One of the amazing things about working with color is how wildly different a look you can get using the same color patterning in warp and weft, simply by tweaking the draft. Often, you don’t even need to change the threading or treadling – a quick change in tie-up can produce a totally different look!

Believe it or not, these three drafts are all created using the same threading, treadling, and color patterning in warp and weft. The only thing that’s changed is the tie-up!

Lest you think this is only true with complex drafts, here is the difference between 1/3, 2/2, and 3/1 twill, using the same color sequences in warp and weft:

This article shows how a simple change to the tie-up can produce very different looks when working with color patterns – specifically, color gradients – in warp and weft. I’ll show it both with a very simple threading and treadling – straight draw and straight treadling on four shafts and four treadles – and then with a more complex draft on eight shafts.

Understanding the Principles

There are basically three properties of a draft that affect how color gradients are perceived. The first is color blending. Drafts can be separating drafts, which don’t mix warp and weft colors; blending drafts, which mix them together in a roughly 50-50 ratio; or semi-blending drafts, which mix them in some areas but not others. Blending drafts will mix gradients and dull them in some areas; separating drafts don’t mix warp and weft colors together, so they keep the colors bright – you don’t have to worry about color mixing.

The second property is the patterning in the draft. Draft patterns with delicate lines tend to mix together any color stripe designs that are used in warp and weft into a single mix of color. As a result, they produce variations in overall color but don’t give the impression of two overlapping color patterns. Bold draft patterns with big blocks of warp and weft dominant areas allow both gradients to express themselves, so you see both color gradients at once. They also make the draft patterning much easier to see. (We’ll talk about this more in Part 2.)

The third property is the balance in the draft. Balanced drafts, drafts that have equal amounts of warp and weft showing, tend to look similar on both sides of the fabric. As a result, neither gradient dominates.

However, when a draft is unbalanced, with more warp showing on one side and more weft showing on the opposite side, the fabric will look very different on the front and reverse sides, as one side will be dominated by the warp colors and the other by the weft colors. This gives you the opportunity to get a “double-sided” fabric – one that looks different on the front and back sides. It’s like getting two projects for the price of one!

For many drafts, all these factors can be changed – sometimes radically – with a simple change to the tie-up. This means you can get many different looks from the same warp – without having to change your threading, treadling, or weft colors!

Ready? Hang onto your hats – let’s go!

Simple Tie-up Changes, Radically Different Looks

All the drafts in this article are woven using a double gradient – one gradient in the warp and one gradient in the weft:

Here is the threading (warp) color pattern for all the drafts in this article.

warp color gradient for drafts

And here is the treadling (weft) color pattern for all the drafts in this article:

weft color gradient for drafts

4-Shaft Straight Twills

Let’s look at some twill options.

2-2 twill is a blending draft. It mixes the warp and weft colors together, in a 50-50 mix. Since some of the warp and weft colors blend into duller colors, the cloth will have duller colors in the areas where those colors cross.

2-2 twill draft using the double gradient in warp and weft

A simple change in tie-up to 3/1 twill, however, produces a big change in appearance. 3/1 twill is a separating draft – one that keeps warp and weft colors relatively “pure” by creating a warp-dominant top side and a weft-dominant bottom side of the fabric.

As a result, the top of the fabric becomes the brilliant red, orange, and yellow of the warp, with only a slight influence from the blues, greens, and yellow-green of the weft colors:

3-1 twill draft, showing mostly warp colors (red orange yellow) with very little influence of weft.

The reverse side of this fabric shows the 1-3 twill, where the weft predominates and the influence of the yellow-orange-red warp is minimal.

1-3 twill draft, showing the reverse side, weft-dominant (mostly blue-green-yellow-green weft showing)

The colors are also much clearer and brighter than in the 2/2 twill swatch. All through a simple change in tie-up!

More complex patterning is possible as well. A woven example of more complex patterning is this cowl. Here’s a picture of 1/3 twill side of the fabric (the cowl has been taken apart to show the fabric more clearly). This shows a multicolor linear gradient in the weft, from magenta to teal:

cowl - sample project from Gorgeous Gradients
cowl – sample project from Gorgeous Gradients

And here’s a photo of the 3/1 twill (warp dominant) side of the same fabric, which features a rainbow-colored curved gradient:

reverse side of cowl - sample project for Gorgeous Gradients
reverse side of cowl – sample project for Gorgeous Gradients

Michele Belson and I will be going in-depth into how to design with all these principles in our four-week class Gorgeous Gradients. Registration is closed for 2021, but you can sign up to be notified when this course opens again.

