One common problem when working with stash yarns (or any limited color palette) is what to do with that screamingly loud color that threatens to take over your piece. You know what I mean – brilliant yellow, poison green, Halloween orange – that one color that is so much brighter than the others that it sticks out like a sore thumb.
There are a couple ways to tackle these colors. One is simply to use less of them. Even the most domineering color can turn into a charming accent if used in tiny amounts, or with a draft that shows only a little bit of it on the public side of the fabric.
But what if you’re trying to use up a color – for example, if you’re weaving with stash yarns and you’re trying to use up that bright orange yarn that you “inherited” from an estate sale? That’s where color arrangement comes in. You can do a surprising amount to tone down a color just by choosing how to arrange it in your piece. Today, we’re going to talk about one of the simplest arrangements: Stripes.
Big blocks strengthen colors, small blocks weaken them
Big blocks of color – wide stripes being a great example – concentrate and intensify colors, while narrow stripes and small dots of color tend to blend with their neighbors. Consider this yellow and green log cabin design vs. the yellow and green check fabric:
In both cases, equal amounts of yellow and green appear in the fabric, but in the first swatch, the yellow dominates the fabric, while in the second, it doesn’t.
Yellow is a very dominant color, and in the checkered fabric, the big blocks of yellow concentrate its power and grab your attention. But in the log cabin fabric, the single-thread stripes diffuse yellow’s power, blending it with the neighboring green so it doesn’t grab the eye as intensely.
You can use this principle to tone down domineering colors in your piece without reducing the amount of that color in your piece. That’s great if you want to use up (finally!) that screaming orange yarn that’s been languishing in your stash for awhile.
How to prevent a domineering color from taking over
The simple principle is this: Use your domineering color in narrow stripes, and use the other colors in wide stripes. This will increase the visual impact of the other colors while diluting the impact of the dominant color, and balance the feel of the piece.
If the domineering color is truly obnoxious, try mixing it in thread-by-thread stripes with a much duller color – one that’s about the same darkness will be best – to tone it down.
You can see how this works in these three swatches, all woven on the same warp with the same four weft yarns.
Here are the weft colors:
Notice how much brighter and assertive the pink is than the other colors!
When woven in stripes of equal width, the pink jumps out at you:
But if you break up the pink into smaller stripes, the strength of the color is diluted, and it doesn’t stand out nearly as strongly:
And if you break it into single-thread stripes and alternate it with the dull purple, it blends with its neighboring color, the dull purple, and becomes quite sedate:
In all cases the same amount of the domineering color are being used – and just as much of it is being used as the less assertive colors! – but the impact of the color is diffused by using it in narrower and narrower stripes.
So that’s one way to use up a domineering color in your stash without having it totally take over your project: Use it in narrower stripes!
Distribute the dominant color over a larger area, rather than concentrating it in one spot. And keep the other colors concentrated in larger stripes to increase their visual impact. That will help bring color balance into your piece.
Interested in learning more tricks for weaving from your stash? Learn more about Stash Weaving Success, an online course that teaches you how to transform those old, tired stash yarns into beautiful new projects. Tien Chiu and Janet Dawson will teach this eight-week course that you can take in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, with live demos and live Q&A sessions as well as prerecorded, access anytime lessons (the demos and Q&A sessions will also be recorded). Check out the course!