Designing a Twill Gamp: Part 3

Fibre and colour choices

I mentioned yarns in part 1 of this series, since the choice of yarn helps to establish the scale of your gamp and hence your threading. It is worth coming back to this topic in its own right as there are a few different factors to think about.

What yarn makes a succesful gamp?

Any yarn you can weave with is a good candidate! However, there are a couple of limitations worth considering.

Warp and weft

Firstly, a classic gamp uses the same yarn in warp and weft. You don’t need to, but if that’s your plan then you need to make sure your yarn is suitable for use as a warp as well as for a weft. A standard yarn from a weaving supplier will be fine, but there are a few more unusual yarns which may not be strong enough. I have had my fair share of ‘unfortunate experiences’ with yarns that turned out to be too softly spun and abraded quickly in the reed, so I know the value of testing before setting out for the warping board.

It is a good idea to give an unknown yarn a tug test: take a piece between your hands and give it a gentle tug. If it drifts apart with little effort, then it is best to avoid using this as warp. But beware of overdoing this criterion. There are many perfectly sound weaving yarns, particularly wool yarns, that you can break with your hands if you tug sharply. That’s not a problem for a warp yarn – and can even be an advantage, as you don’t need to reach for the scissors every time you change colour. If you are planning to spin your own yarn, then you can test as you spin to make sure you are putting enough twist into it to serve as a robust warp.

Focus on structure

Secondly, the classic gamp has an emphasis on structure. The intention is usually to explore the wondrous variety of twills, which requires being able to see the detail of different interlacements. If that is your intention, then solid rather than variegated yarns will give you the best results. That is not to rule out, say, a painted warp, which can be marvellous in a gamp; but the short-repeat multi-coloured yarns which look great in a pair of knitted socks won’t serve this purpose quite as well.

Considerations of colour

So let’s think a bit more broadly about colour. Again, the classic gamp has its conventions, and where there are conventions there is often an underlying logic.

To maximise the information a gamp gives us about structure, we typically want to simplify the colour palette. A basic palette in this case would have one colour for warp and another for weft. Sometimes an additional colour may be used as a ‘frame’ to outline each of the gamp sections, as suggested in part 2.

Three different options are illustrated in the drawdowns above. The warp and weft colours can be selected to have a high value contrast. For instance, as shown on the left, the most extreme contrast would be black and white. A gentler alternative such as blue and white, shown in the middle, would also be very striking.

However, high contrast isn’t the only possibility. Two slightly different shades of the same hue, as shown on the right, can be very effective in revealing some of the subtler, textural differences between twills. That’s the option I took in the mercerised cotton gamp which sometimes appears in this blog – and appears again, in the centre of the photograph below. I chose two light shades of green for this piece: one is more of a blue-green and the other a yellow-green. I also used a pale grey as an outline between the sections. It’s interesting to note how different this grey appears as warp – where it is interlaced with the yellow-green weft – and as weft – where it is interlaced with the blue-green warp.

Structure, structure, structure…

Behind these choices is the decision to give priority to the structure, so the logic leads us to colours which serve that priority. If that isn’t your priority, though, don’t worry: the gamp police aren’t going to be knocking on your door if you choose another approach.

A twill gamp can also be an exploration of colour within a particular type of yarn, as in the example below on the left. This piece is woven in an assortment of Shetland-style wools. Some are solid colours and others are heathery blends, which produces some interesting contrasts. And if your intention is to turn your study of twills into a functional piece, such as a table runner or a set of cushions, then of course you will want to choose your colour palette to suit the planned destination.

Choosing your fibre

Bearing in mind the constraints I’ve mentioned above, the choice of fibre is entirely up to you. The most useful yarn to choose is whatever yarn you are most likely to weave with in future. If you are going to be doing a lot of weaving in wool, for instance, it makes sense to weave a twill gamp in wool. In the short term, it will serve as a helpful exercise in working with your yarn and, in the long term, it will be an invaluable reference for you to go back to.

The main thing to bear in mind is that there is no ‘universal gamp formula’ for all yarns and all fibres. You will need to choose an appropriate sett based on the characteristics of your yarn. If it is a wool yarn, does it want to shrink and full? If so, you will need a fairly open sett on the loom to allow the fabric to do its thing in the wet finishing. Look at the images below and see how open this wool gamp was on the loom, compared with its finished state. Note that a light beat was needed as well, to maintain the balance of warp and weft in the various twills. On the other hand, if you are working with a slippery, non-shrinking yarn such as Tencel, then you will find that a similar weight of yarn needs a much tighter sett to achieve a good finish.

To sum up

As usual, then, I am putting the decision-making back onto you! There are one or two conventions in designing a gamp which serve a useful purpose, in that they help to keep the focus on the weave structure, but these are only useful to you if that is your focus too. The good news is that these conventions help to simplify the design process. They reduce ‘all possible options’ to a more manageable set of choices.


First posted on © Cally Booker