rainbow cowl

Have you ever been struck by the gorgeous colors in a rainbow shawl? Or envied the beauty of a double-gradient scarf?

another rainbow cowl, in stripes

Color gradients are not only beautiful, but amazingly useful in handweaving because they are simple to design and don’t require a ton of shafts to produce. In fact, you can create beautiful color gradients on just two shafts (or a rigid heddle loom)! This lovely cowl was woven on a rigid heddle loom:

magenta, purple, and turquoise double gradient cowl woven on a rigid heddle loom

Got more shafts and more colors? 

You can do more! Here is a four shaft gradient project:

four shaft rainbow gradient project

Color gradients also don’t require knowing a ton of color theory to produce lovely work – in fact, you only need to know a few principles to make them work.

I’ll be covering the basics of two-color gradients in Discover Gradients (my free Weave-Along), and multiple-color gradients in Gorgeous Gradients (the in-depth class that follows Discover Gradients). Details about both classes will follow at the end of this post.

For now, let’s talk about the types of gradients and when you’d want to use each.

There are essentially three kinds of gradients: woven, bundled-thread, and dyed. 

Woven gradients

The first kind of gradient is the woven gradient, which alternates threads of different colors in stripes that transition from one color to another. Woven gradients are by far the most common, easiest to use, and most flexible, because you can do them with only a few colors, you don’t need hand-dyed yarns, and you don’t need to fuss with bundling together multiple threads and treating them as one.

The stripes may be narrow or wide, depending on the type of gradient. The two most common woven gradients are the evenly striped gradient and the linear gradient, but two other interesting gradient types are curved gradients and Fibonacci gradients. 

Evenly striped woven gradients

In the evenly striped gradient, the stripes are the same size and adjacent colors usually look similar, creating a gradual transition through the gradient. Rainbow stripes are the classic example of an evenly striped gradient:

rainbow stripes

If you do a double striped gradient, you get the classic rainbow gamp:

rainbow gamp photo

Evenly striped gradients in plain weave and twill will be covered in Gorgeous Gradients; Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive (the six-week version of Gorgeous Gradients) covers evenly striped gradients in more complex drafts as well.

Linear woven gradients

In the linear type of woven gradient, colors are alternated thread by thread, starting with “pure” color A, then introducing a single thread of color B alternating with, say, 3 threads of color A for awhile, then a single thread of B alternating with 2 threads of color A for awhile, then 1 B with 1 A, then switching and alternating 1 A with 2 B, and so on until a proportion of pure color B is achieved. This gives the smoothest possible shading from color A to color B.

smoothly shaded linear rainbow gradient

Of course, you don’t HAVE to do subtle shading with a linear gradient. Often you can get beautiful effects with a less subtle gradient, such as the one below (a napkin from the Discover Gradients Weave-Along):

With linear gradients, you have to keep in mind the colors will blend with each other, and also how the stripe pattern will work with the weave structure. I cover simple two-color linear gradients in Discover Gradients. Multiple-color linear gradients and the interaction of stripes and weave structure are more complicated, and are covered in Gorgeous Gradients.

Curved woven gradients

Curved woven gradients aren’t seen very often, but are an intriguing way of approaching woven gradients. They are a variation of linear gradients that are symmetric, and have a high proportion of Color A in the center and then change rapidly to “pure” Color B at the sides. If you use a light color for Color A and a dark color for Color B, they create the illusion of depth – your cloth will look curved in the center of the gradient!

Curved gradients are fun because they give a sense of three-dimensionality to your cloth. Discover Gradients gives you a chance to play with two-color curved gradients; Gorgeous Gradients allows you to create your own curved gradients and work with them in multiple colors.

Here’s a photo of one of the two-color curved gradient napkins you’ll create in the Discover Gradients Weave-Along:

curved gradient napkins
curved gradient napkin from Discover Gradients

And here’s an example of a multi-color curved gradient (actually a double gradient!) from the Gorgeous Gradients class that follows the Weave-Along:

curved gradient in multiple colors
multi-color curved gradient

Fibonacci gradients

Fibonacci gradients alternate two colors in stripes with Fibonacci proportions: 1 threads of Color A, then 2 threads of Color B, then 3 of Color A, then 5 of Color B, and so on, following the Fibonacci sequence: 1,1,2,3,5, 8, 13, 21, 34 …. The Fibonacci sequence continues on to infinity, but going much beyond that generally produces wider stripes than you really want, unless you are working with super fine yarns. Of course you can also use any portion of the sequence you want – you can start at 3, or 5, or 13 if you prefer, depending on your yarn size and personal tastes. What is important is the ratio between stripes – the Fibonacci sequence is designed to produce a pleasing proportion between any two adjacent numbers.

