PRECISION VARIEGATED WARPING
(A novel way to weave solid blocks of color.)

 

While watching my wife warp her loom with variegated yarn it occurred to me that because the color patterns repeat in these yarns, using the sticky-board warping technique featured in the AN ENGINEER WARPS A LOOM page would enable a loom to be warped with solid blocks of color. Then, if unvariegated yarns matching those colors were used it for each block it would be easy to weave cloth with solid blocks of color.

I decided to test the idea. Using my wife's Ashford Knitter's loom and the sticky-board warping technique I warped it by starting each individual variegated warp yarn at the beginning of the same color. By selecting a warp length that was a whole number multiple of the repeated variegation pattern of dark blue-light blue-white-tan I avoided having to cut off and throw away sections of yarn to make the colors match.

Warping proceeded easily and quickly yielding the following:

The first thing I learned is that the process of pulling the yarn off the sticky boards and tying it to the apron rods (I think that's what they're called) invariably shifts some of the yarns so that the color changes no longer line up. Pulling and stretching individual lines can help realign them but it may be impossible to get a perfectly straight line. The next time I do this I'll use thinner sticky boards and simply use them as the apron rods by winding the yarn on them without pulling it off.

Once I found out I really could warp a loom like this, I visited craft stores to purchase matching skeins of solidly colored yarn. That's when I ran into the biggest problem with this technique: matching colors.

It was very difficult to find solid skeins of the same type and color of yarn found in the variegated yarn. In the end I had to compromise by accepting the closest matching color available. In the case of the dark blue and cream white I was able to find nearly perfect matches. The light blue was actually a greenish turquoise that was impossible to match. I had to settle on a green-blue that was a little lighter. The only tan I found that matched the tan in the variegated yarn was thinner and shinier. It looks okay from a distance but up close the mismatch is noticeable. Still, this is only a quick proof-of-concept test.

With yarn in hand I proceeded to weave, changing weft colors to match warp colors for each block. As a first attempt it came out better than expected.

Viewed close there is no checkerboard pattern usually seen in woven items of this type caused by the blocks being made up of, typically, white warp yarns and colored weft yarns. Any hints of this in the photo above are simply the effects of light reflecting deferentially off varying angled yarns.

(At this point I need to comment that the transitions on the test piece aren't as sharp as shown in the image above. Reducing the size of the image to fit on this page reduced the resolution so that subtle variations were lost.)

I recommend using variegated yarns with very sharp transitions and short distances between different colors. Long transitions where one color slowly blends into another will create areas of checkerboarding between the solid areas.

While a straight pattern was used for this page there is no reason why the variegations couldn't be shifted relative to each other to create diagonals or chevrons for truly innovative designs.

The process isn't perfect. The demarcations between blocks of color are only as sharp and even as the transitions in the variegated yarn and the precision with which these transitions are aligned. Still, it's an interesting technique that provides the adventurous weaver with one more trick up his or her sleeve.

 

 

 
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