Color Value

During the last Biennial Yarnworker Survey, a number of weavers noted they needed support with the basics, those fundamental skills that we rely on no matter what we are weaving—yarn selection, project planning and adaptation, basic warping, and weaving techniques. The idea for the Fall 2019 weave-along popped in my head as a fun way to focus on all of these things in a way that you can weave where you are. Most of us have some kind of multicolored or variegated yarn in our stash. During this weave-along, I offered a variegated yarn challenge where we learned to tackle three ways to use them. This will give you an opportunity to adapt a basic pattern to your needs and choose your own sett and colors. You can either focus on fundamental warping techniques or learn a new one. Click to find out more about the Variegated Yarn Challenge. 

Choosing Colors and Selecting Sett

One aspect of color that we will explore in this weave-along is color value. This information is adapted from A Weaver’s Guide to Yarn, page 20.

When it comes to choosing yarn color for weaving, it can come down to this central question: Is contrast important or not? In some weaves, color-and-weave for example, contrast is extremely important. In other applications, you may not want to highlight the differences between colors, but rather focus on highlighting one color or another.

Some weavers create contrast by using complementary colors, but that doesn’t always work. Contrast is created when two color values are different. For instance, a tinted yellow with a tonal purple

A quick way to determine if yarns have value contrast is to take a photo of the two yarns, using your smartphone. Use the edit feature on your camera to change the photo to grayscale. To do this on most smartphones, pull up the photo and select “edit.” Find the color setting and change the saturation to -100 by moving the slider all the way to the left. If you have the option, do the same for hue. You can also use one of the black and white filters, which will give you similar, but not always completely accurate, results.

If you can still see the two colors as distinct shades of gray, then you have decent value contrast. If you can’t see a distinction, then the yarns have low contrast.

Three yarns are shown above in color and with saturation removed. The image stripped of saturation shows how much value contrast each yarn has from the others. If you want to create a high value contrast, you might select the purple and yellow. If you wanted to create a medium value contrast you might choose the blue and pair it with either color. If you wanted low value contrast, none of these yarns would be appropriate as you would want to see very little distinction between them. Colors that have a similar hue can also have contrast from one another, for instance, a dark purple and light purple.

Yarns I’ll Be Using in the Weave-Along 

Sett also plays a role in how you want to bring forward your colors. To give you an idea of how this plays out, below are the yarns I’ll use to demonstrate the techniques during the Fall Weave-Along. Felicia Lo Wong of SweetGeorgia Yarns generously dyed up her Flaxen Silk hand paint in Tea Leaves colorway for the warp and provided various wefts. Who better to turn to for yarn than a color enthusiast, dyer, fellow weaver, and host of her own online school.

From left to right: Doubled warp ends in sett of 8, doubled for an effective sett of 16, with Cashsilk Lace in Wisteria as weft, providing a low contrast; single ends in a sett of 10 with Bulletproof Sock in Wisteria as weft, providing a medium value contrast; and single ends of warp in a sett of 12 with Cashsilk Lace in Ultraviolet as weft, providing high value contrast. The closer the sett, and the finer the weft, the more the warp will pop.


We will take a deeper dive into this when registration opens up on October 16, 2019. Join us!

Heddles Up!