I’m playing with a number of colourwork ideas at the moment. I always find it interesting to see the sometimes unpredictable ways that colours behave in a swatch – shades in the skein, that you might think would contrast sharply, often seem to swallow each other up when knitted. My personal colour palette is dominated by muted and dull shades, and I have to fight a natural tendency to knit everything in blues, greys and greens… anyway, as I’m working through my ideas, I thought I’d show you some swatches and design thoughts that didn’t quite work out.

My first thought for the dollheid tam was to knit it the same colourway as the paper dolls sweater, but in reverse. I love the high contrast extremely here in the corrugated rib, but on the tam top the combination of cream with indigo blue was a bit too intense…

Now the clone-dolls are slightly freaky anyway, but here they took on the strange aspect of jolly ghosties, which was perhaps not so desirable. The light-on-dark colourway also meant that the whole of the tam top was dominated by large areas of negative space. It felt quite unbalanced – so in the final prototype, I went with a slightly more subtle colourway of rose and burgundy against fawn, and used dark-on-light rather than light on dark. This looked much better.

You may also remember this hat from last year:

Comparing it to the dollheid, It has the opposite problem of too little contrast. The Alice Starmore colours are so sneakily blended, that each shade speaks to another in sometimes unexpected ways. This is good for creating a shifting, slightly luminous effect, but bad if you actually want to see the pattern. It is not a success – you can’t make out the peeries properly or discern the changes in background colour – but despite all this, it really is my favourite hat: I love its muted grey-pinks and fawns – and I wear it all the time.

Here is a hat that you won’t have seen before. I knitted it over a year ago, and it is an example of one of those occasions where the concept dominated, and, in the end, scuppered the design….I began with the name – NUTKIN – which in anybody’s book should be a great name for a hat – and the idea was of red squirrels in a pine forest, seeking out their winter hoard. The forest worked out reasonably well, but there were other problems which meant that Nutkin was set aside. Photographing the hat against our kitchen wall gives the fabric much more contrast than it has in actuality. . . it is the wonderful Alice Starmore yarn again, and the lighter shade actually contains strands of the darker one: great for a subtle blended effect, but not so great when you want a pattern to show up very distinctly. And quite apart from the colourwork not achieving quite what I had wanted it to, this hat had other issues…my squirrels didn’t really look like squirrels; the rate of decrease on the crown was not quite right, and, once knitted up, what I had intended to suggest a hoard of NUTZ seemed to resolve itself into something else entirely. I just couldn’t shake the idea that the top of my head resembled a giant nipple…

so Nutkin bit the dust.

Here is one of the swatches I’ve been knitting for my tortoise and hare gloves (coming soon!).

I am knitting the gloves in J&S jumper weight (it is such a joy to work with this yarn again!) and have been wanting to use that marled blue shade (FC61) as the background. I love this colour, but like many blues, it seems to intensify when you knit it over large areas of fabric, and it is also an unbelievably greedy shade, swallowing up whole spectrums in its wake. The wine and rust that I’ve used for the beasties create plenty of contrast, but I’ve found it impossible to get any suitable colour to work against the blue in the zig-zag peerie. This is the fourth colourway I’ve tried, and each time, the peerie disappears into the background, particularly when you look at the swatch from a distance. My problem is, I think, that I am simply too attached to the marled blue, and am trying to make it play the wrong role here as a background shade. I do like the autumnal feel of this palette, though, so am going to mix it up and try again.

Like Nutkin, the Tortoise and Hare is a design whose concept dictates that the foreground colours really need to stand out against the background – the bottom line is that you need to be able to see a tortoise and a hare. All of my colourwork designs so far have been along these high-contrast lines. Curiously, though, at the moment, I’m finding myself quite interested in design ideas where shading is more important and which might allow one to play with a palette in a way that would show off the subtly-spun colours of yarns like the J&S or the Alice Starmore at their very best.

