One of the biggest challenges for weavers who want to design with color is fear of making mistakes. Errors waste time and materials, and making a mistake – especially if it ruins a project! – feels shameful to many people. 

But playing it safe doesn’t help you either. Sticking to the tried and true, or weaving others’ designs, means you’ll never learn to use color, and you’ll be stuck weaving kits and recipes for the rest of your life. Mistakes may be painful in the short term, but they lead to growth in the long term.

But here’s the secret: What makes mistakes painful isn’t the error, but the cost of the error. Winding, warping, and weaving an entire project is time-consuming and expensive, so it’s traumatic to find out at the finish that you hate the colors. That kind of discovery might make you want to bang your head against the wall, or go hide under a rock for awhile.

But if you realized at the beginning of the project that you didn’t like the colors, then picking the wrong color wouldn’t be a big deal – you’d just look at the simulation or sample, say “Nah, I don’t like it,” and move on to a new idea. No big deal, right?

The problem wasn’t that you made a mistake, it was that the mistake was an expensive one. It cost you something. The cost of the error made you frustrated, angry, and maybe even ashamed.

The key to making color less frustrating and fearful, then, is finding your color “mistakes” – the color combinations you don’t like – earlier in the weaving process, before they become expensive and difficult to fix.

In my online courses, I offer color simulation tools designed to help you uncover potential color mistakes early in your creative process, while you are still sketching out designs. You can check out some of those tools in my free mini-course, Bold and Subtle Patterns.

My free Warp & Weave Color Mixing Tool is a great tool for testing out color mixes quickly and easily in four common weave structures. You can pick colors manually, or you can upload photos of your yarn and click on the image. You can also upload inspirational images to see how colors from the image would weave together!

(You can find instructions for using the Warp & Weave Color Mixing tool in this blog post.)

There are other tools you can use beyond the online tools I’ve mentioned. Weaving software, wrapping yarn around a card, sketches (digital or physical), and weaving physical samples are just a few of the ways to approach designing with color. 

But the essence of overcoming fear of color mistakes – or any other mistake is not to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. It’s perfectly natural to feel angry, frustrated, or ashamed. Feelings are what they are. But after that’s passed, ask yourself how you might catch the mistake earlier next time, when it’s cheaper to fix.

DON’T ask yourself how to avoid making the mistake. That way lies madness. When you are designing your own work, blind alleys and wrong turns are inevitable. The question you should be asking yourself any time you make an error is how you could find and fix the mistake earlier, when it’s still cheap and easy to fix. 

Here’s an example. If you had emerald green yarn and wove it with poinsettia red yarn in a 2/2 twill, you probably wound up with a muddy brown fabric. If you expected bright colors, that was a painful way to discover that red and green optically mix to muddy brown.

Being disappointed, angry, and embarrassed to have made a mistake is normal, and human. (As a friend likes to say, “It’s not logical, but feelings don’t have brains.”) But we can choose how to react.

Many people, not given any training, might throw up their hands and say, “I don’t get color.” They react with fear, and they get stuck.

But now, instead of just getting frustrated, you can problem-solve. You can say, “Red and green, in that weave structure, in that yarn, mix into a muddy brown. I don’t like that!”

“Okay, that was a mistake. How can I find that out sooner? How I can find out how two yarns will mix before I actually weave the scarf? What tools can I use to find out?”

This gives you some perspective, a way to look at the problem beyond just feeling frustrated, disappointed, and fearful about next time. It also gives you some great questions to ask your fellow weavers for future problem-solving!

To sum up:

  • Don’t fear mistakes. They’re nothing to be ashamed of.
    Making some mistakes is a badge of honor,
    a sign that you are stretching yourself, that you are learning.
    Mistakes are an essential part of learning.

  • If you make a mistake, it’s okay to feel disappointed, angry, or embarrassed. But don’t get stuck in negative emotions.
    Approach the next step with curiosity:
    How can I find the mistake earlier next time?
    What tools will make it easier to find and fix?

Here are some tools you can use for finding color mistakes earlier:

Happy weaving!

If you want to know more about how to create crisp, clear designs in your handwoven cloth, subscribe to my newsletter and get my FREE e-book! It will help you design beautiful handwoven fabrics, with a pattern as bold or subtle as you want.

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