Painted warps are beautiful. But they can be difficult to design with. Painted-warp colors can change radically when woven, depending on your weft yarn colors and your choice of design. This blog post gives you four ways to showcase the beautiful colors of your painted warp.
(These methods will also work when designing with painted skeins, though the results will look somewhat different. More on that in a future blog post!)
Method 1: Use a denser sett to make your painted warp shine.
One way to preserve the beauty of your painted warp is to make the fabric warp-dominant on both sides. Using a denser sett than usual will crowd the warp threads together, making the weft less visible.
Here is a painted-warp sample in 10/2 cotton, using the medium gray weft pictured at the left of the image. Both warp and weft are 10/2 cotton.
A balanced plain weave would call for a sett of 24 ends per inch (10 ends/centimeter). But I chose a denser sett for this sample – 30 epi (12 ends/centimeter). The resulting fabric is slightly warp-dominant, and the painted warp glows. (Click the image to see the larger version.)
Because using a denser sett results in fewer weft threads per inch than warp ends per inch (in a balanced weave they would be equal), this method works best when weaving simple structures such as plain weave. More complex structures will appear to be stretched lengthwise. For example, twill angles will become steeper (more than 45 degrees), twill blocks that would be square in a balanced weave will become tall rectangles, and so on. The degree of distortion depends on how much denser the warp is sett than it would be for a balanced weave.
Method 2: Use a finer weft to showcase the painted warp.
This is a painted warp in 10/2 cotton yarn, with a 20/2 cotton weft. The warp is roughly twice as thick as the weft. The sett is 30 epi (12 ends/cm), and the structure is plain weave.
Compared to the previous method, the finished cloth looks similar from a distance. However, viewed close up, the finer weft blends in more, while the thicker weft is more visible. The thinner weft also produces a thinner cloth with softer drape. Both methods work well; choose whichever method works best for your finished fabric.
Here are close-ups of the samples, which illustrate the differences. The first sample is shown with a dense sett and thicker warp:
And here is the sample using a thinner weft:
Using a finer weft can stretch or compress a woven pattern depending on sett density and weft size. In addition, since this is a warp-emphasis fabric, more warp than weft will show in the finished fabric. So simple structures such as plain weave will work nicely, but if your pattern needs to weave square, or you want bold patterning, try other approaches first.
Method 3: Choose a warp-dominant structure to show off your painted warp
If only one side of your fabric will be visible, you can showcase the colors of your painted warp by choosing a weave structure that shows more warp on one side. For example, 3/1 twill will produce a warp-dominant fabric on the top of the fabric, since 75% of the warp is on top.
Of course, the reverse side will be weft-dominant, so less of the painted warp will show. But the results can still be quite attractive, though the mood will be different.
Here is an example showing the original warp, the top side, and the reverse side of a 3/1 twill fabric. The warp and weft yarns are 10/2 cotton, and the sett is 30 epi (12 epc) to achieve a balanced twill. (Click on the image to view the larger version.)
Both sides of the fabric are attractive, but one has a bright, cheery feel, the other more foggy and muted. Woven into a scarf, you could wear it with very different clothing styles, simply by choosing which side to make visible.
Method 4: Create blocks of color to make sure the your painted warp colors show clearly.
If you want to create fabric with clear patterning, but an equal amount of warp on both sides, the best way to showcase your painted warp colors is to design a fabric that alternates warp-dominant areas with weft-dominant areas. The bigger the chunks of color, the more brightly your warp will shine.
Here are two samples. The first is woven in a 2/2 birdseye twill, which blends warp and weft fairly evenly; the second is 1/3 vs. 3/1 twill blocks, which blends them in larger patches. The warp is 10/2 cotton, the weft is black 10/2 cotton.
Both fabrics are beautiful, and you might choose either depending on your intent for the cloth, but the colors are more vivid in the sample with larger chunks of color. Both fabrics are reversible.
