Sunday, 17 August 2008

Colour and Weave

... or Color and Weave for those of you over the Atlantic.

I'm just taking a break from sleying my reed. My latest sampler which is a colour and weave experiment takes nearly the full loom width. It occured to me that it's a good idea going out to maximum width on a sampler before I try it for something special, so that's something extra that I'm getting out of this project.

I wanted to stop and write about what colour and weave is, before I start telling you about the sampler. I kept hearing the phrase "colour and weave" and people saying things about "colour and weave sampler" but I really didn't know what it meant. It didn't seem to come into the books I was reading, and I hadn't seen anything on the internet to help.

Then I picked up a book I'd neglected for months, Ann Sutton's "Color and Weave Design - A Practical Reference Book" and it dawned on me that this book is mostly photographs of a colour and weave sampler. I took that as my starting point. I have followed the same colour pattern she uses.

It goes, in two inch sections:

1 white / 1 blue
1 white / 2 blue
1 white / 3 blue
1 white / 4 blue

2 white / 1 blue
2 white / 2 blue
2 white / 3 blue
2 white / 4 blue

3 white / 1 blue
3 white / 2 blue
3 white / 3 blue
3 white / 4 blue

4 white / 1 blue
4 white / 2 blue
4 white / 3 blue
4 white / 4 blue

I've threaded in a straight 1-2-3-4 pattern. I'm using plain green selvedges and a couple of green threads between each section. My selvedges are "crammed" as per Janet Phillip's sample blanket, from shafts 1-4: alternate threads are doubled in the heddles, 2-1-2-1 on one side and 1-2-1-2 on the other.

I had started preparing this sampler before I got to reading all my other books. I dug into the bookshelf again this week as I was thinking about where to start writing about colour and weave.

A good start is a definition, so here's one from "A Textile Terminology" by Dorothy K. Burnham:

Colour and weave effect - The form or pattern produced by a weave in combination with the order in which two or more colours are used for warp and weft.

And a useful phrase from "Handweaving and Cloth Design" by Marianne Straub:

"When weaving with contrasting colours, the relationship between the weave construction and the warping and picking plan forms the basis from which many strongly patterned cloths can be designed."

Marianne Straub has only a short section on the subject, but interesting, as she shows the same alternate one black and one white thread order with three different threading and treadling patterns producing three very different results.

The new "Handweaver's Pattern Book" by Anne Dixon (a.k.a Handweavers Pattern Directory) doesn't have a separate colour and weave section, as the different possible colour effects are shown for every pattern on every page. Super book!

I was planning to weave my sampler with 16 different thread patterns in two colours across the warp, and then the same 16 colour patterns in the weft in first plain weave and the 2/2 twill. This is what Anne Sutton shows in her book. But now I have discovered another sampler plan in "Designing on the Loom" by Mary Kirby and I'm wondering how far I can adapt my plans to include more patterns. Wish I'd put a longer warp on!

Mary Kirby has 8 different threading sections, using light and dark warp, and 23 different treadling patterns, including chevron, herringbone, hopsack, 1/3 and 3/1 twills, Bedford cord, tabby and twill combined. Maybe I'll have to wind another warp to try this out!

However, by far and away the most comprehensive study of colour and weave, although not a "how to weave your sampler" book, is William Watson's "Textile Design and Colour". This is a classic text book, first published in 1912 (I have a 6th edition copy, from 1954). If you can cope with reading pdf files you maybe able to download a copy from the Online Archive (see my list of web site links) having said this, I can't access the archive today, I do hope this is a temporary internet problem.

William Watson has written a long chapter on colour and weave, which starts simple and gets more and more complex. I can't read right through it yet, it moves beyond my mental grasp for now. But this is good stuff and it is a very well written book.

So, back to where I started again, why weave this sampler?

Ann Sutton says:

"... colour-and-weave effects are some of the most important and accessible in the weaving world. The fashion cloth industry uses them extensively.... "

"Handweavers, concerned with the restrictions on the numbers of shafts (harnesses) available to them for patterning, can make great use of these effects... and can produce thousands of dynamic cloths and colour mixes."

However, she goes on to say:

"Many beginner weavers are set the task of weaving a colour-and-weave sampler at the start of their training. It is tedious work for a beginner, and although it should build up an understanding of the way in which colour order in warp and weft can relate to the weave structure, it is often abandoned, unfinished, in favour of other projects."

Hmm. Give up half way? Not me! So must get back to sleying that reed....

And for those of you who couldn't face such a large project, here's a link to a very pretty and useful colour and weave sample woven by Judy.


Leigh said...

Good post. Like you, it took me awhile to understand exactly what folks were talking about when they mentioned "color and weave." I recognize a quote from Ann Sutton's book, so I think I got that one from the library! I can't wait to see your sampler.

Barbara Blundell said...

Where are you Dorothy ?

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog. It sounds like we could be twin sisters separated at birth. I know it is not true, but nice to know there are people with my interests and passions out there! Catherine