Will the Pattern Show If I Weave with Variegated Yarns?

Marcy Petrini

May 2019

This seemingly simple question was posed by one of our weaving students. Heather loves color and she loves pattern, but so far, she has not woven with variegated yarns – hence the question.

The answer is “it depends.” It depends on the pattern and it depends on the colors.

Below are two pieces woven with similar color yarns for warp and weft. The deflected double weave (first below) with a variegated warp of blues, greens and gold shows the pattern woven with a blue weft much more than the advancing twill (second below) also woven with a blue weft on a variegated warp also of blues, greens and gold.




The deflected double weave is a much bolder pattern and thus more visible.

Below are two sections of a scarf with a variegate warp; the shadow twill (not to be confused with shadow weave) is clearly visible in the picture below where there is good contrast between warp and weft.



But in the section below where there is low contrast between warp and weft, the twill just about disappears.




We can also ask: what do we mean by: “will the pattern show?” From what distance?

To me, a successful fabric should look interesting close-up and far away, especially if it will be viewed from different distances; but it is not likely that the same elements that provide interest from near will also do so from far.

The close-up of the fabric below is an extended pointed twill; the warp is variegated purples and greens and the weft a solid lighter purple. Because of the contrast in the purples, the diamonds of the pointed twill are visible when looked closely.



But from far away, the diamonds disappear, and we are left with changing colors that cause our eyes to move because they reflect the light differently depending on the direction of the twill.




We can use pattern to affect our colors – and the hand of our fabric. For example, twills give fabric drape and fluidity because of their staggered floats, so it may not matter if the pattern is visible. As we saw in the scarf above, the different colors of the twill can reflect the light in different directions, giving interest to the scarf from afar.

With so many choices, how do we proceed? Here are some guidelines, to get started.

To make a pattern more visible with a variegated yarn:

  1. Choose a variegated yarn that does not have colors with strong contrast in hue or intensity.
  2. Choose a bold weaving pattern.
  3. Use the variegated yarn as warp.
  4. Choose a solid color weft, contrasting to the warp in hue, intensity or both.
  5. Make the project slightly weft dominant; that is, sett the warp slightly more open that you would for that pattern and yarn, and make sure you don’t beat too much. Or use a weft that is slightly larger than the warp.

The pattern of the straight twill of the shawl below is visible because the red purple weft is darker than the variegated red and blue purples of the warp and it is lightly larger in grist.



What about variegated yarns for weft? We’ll discuss those next month.



 Happy weaving!

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