Warp painting with Linda Coffill

Last week at the NSW Guild‘s summer school I went to a great two day class with Linda Coffill, dyeing warps. It was excellent – great group of women, sufficient space to spread out our warps, hot outside (nice for drying) and cool inside, and most importantly a knowledgeable and generous teacher.

Linda talked to us about use of colour and flow – colour moving, changing, no harsh boundaries creating jerks and stopping movement. She brought along her enormous collection of Landscape dyes (being one part of Petlins,  Linda was able to bring along shop stock to supplement where necessary).

A great advantage of Landscape dyes in the class setting (and at home for those who choose, of course) is that all the auxiliary chemicals are already mixed in with the dye, so they are ready to use as soon as mixed with water (dyeing protein fibres only, such as wool and silk). Also they come in many, many colours (charts here), so we could concentrate on specific techniques with the warps rather than colour mixing.  (At home I’ll stick with Lanaset dyes – it’s not that hard to add the extra chemicals, and I’m a believer in mixing your own colours).

I’ve dyed yarns before, but never warps. Our first exercise was to wind a warp of 72 ends in 8 ply wool (suggested to keep things fast). Linda showed us how to lay out the warp, folding and positioning to create a balanced gradient on the scarf (ie both ends matching), allowing for loom waste etc. We could then dye a supplementary warp to use as an accent. There wasn’t time for weaving during the class – well, others managed it but not me :). This was one of yesterday’s unfinished items, now completed and very pretty, if I say so myself.

I haven’t tried a supplementary warp before. The main warp was the wool, threaded for plain weave on shafts 1 and 2. I wound that on the back beam sett at 8 ends per inch, then through the heddles and reed leaving space for the supplementary weft – empty heddles on shafts 3 and 4 and matching gaps in the reed. The supplementary warp was tussah ribbon yarn from Beautiful Silks. I wrapped each silk end onto its own plastic bobbin, threaded through the waiting spaces, and weighted them in groups over the back beam with S hooks and washers. Weaving was simpler than I expected – lifting shafts 1 and 2 in turn for the plain weave base, and on each pick adding either shaft 3 or 4.

The colour pattern (using landscape names) was meant to be:
* wool warp starting heath, fading into dusk, fading into granite, then back through dusk into heath at the other end;
* supplementary silk warp starting at granite, fading into heath and back to granite;
* weft dusk throughout (slightly darker than in the warp).

I had some trouble at the beginning working with the very stretchy wool and the not-at-all stretchy silk, so the gradations didn’t quite match up as planned, but unless someone else starts obsessively folding and measuring the scarf noone will know!

The rest of my dyeing from class will need to wait in the weaving queue a while. Experiments 2 and 3 were “crampot dyeing” – the yarn scrunched around in minimal water in a pan and dye colours added to different regions. For the one on the left in the photo I also dyed yarn in a single colour for supplementary warp and weft. I have plans pencilled in for these, subject to change. To save time and do more dyeing in class I didn’t wind warps first, I just dyed whole hanks, so I should have plenty for whatever I end up doing.

The final warp involved a couple of hours of winding and tieing in complex groups. This will be a warp faced scarf, warp in 20/2 silk, weft (at the back in the photo) 60/2 silk. There will be 21 stripes in all, using 4 base colours (coral, pacific and tasman with a little granite) in various combinations. Linda’s examples were beautiful (drat me forgetting the camera both days!), so I have high hopes, but not expectations!

4 Responses to “Warp painting with Linda Coffill”


  1. 1 trapunto January 28, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Your scarf is so beautiful. I like the idea of color flow, especially in a physical object that is also going to “flow” around the wearer. The only one likely to obsessively measure it is you! I was fretting over tension and tail ends on a loom knitted hat yesterday before I was able to step back and remember it was for my husband, who wouldn’t have a clue. When it was done I couldn’t see the variations myself, either.


  1. 1 Dusting « Fibres of Being Trackback on March 23, 2010 at 10:18 pm
  2. 2 Possibilities « Fibres of Being Trackback on December 31, 2010 at 1:53 pm
  3. 3 Scarf requiring rescue… « Fibres of Being Trackback on January 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm

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