color theory

Color palettes: using yarn wraps for color sampling

Color palettes: using yarn wraps for color sampling

I’ve become a fan of yarn wraps. The kind of yarn wrap where you wind some yarn around a stiff card to look at the color combinations, not the kind that might keep you warm during a polar vortex in Chicago.

I’ve been playing with color a lot lately partly because I just taught a retreat about color in tapestry and partly because I’m in the middle of designing a new large-format tapestry. I think there are two basic ways people approach color choice and design in tapestry weaving. They either design the piece including color choices and then dye or purchase the yarns to match those color needs or they spread out all the colors they have and use those choices as they design.

I am a member of the “design first, find yarn later” club.

Big loom decisions and messing around with color

Big loom decisions  and messing around with color

With #studiofridays in full swing now, I have loom decisions to make.

On my first Friday of the year, I warped my Leclerc loom. To be honest, I don’t have a concrete plan for what to weave on this loom. I do have a consultation client who just purchased one and had some questions about warping. So I cut off the two holiday pieces you can see on it here and set about putting a useable warp on it.

A return to the land of the Dutch... complete with windmills and color theory for tapestry

I spent a wonderful week in Holland, Michigan teaching classes for the Michigan League of Handweaver's Conference. My mother is from Grand Rapids and is 100% Dutch. That makes me half Dutch and that part of me was happy to be back for a few days. I was very impressed by the caliber of teachers at this conference. It is a small conference and was so much fun. I think it would be a great choice even if you don't live near Michigan. It is a conference worth flying to.
This was my room for the three workshops spread over five days. I talked some about the first two in THIS blog post. Monday to Wednesday was a color theory class and I couldn't have asked for a better group of students.

We spent some time working with color aid paper. Anne was working with warm and cool contrast in this example. Paper is a good way to look at color interaction quickly. It is also a good way to start training your eye to see different aspects of color BEFORE you spend a year weaving a tapestry.
On the last day of class Millie was wearing these amazing fish pants. And I caught her working on some paper color projects in the sunshine.
Here a different Anne wove a wonderful study of warm/cool contrast.
And following are a few more studies in value and simultaneous contrast.

This value exercise that Beth did was one of my favorites. When we converted this to black and white, those bars almost all disappeared--the orange-red being the difficult color for everyone in the class.
Jenn's example beelow was turned around the back of the Mirrix loom. I loved the curves. And again, when converted to black and white it was an excellent value study. That orange-red being the one tough nut to crack!
And for those of you who are keeping track, 9 of 12 students in the class had Mirrix looms. That didn't count the two that I brought. This continues to astound me but I am happy to see it. They are great looms (and I will say again, I do not work for Mirrix).

One student with macular degeneration had this great idea to help her visually with her warps. She colored every other warp with a Sharpie, but you could certainly warp the loom with two colors of warp. Bockens makes cotton seine twine at least in the 12/6 size in many colors. This particular student gave me a fabulous idea for a little book the last time I taught at MLH, so probably I should try to spend more time with her. Her ideas are excellent. (The book is still in process, but it will show up one day before too long.) This loom is a Leclerc Penelope, thus the rigid-heddle-like shedding at the top.

And of course the tulips are long gone, but Holland is now sporting some roses.
I didn't go tilting at windmills, but one morning I did take a walk to see this one which I remember visiting as a child. The tourist booth was closed so early in the morning so I walked to an overlook and there it was.
And I love looking for cranes. I always say I'll be a birder when I retire many decades from now.
A crane!!!
My dear uncle and aunt rescued me from Holland and took me to Marie Catrib's for dinner in Grand Rapids. It is a wonderful place for gluten free food. And I'll admit that I added to the glut of deserts I ate over the week by topping it off with one of Marie's salted carmel cupcakes.

Soon I am going to go to my studio and do something I haven't had a chance to do in many weeks. Weave! ...just as soon as I send today's newsletter.

(pssst... if you'd like to get my newsletters, you can sign up HERE.)

