by Michele Belson and Katzy Luhring
One of the joys of weaving is how color interacts in the cloth. When weft crosses the warp, it changes the apparent color of the warp, sometimes quite dramatically.
This interaction is a result of the warp and weft alternating between being on top of the fabric and below it. This creates tiny dots and dashes of color that act like pixels on a computer screen, optically mixing in the viewer's eye to create a new color. The resulting color can either be delightful, or...not.
Enter the color gamp, a tool for test-driving color combinations and a weaver's best friend when planning beautiful, colorful, projects.
In generic terms, a gamp is a fabric that tells us what happens when different colors, weave structures, or types of thread intersect. You can weave color gamps, twill gamps, differential-shrinkage gamps, etc. In a gamp, the warp consists of different sections of the element you are testing (e.g., color, structure, sett, or fiber) and then the fabric is woven as drawn in. In other words, you weave weft stripes that follow the pattern set up in the warp.
A color gamp is a cloth that contains a set of color stripes in the warp that are crossed by a set of color stripes in the weft. Weaving a color gamp with the colors you're considering for your project will let you see immediately which warp/weft combinations work, and which don't. It also creates a permanent color reference that you can refer to for future projects.
Because you weave the colors as drawn in, the diagonal of a color gamp contains blocks of pure color (green crossing green, blue crossing blue, etc.) The other blocks contain blended colors in the warp and weft.
The weave structure you choose also affects how the colors interact because the placement and size of warp and weft floats changes with the structure. Because of this, you should weave the color gamp in the structure you plan to use for your project.
To understand how weave structure and color interplay, consider the following types of color gamps:
- A plain-weave gamp with 3 colors in the warp and weft will have 9 color sections in the finished cloth: 6 unique sections and 3 redundant sections, because red crossed with blue in balanced plain weave is exactly the same as blue crossed with red. Of all the color gamps, a plain-weave gamp will have the most color blending, because plain weave is the structure with the tightest interlacement of threads (i.e.,the fewest floats).
- An unbalanced-twill gamp (such as a 3/1 twill) will have 9 unique sections because the red warp crossed with blue weft looks different than the blue warp crossed with red weft. In addition, an unbalanced twill has two sides that look different, because on one side the warp will be dominant, and on the other the weft is dominant.
- A huck-lace gamp produces blocks with spots of pure hues because, in some parts of the gamp, the warp and weft blend and in other parts (where the lace floats occur) they do not.
Expand this concept to work with 12, or 20, or 27 colors and multiple weave structures, and you can create gamps with a lot of information about how color and weave structure mix.
If weaving a color gamp seems like a lot of work, consider this: painters can mix colors on the palette, woodworkers can test stain on scrap wood, but weavers don't get to check their color combination until the warp is on the loom.
A color gamp is worth its weight in gold as a reference tool because you can examine its color combinations when planning your projects and accurately predict how two colors will look in the finished cloth. Isn't weaving a beautiful color reference more fun than tearing a project warp off your loom because the colors that looked so beautiful on the cones didn't work when woven together?
If you weave with a standard palette of yarns, the color gamp you weave today will be a woven reference that you return to again and again.
Designing a Color Gamp
There are two philosophies to weaving color gamps. The first is to take the yarns you intend to use for a given project and use those in a gamp. In this method, the gamp is part of your sampling for a particular project or range of yarns.
Another philosophy is to weave a reference gamp out of pure hues, isolating all other variables of the yarn, to create a gamp where color is the only variable. This kind of gamp focuses on color in the abstract, and is a reference—much like a color wheel—that you can use for the rest of your weaving career. In this article, we focus on this second type of color gamp.
In order to remove everything but color from the variables in the gamp, the yarns you use all need to have the same fiber, size, mill processing, and twist. For example, a section of 8/2 unmercerized cotton in a gamp of 10/2 mercerized cotton will stand out and the differences in its yarn will obscure the color effects.
Once you've found the yarn you are going to use for your gamp, you need enough yarn of each color for both warp and weft. For a color-wheel gamp, you should choose clear, bright hues in roughly equal steps across the spectrum of colors.
