Knitting with Color: How To Make Your Knitting Pop

By Sarah Johnson

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We're knitters, not interior decorators, right? But it's a cold, hard reality of being a knitter that at some point, we're going to have to make some choices about colors in order to create the most gorgeous garments and projects possible. Right now, I've got a dress pattern I'm dying to make and I don't much like the colors in the sample- so let's see what we can learn together!

First and foremost, the main rule when we're talking about knitting with colors is that it's subjective and your eye test is what counts the most. If you're trying to select yarn for a project that requires coordinating colors, I really do recommend looking at the yarn from a number of different angles and in person, when possible. If you like what you see, go with it!

In terms of color theory, in almost any color scheme, you generally want to pick one dominant color and then accent colors- usually in knitting referred to as main color (mc) and contrast color (cc).

Knitting with Colors

When selecting two or more complementary colors for a project, what are some things to keep in mind? To start, we're all familiar with the basic color wheel that follows the standard Roy G. Biv of a rainbow. Red to orange through yellows, greens, blues, until we end at violet which goes right back into red. The reds through yellows are considered the warm colors while the greens through violets are the cool colors. We tend to think cool colors belong with cools and warms with warms.

There are a couple of basic ideas for deciding which colors go together. You can stick with what are called analogous colors, which are colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel. Or you can pick complementary colors, which are colors that are exactly across from each other on the color wheel. This is how we get combinations like yellow and blue or green and purple.

There are other concepts to think about, as well, like lightness, saturation, and hue. We all know there's no one shade of green and some shades that qualify as green are pretty warm in nature, more yellowy or brown, while other shades can be cool and blueish. Also, some shades are muted and some are more saturated in color. Pairing two deep, saturated colors with each other can rob the vibrancy of both yarns. As in dressing, when you wear one vibrant, jewel-tone item, that item will pop more when paired with neutrals than with another jewel tone.

In choosing colors nothing is, dare I say it, black and white. You might assume that orange and pink wouldn't go well because they are neither next to each other nor opposed on the wheel, but just the right hues of those two colors can work because they're compatible in some other way, like lightness or saturation. The eye test really is the final arbiter.

One great source of color inspiration is nature. Who knows better what colors work together than Mother Nature? Finding a flower or other plant with a color scheme you like is a great way to find your color inspiration. Or if you feel more comfortable with pre-selected palettes, check out the design blog, Design Seeds, for beautiful color combinations culled from all sorts of places!

What inspires your color choices?

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