Do you find that your personal palette is dominated by a colour or particular range of colours? I’d be interested to hear.

63 thoughts on “contrast

  1. Thanks for this post – I always find I learn so much from your analysis of your knitting projects and the design process. In terms of my personal palette when knitting, I find myself in a state of permanent indecision, and reading your post has made it clear to me that this is the problem – I have no personal palette or at least not one that I feel confident with. I certainly have one when it comes to my home – lots of dull, muted whites, greys and slightly dirty blues, enlivened with hits of orange and red here and there. Perhaps that’s where I should start. Incidentally, I have just bought a lovely big squashy packet of Inca Cloud in a pale grey for my next project – Manu.

  2. Wow…lots of beautiful knitting. I do like a lot of contrast. I always thought I was a terrible color chooser when it came to these types of knits, but now I see that it is a universal problem. Thanks for the fantastic post and all the wonderful photos/examples!

    I often buy purples…rose gets in there a bit, too. It has to be a conscious decision to choose a different color, or I find myself going for the same ones again and again!!

  3. I’m dependably partial to citron, orange, olive and red but do like certain shades of blue such as ultramarine blue and the palest, icy blue. Recently I went to visit the Shaker Village at Sabbathday Lake, Maine and thoroughly enjoyed the paint colors on the walls and furniture. They were shades of bone, ecru, greyed sage, deep, dark blue and mustard. The deep, dark blue was the trim inside the meetinghouse, made of milkpaint and untouched for over 200 years. It is still beautiful and vibrant. There was also a slant top desk of the most beautiful salmon.

  4. I don’t go much for subtlety, I’m afraid. My latest colourwork project draws its colour directly from a childhood jumper I had – bold red and a dark green. I still love the combination and am looking for the perfect green to compliment a DK weight red yarn I have in my stash so I can recreate my favourite jumper. I like green – I often wear charteuse (and wear it with rich purple as contrast) – but am trying to include more colours into my personal palette. You’ll never see me knitting anything blue, though. I really don’t like blue.

  5. I am a hostage to purple, especially, deep clear blue-purples. I recently finished a jacket in this colour and was told that it “lights up my face”. I call that one a win…

    Have you tried a dark olive for the peerie pattern? It could look like a border of grass separating the tortoise and hare.

  6. Oh, yes, my personal palette is almost entirely dominated by blues, greens, and browns. I’m trying to branch out into purples and greys, these days, too, but probably over half of my wardrobe, at this point, is some shade of blue.

    I loved getting to see some of the ideas that “didn’t work”, and your thoughts on why that was the case. And I can’t wait to see what sorts of designs you come up with that play up the importance of shading!

  7. The hats are all lovely – and it’s so interesting to hear your thought process on colors and design. I’m still laughing about the nipple (but I kind of agree…) My colors are purples and oranges and greens. Again, and again!

  8. My first colorwork project was a pair of squirrel/oak leaf mittens in a grey and purple that completely blended together when knit. :)

    I find I go through color phases.

    My first color love will always be sea-colored blues and greens, but recently I went through a purple phase, and most recently a yellow phase, but even then I tend to work out through the range of a color i.e.: with purple it was eggplant, a pale lilac, and a more burgundy shade; with yellow it was a springy yellow-green, pale yellow, mustard (which I knit a Manu out of), and now a yellow I can’t even describe that is somewhat golden brownish.

    But I think we always gravitate towards certain colors because we know we look good in them and they match other our things. Likewise, there are certain colors we avoid (I for one, would never do a sweater in a primary red, for example).

  9. For the last maybe 5-8 years, greens and browns of many shades have been my favourite colour. I am trying to break it up, so reds, purples, and even some blues which I have never liked before, now enter my knitting. I am knitting a purple cardigan at the moment, and a hat from J&S in green(!), beige and a very golden brown. They are in fact also my old preferred colours!
    So tempting to read about your hill walks! When we were in Edinburgh 2 weeks ago, we could not descend any of them because I have a stupid heel problem. But next time….

