Luscious Gracious! Look What We Made Today!

A blog devoted to the art of the Luscious Gracious clan.

Monday, August 22, 2005

For The Love Of Color

a little something by kikiluscious
(file under More August Tips)

When it comes to color, Stephen is the LusciousGraciousStudios resident expert. He can group yarns in a shop (or from the baskets at home) better, and faster, than anyone I have ever seen. He can also read people, and responds quite naturally to their own sense of color. No matter what, he always looks nice. On the other hand, I think I may be the only woman that I know who has never had her colors "done". When in doubt, I wear black. Otherwise, I tend to dress as though I am a "Halloween" with "Mardi Gras" undertones.

So, if you need help choosing a color of yarn (or paint, or car, or hair, whatever), ask Mr. LusciousGracious. But if you want a little advice about what to do with color, I may be able to help you. I grew up surrounded by color, texture, nature, and other artists. I always knew what I liked. But when I started playing with stacks of beautiful fabrics I learned more about color than I thought was possible. There are great books, classes, and articles about color theory available online, at the library, at art centers, and at the bookstore. One of my own favorites is the essay in "Last Minute Knitted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson. She gives great basic information, and tells you how to learn more in her recommended reading section.

You can learn so much about color by studying theory, and knowing how and why value, hue, and tint change in relation to color combinations is important. Knowing about light, about purity of tone, and about complimentary and contrasting shades can help you when you are ready to plan, design, or create something. Structured learning is vital to a complete understanding, but I dare say that you can only get to know color (or anything else, really) from the inside out by experimenting. Here are a few ideas to get you started, and a word of advice: It's just yarn. Use it. Don't be afraid of waste. Any time and material spent on learning something is never a waste.

First, try saving snippets of yarn. Collect those snippets from weaving in ends in a plastic bag or clear jar, and look at them every time you sit down in your favorite knitting corner. Arrange small leftover balls of yarn in bowls on the coffee table or on your dresser. Take small strings and staple them to a white card. Now try a black card, or an orange one. You can just wrap the yarn around different cards instead, or braid several strands of yarn and observe how the colors look together. See what you come up with on your own. Getting ideas yet?

Next, make a little random project. This is a good way to try out color combinations that you may have never considered otherwise. This project doesn't have to be large or take much time at all. Put those leftover bits, along with small amounts of whatever stash yarn you have on hand, into a large paper bag. Reach in and grab one without looking. Knit a row (or two). When that yarn is gone, select another, again without looking. Even if you would never put those two particular yarns together, keep knitting. See how each color changes the other. Keep going. Make a child's hat, or knit a Fair Isle design into an entire sweater

(that's how I made this beauty. I had nothing to do with it. It is a very simple design, and the colors did all of the work). Some colors will clash. You will cringe, and possibly grit your teeth. It's good for you. Persevere, and wait to see what happens with the finished project. Take some notes, and use them when choosing yarn online or at the store, or when you are ready to dye your own at home.

When you are working with several colors, you may want to consider the following:
1. Try charcoal and cream instead of black and white, which don't really blend in with a multi-colored project. But that contrast can be great when it is what you are trying to achieve.
2. Yellow is usually the first color to draw the eye. You may want to use it sparingly and distribute it equally throughout a big project. Or, if attracting attention is what you want, go all out and make yellow a predominant theme (think traffic signs, police tape, Ali G., and bumblebees).
3. Don't be afraid to mix pastels with brights. Throw in some neutrals. If you have twenty colors, and it is just not working, add ten or twenty more. Additional shades can help the eye bridge the gap between clashing colors. As boring as it may sound, bring in some shades of brown. Browns make other colors appear richer. Also consider greys, which can really tone down something that has become too boisterous.

Overwhelmed with "busy" colorwork? Even working in all the same color can be rewarding and surprising. I learned this while making an all-red quilt. Someone told me that "all reds match", but I could not believe it. After all, would you put the garish red of Raggedy Ann's hair next to the deep burgundy of your favorite dinner wine? But I started to study monochromatic pieces of art done in paint, stitches and paper. I also began to collect a stack of red fabrics. Again, the solution came in variety. You may not like Cherry Kool-Aid next to that Merlot, but when you fill out the palette with cranberry, bittersweet, crimson, pinkish strawberry, and rust, you will stop seeing orange-reds and blue-reds and begin to see just RED!! Whew!! I found out that all reds DO match (or at least they can survive side by side). Now, you try it, this time with green.

I hope that this little essay is helpful, at least to someone. At LusciousGraciousStudios, we may be able to put yarns together, but don't ask us to pick out your clothes in the morning. We are still waiting for someone to create Garanimals for adults....Who's with me?

p.s. Here's a little something for everyone who commented on the sweater I completed over the weekend. It's especially for Adrian over at Hello Yarn. She doesn't need a lecture on color, but we have this mutual admiration society thing going, so this crazy hand-sketched chart is in her honor. Go Hello Yarn!!

