Designing Warps: How to Use Yarn Wrappings

There are many ways to set about designing for weaving , but one of my favorite tools is the humble yarn wrapping. It is a simple but very effective way of trying out different combinations of colors and textures.

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The ingredients are very modest: a selection of yarns and a strip of stiff card, about one inch wide. It’s an excellent use for the card you often find in the packaging of shirts or bed linen. Use a craft knife to cut it into strips, which you can keep handy for whenever a weaving inspiration strikes!

The wrapping process is also straightforward. You simply take a yarn and wrap it around the card, so that it is snug enough to cover the card. You can wind a single strand or several strands together. When you want to finish using a particular yarn, cut the end and tape it down on the back of the card.

I use wrappings in several different ways and will describe three approaches here.

Narrowing down color choices

There is no substitute for sampling ! But if you want to narrow down your choice of warp and weft yarns before you start, then wrapping is a great way to test color combinations.

In the wrapping below, I was trying out different shades of blue, green and grey for a design which needed three colors in total. Each trio of yarns is wrapped in two ways: one has a small block of each color, and one has the colors are all wrapped together.

Wrapping two or three colors together is a good way of seeing the effect of optical blending which you will get when you use them as warp and weft.

Choosing proportions

Suppose you are planning a striped warp: how wide should the stripes be? You can use a wrapping to try out relative amounts of different colors.

In the wrapping below I wanted to try out stripes of brick, white and gold, inspired by this image of Horsey Windmill which appeared on a calendar I was given.

Note that the stripes do not need to be full size – what matters here are the relative quantities of the three colors.

Once I have made a wrapping which pleases me, I can measure the widths of the stripes and scale them to any size I want. In this case they turned out to be in the proportions 6 gold : 1 white : 3 brick.

Suppose that I want my narrowest (white) stripe to be half an inch wide. To get the widths of the other stripes I just need to multiply each number by ½. If I want my narrowest stripe to be two inches wide, I need to multiply each number by two, and so on. Then I will use an appropriate sett for my yarn to determine how many ends it will take to achieve a stripe of that width.

The additional wrappings at the right serve to test two different shades of blue as possible wefts by wrapping the colors together.

Creating a complete warp design

You can use a wrapping to create a complete warp design. An easy way to start is to use an image as inspiration – it could be a photo, a collage, or your own sketch. In this example I made a pastel sketch of a seashell and then based my wrapping on the color transition from purple to creamy yellow.

Although this wrapping is only seven inches wide, by scaling it up as before I can turn it into a plan for a warp of any width.

These are just some of the ways in which using wrappings can help you to design a beautiful warp.

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April 24, 2015
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Designing Warps: How to Use Yarn Wrappings