Tie-up changes with more complex drafts

Ready for some more magic? Here we go with more complex drafts!

Once you get beyond plain weave and 4-shaft straight twills, things become even more interesting! That’s because, in addition to the color patterning, you can also play with the patterning in the draft.

Here are two drafts (both adaptations of draft #45549):

These drafts use the same threading and treadling, but different tie-ups.

And here’s what they look like in our double-gradient pattern:

Draft #1 in warp and weft gradient patterns
Draft #1 in double gradient pattern
Draft #2 in double gradient pattern
Draft #2 in double gradient pattern

Quite a difference!

Here’s why they differ.

Color Mixing in Complex Drafts

In the first draft, the tie-up produces large areas of plain weave in the draft, so the draft mixes warp and weft colors. As a result, the colors mix and turn muddy in some areas.

In the second draft, the tie-up produces large areas of solid warp next to large areas of solid weft, in a bold pattern. This is a separating draft – one with areas that show mostly warp, and areas that show mostly weft, but few areas of blended warp and weft. It keeps warp and weft colors separate, so the colors stay much brighter than in the first draft. 

Patterning in Complex Drafts

The first draft also has delicate lines, making it harder to make out the draft’s pattern where contrast between warp and weft is low. The second draft has much bolder lines, so the pattern of this draft is clearer and much more legible than the pattern of the previous draft.

A more subtle point is that the first draft blends the colors together, making areas of gradually changing color, while the second draft keeps the two color gradients in different areas of the design, allowing the eye to perceive the double gradient more clearly. 

As a result, you can see two separate patterns in the second draft- a clear progression from black to yellow to orange to red in the warp-dominant star pattern inside the “circles”, and from blue to green to yellow-green in the weft-dominant “circles” that surround the star pattern.

In the first sample, the effect is closer to a single color fabric with gradually shifting colors.

Two Looks, Same Fabric: Balanced vs. Unbalanced Tie-Ups

But wait! We’re not done getting different looks out of this warp. 

Here’s the same draft, only with one more change in tie-up. Instead of a 4/4 twill tie-up, we’re switching to a 5/3 twill tie-up:

Now the draft is unbalanced – it’s warp-dominant on the top side, making it weft-dominant on the bottom side. This produces fabric that has the warp gradient dominant on the top side, and the weft gradient dominant on the bottom side, for two different looks from the same cloth.

Here’s the top side of the cloth (as you’re weaving it):

Draft #3 in double gradient, showing the top side of the fabric - warp dominant with mostly red/orange/yellow warp showing
Draft #3, top side of fabric

And here’s the reverse side of the fabric:

Draft #3, bottom side of fabric (weft dominant)
Draft #3, bottom side of fabric (weft dominant)

The top side of the cloth is now mostly red and yellow, while the bottom side of the cloth is mostly blue and green. They look quite different from each other, and from all the other drafts we’ve seen so far.

As a reminder, ALL of these drafts in this section were created using the same threading, treadling, and warp and weft colors. Only the tie-up has changed. Magic!

It’s not magic, it’s understanding

Except, of course, that it’s not magic at all. Like everything else color-related, it makes complete sense, and is easy to design, once you understand how it works. 

Michele Belson and I will be teaching how to design everything in the first half of this post (gradients in plain weave and twill) in Gorgeous Gradients, our four-week class on designing gradients in plain weave and 4-shaft straight twills. This class runs October 8-November 5, 2021.

We’ll be teaching how to design everything in the second half of this post (gradients in more complex drafts) in Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive, the two-week add-on to Gorgeous Gradients. This two-week add-on runs immediately after Gorgeous Gradients, so the combined classes run October 8-November 19, 2021. (More information about the Deep-Dive can be found at the bottom of the Gorgeous Gradients page.)

You can get more information and sign up for both classes here!

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  1. I am totally impressed with your knowledge! I would really look forward to the classes, but there's no way I can be sure I can make the class times. Will the classes be available to see on demand if I sign up?

    1. Yes! All the live lectures and Q&A sessions are recorded and put into the online classroom afterwards, and you get lifetime access so you can view them whenever you want.

  2. Hi Tien,
    This class looks like so much fun but I can’t take it at this time. Can I buy the course in the future, like after Christmas?

    Cathy Terril

    1. Hi Cathy,

      You won't be able to buy it in the future (at least not until I offer it again, which won't be until 2023 at earliest), but if you buy it now, you'll have lifetime access and will be able to access all the lessons/recorded Q&A sessions/etc. whenever you like – including after Christmas if that's when you have time!

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