Value Contrast

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.

A lot of 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 yarn are shown above in color and with no saturation. 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. 

Shown here are the yarns I will be using to demonstrate the techniques during the Fall Variegated Yarn Challenge Weave-Along. I’m using using SweetGeorgia Yarns Flaxen Silk hand paint in Tea Leaves colorway for the warp and various wefts; from left to right: low value contrast using Cashsilk Lace in Wisteria in a sett of 8 doubled each yarn in warp and weft for an effective sett of 19; medium value contrast using Bulletproof Sock in Wisteria in a sett of 10, and high value contrast using Cashsilk lace in Ultraviolet in a sett of 12. Sett also plays a role. The closer the sett and finer the weft the more the warp will pop.