  10. I immediately thought of this:

    I find that the shading of Fair Isle knitting is Very Difficult. Of course, in a way, the shading is what makes Fair Isle Fair Isle. Right? One day I’m going to buy a pile of beautiful J&S or Alice Starmore yarn and work on my shading skills, because I’ve tried with other yarns and it’s hard. It’s a goal to work toward.

    I find that I can’t knit without brown. Or gray. Or at least the promise of gray or brown. I’m always thinking, “Wouldn’t this look great with some heather brown?” I try to branch out but it always comes back to the neutral colors.

  11. Hello Kate, a pleasure to make your aquaintance. I’ve been peeking in for a while.
    Purple in all it’s glorious shades, tints and tones was my preference for decades. I’m now cozy in a teal rut.
    Nutkin needs gravity! Consider placing the nuts under the trees to negate the nipple effect.
    I’m writing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. We name the lakes, not the hills. Thanks for sharing yours; I’ll continue to peek (peak) in.

  12. You know, until you pointed it out, I couldn’t really see the nipple on the hat (I am slow that way) but now I cannot *not* see it.
    I am an autumn shades person with a side order of blue, blue-greys, by which I mean I try to get rust into every damn thing. This also causes me to form an attachment to a strong shade which then throws everything else out of kilter. Loving one strong colour, and not wanting to take it out, leads me to trying to match it with other high contrasts, and that works, but only sometimes.
    I’m looking forward to your experiments in shading;your posts on fair isle also make me want to pick up my hibernating Fyne, and I have at least 3 other projects to finish first!

  13. I am definitely attracted to shades which remind me of specific landscapes. If I do not restrain myself, I tend towards blues, greens, fawns, the natural colours of sheep fleeces, the colours of wheat and stone and the ocean and the sky.

    I love to read the Jamiesons shade card, and to browse in particular the *heathery* shades. I think colourwork that is done with these shifting shades has an intense richness and LIFE about it, (because really, there are no flat colours in nature!) but sometimes my attachment to using certain colours overshadows a more objective use of colour.

    So I am finding that direct experience of places and some time spent studying the particular tones within an especially pleasing vista is the best way to design the colour palette for a particular knitting project, and this is also an approach that I use within my print work.

    A disastrous attempt to make a hat based on my liking of the yarns and nothing else prompted me to concentrate on organising the colours in a design according to drawings and photos taken beforehand, rather than ideas about what the hat would be. I need a creative restraint or methodology like this, otherwise my excitement at the colours or my idea about them takes away my ability to actually see how they work together.

    I find that imagining how I might mix the colours to paint something really helps with choosing what tones I want running through my nice heathery yarns, and that basing designs on something I have seen and documented helps me to work out the contrast best, and to limit the palette.

  14. ♥♥ Olá, amiga!
    Passei para uma visitinha…
    Seu cantinho é muito bonito!!!♥♥
    Seu trabalho é lindo e colorido… amei os gorros.
    Boa semana!…
    com tudo de bom!!!♥
    ♥♥♥ Brasil

  15. Thanks for this thoughtful post on colour work.

    I tend to have colours in mind before I enter the local yarn store. I have grand ideas of violet, indigo, burnt orange and so on… but I inevidably leave with something blue or brown. It seems like the colours in my imagination are rarely captured by the yarns readily available to me (I hardly ever find exactly what I want), and I do love the natural, undyed cream and brown variations of sheep’s wool and alpaca, as well as my old faithful, blue. Combinations of these shades wins me over every time.

  16. Yes. I do have a tendency toward blues and greens and toward saturated, but subdued colors. I knit for charity. A lot of baby items. I tried “baby” colors like pastel blues, yellows with white and did not like the results. So there will be babies clothed in rich blues and greens.

  17. I definitely have a preferred palette. Sometimes if I am making up one of my designs for the shop, I have someone choose a color/colors for me. It helps me branch out a bit.

