Friday, March 15, 2019

Go Big and Bold or Go Home: Some Thoughts on Colors and Yarns for Echo Designs

8 shafts, 4-color Echo pattern

Over the past couple of months, I've been weaving up samples for an April workshop with the New Hampshire Weavers Guild. I've learned some great lessons, mainly in terms of choosing colors and yarns that optimize the look of 4-color Echo.

(Some background: 4-color Echo uses 4 different colors in the warp, each on its own parallel threading. You can read all about it in Marian Stubenitsky's Weaving with Echo and Iris. Here's just a sample of how it may be threaded.)

Anyhow, my takeaway from all this sampling: Go big and bold or go home!

First I'll talk about going big -- that is, yarn grist (a.k.a. weight and thickness). The sample at the top of the page, on 8 shafts with a 4-end parallel threading, is my favorite of everything I've woven so far. The warp is 10/2 pearl cotton and the weft is 20/2 pearl cotton.

For comparison, here's a similar pattern on 16 shafts.

16 shafts, 4-color Echo pattern

This too was woven on a 4-color warp, using different color combinations for each motif. However, the warp yarns are much finer, in 20/2 pearl cotton. (The weft is silk sewing thread.)

To me, the second piece isn't as successful. There are lots of reasons, but the simplest is the difference between the 10/2 and 20/2 cotton warps. The 20/2 cotton is too fine a yarn to display the Echo pattern strong and clear, while the 10/2 cotton provides a much better display. I'm not saying that this is a binary choice, because I do like the 16-shaft version using 20/2 cotton -- but the heavier yarn defines the pattern better. 

(The challenge, for me, is the hand of the fabric: I really prefer the lighter weight of the 20/2 cotton fabric. For garments like long vests and tunics, it's not as heavy as a fabric using a 10/2 cotton warp. But I won't belabor the point! That's just the way it is.) 

And what about going bold -- that is, in terms of color? 

I could write a book on this (so many people have), but the point I want to share is that your warp colors are barely half of the story. Weft and pattern can make huge and surprising differences in the look of your fabric. And the more colors you have in the warp, the more surprises you may have in your results.

So let's look at choosing colors for 4-color Echo. (This is better termed "polychrome Echo," because we're not looking at a straight vertical in the fabric for each warp color, but rather an interplay of warp colors as the pattern shifts. With polychrome weaves, what you see in the warp is not what you get in the weaving.)

Choosing colors for polychrome Echo is counterintuitive: The colors in the warp may not look at all harmonious to you, while the end results can be beautiful. Take a look at the color diagrams below (these thanks to Widewalls, an online art gallery and magazine based in London, which you might want to check out for its excellent article on color theory, "Color Theory Basics You Need to Know"). 

For a four-color Echo warp, your best bet is to choose a square color scheme (the example in the bottom right corner of the diagram), with each of your four colors taken from the corners of a square drawn on the color wheel. The rectangle color scheme (the top right example) would also work.

And here's what I did in my samples. For the design that appears at the top of this post, my warp was 10/2 pearl cotton in yellow, orange, purple and turquoise -- which is a square on the color wheel (start at yellow, move three blocks counterclockwise to orange, continue three blocks over to purple, and then three blocks over to turquoise).

And you can see the colors as they emerge in the pattern (above): first orange, then yellow, then turquoise, then purple. (That was the color order for my threading.) The weft was 20/2 pearl cotton in turquoise.

As for the second sample -- this one, using 20/2 pearl cotton for the warp...

I wanted to try a color sampler, so each motif has a different set of warp colors. The first, on the far left, uses lime green, turquoise, red, and royal blue -- again, not quite a rectangle on the color wheel, more like a trapezoid, but I like the way it works. The second motif uses very subtle colors: teal blue, dark turquoise, olive, and brass, and it doesn't hold a lot of interest for me. The third motif uses pink, fuchsia, purple, and royal blue and, although the pattern is relatively distinct, I find the colors too sweet for my taste. The last motif, on the far right, was really just a shot in the dark: I used beige, gray, black, and tan in the warp just to see what these neutrals would do. And the results are... neutral.

I'm so glad I did this analysis, because in the future I will have some rules to go by in choosing colors for 4-color Echo. Then again, maybe I will have some rules to break.

Thanks for reading. And happy weaving!

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