Color theory for tapestry -- the fun part is messing around with yarn

Though I have been telling people that I have been having a great time playing with yarn and working through color exercises for an upcoming Color Theory for Tapestry class, the truth actually is that I've been trying to figure out how much will fit into two suitcases and a carry-on. The three very different workshops at Michigan League of Handweavers Conference call for fairly different supplies and whatever I can't fit into my allotted two bags, I have to ship. I could, of course, fly with another checked bag, but I will tell you right now that this is absolutely all I can manage alone in two airports at 6 am.

This was the answer to how much to ship (in re-used HD boxes no less--I figured if they could stand up to 40 pounds of yarn cones, they could handle 20 pounds of balled yarn and Hokett looms).
I pretty much just gave up at the end and shoved as much as I could in these two boxes and hope the people who needed looms told me they did already. My suitcases will only hold a few more. Now that that bridge has been crossed I can go back to weaving my samples and reading about color.

Though I have scaled back on how much yarn dyeing I do for workshops, I do feel that a greyscale is important and that I have to make myself. I haven't found a commercially dyed grayscale that doesn't have an undertone of some other color. The Harrisville Designs grayscale is pretty good, but the yarns are heathered and I want solid colors.

So a lot of this got dyed over the last week.
Eventually I lose my grip on the rest of the world and you can find me out in the garage, perhaps having pulled on a dye-proof shirt, just after rolling out of bed something like this:
7 am tapestry yarn dyeing
The call of the dye pots is a weird and constant thing. Fortunately for me and the status of the house and studio, the last four pots are cooling right now and I can return to weaving more samples.

Here is one sample I've now finished having to do with simultaneous contrast. Yes, those two center red-violets are the exact same color.
And all these adorable little balls of yarn are for the student exercises. Aren't they the cutest thing?
Some of the most fun I've had is weaving samples from different tapestry yarns. One of the most-asked questions by people just getting started in tapestry is about weft yarn. I've collected many different ones in the last few years and I'm presenting them in samples and a yarn card in one of my upcoming workshops. *
This is but a few of the examples I'm bringing for them.
They will be able to make their own sample card for reference when they are ordering yarn in the future.

I am endlessly fascinated by color. I love the stories about dyes and the meaning of colors and I love figuring out color combinations that make me smile. And so the stack of color references grows. These are just the ones that were on my desk.
I have one more week before the next workshops and I suspect I'll use most of it savoring these books and learning more about color... though there are those samples to weave. And once I get them woven I'll post more photos here. Many are done but are still on the scattered bunch of Mirrix looms in the studio.

*Because some of you will ask, Introduction to Tapestry at the Michigan League of Handweavers Conference is the lucky bunch who are getting the sample yarn cards. You can thank me June 6th.

In which the undyed yarn lines itself up on the stairs... and the interminable rain

Things are a little nuts around here, but in a happy, this-is-a-lot-of-fun sort of way. There is nothing better than messing around with yarn and color. Plus I'm not even tempted to take off for a hike in this continuous, incessant, the-sun-is-never-out-anymore rain. (HOW could I complain about that? Maybe the forest won't burn this year. "The rain is lovely", she sobs, hoping for sunshine soon.)

The state of my office and studio has seriously devolved into near-chaos in the last couple weeks. I have started tripping over the stacks of color books on the floor and the other day I spent 20 minutes looking for a color wheel that turned out to be neatly packed in the crate of stuff for the next conference. I'm working on both the presentation and handouts for the color theory class I'm teaching in Michigan in June while making some new samplers and putting together all the little yarn kits for the exercises for the students.
The sticky notes are what hold the whole operation together
In my spare moments I'm churning out some samples. I'll have better photos of these soon. I am reminded how much I don't like weaving tapestry on this little jack loom and wish I had one more Mirrix for these (NO MORE LOOMS!).
Macomber jack loom to the left with tapestry yarn fabric samples and the Mirrix to the right will soon have an complimentary color sample on it.
If my big Macomber in the living room weren't doing such a good job holding the drying yarn (note rain problem), I would use that.
The guest room has become the yarn staging area. (Who am I kidding. We don't have a guest room. That is yarn storage and video-shooting central.)
And the planning of exercises and lectures continues.
And, looking toward some needed dyeing, there are some car/garage questions.
Not only is my elderly car shedding paint at an alarming rate with the added pummeling from the recent relentless perpetual ceaseless rain, but I discovered when I opened the back hatch to load some groceries this morning that the gasket is leaking and the amount of water in the back end of the car is somewhat more than might be acceptable even to me. That said, the old car gets a garage space for the next week while I use the other side for a short run of dyeing.