Arranging the placement of colors in a gamp is an enjoyable exercise. It's fun to line up cones and shift them around until you get a placement that makes you happy. There is no right or wrong way to do it, just note that the yellows and bright blue will create the most noticeable stripes in the cloth because they are the colors with the highest value. Decide where you want these bright lines to appear in your gamp: in the center, one side or the other, or offset. Have fun with this part!
When you weave a gamp, consider putting on enough warp to weave several different weave structures. Weaving multiple gamps on one warp is quicker and more thrifty than weaving them on multiple warps. In addition to the gamps you keep as reference tools, gamps make wonderful baby blankets, throws, and fabric for garments.
Rethreading Your Loom
If you are going to weave multiple structures on the same warp, you will likely need to rethread your loom (unless you plan things so that all the weave structures use the same threading). This is not a big deal, however, and is much easier than winding a new warp and saves yarn that would otherwise be lost to loom waste.
Here are the steps for rethreading a loom:
- Before you cut the old project off the loom, you need to re-establish the cross by inserting the lease sticks behind the shafts. This is so important we're going to say it a second time. The rethreading process starts before you cut the old threading off the loom.
- Find your plain-weave treadles (Note: if you are weaving multiple structures and some of them have a clear plain-weave treadling and some don't, weave the ones that allow plain-weave first so you will have a good threading cross when you are ready to rethread.)
- Tromp the first plain-weave treadle. Insert a lease stick into the shed that you just created behind the shafts.
- Tromp the second plain-weave treadle, and insert another lease stick into the shed that you just created behind the shafts.
- Check the cross you just created to make sure there are no dropped or skipped threads.
- Once you are sure that you recreated your threading cross behind the shafts, tie the ends of the lease sticks together or secure them as you usually do when threading your loom.
- Now you can cut the old project off the loom and pull the warp threads back through the heddles. You are now ready to rethread your loom. Your setup should look as it did when you threaded the loom for the first gamp.
Color Gamp Series
The following directions describe how to weave three color gamps, one in plain weave, one in twill and one in huck lace. We recommend starting with the plain-weave gamp, then weaving the twill gamp using the same threading, and finally rethreading the loom for the huck-lace gamp.
Four-shaft loom with a weaving width of 35 inches or more.
(Note: you can weave the plain-weave gamp on a two-harness or rigid-heddle loom. If your loom is narrower than 35 inches, you can weave the gamp in panels or weave smaller sections of color.)
Warp and Weft
Twenty colors of Lunatic Fringe Yarn's Tubular Spectrum in 10/2 mercerized cotton.
The colors are: 10 Purple Blue, 5 Purple Blue, 10 Blue, 5 Blue, 10 Blue Green, 5 Blue Green, 10 Green, 5 Green, 10 Green Yellow, 5 Green Yellow, 10 Yellow, 5 Yellow, 10 Yellow Red, 5 Yellow Red, 10 Red, 5 Red, 10 Red Purple, 5 Red Purple, 10 Purple, 5 Purple.
24 ends per inch.
Note: Rigid-heddle weavers can weave this sett by using the double-heddle method of warping and two 12-dent heddles.
Note: Because we like 10/2 mercerized cotton yarn, and we strive to keep our lives simple, we weave all our gamps at 24 epi, even though twill, huck lace, and plain weave are often sett slightly differently. If you want to use different setts for each of your gamps, beam the warp at the width of the widest project (loosest sett), and then sley and weave the narrowest project first. It is easier to spread out your warp in the reed for successive projects than it is to make it narrower. The reason for beaming at the loosest sett is that your selvages and tension will be better if the warp is beamed equal to or wider than your weaving area.
Width on the loom: 35 inches wide
Width of finished cloth: approximately 32 inches (depending on weave structure)
Length of woven cloth: 32-34 inches
Wind a 4-yard warp of 42 ends of each the twenty colors (840 threads total). Beam the warp 35 inches wide.
Thread the loom using the straight-draw threading (1,2,3,4) with the color placement as shown below.
