A collection of painted warp samples

I’m developing a seminar on painted warps for ANWG 2019, which will become an online class later in 2019. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on design with you over my next few blog posts. Today I’m going to talk about the basics of designing with painted warps.

Designing with painted warps is basically about two things: What colors to showcase and what pattern to emphasize.

First, you have to choose what colors you want to feature: The colors of the painted warp, the color of the weft, or a blend of the warp and weft colors. Most people want to emphasize the colors of their painted warp, which is understandable, considering the effort and expense that goes into creating the dyed warp!

There are several ways to focus attention on the painted warp colors. You can use weave structure or sett to ensure that the piece is warp-dominant on the side that faces the viewer. You can blend the warp with a neutral color. Or you can use a draft that keeps the warp separate from the weft, and use an inconspicuous weft color, allowing the warp to shine. (Some of these methods are covered in this blog post.)

But there may be times when you want to use a painted warp as a background for a beautiful draft, or when you want to blend the painted warp with a weft color for a painterly effect. Blending the painted warp with a carefully chosen weft color can produce beautiful results.

For example, these two swatches were woven on similar colored painted warps, using the same 8-shaft draft – one is woven with a weft color that preserves the original painted-warp colors, one is woven with a soft pink weft that creates beautiful color blends.

(The vertical yarn sample shows the painted warp; the horizontal yarn sample shows the weft.)

painted warp sample blended with a neutral color weft
painted warp sample woven with a soft pink weft

I’ll talk more about how to choose wefts for blending in an upcoming blog post. (And, of course, there will be far more details in my ANWG seminar and my soon-to-come online course!)

The other design decision you’ll need to make is which pattern you want to be most visible: the pattern of colors in your painted warp, or the pattern in your draft. For example, in this swatch, the woven pattern is most prominent, and the mottled blue warp is simply a background pattern:

painted warp sample with a mottled blue warp and pale pink weft
mottled blue warp with a much lighter, pale pink warp

But in this sample, the woven pattern is much less distinct, allowing the dyed pattern to show more clearly.

mottled blue warp with a blue warp of similar darkness
painted warp sample, also with a mottled blue warp but with a blue weft similar in darkness to the warp


If you want to showcase the pattern in the draft, use a weft color with strong light/dark contrast with your painted-warp colors, as in the first sample.

If you want to showcase the color pattern in your painted warp, though, use a weft color that creates a subtle pattern when interlaced with the colors in your painted warp. The easiest way to do this is to use a weft color that is similar in darkness to the colors in your painted warp, as in the second sample.

I’ll cover all this in more detail in my painted-warp seminar at ANWG 2019 (June 14, 2019 – don’t miss it!), and in my online course (coming later this year). If you’d like to be notified about the online course when I release it, sign up for my newsletter! (You’ll also get notifications of my new blog posts – including an upcoming series about painted warps – so this is a great time to be signing up.)

Happy weaving!


If you want to know more about how to create crisp, clear designs – or subtle ones – 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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