  18. Oooh, I do hope your will do a pattern for your tortoise and hare gloves! Although, as a dabbler rather than real knitter, they may be beyond me.
    I am just attempting my first stab at a fair isle hat. It has been neglected this last week due to a baby jacket making itself priority, partly as it is nearer my current comfort level of knitting.

  19. As a painter, I’m always intrigued with color. I tend to use yarn colors similar to my painting palette, which consists of warm and cool primary colors, and white–I don’t use black, I mix my black. Tweed and heathered yarns are my favorite choices because they are rich with color. I made my St. Brigid pullover out of Rowan Scottish Tweed DK in brown tweed. Brown might seem like a “boring” color, but there are tiny bits of blue, gold, and red-orange giving the fabric the appearance of a landscape.
    I teach knitting, and when students are challenged by color, I tell them to turn to nature. Looking out my window right now, I see a lovely blue sky, green grass, gray-brown bark, and blue-gray stones–a great place to start with color!

  20. I most definitely tend towards browns, greens, rusty oranges or reds, and very dark blues and purples. I especially like heather versions of those colours. This makes sense as I live in Ontario where thesecolours dominate the natural landscape. The rivers and lakes here are more often brown, black, or dark green than blue.
    That said, I still really love the peerie hat you made last year and am quite sad you don’t have a pattern for it :-(
    I don’t really know what you mean by “peerie” truth be told. Would you consider a post on the term? I’d love to try cobbling together a hat of my own in similar colours but Iwouldn’t even have an idea of where to begin.

  21. So weird as just this morning with my coffee, I was thinking I really need to expand my colour palette. I am a “blue girl”. Love anything blue, but I really need to step away from those colours and enjoy some others. Anything in the blue shade, violets, purple, rose, it just never ends. I need to step into greens and perhaps browns rich with depth. hmmmmm, now you have me really thinking this one.

  22. I read your post then scrolled down to your previous one – and then saw the most amazing colour palette in your first picture – what a fab mix of natural colours which never fight for dominance – the siver grey of the wall and the washed out straw colour blend perfectly with the flashes of pink and the greens of the grasses and the darker gorse bushes. Jings, I sound quite poetical!!!!

    I love the earth colours and am always drawn to red – especially the darker hues but have found that my favourites have changed over the years – must be an age thing!

    I’m glad you enjoyed your walk – i know what you mean about going all out rather than pacing yourself – it is the sensible thing to do but sometimes you just have to go for it and follow your natural instincts.

  23. I’m drooling over your gorgeous knitting (can’t wait to see a tortoise and hare pattern!) and I learn so much from your posts. Thank you very much – you are inspiring me to take my knitting out of my comfort zone! As for colour, lately my palette has been dominated by bright, clear colours, whereas formerly I was attracted to subtle or muddy shades, and definite neutrals. (When I was a little girl, I was disappointed when my grandmother knitted me an Icelandic sweater in purple and rose shades, rather than in the blacks and whites she had used for my uncle’s comparable sweater!) Suddenly, however, I am wearing pink dresses and knitting in purples, reds/pinks and greens! I love a colourway that uses a smooth dove grey background and deeper shades ranging from deep pink to plum to yellow. How I love yellow (difficult to find bright, fresh yellows though). Cheers and thank you for sharing your expertise and design process!!

  24. What a great post – lovely insight into the design process. I really love your favourite hat, I don’t think it matters that the colours all blend into each other.

    I recently knitted neep heid. I chose it because I had some green Rennie 4 ply that is exactly the same as the green in your hat. It didn’t work out for another project I had in mind, so I decided to attempt neep heid. I went with the best matches in the Rennie range I could find, but there wasn’t a very good match for the yellow green. I chose a yellow that had a bit of grey blended in, the same grey as the background of the hat for that matter… so unfortunately it blends in a bit too much. Pictures here:

    Still love it to bits though!