The Fibonacci gradient doesn’t produce a smooth gradient, of course; its purpose is to create a pleasing proportion of stripes between the colors in the “gradient”.

Two-color Fibonacci gradients are covered in Discover Gradients; more colors and double gradients are covered in Gorgeous Gradients.

Fibonacci gradient napkin, woven on a rigid heddle loom
Fibonacci napkin (woven on a rigid heddle loom!) from Discover Gradients

That’s it for woven gradients! On to….

Bundled Gradients

Bundled gradients use bundled threads – multiple finer threads used together and threaded through a single heddle (or wound together onto a bobbin or stick shuttle). To create a bundled gradient, you simply start with a bundle of (say) three threads of Color A, then use two threads of Color A and one thread of Color B for awhile, then use one thread of Color A and two threads of Color B, and then switch to three threads of Color B. Gradient complete!

Bundled gradient scarf
Bundled gradient scarf

Bundled gradients are covered in Gorgeous Gradients.

Dyed gradients

Hand-dyed gradients are exactly that – gradients created with yarns that have been dyed in a gradient. These are often knitting yarns – sock yarns are particularly popular. They can be used to create smooth gradients in the warp or weft (for warp, longer-repeat gradients are better).

hand-dyed gradient used as weft
hand-dyed gradient

The dyed gradient need not be a solid color – here’s a beautiful gradient made with a semi-solid hand-dyed gradient yarn:

dyed gradient with a semi-solid hand-dyed gradient yarn

Dyed gradients are covered in Gorgeous Gradients.

About my gradients classes

I have two classes coming up on weaving gradients: the Discover Gradients Weave-Along, which is free, and Gorgeous Gradients/Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive, which are in-depth paid classes.

Here are the details on each:

Discover Gradients

Discover Gradients napkins

Discover Gradients opens registration on Friday, July 30th. Class starts August 13 and runs through September 3. You’ll have free access to the online classroom through September 10.

In Discover Gradients, you’ll explore woven gradients, weaving four 12″ x 12″ napkins (approximate finished size) in a linear, curved, or Fibonacci draft that we’ll provide for you. (“We” is me (Tien) and Michele Belson of Lunatic Fringe Yarns – Janet Dawson is working on her own overshot class, which she is teaching in September!)

In Discover Gradients, you’ll learn:

  • What the different types of gradients look like when woven (there are typically over 4,000 participants in the Weave-Along, so LOTS of opportunity to get inspiration from seeing other people’s woven projects!)
  • how to choose warp and weft colors for two-color warp gradients – how to keep your colors bright and avoid muddy projects (if you care about keeping your colors bright, that is!)
  • how to design color gradients – how to get a dramatic or smoothly blended color pattern, and how to get a sense of depth with curved gradients
  • how to wind and beam complex warp stripes – whether you warp front to back, back to front, or direct warp on a rigid heddle loom.

Discover Gradients is meant to give you an overview of what you can do with gradients, and allow you to explore three different kinds of woven gradients.

It’s also a great way to have fun! Typically there are about four to five thousand participants in each weave-along, so there’s the opportunity to see a LOT of different people’s work, and the Facebook group is typically buzzing with activity and chatter. It’s a wonderfully fun experience.

The class includes a weekly Live Lecture (Sundays at noon Pacific) and Live Q&A (Wednesdays at 4pm Pacific), as usual, recorded for those who can’t make the live session.

The napkins in Discover Gradients are plain weave, and the yarns used are your choice of 10/2, 8/2, or 3/2 cotton, so you can do this Weave-Along on any loom with two or more shafts, OR on a rigid heddle loom! (That’s right – rigid heddlers are VERY welcome!)

Having said that, if you have more shafts, you will learn a ton of things that you can bring into work with more shafts, so you will still find it worth your while to participate.

We recommend 4 oz each of 4 colors, whichever yarn you choose, and kits will be available from Lunatic Fringe Yarns. More details will be available on Friday when you register.

