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Archive for August 10th, 2007

Catching Up: ColorJoy Stole Class

Friday, August 10th, 2007


A few weeks ago (wow, I’m more behind than I thought), I taught a class at Yarn Garden in Charlotte, on the ColorJoy Stole. Now, this class is really two short classes put together. The first part is how to combine yarn, texture, fiber and color, all not matching. It’s a class on how to make dissimilar items “go” together rather than trying to match (which as we all know is very hard to accomplish… never mind often not as visually interesting as unmatching elements if we choose them well).

The second part of the class is on how to knit this particular stole (a stole is a rectangular shawl). We learn how to use the yarns in an evenly random pattern (yes I mean that) so that the piece looks cohesive and intentional.

But it is the first part of the class which is really exciting. Somehow we are afraid (in my area’s culture) that not matching means not pleasing to the eye. Yet clearly when we look at certain woven items in particular, we notice how the artist/weaver has combined many dissimilar threads/yarns into an amazing and rich fabric. Knitters can do this, too, if we learn how.

There are color issues, yarn structure concerns, and a few other things we learn in class. We often start with one variegated/multicolored yarn, and then build the other choices around that first one. (Hi, Chelle!)

Yet we still need to know about color… at least to figure out why the one color we thought would work perfectly is not working. We don’t have to choose all of our colors by color theory, in fact I think that instinct can work well if we listen to ourselves. However, when one color just won’t play nice, it’s great to have some understanding of why.

In the schools/culture I came from, we talked about color in only two ways. Value (dark/light) and hue (color name). In other words, dark blue or light green. Maybe even light yellow-green if we were being specific.

There was no mention until I took an art class as an adult, at Lansing Community College, of something the art teacher called “chroma” but which is also sometimes called saturation or intensity. This is whether it has gray in it or not, whether it’s blindingly clear or muted. (Clear/pure is my style and muted is what I think of when I think “Martha Stewart.”)

In addition to that, if you talk to the “Color Me Beautiful” people they will talk about color saying whether it is cool or warm, which can help understand why some colors don’t fit. Think of a grouping of greens and see if you can picture what I mean about that.

And when I worked with Liquitex acrylic paints, they not only labeled each color with hue, value and chroma, but also transparency/opaqueness. Very cool. It’s not quite as much of an issue with yarn, but then again think of a non-mercerized cotton or hemp as totally opaque yarn and luminous brushed mohairs or even jelly yarns, as transparent.

And one other thing I noticed with paints, was that some colors were naturally matte and some were very shiny. That and the transparency issue had to do with the pigments used to color the acrylic base medium (although the medium itself can influence the texture). Neither texture or opacity are really labels for “color” but they do make up some of the attributes of individual yarns, and noticing this can help us choose combinations well.

OK, I’ve gone on enough. The people in my class, though, get to actually make big piles of yarn on the table. They work with all the information above plus they learn about different yarn structures and how to use those in making choices when mixing unmatching yarns on purpose.

They grab a pile of yarns they really like, and we pile them together and figure out why a few don’t work well with the others. And then they knit. And it’s magical.

I’m even starting to now offer a shorter class on just combining yarns. That is, the first part of the stole class: piling up yarns and getting great combinations going. Not for a particular pattern, but just as a way of understanding how to stand tall when you can’t get five yarns of the same brand to make that baby sweater you can’t live without, or when you want to make a cool couch pillow or funky hat for a favorite teen, out of leftover yarns in your stash.

So above we have the very beginnings of two ColorJoy Stoles. One is basically in earthtones for a knitter who glows in those shades, and one is in soft feminine colors for a woman who looks wonderful in pink. You won’t be surprised to know that mine is in greenish-turquoise with purple and hot green accents. And I’ve seen so many other combinations! It’s really personal and always a wonderful adventure.

Photos: Begun stoles from recent class; the sultry and beautiful Sharon P wearing her version; my mother, Liz, wearing her stole that Diana made her essentially from my stole pattern, at her birthday party in 2004; cherry red/rainbow stole I made as a pattern sample; me wearing my own stole, the one that lives in my closet (imagine that); Mom’s friend and my knitting student, Esther, wearing her perfectly-personal colorway that she also knit for herself.