  25. Oh my, yes I lean toward a particular palette! I have many skeins of purple, blue, and green, sometimes separately as solids, sometimes 2 or 3 together in one skein. The likeliest that will appeal to me are any super-saturated colors. I’m trying to get out of this self-imposed rut, though. My daughter, who has the same coloring as I do, has recently shown me how good we can look in burgundy tones, which is one color I never liked.

    To help with the right amount of contrast, I’ve read about viewing your colors through a red or green filter (depending on whether you’re viewing warm or cool colors). Apparently, the red or green takes the hue out of the picture, leaving the contrast behind. Here’s a blog post demonstrating the effect:

  26. I love red! Most kinds of red, actually, but they have to be dense and bright – not too dark and wine-coloured and definitely not pastel. In fact, I really don’t like pastels. I like matching everything up with black, I also like grey if there’s no yellow in it, but I like a splash of lemon-y, cadmium, or mustard yellow here and there, but not too much. I’ve always found yellow good for contrast. Certain kinds of blue such as cobalt and purplish blues (again, dense and bright) also appeal to me.
    It was very interesting reading your thoughts on contrast and colours! :)

  27. I really, really love how your patterns come from such inspirations – there really are whole sensible stories behind each decision in your designing.

    I try hard too to force myself outside of my comfort zone, which is a lot of muted colourways with a pop of something brighter, such as browns and blue, or beiges and red. Many beiges!

  28. Green, purple and hot pink for me Kate. I’ve got green eyes, hence all shades of green really suit me, while pink warms up my otherwise pale complexion. I often mix green with purple, a lethal combo I must say, and I always get compliments when I do so. People seem attracted by it. I also have a pair of lime green and purple shoes and I cannot go anywhere without someone gasping how gorgeous they are. See them here:

    How Do You Do

  29. Yes, pinks and purples, but that has changed over the years, I used to always go for blues. I still love blue and would say it was my favourite colour but I’m drawn to pink and purple yarns and clothes. I should try and break out of it more, a bit of contrast is a good thing.

  30. If my hindbrain were left to itself I would probably knit in only reds and royal purples. Which is especially odd since if you ask me I’ll tell you my favorite colors are shades of green.

    I make a conscious effort to knit different projects in a whole range of colors from one end of the spectrum to the other. Because I really do like, and wear, all the colors!

  31. Ah colour!! Tis certainly a challenge and I don’t make anything as complex as you do…..I found doing a tea cosy workshop with Grand Purl Baa most interesting when it came to choosing our colours. We all leaned to mtued pastel tones and she urged us to choose vibrant rich contrasting colours. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. It’s almost as if I have to go against exactly what I think would look good. The same experience was repeated when I dipped my toes into the world of patchwork. Grand Purl Baa gave me a Kaffe Fassett book on patchwork quilts which I adored. I went down to the local patchwork shop…they had Kaffe Fasset fabric in stock but nothing like what was in the book. Reluctantly I bought what the assistant recommended – absolutely not what I would pick in a million years – almost garish colours and patterns thrown together….and do you know what? I reckon it looks fantastic!!! So I think colour is terribly difficult. My own personal choice of palette is gorgeous muted Scandinavian colours – milky blues and silver greys. I agree completely with Deborah and Lizzi – those colours in your previous post are a great start and nature is always a great inspiration – just like you really :)

  32. Yes! My stash basket right now is sort of hilariously monochomatic: dark blues, dark greens, and dark blue-purples. Over the last year or two I was consciously trying to fight this tendency and knit in brighter colors, but recently I’ve decided — screw it, I like these colors and I don’t have to prove anything about my broadmindedness to anybody. :)

  33. HEY KATE — totally a laugh , love your nipple hat !!—- I have a friend who does rapid decreases at the toes of her sock and I always say they look like ‘ nibbles’ aka nipples