Choosing weft colors
You may have noticed that all the weft colors used in this blog post are neutral colors: Black, white, and grays. Because these colors are neutral, they tend not to change the hue (color family) of other colors much. So if you want to showcase the original colors of the painted warp, neutral colors are generally a safe choice. More opinionated colors, such as blue or orange or purple, can produce spectacular fabrics, but they can also change or dull the colors in your painted warp. So while you can absolutely use bright-colored wefts successfully with painted warps (and you should definitely try using them!), it’s a good idea to test the color combinations first, either by simulating the color mixes in weaving software or by weaving physical samples.
Black is often recommended for painted warps because – being the darkest color – it makes other colors look brighter and lighter by comparison. The eye pays more attention to light and bright colors than it does to dark, dull ones. So – woven into a painted warp – black will recede into the background, allowing your your painted warp to show clearly. A white warp will do the opposite – because it is lighter than all other colors, it will “come forward,” with the potential for dominating your warp.
Here are two samples, one woven with white and another with black weft. Both warp and weft are 10/2 cotton, at a sett of 30 epi. The structure is 3/1 vs. 1/3 twill blocks.
In the sample with white weft, the white areas dominate, and the warp appears hidden behind the patches of white. But in the black-weft sample, the black areas recede, while the intensely colored warp pops forward.
Gray can be an interesting choice – and is explored far less often than it should be – because it will likely be lighter than some of your colors and darker than others. When you weave using blocks of gray, the lighter colors “come forward” and the darker colors recede, giving the illusion of motion.
Here is a sample woven in the same 1/3 vs. 3/1 block twill as the previous samples, but with a medium gray weft:
In the darker areas, the gray dominates. In the medium colors, such as the green, the gray blends in. In the lighter areas, the yellow comes forward. This produces a “hide and seek” effect with the warp colors.
In more evenly blended weave structures, black will darken the colors and white will bleach them. (See my blog article “How to use black to give handwoven fabrics pizzazz” for an explanation of how and why this works.) Grays, on the other hand, will soften the colors without lightening or darkening them as much as black or white. This can result in a pleasing watercolor effect.
To illustrate the different impacts of gray and black, here are two samples, each woven in 3/1 twill, one using black and the other a medium gray weft. Both warp and weft are 10/2 cotton, sett at 30 epi (12 epc). The middle sample shows the warp-dominant side; the right-hand samples shows the weft-dominant side.
While the colors in the black-weft sample feel more intense, they are also considerably darker and moodier than the colors in the gray-weft sample. The gray weft softens the colors without darkening them, producing a dreamy, watercolor effect.
None of these choices is intrinsically better than the others, of course – it all depends on your intent for the cloth. Black intensifies colors but also darkens them; gray softens the colors; and white bleaches them. Which you choose is up to you!
If you want to showcase the colors in your painted warp, this blog post offers four easy ways to do it:
- Use a denser sett than you would for a balanced weave, producing a warp-dominant fabric on both sides.
- Choose a much finer weft yarn, which also produces a warp-dominant fabric on both sides.
- Pick a structure that shows more warp than weft on one side.
- Design using a weave structure that alternates large chunks of warp-dominant fabric with large chunks of weft-dominant fabric, such as 1/3 vs. 3/1 twill in blocks or stripes. This produces a fabric that shows equal amounts of warp and weight on both sides, but still shows the warp colors clearly.
While you can and should experiment with strongly colored wefts, neutral wefts are a safe choice when you want to preserve the hues of your painted warp. Black is often used because it tends to intensify and “bring forward” the colors in your warp. However, black will also darken your colors and make them feel moodier. Gray will soften (and dull) the colors without darkening them as much as black would, and can add the illusion of motion to a piece. And white will tend to dominate and/or bleach your colors.
I hope you have found this post useful! If you would like to get notification of new blog posts and upcoming classes, please sign up for my newsletter (and my free e-book!) using the links below. And, of course, please feel free to share on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, by clicking on the buttons below this article.
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. (If you’re already subscribed, just register again – you won’t get double the email, I promise!)