Using Colors Sparingly but Effectively

A clever way to play with color in weaving is to use only a few colors to create more colors in the cloth.

Christina Garton Jan 3, 2023 - 3 min read

Using Colors Sparingly but Effectively Primary Image

Linda Gettmann’s Wearing Purple Crackle Runner from Handwoven November/December 2016. Photo by Joe Coca

I love working with color in my weaving—seeing the way different colors interact and react to one another. When I first started weaving, I couldn’t anticipate how well the colors could mix together, tricking the eye into seeing a whole new color. Though the yarns interlace, they remain separate, and yet somehow they become something new. Magic!

Sarah Jackson's Summer and Winter Towels from Handwoven May/June 2016. Photo by Joe Coca.

Many of my favorite projects in Handwoven use this sort of color-play magic. While gamps might seem the most likely place to really appreciate color interactions, block after block of beautiful color changes also appear in crackle or summer and winter pieces. Just three or four different colors, or even just different hues of the same color, can combine to create a vastly larger palette.

Of course, as with most things in weaving, sometimes colors don’t seem to play nice. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s carefully chosen colors for the warp and weft, only to find that they become dully or muddy when combined, instead of becoming something new and wonderful. Fortunately, over time this happens less and less, and it’s at least a problem with an easy fix (usually). My own use of color has improved just by weaving more with color and studying those projects that use color interactions effectively.

Meridith Entingh’s Colorplay Runner from Handwoven January/February 2016

Some of my favorite projects that represent the best of the best of color play include (but certainly are not limited to) Sarah H. Jackson’s Summer and Winter towels, Linda Gettmann’s Wearing Purple Crackle Runner, and Meridith Entingh’s bold and beautiful Colorplay Runner and Napkins. All of these projects carefully use a few colors to create many more and they do so in such beautiful ways. I’m still amazed the Meridith’s project makes purples out of pink and blue yarns, intersecting with orange yarn to create complicated, rich colors. It should be impossible for colors to mix so well, and yet (like magic) they do. And it’s just one more reason I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with weaving.

Happy weaving!

Published 10/16/2017 Revised 10/28/2022