As for Fair Isle patterns, this one is really a breeze. First, there are only two stitches at a time (no wrapping those annoying carries!) as it is a four-stitch repeat on each row. This also means that it is easy on the tension-impaired among us. Each symbol on the chart represents a different color. Make it can use just a few colors or go all out. Use colored pencils first, if you are anxious. Second, the pattern repeats every eight rows, which makes it easy to memorize. It is also easy to "read" the stitches on the row below to tell what you are ready to knit. If you want to learn to knit with two colors, I have included a complete tutorial along with my "Kate" pattern. It teaches both the one- and two-handed methods of Fair Isle knitting, and has been a successful teacher so far.

I am including the chart because I have never seen it anywhere else. I don't pretend to be the only one to ever use this combination before (come on, it's so simple), but I didn't take it from anything I have ever seen.

I am not including the pattern for the sweater because, while I did not follow a certain pattern, I also did not make up the technique. It is a simple one-piece raglan, made in the traditional way. I like to weave the underarms for added stretch, so I like the instructions for the technique that Elizabeth Zimmermann perfected. See any of her books. Even if you don't want to make a raglan sweater, you should read every single word she has ever written. I would read this woman's grocery lists if I could. I am sure that they, too, would keep me up at night, fantasizing about wonderful meals from simple ingredients, just like her knitting.

Another tip. All of those colors equal hundreds of ends to weave in, right? Nope. I hate that part, so I am a spitter. I cut the yarn I am using just where I want it to end, then I backstitch (tink) a few stitches to leave that little tail. I then tease out the end, tease the end of the new yarn to be joined for an inch or so, and spit on them both (this only works if the yarns are wool, another reason to knit with animal fibers). Now, overlap those ends and rub together in the palm of your hand to felt the fibers. Voila. Now your sweater contains your spit AND all of your hair that you've knitted in, so you better watch who ends up with's ripe for a voodoo curse.

Speaking of who ends up with it, any suggestions? Too hot for Arizona, this little ditty is up for grabs. Should I host a contest? I don't think Steve will let me.



At 6:01 AM, August 23, 2005, Anonymous Rebecca said...

Very cool! It looks like a lot of fun. My mom the ex-hardcore-knitter is trying to get me into fair isle...she used to be the queen of 12 color alpaca fair isle back in the 80s.

At 9:47 AM, August 23, 2005, Blogger Pam said...

At one point wasn't there Geranimal-like clothes for guys? By Docker's or the like. I think you picked a shirt color and everything else was guaranteed to go with it. Society realized that men (not Steve :) ) often need help.

What we really need is business casual Geranimals for women. Can we get Steve working on that?

At 10:46 AM, August 23, 2005, Blogger Mamie said...

Wow this is a great post!! Full of fabulous info and loads of inspiration!!! I love it... and if you ever do a contest for that sweater, I am the first in line!!

At 10:48 AM, August 23, 2005, Blogger Mamie said...

p.s. were all the yarns used used the same weight? It is an impressive collection of colors...

At 4:37 PM, August 23, 2005, Blogger Stephanie said...

wow, what a fantastic post :)
love the sweater too - it's positively stunning - and even better, no wrapping! yay!

At 8:10 PM, August 23, 2005, Anonymous Sister Muffy said...

Katie - you are a wonderful teacher. What lucky girls you have to have you as their mom! You are a true gift.

At 9:34 AM, August 24, 2005, Blogger Mamie said...

Glad to meet you too! Thanks for the nice comment!! I am so excited to have found you and the clan. What inspiring things you do and see. I think you probably should keep that sweater forever ... you never know one of your little ladies could head to cooler climes when they grow up and what a wonderful thing to have for chilly weather. Even though I would love it for my own... just have to make one myself!

At 7:43 PM, August 24, 2005, Blogger Mel said...

You guys are too much! Thanks for inspiring me -- again! Maybe someday I will be able to share something with you that you can use. I could really use some help with colors. I defer to black, gray and red and pink mostly. Seems safe, don't you think? Although I would love to see a paint color named 'Ali G'. I might have to repaint my kitchen, which is already some other shade of yellow.

At 3:26 PM, August 25, 2005, Anonymous Adrian said...

Ooh, your charts look just like mine- chicken scratches only I can understand.

Grit teeth and force yourself to make strange color combos? Check.

EZ worship? Check.

Only 2 stitches in each color in a row? Genius.

Adrian lives in a city that gets down to 20 degrees below with wind chill factor? Hint.

At 10:21 PM, August 26, 2005, Blogger kt said...

If I turn my AC down to 30 or so, I think that swaeter would be just PERFECT for Arizona! (Although when the SRP bill comes, can I come hide out at your place?)

At 8:32 PM, September 05, 2005, Blogger Di said...

Fantastic information and food for thought- thankyou for sharing. Maybe I will tackle fair isle again some day (I was defeated by an overly complicated Kaffe number way back and haven't had the confidence to try again!)


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