Musings on Color Work

Posted: December 3, 2009 in Ramblings
Here I am currently working on a sweater with the Cadenza and Jitterbug yarns I purchased at Colinette this summer.  Colinette yarns are wonderfully colored, so I don’t think too much about color work other than "do I like this colorway?"  (In almost all Colinette cases it’s a given that the answer to that question is "yes.")  But there are other times when I want to combine multiple yarns in a sweater and that’s when color work really starts to intrigue me.
For example, here is a sweater I knit with Rowan Cork a few years ago.  Cork came in all these deliciously juicy colors and I wanted to use all of them.  But they were so vivid, I needed a neutral to tie it all togther, otherwise it would look garish.  Thus I chose the pale blue as the neutral, and I think it offsets these other colors beautifully.

Sometimes a good neutral is all you need when you’re using the same yarn throughout, as I did above.  Later that year I discovered I had a lot of odd skeins of cherry red yarn lying around (why?  I still don’t know).  These were wildly varying textures, from silk to boucle to angora to cotton.  So I thought, hey, light blue was a good neutral for the Cork sweater, why not for this one?  I think it worked.  The light blues in this are also varying textures.

All these yarns knit to the same gauge, so it all worked out OK.

And then there are times when I see a great color combo, and I simply have to design a sweater around it.  In that case, it’s a matter of defining the texture of the sweater (which often means deciding on a thinner yarn than I’m comfortable working with, i.e., if I want a design where the stitches aren’t noticeable), choosing the textures of the yarns, and then finding yarns to buy that (a) fit the parameters and (b) fit the budget.  We used to get glorious sunsets out the basement windows in Herndon and I have frequently tried to come up with a way to knit a sweater that represents the peach and blue of the sky with the dark grey of the silhouetted oak tree that was out front.  Short of trying to knit an actual picture, I’ve never yet been comfortable with that design.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the beauty of Max’s fur that I think about knitting a Max-colored sweater.  That one’s never taken off, either.

But you’ve been looking at the Spectrum Sweater on these pages and that was inspired by the rainbow (obviously).  Lunatic Fringe’s awesome yarn spectrum certainly helped with the inspiration.  I had the idea to do this years ago, but looking at a UKI color card (which has something like 150 colors on it) I could never quite get my head around which ones would need to be in the spectrum.  So I gave up on it until I stumbled across the Lunatic Fringe yarns, which are actually for weavers.  Now I have 80% of a really cool t-shirt sweater lying around!

On Black Friday we went to the Summit at Snoqualmie ski area, and of all things, I got inspired by the colors in the dirty wet gravel in the parking lot at Alpental.  It was a very beautiful mix of neutrals:  light and dark grey, copper, ivory, dark ash brown, and medium muddy brown.  Some of it was shiny (the copper-colored and ivory rocks) and some was not.  I brooded on this for three days (thinking about sweater structure:  mostly stockinette, with some random clumps of purling or garter stitch on the RS, to evoke the rough terrain; thinking about yarn texture:  smooth, since the stitches will do the work; thinking about yarns to buy).  I spent a lot of time browsing Webs, Elann, Yarnmarket, WoolNeedlework, and finally Colourmart before landing my ‘perfect combination.’ 

So, Colourmart.  A wonderful shop for those of us who like to invent our own things, rather than knitting a canned pattern with the designated yarn.  Most of Colourmart’s yarns are very, very fine.  I really don’t like knitting with very fine yarns, so I’m compromising:  five strands of laceweight cashmere (light and dark grey, copper, ivory, dark ash brown) and two strands of a "super cobweb weight" (!) silk in medium grey.  I added the silk for the shininess.

Now, I’ve got three projects on the needles right now:  the Spectrum Sweater, the Colinette sweater, and the very beginning of a jumper I plan to knit with K1C2 Truffles and Habu’s stainless steel.  (I may abandon that one.)  I can’t stand it!  That Colourmart stuff shipped on December 1 and I’m already hoping it gets here soon, so I can get started on this so-called Alpental Sweater.  Color work fascinates and motivates me.  I need to back-burner some of this stuff while I finish what I have.

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