Ask Madelyn: Variegated Yarn

When using variegated yarn for weaving, is it better to use it for the warp  or the weft? Which is the best method to showcase the variegation in the yarn?

Mary Jane

Hi Mary Jane!

This is a good question, and some of the answer depends on the yarn (especially the way it is colored) and what effect you want.

If it is somewhat irregularly variegated and you use it in both warp and weft in plain weave or lace, say, you’ll get a tweedy, speckled overall look. This can be muddy, depending on the colors, or “textured,” which can be good.

If you use it in one direction, you’ll notice the variegated colors more (pick a dark coordinating solid for the other direction, warp or weft, and that will make the colors stand out). Warp rep or weft rep will show the variegated colors well, though they may still be a bit a-jumble.

Using variegated yarn for weaving, and other novelty yarns, can be very effective if you know how to use them most effectively as a weaving yarn.

These three pillows are just a few of the ideas Robyn Spady has using novelty yarn for weaving. Learn more in the May/June 2009 issue of Handwoven!

For some variegated yarns, the color changes are repeating. That is, you can lay out pieces and line them up so that color changes match. If you figure that out and wind the warp so that happens, your warp will look warp-painted. The same thing could be planned in the weft. If you cross the two, though, the effect will be more or less lost (unless there is a way to make warp and weft color changes coincide!).

If the yarn is very special and you really want the color changes to show and to feature the yarn itself, you can use it as an accent thread: it can be a pattern-weft float in overshot, an occasional warp or weft (see “Showing Off Novelty Yarns,” by Robyn Spady, Handwoven May/June 2008), or a supplementary warp with a contrasting-color ground cloth.

I hope this helps!

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