    – yes thats the joy of the shetland yarns the blending , and too much of it some time – sure can understand how you are stuck on that marled blue for your hare and tortoise hat, it is scrum— yes the reds do stand out well— what about something in a more yellow tone for the peeries

    – looking forward to see this hat emerge

    – great to see you out walking — what a joy with such great company
    all the best —pat j

  34. Hi Kate! I am not a neutrals person — I tend to shy away from them (and, in fact, get more compliments when I actually wear color). I think folk colorways and fashion tend to spring up from the landscape of the people as well as the people themselves – the heathers of Scotland which seem to go with Celtic skin, the bright colors of Mexico that flatter the warm-toned skin of the Mexicans themselves, the blues of the Swedish blonds.and so on. Each has their own beauty. Personally, with my medium, blue-undertoned complexion, blue-green eyes and dark brown hair, I tend to go for deep reds and pinks and slightly-subtle purples. It’s kind of limiting so I’m trying to branch out, particularly with greens. And as always, vive la difference! P.S. I love the piquancy of your designs and hope to have the skill to knit one someday!

  35. I thought Nutkin a lovely design in soft, muted colors. But when I got to the part about a nipple on top of your head, I literally burst out laughing. It’s still a great hat, though. For colors, I like soft/muted greens/teals/blues, also rusts and purples (although my purple phase is waning a bit). As a (albeit faded) redhead with green eyes, these colors look best on me. I used to wear a lot of grey, but turned away from that when we lived in Texas for many years (follows what Chloe wrote above). Although, natural grey wool is starting to look appealing to me now. Blues and a natural brown wool are a lovely combination.

  36. So funny what you said about the top of the hat Lol!
    I am sitting here in a marled blue sweater, and I think that colourway suits everybody.
    They say that if one has any redness in the skin or the like, that one should wear deep blue based red, as it helps to balance and counteract the redness. I wear dark red and bright red, but I also love yellow. I have some Rowan tweedy yellow waiting to be knitted.
    I love marled and tweedy yarns, and I love your knitwear designs with the creatures you have featured. Classical and timeless and gentle to wear.

  37. I definitely have a very clear color palette myself which I rarely step outside of, even if I try I find that when I “branch out” I merely buy the same bright turquoise color. I go for medium heathered tones usually in the blue/green/brown/purple family. I have been trying to put together a colorwork yoke over the past few evenings and I have been really struggling to find enough contrast in my stash ‘o leftovers that I like enough to put on my sweater.

    At least this keeps my clothes matching!

  38. As you suggest there’s always certain colours and tones that hve more appeal than others. For me these are the warmer tones and greens. I like to hold specific colour combinations in my head, for instance the particular shades of green and blue that you find travelling by rail on the east coast after Durham and up to Edinburgh. Also those hedgerow colours of hawthorn berry and leaf where each is tinged with various reds and greens. Apart from our own preferences, the ability of colour to evoke memories is fascinating. It leads to so many other areas, and just makes you sing for joy!

  39. I tend to be drawn to and use colours that look good on me: reds, blues, purples, dark greys and blacks. Growing up Asian in Canada, especially around thirty years ago, I found that the colours in many of the popular stores were geared towards the white European complexion and as a result I felt unattractive without quite knowing why. Now that I have clued in I shy away from greens, browns, oranges and yellows, anything with yellow tones. Funnily enough, I love wool that is sheepy and rustic for its natural gorgeousness, and usually these come in those mud and olive tones that make me look like I belong to the “yellow race”. Perhaps it is my desire to assimilate. Maybe all those advertisements with lovely blonds or redheads in mushroom coloured knitwear? When knitting, I really try to make those neutrals work with colours I am comfortable wearing. Colour preference, for me, is not all based on what suits me, it is also cultural. For instance, I am passionate about the colour red, especially the deeper shades ranging from mailbox to red wine and this I attribute to being Chinese. A friend told me that Koreans wear other colours (even brown and green!) and do not have this mania about red.

