textiles · exploration · misadventure


Will to Live


At the same time as I was comparing colors to stitch onto my little oxalis-dyed wool, I was also assessing the values of various combinations.

When I do this, when I try to put together substrate and embellishment, or various colors of yarns or fabrics, it inevitably includes a values assessment along with a color assessment, because this is the only way I’ve found to get a true idea whether or not my colors will play well together.

Value is where something sits on the grey scale, the ends of which are black and white. Is a given color a light grey? A medium grey? A dark? How far away from each other, on a grey scale, are two very different colors? Sometimes they’re a lot closer than you think.

Having a range of values gives a tension to a work, gives it movement and excitement—even if you don’t even necessarily like all the individual colors involved.*

So I try for a while, take my photographs, make my judgement calls, and when I’m narrowing things down I start to take pictures like these:

values assessment Collage

Pictures that contain a true black and a true—or in this case, close to true—white, so I can accurately gauge relative values of what I’m comparing. Without the trues, you can end up with values that seem like a wide range, but in truth are actually close together in value and appear insipid and boring together (like these).

After a few false starts, I worked my way towards a color and value combination that satisfied my senses.

I’d initially wanted to use the golds and yellows from lichen and yellowdock, but those disappeared against the wool.

Then I thought a variety of colors would work, but those ended up looking more like an exercise in primary colors than something you’d want to look at on your couch all day.

Slowly, I worked my way towards a very simple combination. Red and orange bougainvillea-dyed yarns, plus one or two dark grey rosemary/irons.

I find this process very satisfying. I get to handle the hell out of all the textiles I want, just play with them for an hour or two, sniff them, pet them, adore them, and ask myself questions like, “What do you think of that? Do you like this?” And answer back, slowly sniffing my way towards something more and more satisfying. It’s very pleasant.

As you can see in the pictures, my bougainvillea and rosemary yarns are, although very different in color, surprisingly similar in value. However, their values contrast well with the lightly dyed wool, and their color works well with it, too.

It isn’t going to be the glowy, sunshiney project I’d initially envisioned, but I think this is going to be a solid, quiet, earnest little piece. I’ve hardly started stitching, but I like it already.

PicMonkey Collage5

PicMonkey Collage6

It was nerve wracking, but I snipped my bougainvillea yarns into manageable lengths, and started rumpling.



*Which is totally what happened to me, here. I completely didn’t like several of these colors, but I included them because a) color schemes that I loved included them and b) they increased the value range of the blanket, and gave it more shazam.