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  • Sara Nordling

Principles of Design: Variety

Summer and winter 2 blocks 6 colors

Variety is adding a change, or several changes in the design to add interest. Sounds easy enough. In weaving challenging for two reasons. One is too little and one is too much!

One reason variety is challenging in weaving is that it often feels like an accomplishment just to get the loom threaded with something, anything, and get weaving. Now we have to add some changes, think, plan, struggle? Here encouragement that design is actually worth it is what is needed. It is worth it! Variety need not be many, complicated changes. It may just be a few small changes, just enough to add interest.

The changes need not be changes in weave structure, which can be very challenging to new weavers or those with fewer shafts. Perhaps the variety comes from color striping in the warp or weft. These take a bit more time, but maybe not the thought and planning a structure change would need. Maybe it is gathering various textured yarns and designing stripes in the reed.

Graphic with alternating rows of 3 blue, 3 green blocks interspersed with solid red lines.

This design has variety without going into chaos. It has repeated

elements but they vary as well in hue and in placement.

The other reason variety is challenging is the opposite extreme, adding too much variety so that result is just a chaotic assortment of shapes, colors, textures and such. Here editing is key. Before you commit to your design, especially one where you are trying for variety, let it rest. Walk away from it for a couple hours or a day. Come back with a fresh eye and see if it is what you want or if you have indeed, added too much. Another way to work with variety is through bringing in the principles of repetition and proportion. These principles can help in the editing process and help you to be more thoughtful in your use of variety.

Graphic where every horizontal row is a different shape and hue.

This has variety, no row of shapes is repeated and no hue is repeated.

However, it's really not a good design, it's a bit too chaotic and unbalanced.

There are some obvious ways to create variety: changes in weave structure, hues, textures, or scale. Variety can also be achieved by combing elements. For instance, if you are using line (stripes) you can add variety by using different values and textures. Or, if you are using shapes (an overshot pattern), you can change the treadling as well as changing the hues of the pattern threads and the base fabric threads.

Woven scarf with variety.

This detail view is of a scarf with lots of variety.

It is woven shibori with devoré in with and without dye and a beaded edge.

Challenge: Create fabric for a jacket using the principle of variety and the elements of hue/color and shape.

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