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  • Sara Nordling

Principles of Design: Proportion

Weaving consisting of 9, 12 by 12 squares with pleats on surface.

Proportion has to do with the size of the elements used with a particular format so that all elements work together and no one element takes over and is too dominant, or is so small to be ineffectual. This principle is closely related to that of balance. There are some differences though, and these are worth consideration.

When thinking about proportion you will want to consider several things. One is the viewing distance. Is this item meant to be viewed close up, far away, or perhaps both? What is the end use of the item? Is it yardage for apparel where cutting into the design or elements will alter the effects of the patterns making them either too large or too small to work together when assembled into a garment? Is it meant for a runway show where small, up close details may not matter as much as what can be seen when on the catwalk? Is the woven item meant for an intimate, close up, setting, like sitting at a dining table where a smaller shape, line or pattern would more easily be seen on a dinner napkin or table runner?

Graphic of tan rectangle with 3 long brown stripes of different tones and thicknesses.

Here the design has proportion. The stripes are not too large for the width of the fabric,

he bolder hues are narrower stripes where the lighter hue is a wider stripe.

When working with proportion you will also want to consider how elements are working together in proportion to each other in the design. Is a line too large for the rest of the shapes used? Is one hue too bright or too dull when considered in relationship to the others? Perhaps is a smaller amount is used it will then work in relationship to the other elements. Proportion in weaving also has to do with balancing your drafts so that your weaving repeats are the appropriate size and that the design elements end where they are supposed to end, not truncating the design on one selvedge edge.

Graphic of a square with 4 lines, 2 horizontal and 2 vertical that are misplaced to make one edge feel crowded.

This graphic shows poor planning in the design so that the right edge space is out of proportion with the other spaces, feeling too small and crowded. In weaving this can occur from poor planning in the warp threads or running out weft threads, either way the design becomes truncated.

Graphic of purple rectangle with very narrow light purple stripes on either long edge.

This graphic shows a design that is also not in proportion. The dark center shape/stripe is far too

large and dominant, leaving the small stripes on the sides barely noticeable.

In creating my designs, many of which are wall pieces, I try to design works with multiple levels for viewing. I want people to see and be interested in a work from a distance. Then, when they move closer, I want them to find other new things to explore visually. Even if you don’t produce wall art, you can still use this multi-layer approach for designing your work. A scarf can have a certain look from across the room and then, when viewed more intimately, have a texture or pattern at play that was not, from a distance, noticeable.

Weaving with double weave pleats, full view.

Here is the full view of one of my weavings. It is 48 inches wide.

From a distance you notice the bright colors and the striping.

Close up of above weaving.

In this close up view of the weaving you can now see the various visual textures created

by the different weave structures. Pleats are woven in twill with each pleat

alternating in the twill line direction while the background is a crepe weave.

Some of the other principles take less forethought and planning than proportion. Yet, the more you use it, the more you consider it, the easier it becomes until finding the right proportions in a design becomes second nature.

Challenge: Design a scarf using the principle of proportion that has a multi-layered use of proportion/design and employs the elements of shape and value.

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