Gorgeous Gradients and Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive

Gorgeous Gradients and Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive are the in-depth, paid classes that follow the Weave-Along. Registration for these classes will open August 30. I’m teaching the class with help from Michele Belson of Lunatic Fringe Yarns.

Gorgeous Gradients is four weeks long, and covers all six types of gradients in plain weave and 4-end straight and broken twills. These are the structures that are simplest to use with gradients, and often the ones that showcase gradients best. Gorgeous Gradients is four weeks long, beginning October 8 and ending November 5.

In Gorgeous Gradients, you’ll learn:

  • How to design your OWN gradients (as opposed to using pre-fab drafts that we give you) in any of the six gradient types
  • How to do gradients in any number of colors – without getting mud
  • How to design and create double gradients (including some fabulous reversible gradients that look totally different on the opposite side!)
  • Tips for winding your warp and weaving double gradients
  • And a TON more stuff (the “brief” description of what’s in the class is actually a page and a half long!)

The class includes a weekly Live Lecture (Sundays at noon Pacific) and Live Q&A (Wednesdays at 4pm Pacific), as usual, recorded for those who can’t make the live session.

You’ll design and weave a 9″ wide, 30″ long cowl for the class. Most of the cowls in this blog post were woven as class samples, but you’ll design your own, so your piece will be unique to you and your tastes. (Weaving the cowl is totally optional – you can also just follow along and/or do the online design exercises. We’re flexible!)

Gorgeous Gradients welcomes both rigid heddle weavers and shaft-loom weavers. While a lot of drafts are for shaft-loom weavers, the drafts all include plain weave, and there is content specifically for rigid heddle weavers as well.

Gorgeous Gradients is four weeks and will be priced at $99.

Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive

Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive is an optional two-week extension of Gorgeous Gradients, available only to students who register for Gorgeous Gradients. Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive goes beyond plain weave and basic twills and answers the question, “What if I want to use more complex drafts?”

Curved woven gradient on eight shafts
Eight shaft curved woven gradient

In Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive, you’ll learn:

  • Which types of drafts are most appropriate for each gradient type
  • How to choose drafts that allow you to use ANY colors with impunity – without getting mud
  • How to combine gradient types, colors, and draft patterns for truly glorious results

and a bunch more stuff (the list of what’s in the Deep-Dive is likewise very long!)

Gorgeous Gradients Deep-Dive starts as soon as Gorgeous Gradients ends (it’s essentially a two-week extension to the class) and runs through November 19. Live sessions and Q&A are also included.

Because the Deep-Dive is all about more complex drafts, we recommend it for shaft-loom weavers but not for rigid heddle.

The Deep-Dive will cost an additional $49, so Gorgeous Gradients and the Deep-Dive together will be $148 (you cannot buy the Deep-Dive separately).

Classes Summary

Discover Gradients Weave-Along: Free, registration opens July 30, runs August 13-September 3 with free access to class materials through September 10.

Gorgeous Gradients: $99, registration opens August 30, runs October 8 through November 5, lifetime access to course materials.

Gorgeous Gradients + Deep-Dive: $148, registration opens August 30, runs October 8 through November 19, lifetime access to course materials.

Registration is closed for live version of Discover Gradients but you can still purchase Lifetime access here.

Registration is OPEN for Gorgeous Gradients yet, and you can sign up to register here.

That’s it! Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post (the eye candy, at least!), and hope to see you in one or both classes!


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  1. I’m looking forward to the classes, but I also want to take Janet’s class. Will this be possible?
    Rose

    1. Yes, it will. Janet’s class starts just after Discover Gradients finishes and ends a week before Gorgeous Gradients begins. We planned it that way!

  2. I would like to take Gorgeous Gradients + Deep Dive. Am I understanding you correctly that sections of these classes can be done on weaving software? That really appeals to my needs during the timeframe of the courses.

    1. Yes, that’s correct. You don’t *have* to physically weave anything in the class to participate – you can get 90% of the learning just by following along in the color editor exercises (you don’t even need weaving software!).

  3. I have taken several of your classes and am finishing the Stash class now but I am usually between two countries, Guatemala and the US with my looms in Guatemala. So much of the classes I listen to later. This gradient class I will be with my stash and loom in Guatemala so it’ll be great!

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