If you don’t love warping but you don’t want to weave the same thing over and over, one way to solve the problem is to weave many different projects on the same warp. You can weave nearly limitless possibilities from a single warp!

In my next few posts, I’ll talk about how to choose colors and drafts to maximize your possibilities for projects from the same warp, and give some real-life examples of how to do it.

This article will talk about how to choose colors. In later articles, I’ll talk about draft variations and other things you can do to create variety on one warp.

Choosing warp colors

When choosing warp colors for a multiple-project warp, your first priority should be compatibility. Your warp color needs to work well with all of your weft colors.

But this does not mean you’re stuck with neutral colors like white, black, or gray! You can choose brilliant colors if you do one of the following:

  1. Choose weft colors that mix into equally bright colors.
  2. Use a draft that keeps warp and weft colors separated, so they don’t mix together.
  3. Accept that warp and weft will mix into duller colors (this often looks just fine!)

What color to choose for warp depends on what mood you want for the cloth, and whether you want the warp or weft color to shine. The eye is attracted to bright (saturated) colors and to light colors, so if you’d rather feature the weft color, then use a darker, duller color for warp.

But if you want to feature the warp color, or if you want your project to have bright colors, then go for brilliant, saturated colors for warp! Either way will work just fine.

Choosing weft colors

Weft colors are where you get to add variety. Different weft colors can produce radically distinct looks, even on the same warp. Here are some things you can do to change the appearance of your projects, even on the same warp.

Change light/dark contrast for a bolder or subtler pattern

The part of your brain that sees pattern sees only in black and white. So whether your pattern is bold or subtle depends on whether there is strong value (light/dark) contrast between warp and weft. If the warp is light and the weft is dark (or vice versa), then the pattern will be bold and easily seen.

draft with strong value contrast (very different in darkness)
warp and weft very different in darkness (strong value contrast)

Conversely, if your warp and weft are close to each other in darkness, then the woven pattern will be subtle. This can produce very different looks on the same warp, even when the hues (color families) are the same.

draft with low value contrast, showing a subtle pattern
warp and weft similar in darkness (low value contrast)

Choose a color that’s close by on the color wheel, to create a harmonious feel.

Picking a weft color that’s close by on the color wheel (within 2-3 steps) as the warp will generally create a harmonious feel. These will also likely blend into equally bright colors (unless the colors are orange and green).

a draft with warp and weft that are close to each other on the color wheel
warp and weft near each other on the color wheel

Choose a color from far away on the color wheel to create excitement and/or change the color of the cloth dramatically. (But beware of mud!)

If your draft doesn’t blend warp and weft colors much, then choosing a color that’s far away on the color wheel will create a feeling of dramatic tension in the piece. This makes the piece more visually interesting.

warp and weft from opposite sides of the color wheel, in a draft that doesn’t blend colors

But if the draft does blend colors, then choosing a color that’s far away on the color wheel may result in a much duller color in the finished cloth. In the draft below, the green and magenta blur (especially from a distance) into a much duller color.

That may be what you want – it can tone down screaming brights – or it may not.

green and magenta yarns in a draft that blends colors, showing much duller colors
colors from the opposite sides of the color wheel, in a draft that blends colors

If you have bright colors and you want to keep them bright, use a draft that doesn’t blend the colors together, or use the colors in warp stripes to keep them separate. (More on how and why the draft is important in this blog post.)

If you don’t mind having the colors blend into duller colors, no problem! Forge ahead, using whatever draft you like. Don’t worry about separating the colors.

An easy way to see how the colors will blend is to use the free Warp & Weave Color Mixer, which allows you to upload an image of your warp and weft yarns, pick colors out of the image, and see instantly how your colors will blend in plain weave and 4-end twills, and in various size yarns. 

If you have your draft as a WIF file (an electronic format used with weaving software), I highly recommend the Color Editor at Handweaving.net. It’s available with an inexpensive subscription to Handweaving.net ($25/year as of this writing). It allows you to do amazing wizardry with color, including seeing how the draft will weave up in your actual yarns by uploading a photo of your yarns. 

Change whether the weft is bright (saturated) or dull.

A dull color will produce a more low-key, sedate feel; a brighter, more saturated color will give a peppier mood. In the two drafts below, the warp is bright red-purple. Using a dull beige weft calms it down, while using a bright orange amps up the piece.

magenta and beige cloth (low saturation weft)
low saturation weft
magenta and orange draft (high saturation weft)
high saturation weft

A process for choosing a palette

For creating lots of different looks, I’d suggest a palette with a wide range of values (light, medium, and dark yarns). A medium-dark to medium-light warp will give you the most options. 

The less saturated (duller) your warp is, the more you’ll be able to change the appearance of your piece. I used a highly-satured magenta warp in the examples above to show that you could produce very different-looking pieces even on a very bright warp, but a duller warp would have produced more dramatic shifts, color-wise.

If having the colors stay bright is important to you, I’d select a draft that doesn’t blend colors much – that creates large warp-dominant or weft-dominant areas but not areas where they mix (twill blocks are a good example). Then I’d put yarn colors from all around the color wheel – a wide variety of places – together and see what looks good to you. 

If having the colors stay bright is important to you, but you can’t find a draft that doesn’t blend colors, stick to weft colors that follow the color mixing rules outlined in my article “Are your bright colors weaving into dull cloth? Here’s how to fix that.”

Experiment with bright and dull colors as well.

Use the Warp & Weave Color Mixer to see how the colors will blend together, and if you have the draft in electronic format (as a WIF file), get a subscription to Handweaving.net and use the Color Editor to see how the colors will look in your draft.

That’s it! I hope this article has opened up some intriguing possibilities for you in weaving multiple pieces on the same warp, changing only the colors.

Happy weaving,

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  1. HI Tien – you may have already explained this in a previous blog and I missed it, but why do you use the RGB-CMYK color wheel as opposed to the regular color wheel with RYB as the primary colors? Thanks for all your very informative blogs, books and lessons

    1. Hi Virginia – It’s because you can use either color wheel to talk about color relationships, but the CMYK color wheel is more accurate for color mixing. I’m not dogmatic about it, though – the truth is that there are no perfect primary colors in practice (weaving doesn’t mix colors perfectly) so if you prefer the RYB color wheel, use what works for you!

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