Color Blending Using Multiple Wefts

Four sequential color blends on Aubusson bobbins

Four sequential color blends on Aubusson bobbins

I love blending colors by using multiple strands of thinner yarn in a weft bundle. Instead of having only a few colors, the palette opens up to a broader spectrum of possibilities. The French tapestry tradition has been using this approach to color blending for over 900 years. In the Gothic era, typically only 15 – 20 colors were used in one mural-sized tapestry or series of tapestries. The additional shades and blended colors were made through the use of up to 5 strands in a weft bundle.

My warp is 12/9 cotton seine twine sett at 10 ends per inch.  For weft, I am using 3 strands of a crewel weight, worsted needlepoint wool.

Blend A (top):  1 white, 1 light gray, 1 light mauve with 3 bobbins of each of these colors

Blend A (top):  1 white, 1 light gray, 1 light mauve with 3 bobbins of each of these colors

First, let’s look at using strands of similar values, (value meaning the degree of lightness and darkness. More about this in week 6 of the Blog Tour).  I have picked a light gray, a light mauve, and a white (Blend A).

Bottom stripe of Blend A.  Weaving the low hill out of solid gray.  Note parallel wefts of solid gray in shed.

Bottom stripe of Blend A.  Weaving the low hill out of solid gray.  Note parallel wefts of solid gray in shed.

I have woven the base stripe—about half an inch-- of Blend A, and now am weaving the shape of a low hill with the solid light gray on the right.  (More about weaving shapes, in week 4 of the blog tour).  When weaving any solid color with three strands, in order to have a smooth woven surface, the strands need to lie parallel in the shed, as any twists in the strands will result in a bumpier looking surface.

Two hills of solid light gray and light mauve on each side of the warp, before weaving the center.

Two hills of solid light gray and light mauve on each side of the warp, before weaving the center.

Next, I weave a steeper hill with the light mauve on the right. 

The center will begin as solid white. 

 

In the solid white area, I am next going to add in some of Blend A, by doing some irregular hatching (from week 2 of the blog tour).  Irregular hatching can be woven row-by-row, or it can be woven by creating a series of steps with one bobbin of color and then filling in those steps with a bobbin of a second color.  Here, I weave a sequence of short and long steps with the solid white area, and then fill them in with Blend A

With solid white, creating the first steps for hatching, going from left to right.  Note first step is small--6 warps wide--and the second step is longer--14 warps wide.

With solid white, creating the first steps for hatching, going from left to right.  Note first step is small--6 warps wide--and the second step is longer--14 warps wide.

Weaving with Blend A, filling in the short and longer steps created with the solid white.  This is another way to weave irregular hatching.

Weaving with Blend A, filling in the short and longer steps created with the solid white.  This is another way to weave irregular hatching.

Notice how the lines of the irregular hatching are creating a slight angled area of transition between the woven areas of solid white and Blend A. Gradually, I will weave smaller lines of the solid white as I work my way over to the right edge. I end the solid white, and weave a row or two with Blend A.

Blend B:  1 light mauve, 1 white, 1 bright yellow

Blend B:  1 light mauve, 1 white, 1 bright yellow

Adding Blend B, filling in the short and long steps created with Blend A.

Adding Blend B, filling in the short and long steps created with Blend A.

Next, I make a new weft bundle mixture, adding in a bright yellow, and dropping out the gray for Blend B.  Again, I use irregular hatching,  first by creating a short and long step with Blend A.  Then I weave with Blend B, the short step--over 11 warps--and the longer step over 25 warps.  Because these are mixtures of different colors, I allow the separate strands to randomly twist as I place the weft bundle in the shed.  It helps to create the slightly stippled look.

Blend C:  2 bright yellow, 1 white

Blend C:  2 bright yellow, 1 white

Beginning the hatching of Blend C on left with Blend B on the right.

Beginning the hatching of Blend C on left with Blend B on the right.

I make a new weft bundle mix, dropping out the light mauve and adding a second strand of bright yellow, so that I have 2 strands bright yellow and one strand white for Blend C

Blend D:  1 yellow-orange, 1 pale yellow, 1 bright yellow

Blend D:  1 yellow-orange, 1 pale yellow, 1 bright yellow

On left, Blend D hatching with Blend C

On left, Blend D hatching with Blend C

For Blend D, I drop out the white and combine one yellow-orange, one bright yellow, and one pale yellow.  Notice how vibrant this makes the color, by having three different, but closely related colors mixed together.