    1. Reading your comment, I cannot help but replying to you because I totally agree! I always choose colors that looks good on my too, which cannot include yellowish/brownish or too-pale colors. I love bottle green and olive green, though. Someone told me long time ago that olive color actually goes well with Asian skin color. Many people wear brown and beige in Japan (I am Japanese) but those colors simply make my skin look muddy. (or make me look like I am an earth fairly)

      My wardrobe has lots of blacks and dark colors, but my stash yarns are mostly in bright colors. I get bored easily with black or gray yarn…

      I noticed Chinese people’s attachment to red color! It’s a chinese thing, it does not exist in Japan (maybe a little bit in Korea, in my view). :)

    2. Hi Max – absolutely fascinating what you say – I’m a pale-skinned redhead who loves to wear mushroom/brown/green whereas my chinese friend loves to wear red, blue, purple – colours I just wouldn’t touch, and feel weird in. Just like you, she realised that clothes in English shops weren’t suited to her skin. Funny how we feel grounded in our “own” colours and out-of-sorts in the wrong ones…

  40. Correcting my error in not answering your question in my earlier comment. Colour choices for me are always about my mood at the time. I tend towards the brighter, but confusingly would say that grey is my favourite colour. I dislike using green in anything I do, particularly the dark bottle green of my old school uniform (of over 30 years ago!).

    I was taught a lovely way at looking at colour, particularly contrast when starting out with oil paints; looking at the canvas with a reverse magnifying glass. It took me ages to find a supplier, eventually tracking one down via quilting, where the tool is used to similar effect in checking whether fabrics will work together. It lets you look at your colour choices as if from a distance highlighting where contrasts simply won’t work. I don’t know if it would work with a small stash of your wool, but you never know!

    (I hope it is okay to include the link, I am not connected in anyway to the company, just find them a useful resource)

    1. thanks for the link – I was actually reading about this tool just yesterday in a quilt book, and thinking how useful it would be – one of the ways I make decisions about swatches is to squint at them from the other side of the room. . . a reverse glass would be much easier!

  41. Thanks for another lovely post, Kate. Yes, I definitely have a palette that I am drawn to (in yarn), which echoes the fall colors that I’ve grown up with in New England: greens, yellows, oranges, reds. You can see on my “Carrot Top”:

    I also love shades of blues and greys, whites and browns, shades of greens: subtle changes of color that remind me of winter, snow, and trees. (I am curious to see whether living in a new climate makes me see color differently: will rainy Portland winters drive me to seek brighter colors in knitting?)

    Looking at my other projects on my Ravelry project page, though, I am seeing that I don’t actually have many FO’s in my favorite colors, because I tend to hoard the yarns that I’m attached to and struggle to find a project worthy of them. The odd balls of yarn in colors that grab my attention (pink, for example) can be knit into anything, and gift projects (selfishly enough) are very rarely made of yarn or in colors that I love. My stash (including balls of yarn and roving I keep on display) looks very different from the finished knit items that leave the house.

    Looking forward to the tortoise and hare mitts! Another lovely excuse to use Jamieson’s.

  42. Oh gosh yes, there are some colours that I’m practically powerless against. That green-grey Ysolda colourway that Old Maiden Aunt did, I bought a couple of skeins, and then three months later bought practically the same colour in some Isager Alpaca. And some Isager laceweight. Duck egg blue (a pale, greyish green-blue) has much the same effect. And strangely, I’m also very drawn to scarlet red (but tomato reds, orangey reds, need not apply). I’m very picky about shades: I don’t like all greens, or all blues, or all reds. When I took part in a Secret Pal swap, I bought lots of embroidery thread to illustrate the colours I like – it seemed more helpful to illustrate rather than describe! (

    I’m planning a Fair Isle jumper at the moment; I found Ann Feitelson’s ‘The Art of Fair Isle Knitting’ really fascinating on the use and varying effects of colour in knitting. But then I’m pretty intrigued by colour anyway. I recently got a little book called ‘Basic Colour: A Practical Handbook’ by Jane de Sausmarez, which is aimed at art students (there are lots of instructions on painting colour wheels), but has some interesting information on general colour theory. (And the colour wheel/mixing stuff turned out to be useful after all, as I’ve got a dyeing project in mind, with duck egg blue being the intended outcome.)

