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  • Sara Nordling

Elements of Design: Value

Value is the lightness or darkness of a hue (color). Hue will be discussed in the next section. For now I will stick with value

It is easier to find the value of some hues than other ones. If you are working with black, white, and gray it’s very easy. If you are working with hot pink, green, and blue the comparative values might be harder to see. Hues that are very intense or saturated can make finding the value more challenging as does yellow.

How do you know what value a hue has? The more you work with hues and values the more trained your eye becomes to noticing the differences in them. To help train your eye, try squinting at the values in question. Squinting will reduce the amount of information coming into your eye. When this happens you can more easily see the comparative value of two hues. Another trick is to take a quick photo with your phone and convert it to a black and white image.

Black and white version of colored square weaving

Weaving of colored squares

Color and black and white versions of a weaving to show values of the hues.

The value of a yarn can also appear to change, relative to what surrounds it. Try this at home to see what I mean. Paint a gray scale of ten or so, one-inch square blocks all in a line from light to dark. Paint an extra, smaller, square of the middle color on another area of your paper. When dry, cut out this smaller square and place in on various squares on your gradient line. The smaller square will appear to be much darker in value on the lightest square and much light in value on the darkest square. You can use this to your advantage in a design, making interactions that look like you have more values in them than you really used. This will be true not only with a gray scale but with other hues as well.

You may think you have more contrast in a work than you actually do. Checking the relative values will assist you in knowing for sure.

Do all your woven works need to include a wide range of values? No, you may want similar values either dark or light to see a certain mood or tone. Some weaves need to have a wide range of values, color and weave and deflected double weave, to be seen to their best advantage. However, if you are designing a shawl for a bride to wear at her wedding, you may want to stay with similar, light values.

Color weaving with surface pleat elements

Black and white version of colored work with pleats.

The full color image might lead you to believe there is a wider range of values than is actually present. A wide range a value isn't always necessary but should be thought out.

In my opinion, the weavings that people notice and comment on the most are those with a wider range of values. This is especially useful to know if you the goal is to be noticed, as in a fashion show runway, a sale display, or an entry for a gallery show. A more narrow range of values is not a bad thing. Items of one value or similar values just set a different mood than ones with a wider range of values.

In my most recent works I have been working on being more thoughtful not only in my choice of hues but in the range of values my work has. Not that I will always use a wide range of values. It is something that hasn’t been a very conscious choice unless I was working with a weave that specifically required it, like shadow weave.

Four color network double weave

Black and white version of 4 color network double weave

Here a range of values is needed to make the shape visible. Without it the shapes

would blend into each other. That might be nice, but wasn't what I wanted.

Where do we usually see high value contrast used? Shadow weave, log cabin, deflected double weave, summer and winter, and overshot. Some of these weaves are more dependent on the value contrast than others. Without the value changes, shadow weave looks very different, for example.

Consider changing up some traditional value arrangements. Does overshot have to be a light background with dark pattern? What if you had a black ground fabric and a light or white pattern? I have done an all off-white summer and winter that looks similar to a damask woven fabric.

This time, instead of making a list of weave structures, your list can be different ways value can be used, traditional and not so traditional. Your list may here include doodles as well as written words, whatever works to record your ideas on value.

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