Today’s blog post analyzes two table runners (designed and woven by master weaver Laura Fry) to show some ways mood is created in fabric. The table runners use the same draft and the same variegated yarn, but have a very different “look and feel” because Laura chose different colors for the rest of the project.

And if you’ve wondered how to use variegated yarns effectively in projects, stay tuned, because there’s a great tip on how to use variegated yarns effectively!

The table runners

The table runners are woven in 2/8 cotton at 24 ends per inch, in 2/2 twill. They use the same variegated yarn in stripes, but the remainder of the yarn palette is different (shown below, at the bottom of each runner).

Creating mood through value (darkness)

The mood of a piece depends in part on how the brain thinks it is lit. Pieces with lots of deep, dark colors fool the brain into thinking that the surrounding lighting is dark, producing a more somber, stately, or depressed feeling appropriate for dark places. Pieces with many light colors tend to fool the brain into thinking it is in a light, airy, open space, producing a very different feel.

Pieces of medium darkness, or a mix of light and dark colors, tend to be interpreted as being seen in daylight, with a broad range of possible moods depending on the other properties of the colors. Dull colors such as spruce and rust brown produce a calmer mood than more saturated colors like cherry red and emerald green, for example.

In the peach runner, because the colors used were all light colors, and light colors generally produce an airy, meditative feel, the overall mood is serene and calm. The subtlety of the design contributes to the serenity of the mood.

The deep rose table runner has a darker, more dramatic feel, partly because it has more contrast in the design (more on that in a moment), but also because it features darker colors. 

Creating mood through contrast and drama

Contrast and drama also matter. Looking at the peach table runner in black and white, you can see that there is very little value (black and white) contrast in the table runner.

Peach table runner, viewed in color
Peach table runner, viewed in black and white

Since black and white contrast is what makes a design bold or subtle (more on that in this blog post), this makes the stripes quite subtle, producing a quiet, serene feel.

In the antique rose version of the table runner, however, there is more value contrast, and the stripes are correspondingly bolder. The piece feels more dramatic.

antique rose table runner
handwoven table runner in antique rose - black and white photo

Using variegated yarns in stripes

In addition to talking about mood, I want to show you a useful design technique for working with variegated yarns. Laura did a great job with this design!

Here’s a closeup of the peach table runner. The variegated yarn is used in stripes, with two-thread pale green pinstripes separating the variegated yarn from the wider peach stripes.

peach table runner, showing pinstripes of green separating variegated yarn stripes from peach yarn stripes

Why did Laura place the pale green pinstripes between the variegated yarn and the peach?

The pale green pinstripes are there to give definition to the variegated yarn stripes. If you look closely at the runner, you can see that the variegated yarn stripes and the green stripes blend into each other. That’s because, in the places where the variegated yarn is blue or blue-green, the colors match so closely that the colors blur into each other. 

Similarly, if the variegated yarn were placed next to the peach, the pink areas of the variegated yarn would blur into the pink yarn, creating a blurry effect rather than the crisp stripes that Laura wanted.

Laura’s solution, a clever and effective one, was to use a thin, unobtrusive stripe of pale green placed next to the variegated yarn. This stripe is so narrow and so similar to the blue color in the variegated yarn that it blends into the variegated yarn – but because it contrasts strongly in hue with the peach yarn, it produces a well-defined stripe. The overall effect is to create what looks like well-defined stripes of variegated yarn in a peach background, without the blurring that would result if only the variegated yarn were used.

In the antique rose runner, the darker green stripe is not needed for contrast but is still helpful for getting a consistently crisp edge against the pink stripes. Green and pink sit opposite each other on the color wheel, so placing the thin stripe of green next to the pink adds strong hue contrast to the piece, making it more interesting to the eye.

antique rose table runner showing green pinstripes

That’s it for today! I hope you have found this project analysis useful. Sometimes it’s helpful to see how other designers have put principle into practice, so I’m planning to include these project analyses on a regular basis. If there’s a type of project you’d like to see featured, let me know!

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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  1. As one who is making my own fabric, I found this VERY helpful. I discovered what Laura did with the table runners by accident. I just got finished with a 20 inch wide piece of fabric that is 9 feet long for a dress pattern by Sarah Howard. I now know whey the fabric worked!

    I will keep this article close by as I begin designing my next fabric.

  2. Thank you so much for this project analysis! It puts your color design principles into practice for deeper understanding… the gut feel of it. I also appreciate the insight into how your brain works!

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