  43. I used to be drawn towards blues (particularly wedgwood blue) and greys, although as I’ve gotten older I’m increasingly drifting towards more ridiculous combos, like greens and oranges.

  44. Thanks for all these explanations. I always find it interesting to understand the logic behind your choice of a design or a colour. And I am fascinated by colourwork, which I am too shy to try myself at (??? is that a correct sentence ? Not sure…).
    As for me, I always end up knitting greens, which suprises me because I would never ever buy a green garment in a shop. I am not attracted to “industrial” greens but green yarns, hmmm… I love all of them, especially when they are tweedy or muted or strenghtened with a bit yellow or blue. Unfortunately, I look like a zombie when I wear green, except when I come back from a very sunny holiday, which doesn’t happen so often !

  45. Yummy ! I love, love, love your designs. I love that tri-color blue you’re working with, and I agree about Starmore’s colors melting into one another, as I knit a cap similar to yours with Moor & Mtn colourway and one can barely see the contrast. Color contrast is one thing, but I too am learning that value of dark and light is equally important.

  46. Just look at your photo of The Braids Hillside! What a demonstration in color it offers. Mauve, purple, pink, various greens, greys, buff, tan, white! How!

  47. I definitely lean towards the colours of northern climes and nothern beaches – muted greys and sea-green, milky cold blues, that sandy no-colour colour. I also repeatedly combine duck egg blue or teal with a chocolate brown, a combination I find very soothing, particularly for textiles in the home, rather than clothes. I’m currently crocheting a pale bedspread in shades of blue, teal, green and sandy-brown – entirely predictable I’m afraid. But I find it very difficlt to buy yarn which doesn’t have some element of green/blue in it and I find that if I do venture out, that wool tends to stay stashed – hence the mountain of bright orange alpaca under the bed.

  48. I tend to knit in safe colors, especially large projects like sweaters. My palette tends to be black, grey, cream, tan, brown, all very neutral. I love seeing your Paperdolls pattern knit in a variety of colors on Ravelry, it makes me want to venture outside my grey and brown sweaters.

  49. Kate,
    Great post! I actually love the combination of blues in the first picture.

    When I saw your Neepheid, I couldn’t resist but using exactly the same colors of yarn. They were exceptionally beautiful together! And I had no idea how much time and thought you invested in picking up the perfect tones. Can’t wait for the Tortoise and Hare pattern.


  50. But I do still love the trees on Nutkin…that in itself is something that should be salvaged…without the squirrels, perhaps with snowflakes or a thicker type of “Christmas tree”?
    My favourite colour is grey, much to my husband’s disgust, so colour work (the little that I have done) is red with grey, or purple with grey.

  51. I tend to go through colour phases (that lovely mustardy colour being one such colour Ive been drawn too recently), but find I often come back to grey, or navy even though I love brighter colours, I think when you invest so much time and effort into your knitting you want it to suit you, be wearable so perhaps thats why we revert to favoured colour schemes. On a different note, the Nutkin hat is wonderful. So much so, I now need a hat with squirrels on…

  52. Oooo….your nutkin hat is a lovely design (although I can see where you are coming from regarding the nipple effect…) I have an eight year old with a squirrel obsession, aquired after visiting family in your neck of the woods a few xmas’ ago…she would love it! I enjoy reading your blog, which I have recently discovered via a few Ravelry purchases. I admire your honesty and determination…stroke recovery is not an easy journey (I have watched my da go through it). Gu Math Theid Leat.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)