Drafts for Plain Weave and 2/2 Twill
Thread shafts (1,2,3,4) 10 times with the first color, then thread shafts (1,2) with the first color, followed by shafts (3,4) with the second color, and then (1,2,3,4) 10 times with the second color. Repeat with third and fourth colors, fifth and sixth colors, etc.
When weaving color gamps, strive to weave the blocks square so your finished gamp will be square. Weave the colors in the weft in the same order as they are in the warp. Hemstitch at the beginning and end of each gamp to secure the weft, and leave 8 inches between gamps for fringe (4 inches for each gamp). Remember to count your beginning and ending loom waste as fringe for your gamps.
The plain weave color study is the core of any weaver's investigation into color interaction. Weaving it is easy, but attention to detail and good technique will give you a piece of cloth of amazing beauty for reference and enjoyment. Most woven structures have plain weave built into them, so it is easy to combine a plain weave gamp with one from another structure without rethreading. When you weave this gamp, try to beat evenly and weave it to square. In other words, try for the same number of weft threads per inch as warp threads, 24 picks per inch.
A straight 2/2 twill will give you lots of information about twill color interactions. You can also add interest and originality by using a point twill, with reverses at the color change, the center of the block, or both.
In the gamp below, we wove a straight 2/2 twill and reversed the treadling direction in the center of the color block to create vertical chevrons.
Because we live in warm, humid Florida, light and airy huck lace is one of our favorite weave structures.
Traditionally, huck lace is woven at 20 epi when using 10/2 mercerized cotton yarn. A 20 epi sett is great for weaving an all-over lace. We prefer a firmer sett of 24 epi, with plain-weave borders around each lace block. The holes still open nicely, and the plain-weave sections give the piece more structure. And because you are using plain weave and huck lace together in your gamp, it gives you color information about two weave structures in a single project.
Draft for Huck Lace Blocks in Plain Weave Ground
Thread shafts (1,4) three times to create plain-weave borders, then thread (1,2,1,2,1, 4,3,4,3,4) three times for the huck lace component, then thread shafts (1,4) three times for the final plain-weave border. Repeat this sequence with each color.
Eight-Shaft Gamp Options
With an 8-shaft point twill you have a wide variety of tie-up/treadling possibilities. Why not weave a set of napkins, each in a different twill pattern?
Wind a 7-yard warp containing 28 ends of each color (560 ends total). Thread your loom with a standard point twill (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,7,6,5,4,3,2) twice for each color. Beam the warp 20 inches wide.
Below are some point-twill drafts showing a few of the treadling possibilities.
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Combining Value & Color in a Gamp
After years of weaving many, many variations of the color gamp, we added five shades of gray and began doing value gamps. In a rare lull at Convergence in Vancouver, the vendor across the hall from us—the talented and generous Randall Darwall—wandered over, looked over the color gamp samples and value gamp samples and made the off-hand comment, "Why don't you weave those together?" And so a new area of exploration was launched!
This was a beautiful lesson to us -- there is always more to discover in color interactions and weaving. After nineteen years of weaving gamps, we are still learning and finding new ways to revel in color. We hope you have as much fun as we do with your exploration of color!
- The book The Magic of Handweaving by Sigrid Piroch has a chapter "Weave a Rainbow" which discusses color gamp theory and includes instructions for weaving four different types of color gamp.
"Weaving is fun!" is the motto of Katzy Luhring and Michele Belson, co-owners of Lunatic Fringe Yarns. Katzy and Michele have a diverse background in the weaving world, and a passion for bright colors, fun projects, and crazy yarns (and not just the fiber kind). Katzy and Michele wear many hats these days (moms, weavers, dyers, teachers and chief Lunatics.) They have their fun in warm, north Florida, near Tallahassee.
Weaving color gamps has given them more than color references to hang on their walls; it launched their business. Their quest for a yarn to weave color gamps is how Lunatic Fringe Yarns got its start. They couldn't find a yarn in the full color spectrum, so they contracted with US dye houses to dye their own line of cotton yarns they call the Tubular Spectrum.
Photography: John Nalon