Colors that are bright on the cone can mix into mud in a flash when woven. Once holiday weaving starts, thousands of weavers make the crushing discovery that red and green often do not weave up into bright cheery colors, but into dull, muddy brown. 🙁

Just like this:

Red and green plain weave swatch - a dull brown color.
Red and green plain weave swatch

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Muddy colors are not inevitable. Here are three ways to avoid them.

Method one: Choose colors that mix into other bright colors.

On the cyan-magenta-yellow color wheel, which is the color wheel that works best for color mixing, colors that fall between the same two primary colors will blend into equally bright colors. This is complicated, so I won’t explain it here. I do explain how this works, and how to choose the colors, in this blog post.

This won’t work for red and green, of course, as they are near-opposites on the color wheel. So…

Method two: Use the colors as stripes in warp or weft.

The second is to prevent the colors from mixing. The easiest way to do this is to separate the colors by using them as colored stripes in either warp or weft. Like this:

Red and green as warp stripes in a 3/1 twill swatch, black weft
Red and green as warp stripes in a 3/1 twill, black weft

Because the colors run parallel to each other, they cannot mix with each other and thus stay separate.

Method three: Separate warp and weft using the draft.

If your warp and weft blend into dull colors, then choose a draft that doesn’t blend them in even proportions. Put another way, pick a draft that alternates weft-dominant areas with warp-dominant areas, with relatively few areas of blended color.

Here’s an example.

Cyan and orange woven in plain weave would blend into a grayish color, like this:

cyan and orange woven into a blue-gray plain weave swatch

In this 1/3 twill vs. 3/1 twill block design, however, the orange and cyan colors remain bright. That’s because warp-dominant areas are being placed next to weft-dominant areas, with no areas of evenly mixed warp and weft.

Some approaches combine the two methods. Color-and-weave, for example, combines stripes in warp and weft with a draft that creates warp-dominant and weft-dominant areas in strategically located spots to create solid chunks of color, preventing mud.

Which approach works best depends in part on what equipment you have. On four shafts, it’s difficult to place warp-dominant areas next to weft-dominant areas. There simply aren’t enough shafts to do that. The exception is supplementary-weft structures such as summer and winter, overshot, and monk’s belt. Or, use structures such as 3/1 twill to create a piece that is warp-dominant on one side and weft-dominant on the other, keeping the colors bright but also showing mostly a single color on each surface.

On eight or more shafts, you have more options for separating colors through structure. You can use warp-dominant areas next to weft-dominant areas to create nearly-solid blocks of color.

Twill blocks, like the swatch shown a few paragraphs above, are just one example. Go to or a book of drafts and you will find tons of drafts that meet that description. Just look for a draft that shows areas of mostly warp color or areas of mostly weft color, but relatively few speckled areas where warp and weft mix thoroughly.

Here’s a swatch that illustrates the difference:

In the greenish blocks, the red and green are mixed together in small even dots and so blend into brown wherever the red appears. In the red blocks, the red dominates throughout, so the colors stay bright.

That’s it! Three ways to keep your colors from mixing into mud.

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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