General, Knitting Know How

Selecting a colour scheme for colour work knitting

Selecting a colour scheme for colour work knitting

Choosing a colour scheme

A subject that comes up regularly in my workshops is how to choose a good colour scheme for fair isle, the double knitting technique and intarsia. I thought it would be helpful to write an article on it. But be warned. This post isn’t about colour, quite the opposite in fact. We are going to set the tone……

Assessing the tone

When faced with the sweet shop effect i.e. shelves full of knitty goodness at the local yarn shop or festival, it is very easy to pick the colours that you think will look great together, only to be confused and a bit disappointed when you’ve swatched them up. The colours appear to have merged in to each other and the motifs in the pattern aren’t standing out. How has that happened?

If you want a colour scheme to “pop” then looking at tonal values can be really helpful.

Tonal values in a yarn selection low res
Looking at tonal values

How do I know if the lovely yarn selection on the left will work in a four colour stranded colour work pattern for example? Without doubt the colours themselves go beautifully together. But how do I make sure that the motifs in my hypothetical chart stand out?

Instinct tells me that the cream is likely the lightest tone. I can hazard a guess at the other three colours but it is easy to get that wrong (in my experience!). The easiest way to confirm the tonal values is to take a photo and turn it into black and white (so easy for smart phones as it is an option in the edit photo function).

My black and white photo shows that I was correct with the cream. The turquoise and the green have very similar values, and the brown is the darkest (but not massively different from the turquoise). If I was to knit with the turquoise and the green in a two colour section of my motif (or the turquoise and the brown for that matter), e.g. a row of hearts on a background say, the hearts would blend in to the background. I may want this subtle effect. But if I wanted those hearts to be visible and pop out of the background I will be very disappointed. The best yarns to achieve this from the selection above would be the cream and the brown as there is the greatest tonal difference between them.

Choosing the tone

A great amount of time and effort is spent by designers swatching colours when designing knitting patterns to get the effect they want. So when you have a pattern in front of you that you have bought from a designer but you want to choose your own colours, a good way of assessing if you are going to get a similar effect, is to turn their photo in to black and white. Armed with the tonal values, you can then photograph your potential yarn selection in black and white and match the tonal values to the original.

Georgia beanie yarn selection tonal values low res
My Georgia Beanie pattern yarn selection and the tonal equivalent. Find the pattern download in my Etsy shop here

Designing your own

If you are designing your own colour work patterns, a great starting place is to choose a light tone, a mid tone and a dark tone. This will ensure that you have a good contrast to make your design lively. Take your camera phone with you to the yarn shop and do a black and white photo of your potential selection before you spend your money, just to be sure.

Enjoying colour

I hope that this post has been helpful and has given you more confidence in your yarn selections for your colour work projects. There is plenty more to colour theory but I’ve given you a good tip here.

As mentioned in previous posts about colour, don’t be put off by the theory. Carry your camera with you so whenever you come across a colour scheme that you like (a visit to the garden centre, the local park, a colourful door against a painted wall) take a picture of it and keep it for reference. Start a Pinterest board or a physical mood board if digital isn’t your thing. If you’d like an example of what I mean have a look at my public Pinterest board on colour inspiration which can be found here.

With the added bonus of black and white also at your fingertips, analyse the tonal values of your images too and see how they impact on the overall effect. Keep in mind that similar tonal values blend and merge producing subtle colour effects. While a big difference in tonal values creates a pop and allows colours to stand out on each other.

I wish you lots of fun with your colour adventures x

 

 

 

General

Colour me Spring (or your camera is your design friend, be a tourist in your home town and avoiding the shops at all costs)

I am sitting at my computer looking out of the window at a glorious Spring day. The sky is blue, the grass is green and there are signs of growth everywhere. It has prompted me to write a short post about colour inspiration (but is probably really just an excuse to show you some recent photos of the amazing plant life that is currently inspiring me).  After 10 years of using a robust mobile phone where the battery life was more than a month long and I could throw it across the room (accidentally of course not because I am prone to tantrums) without fear of breakage, my lovely Mother in law upgraded her phone just after Christmas and I inherited an i phone 5. While I have yet to get to grips with a painfully short battery life (that has caught me out on a number of occasions already) I have fallen in love with the amazing camera on it.  Helped and inspired by the generous teachings of Emily and Stef at Makelight, my photography has come on leaps and bounds and now I can’t go any where without documenting the amazing visuals around me that I had previously taken for granted.

I know that some of my students on my knitting workshops have told me that they find choosing colours for a project quite scary and friends have also confided in me in the past that they don’t indulge in the relaxing past time of adult colouring books for fear of choosing the wrong schemes. Having done a City and Guilds course and various art qualifications I have explored colour in an academic way and I have got to admit that rather than being more equipped to use it, the theory put me right off. Until, that is, someone suggested that I went back to observation. Nature so often gets it right (after all, survival depends on attraction) and with the ability to take a quick pic of a pleasing colour scheme pretty much whenever one is exposed to it, what could be easier?

Southampton park 1
Southampton City Centre!

Taking more of an interest in my surroundings recently has also highlighted to me just how beautiful the parks are in central Southampton. While everyone was crowed in to West Quay shopping centre yesterday I escaped to this glorious setting a few hundred metres away, which we are so lucky to have and which the council do a great job of maintaining.  And yes, it smelled as good as it looked.  A great little trick to appreciate the familiar of home surroundings that someone suggested to me recently was to pretend that you are a tourist, seeing your city or town for the first time. What would you look at, take pictures of, write about?

pink flower low res
Close up park life

And it’s not just the parks that are blooming marvellous at the moment. Everywhere you look stuff is growing, sometimes planted with care and sometimes quite randomly.

daffs low res
Residential road sign
black bush low res
in a car park
moss on tree low res
moss and lichens on a tree
burgundy plant low res
no idea what this is but love its structure and the contrast with the background

I hope I have inspired you to go on a photo walk and given you a few suggestions to help you choose your next project colour scheme (or at least tempted you to look at the familiar with fresh eyes).  I haven’t mentioned shape and structure inspiration in this post but as you can see from the few pictures I have shared with you that nature is also an amazing source of inspiration for that too. So, enjoy the Spring folks, get inspired by colour, get snapping and until next time….