Do your brightly colored yarns look fabulous on the cone, but blend into dull, boring colors when you weave them into your handwoven cloth?
Here’s a way to fix that. Pair a light yarn with a dark yarn, and presto! your handwoven design will become brighter and clearer.
To understand how this works, look at the handwoven swatches below.
The sample above blends bright orange with bright green. The colors are brilliant where they cross themselves, but when the orange and green interlace, they create a uniform dingy brown, and the piece as a whole is not exciting despite the brightly colored yarns.
Now, here’s a swatch woven with bright green and dark red.
Even though the hue hasn’t changed much, the design appears much sharper. At a distance, the solid colors stand out, and the diagonal lines of the twill are clearly visible.
What’s the secret? It’s very simple. The orange and green are about equally dark, but the red is quite a bit darker than the green, so the design stands out more clearly. That’s because our eyes are much better at distinguishing lightness and darkness than at distinguishing colors. As a result, designs with strong light/dark contrast stand out much more clearly than designs with colors that are about equally dark (or light).
Let’s look at both images in black and white. The green and orange design is blurry and indistinct; the red and green design shows much more clearly.
The greater the difference in black and white, the more clearly the pattern will show in real life. Here’s a medium green woven with a white yarn. This has more black and white contrast than either the red and green or the orange and green:
And if you use one very dark and one very light color? You get a very bold pattern indeed. Here’s a navy blue yarn woven with yellow, in the same pattern as the other samples.
Notice how clearly the colors stand out from each other, and the crispness of the twill’s diagonal lines? That’s because the yellow is very light and the blue very dark, as you can see in the black and white version of the photo:
So next time you find your bright colors muddying…try changing to a pair of colors with strong light/dark contrast. It will help your design stand out clearly.
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