Tien’s Top 10 – Books on Color in Weaving

Looking for study resources? Here are Tien’s top ten books for studying color in weaving, visual design, and the design process.

Color Theory

Color and Fiber, by Patricia Lambert, Barbara Staepelare, and Mary G. Fry. The best book available about color in the fiber arts, it covers color theory extensively and discusses how each aspect of color theory applies to the fiber arts. While it is not specifically about color in weaving, there are many examples drawn from handweaving. It is fairly dense but worth studying.

Color Works: the Crafter’s Guide to Color, by Deb Menz. This is a much easier read than Color and Fiber and very useful. Mostly about color theory and color harmonies, illustrated with many examples from different fiber arts: embroidery, knitting, weaving, handspun yarn, beading, quilting, etc.

Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing, by Margaret Livingstone. Written by a Harvard neurobiology professor, this very interesting book discusses the biological underpinnings of how we perceive color, and how that influences our perception of art.

Interaction of Color, by Josef Albers. A deceptively thin book that discusses how colors influence each other when placed next to each other. The principles and exercises in it are mighty – expect to spend hours or days chewing over a few pages. You will get much, much more out of it if you do the exercises. This is a lot easier if you get the Interaction of Color app, available on the iPad. There is a browser-based, online version as well. Very worthwhile!

A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design, by Heather Thomas. Also covers the principles of two dimensional design, in the context of art quilts, but with an emphasis on the use of color.


Designing Woven Fabrics, by Janet Phillips. Contains lots of valuable information about color use in weaving, but most useful for the many examples of handwoven fabric/items with explanation of why and how each combination of colors, structures, and fibers was chosen. One of very few books about design in the context of handweaving.

Exploring Woven Fabrics, also by Janet Phillips. The sequel to Designing Woven Fabrics,  a more in-depth exploration of design in weaving. (Janet’s books can be purchased on her website)

Picture This: How Pictures Work, by Molly Bang. This very short book covers principles of design and how to apply them, by walking you through the creation of an image of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. The image starts out very simple and not particularly dramatic; in each iteration, one aspect of the image changes, illustrating the design principle and also making the image more powerful. The book shows you not just principles but also the thought process in tweaking an image. It is the best book I know of for learning design.

Adventures in Design, by Joen Wolfrom. This covers two-dimensional design principles in the context of art quilts, with many beautiful examples. It also includes many useful exercises – while I have not worked through all of them, the ones I have chosen have proven very fruitful.

The Design Process

Master Your Craft: Strategies for Designing, Making, and Selling Artisan Work, by Tien Chiu. I interviewed 22 master artisans across a broad range of crafts for this book, and found they all used the same basic creative process. I wrote up this creative process in this book, along with quotes and suggestions from those artisans on the best ways to approach designing and creating new work. I wrote the book because, when I set out to become an artist/artisan, I could find no references on the creative process in craft. So I wrote one. I hope you find it useful.