You Can't Judge a Warp by Its Color (and Other Musings on Hues)
This photo proves my point: You can't judge a warp by its color -- and certainly not by any color in isolation. Weaving is all about connections. And typically the colors we enjoy in a woven fabric (especially with latter-day designs like Echo and network-drafted Jin) are the end result of those connections.
The warp yarns in the photo above are blue and burgundy and, while you might guess this if you looked at the sample at the top of the photo, you really can't tell from the sample at the bottom. The overall look changes dramatically based on the colors of the wefts: salmon in the bottom sample and coral at the top.
(I am tempted to deploy a bad pun here: You can't judge a warp by its color -- because there's always something weft....)
A warp is not a finished product. To me, this is such a valuable lesson. Equally important, a single color of yarn doesn't give us much information about the look of the fabric. Always, always, colors connect and play and contrast with each other -- and any fabric that delights or dazzles results from a combination of warp, weft, pattern, texture, light, individual perception, finishing, embellishment, perspective and so many other factors.
More evidence: The photos below show samples woven on the same four-colored warp. (Yes, these are all different patterns, but please just consider the overall palette of each sample.)
Navy weft (I think -- maybe royal blue)
What surprises me even more about Echo samples like these is that the weft yarn is just half the grist of the warp yarns. And yet it has such an impact.
And yet another example, a favorite of mine from a workshop I taught in Edmonton, Alberta, last May. Maryanne Hawryluk wove my 8-shaft parallel-threaded pattern "Falling Stars" for this sample in double weave. Can you guess the colors of her warp yarns? How about her weft yarns?
Here's the answer: Her warp yarns are red and green and her weft yarns are purple and the same green, all 10/2 cotton.
What makes this sort of color-bending effect happen? A while ago I posted a couple of images on Facebook that blew my mind: Images from computer drawdowns of an 8-shaft pattern I wanted to weave. Keep in mind that THE WHITE WARP COLOR DOESN'T CHANGE in the photos. But our perception changes with the different colored weft yarns.
Above draft uses an all-blue weft (of course, the fabric isn't weaveable because the wefts aren't tied down. I hadn't gotten to that point when I noticed the effect you see in the next photo.)
This draft uses alternating wefts of blue and black (again unweaveable -- but unbelievable!)
So I posted this and the comments were really helpful. One reader told me that it demonstrated the principle of "Simultaneous Contrast." This principle was identified by Michel Eugène Chevreul as the way in which two different colors affect each other -- that one color can change the way we perceive the tone and hue of another color when the two are placed side by side.
After checking with the wonderful resource by Joseph Albers, "Interaction of Color," I realized that this can also be described as the "Bezold Effect."
Here's how Wikipedia defines it:
"The Bezold effect is an optical illusion, named after a German professor of meteorology, Wilhelm von Bezold, who discovered that a color may appear different depending on its relation to adjacent colors. It happens when small areas of color are interspersed."
(Even so, I wondered if I was seeing things. So I then posted a question wondering whether the image on the screen itself had changed with the weft colors. Michael Stearn wrote back to tell me he had cropped the image so that he could compare the whites in isolation -- and the warp colors were indeed the same white throughout!)
So the yellow is really white. Thank you, Wilhelm von Bezold.
And while we're on the subject of yellow: In my travels, I can't count how many times I've heard weavers say, "Yellow is not my color." Nor is it mine (I never wear it) but I use it all the time in my weaving and teaching. And often in dye workshops it's the first color that's used up.
Why? I think it's because yellow adds so much to the mix, such a glow, like sunshine. It's like salt: No one eats it straight from the shaker, but most of us add it to our meals.
Historic note here: In China during the Tang dynasty, light yellow -- the most luminous color -- was reserved only for the royal family. Anyone who violated this rule was subject to punishment or even death. You might want to consider this, our modern-day freedom and egalitarianism, the next time you purchase yellow yarn ;o)
Of course, the same principle applies to acid green and orange and bronze and gray and any number of colors that we normally don't think to use.
In closing, another example. Recently, my friend, Philadelphia weaver Hedy Lyles, jokingly told me she broke down and bought a cone of yellow yarn. And before making this unusual purchase, she wove with a bit of yellow in the warp for her beautiful piece shown in the photos below. (Handweaving.net draft #61157 modified for 24 shafts, with 3 colors in the warp: hand-painted warp "Denim Jewels" by Kathrin Weber of Blazing Shuttles alternating with blueberry and mineral green.)
My takeaway: Use yellow, most times sparingly. It can make a pattern shine. And remember too how important it is to think out of the crayon box when it comes to colors. And how important it is to work out of our comfort zone. And how important it is to sample. Yes it is!
Mother Nature -- or more specifically, natural selection -- does it all the time.
Photo of an Australian Common Bronzewing taken by Gregory F. Coonghe,
shared on Facebook by Sherri Campbell.