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Blah Outdoors, Colorful Inside

Just for the record, I’ve seen the sun for maybe 45 seconds in the last two days, total. It is gray and miserable as Lansing gets this time of year. Awful. Definitely, color is the antidote to the blues which are trying to creep in to my mood at every possible moment.

dallasproject7colors.jpgA Speaking Engagement

I was honored tonight to be the speaker for our Mid-Michigan Knitters’ Guild meeting. I was allowed to pretty much propose my own topic and I chose (no surprise) color. I have been teaching classes for several years, in many venues (yarn shops, festivals, libraries, and now the guild) about using color, combining yarns and the like. Tonight I got to teach a big group, a couple dozen folks or more.

I love teaching so much, and this group was full of friendly, familiar faces. It was wonderful. No matter when I teach this subject (or a pattern which benefits from this information) I find that others just have not spent their lives obsessed with color, as I have. Old news to me is new news to many.

Much to Say

Somehow I said most of what I had wanted to say, even though it seems that a fraction of an hour can’t possibly be enough. We talked about combining different yarns that don’t match in brand/fiber, and we talked about how solid colors are very hard to match (yarn to buttons is only one example). I showed several examples which I think may have helped folks picture what I was talking about. I showed a few books (Styles by Sally Melville, which is my favorite on this subject, and a Horst Schultz book that Lisa had brought with her).

We talked about using one single (usually darker) color as a unifying element to other items. The Melville book is a great place to see how well this can work. I also showed a sweater I own and the legwarmers I made for the Dallas/Ft-Worth Fiberfest fashion show.

One Project as an Example

Those legwarmers are made in stranded knitting (sometimes called “fairisle”) which uses two colors in the same row. In that pair I used four turquoises/teals, four hot pinks, two hot greens, a yellow and a purple.

In that project I used superwash wool, silk/wool blends, alpaca/silk blend, and an angora blend, and perhaps others. The yarns were many different textures and structures (some plied, some chained, some brushed) but they look great together. I made them thinking of Turkish Socks, where they use bits and pieces of leftover yarns.

Color Language

I talked about color as having *three* elements. We often say “light blue” or “dark green” but that just gives value (light to dark) and hue (blue, green, red). However, there is another part to color, and it’s called chroma (or saturation, or intensity). That is whether the color is really “hot” or intense, or whether it’s muted and subtle. Muted comes from adding gray (or sometimes black or white) to the base color.

For those who knit, you might imagine the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarns, they are all somewhat muted though some are more than others. They all go together well. These are a lower chroma set of colors, all containing some subtle level of gray to mute and soften. (Martha Stewart also tends to use grayed tones in her interior spaces).

For those who read here often or who know me in “real life,” you know I choose colors for the most part which have no gray. Subtle is not in my palette. I look good in saturated/high chroma colors with blue undertones. (Those who assign color groupings to skin/hair/eye color call me a winter, though I’m not a typical dark hair/pale skin Sleeping Beauty winter.) For me, ColorJoy is electric, no gray at all.

partystoleraecloseup10.jpgWays to Begin

I discussed color groupings. How one way to start is to find a multicolored yarn in colors you love, and work with those colors.

Another way is to pick a corner of the color wheel… for example, turquoise/ blue/ purple, such as my yarn colorway called Seaside (see photo). Our eyes enjoy seeing colors which belong in the same “neighborhood.” This type of grouping (remember the 70’s and green/ blue/ purple or yellow/ orange/ red) is called an “analogous” color scheme.

However, once we get better at choosing color, using one contrast not from that corner can make the whole item “pop” with interest. If you choose magenta/purple/blue and then you accent the piece with hot green, it is likely to give it depth and life you can not access with analogous colors alone.

This grouping (with the contrast) is called “analogous variety.” The photo here with turquoise/blue/purple ribbons and mohair has a “pop” of yellow-green, for example. I wish the photo were better at proving this point, but the background behind the knitted fabric is also hot yellow-green so it is hard to see how much “punch” that extra color provides.

I will be teaching more about combining color at the guild retreat in February. I will, in particular, have us swatch a number of stitch patterns that blend colors well for items not necessarily dressy. I’m hoping that folks will see that they can use these color-combining concepts for hats, sweaters, scarves… and use normal yarns, not just fancy ones…

There will always be more to say about color. For now I’m off to dreamland.


2 Responses to “Blah Outdoors, Colorful Inside”

  1. Teresa Says:

    You did a great job tonight. It always amazes me that no matter how many people I listen to about color there is always more to learn and I leaned a lot from you last night. Thank you.

  2. AlisonH Says:

    Thank you, Lynn! I learned from that and I appreciate your posting that. And I love your legwarmers. They’re so cheerful.

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