I will be mostly dyeing the grayscale. Turns out you really can't buy a good grayscale anywhere in tapestry yarn. The colors all have undertones or are heathered. I'm dyeing as much as my biggest pots will take for all those upcoming color classes. That means many days of dyeing but only a couple pots a day. I've used the stairs to the basement to sort things and I'm afraid I'm going to slip and increase the number of scars on my face left from the last tumble down the stairs (which, to my credit, was caused by my dog, not my lack of coordination). I might get blood on the yarn. I think I better get started.
Mezoff yarn sorting area and backpacking equipment storage
Emily just threatened to get tiny goats to eat the jungle that is the back yard (due to the eternal rain I might have mentioned before).
At least the stairs are carpeted.

The value of it all.

Value. I suppose we most often think of that word as referring to what something is worth. But in my world of yarn and dye pots, it mostly means how light or dark a color is. 

We talked a lot about value in the Color Gradation Techniques class I taught last week in Golden, Colorado. This flower was on the porch of the shop and one of the students pointed out what a lovely color gradation it represented. I am pretty sure I couldn't create this with the colors on my shelf, but I think dyeing them might be an upcoming challenge.

I enjoy teaching classes more and more. Either that or this group of people was just extra special. Or maybe every group is extra special. I'm not sure. We had a small class and they were really interested in exploring color gradation ideas and creating effects with the techniques. (Ha! That is probably  why I enjoyed it so much--they were listening!)

When I start seeing things like the photos below, I know we're in for a good time (or that Judy is as crazy organized as I am when it comes to color. It is all about the masking tape.)
Here are a few more photos from the workshop.
And here is a photo of a transparency that Judy did. Her idea came from Josef Albers' book, Interaction of Color. She added a purple to blue gradation on the edges. The bars in the center get lighter, but the red and the edges of the gray bars don't change even though they appear to. Also note the double color gradation in the Greek Key design: greyscale while the background is moving blue to purple.
It is mostly about the value, though being able to tell orange from green is also helpful.

From some of the lovely yarn shelves at the Recycled Lamb...

A fantastic find in Portland...

Today I reached a life-long dream of visiting Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland, Oregon.  It was raining and then HAILING, I had no umbrella and had 10 blocks to walk from the MAX station, but I was not going to be deterred from this destination under any circumstances.
There were maps of the store.  Yes, maps so that when you circled the 8 aisles of cookbooks and couldn't find your way back to travel, you might be able to find your way back to the front of the store.  Of course under the armload of books I was toting and lacking a compass, I was forced to use my cell phone to locate Emily and call for assistance.  I might still be there otherwise.

I was so impressed with this (independent!) bookstore.  They had two entires shelves about pirates.  Here is the evidence:
I don't actually read books about pirates, but the fact that there was a two-shelf section devoted to them was impressive to me (Dad, they had 10 shelves about sailing and nautical navigation!).

Here is a photo of most of the books I came home with--a bunch were on sale too!  I have wanted the Diary of Frida Kahlo for awhile and they had a nice used copy.  I am excited about the John Berger book.  It looks to be about art and the way we see things--a favorite topic of mine.  And the Making Color Sing book was a difficult decision.  It is written for painters, but seemed to have such great suggestions for color use that ultimately it came with me too.  It didn't seem quite like your average color book that just goes over color theory.  She has examples of how to make certain areas of a painting pop out using color and other tricks that I haven't seen anywhere else.  I just hope I can translate paint to dye pot.

Throw in a climbing book, a Portland guide and a book about Crater Lake which I hope to see later in the week (the lake that is as I already have the book)... and you have a nice little load to put my suitcase over the weight limit on the way home.  

And for those of you New Mexicans who have never seen a jackalope, I saw one who had visited a taxidermist and now lives in the Old Curiosity shop in downtown Seattle.