Blend E:  1 light blue, 1 yellow-orange, 1 bright yellow

Blend E:  1 light blue, 1 yellow-orange, 1 bright yellow

Now, let’s look at creating weft bundles using strands of contrasting values

For Blend E, I am dropping out one strand of bright yellow and adding a light blue to combine with one strand of yellow-orange and one strand of bright yellow.   Notice how the coolness of the blue and its darker value contrast with warmth and the brightness of the other two strands in this bundle. 

Hatching with Blend D on right and Blend E beginning on the left.

Hatching with Blend D on right and Blend E beginning on the left.

Here, I am starting the small hatch line of Blend E on the right edge.  Notice that I am continuing to allow the weft strands to twist, so that they visually appear as small dots and dashes when woven.

Blend F:  1 bright yellow, 1 light blue, 1 bright blue

Blend F:  1 bright yellow, 1 light blue, 1 bright blue

Blend G:  2 bright blue, 1 light blue

Blend G:  2 bright blue, 1 light blue

For Blend F, I keep the strand of bright yellow and blue, and add in a slightly brighter blue strand.  For Blend G, which will be all blue, I have 2 strands of the slightly brighter blue and one strand of the lighter blue.  I find that by mixing the 2 different blues, it gives the color more vibrancy and life.

Thus, I have created a sequential color transition from Blend A to Blend G.  This is one example of how the use of multiple wefts opens up many possibilities for creating new colors, as well as blended areas that transition from one color or value to the next.  

The finished sample with 7 different mixed color blends and 3 solid colors.

The finished sample with 7 different mixed color blends and 3 solid colors.

The type of yarn that is best to use is thin but firm.  Two-ply crewel weight needlepoint or lace weight wool yarns such as Appleton, Anahera, or Mora work well, as do the Norwegian yarns such as Alv and thin Vevgarn.  Hand spun singles weight wool yarn is also good to use.  Some weavers use cotton embroidery floss, which is available at fabric and crafting stores.  Click here for more information on yarn sources, and tapestry weaving tools.

Bobbins and Shuttles for tapestry weaving

Bobbins and Shuttles for tapestry weaving

Now, let’s look at the tools that can help in weaving with weft bundles.  There are an assortment of bobbins, small flat shuttle, netting shuttles, yarn bobs that can be used.  When winding the bobbin or shuttle, it is important for all the strands to evenly wrap onto the bobbin or small shuttle.  If one strand is looser, then it will make for a bumpier woven surface. 

I prefer using the Aubusson bobbin, sometimes called bone or flute bobbins. These can be wound on a Swedish bobbin winder--the one with the smallest shaft will work for these bobbins. 

 

Aubusson bobbin on Swedish bobbin winder

Aubusson bobbin on Swedish bobbin winder


And the winners are....

Ruth J. Rowell for a free entry to the Tapestry Unlimited Exhibition and a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance.

Nina Kennedy for a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance.

congratulations! 


Every week of this blog tour, you have a chance to enter to win one of two prizes: a one-year membership to the American Tapestry Alliance or a one-year membership to the American Tapestry alliance AND a free entry to the Tapestry Unlimited ExhibitionTo qualify to win, just leave a comment on this post. We will randomly choose two winners on Tuesday, January 26, 2016.  Current ATA members are not eligible to win.

The Blog Tour: 

Week 1:  Vancouver Yarn The Basics of Tapestry Weaving

Week 2:  Rebecca Mezoff Color Blending with Irregular Hatching

Week 3:  Terry Olson Weaving Slits to Create Vertical Lines

Week 4:  Mirrix Looms Weaving Shapes

Week 5:  Elizabeth Buckley Color Blending Using Multiple Wefts 

Week 6:  Sarah Swett The Value of Tapestry

This blog tour is in celebration of ATA's annual unjuried exhibtion. Tapestry Unlimited; 11th International, Unjuried Small Format exhibition is open to all weavers. We are expecting upwards of 250 participants who will show their work at the Milwaukee Public Library this upcoming summer. Everyone who signs up to participate by January 31st, 2016 will be included in the exhibition, and your tapestry does not need to be mailed to us until March 2016. There is an exhibition fee of $40 which pays for both the return postage for you tapestry, as well an exhibition catalog, in which everyone’s tapestry will be featured.  We invite entries woven within more traditional definitions of tapestry, as well as ones which expand upon them, including multimedia work.

The American Tapestry Alliance (ATA) is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions, both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centers and online, along with exhibition catalogs. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos and CODA, an annual digest.