I rinsed out the samples today at lunchtime, and ironed them dry:
The one on the left is far too high-contrast to use in the garment I have in mind, and I think the same could be said of bold patterns generally. Also, the pattern clashes with the leaf pattern woven into the fabric.
The one on the right was an attempt at a subtle leaf pattern. Too subtle, and the stenciling came out too blobby, not leaf-like enough.
But the one in the center is Just Right. It was made by mixing colors close to, but not quite the same as, the colors in the wool, to give a subtle contrast between silk and wool. The result is a color gradation that smooths out some of the striations in the wool without covering them up, and a subtle leaf pattern that comes and goes as the fabric moves.
Here is a photo of the middle sample scrunched up, so you can see what I mean:
The leaves appear and disappear depending on how the fabric catches the light. Perfect for autumn!
One interesting question is whether I need to knit up the blanks at all. How important to me are the horizontal ridges of color? If I’m willing to do a more “organic” pattern, I can weave the fabric in white on white (saving myself from an awful lot of blank-knitting!) and then dye the wool and silk at once, using acid dyes, relying on the differential take-up of silk vs. wool in acid dyes to give subtle contrasts. If that doesn’t please, I can then overdye the silk in a slightly different color, using fiber-reactive dyes, to give a second pattern.
The one problem with the weave-it-in-white theory is that I am having equipment problems at the moment: some of the shafts are not lifting when they should. With a strong contrast between warp and weft, I can see when this is happening (well, some of the time anyway); with white on white, it would be impossible. I think I need to troubleshoot the loom before weaving another sample.
But I like this idea a lot, and will test it out as soon as I have the time. Which may be next week – this week I need to work on muslins, as I’m going up to see Sharon on Saturday.