color and design. We'll have some advice from color experts, but the beauty of color is that each of us has our own unique color sense and approach. Handwoven contributor Rebecca Fox wrote me this week about her adventures in learning to love green and orange together, and how she gets herself out of color ruts. In the upcoming November/December issue, Karla Stille gives depth to her rug design by allowing the rag weft to peek through the rep weave.

I'm sure you have color tricks and triumphs of your own so, in anticipation of next year's color issue, I'm giving you all a challenge: take an image of your choice, interpret it in your favorite weave structure, and share the results. You can evoke the image with shapes, through your materials, through texture, or anything you want to combine with your color exploration. Along the way, please share your insights and results on the Weaving Today Reader Showcase, in the weaving discussion forum, or in your Weaving Today study group. We'll be watching for projects to showcase in next year's color issue. I know you'll make discoveries and weavings that are wonderful beyond words, and I can't wait to see them.





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