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Long lost FOs & tips for knitting colorwork

Sep 24, 2013

Hello knitters! If you're in a part of the world that's experiencing it, I hope you're enjoying this bit of Fall that's been creeping in. It's still very green and, at times, balmy, here in North Carolina, but the light and the air are changing. The days are getting shorter. The worst of the humidity has blissfully subsided for the year.

And just in time for the new season, I received a fun package from Interweave headquarters in Colorado. Every once in a while, I try my hand at designing knits. I really enjoy color knitting, but I find the color selection and arrangement and motif design process so painstakingly slow (though exciting), that I design pretty rarely. But, I've done a few color designs over the years. 

So yesterday, I received a package that contained some of my past designs. One was the Bandelier Socks, one was the Angelfire Jacket, and one was the Reeva Hat from the new book Fair Isle Style. It was a fun, colorful, and Fallish box of goodies!

Are you a color knitter? Do you choose your own colors or usually follow a pattern's colorway? Choosing your own colors can be tough. I obviously tend to gravitate towards rust, neutral, and blue combinations. I think it comes from time spent in the Southwest and the profound effect those landscapes had on me. Having a natural attraction to certain color groupings helps with choosing colors, but finding a happy final pattern takes a lot more effort than picking out your favorite color skeins from the yarn shop shelf. 

First, there's the issue of foreground and background colors. You can shift colors throughout for both foreground and background, or just one of them. In traditional Fair Isle colorwork, as Mary Jane Mucklestone writes in Fair Isle Style, "Fair Isle patterns evolve into beautiful mosaics when bands of pattern colors are worked against bands of background colors." You'll need quite a few different colors in one project to get this effect, and it's more complex to nail down the right arrangement of color and motif when there are so many variables at play. 

Below is a hat I designed many years ago, called the Hill Country Cap. You can see in the horizontal band, both foreground and background colors change throughout the section. But in the vertical flower section, there is one foreground and one background color. This creates a flatter, more two dimensional look than the rich, layered look of that horizontal band with its many colors. 

One cool way to get the layered effect of traditional Fair Isle with only two colors is to use a solid color and a variegated color. The variegated color will create the look of changing colors while it's actually the yarn doing all the work (and planning!). Here are a couple examples:

Child's Faux Fair Isle, http://www.interweavestore.com/childs-faux-fair-isleRamona Cowl, http://www.interweavestore.com/ramona-cowl

But if you choose a complex colorwork pattern with shifting colors in both fore and backgrounds, Fair Isle Style is a great resource for choosing and arranging colors. Check it out, grab some sample balls, and just start swatching. That's the best advice this sometime colorwork designer can give! Swatch swatch swatch. Fall's a great time to start. Cheers, 


Featured Product

Bandelier Socks

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Price: $5.50

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Beautiful fair isle and bright colors make these socks something to marvel.

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Comments

nyyknitter wrote
on Jul 15, 2014 2:56 PM

I find it helpful to copy the chart and use colored pencils to represent the colors I want to use.  This way I can try several different arrangements to choose the one I like best.  Then I make a sample and see if it works for me.

dancejunky wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 6:48 PM

I love to dye repurposed yarn (from unraveled thrift-store sweaters), so I mostly work with color that way. Sometimes I make self-striping yarn, sometimes gradients, and so on. Other times, I take two contrasty colors and make mosaic knits using mosaics from Barbara Walker's book. Although I usually come up with my own colors, I have Kaffee Fassett's book and would like to try some of his interesting color combos, which have that unexpected quality—sort of Noro-esque.

Cheers,

Carol

Sewroute wrote
on Jul 9, 2014 1:34 PM

I like to choose my own colours depending who they are for, and have always had good results.  I am an artist too, so that gives me some credence with knowing what works, depending on the look I want to acheive.

bigbrown wrote
on Jul 9, 2014 10:50 AM

I've recently made some improvements in my color knitting.  I've done a few projects by just picking up the yarn and figuring things out.  Some worked, some didn't!  Recently, I've added reading to the mix and have been a little more successful with my color choices and techniques.  By adding in contrast between how dark and how light my colors are, I've made the designs really pop out.  Like Lisa, I'm heavily influenced by the colors of the southwest and the flowers of the far west.  Current project is a sock pattern with medium dusty blue and burnt orange with stylized flower motif.  All my designs these days are done with a knitting loom since I broke my L wrist in March and am still in a rehab phase.  No needles yet!

bigbrown wrote
on Jul 9, 2014 10:49 AM

I've recently made some improvements in my color knitting.  I've done a few projects by just picking up the yarn and figuring things out.  Some worked, some didn't!  Recently, I've added reading to the mix and have been a little more successful with my color choices and techniques.  By adding in contrast between how dark and how light my colors are, I've made the designs really pop out.  Like Lisa, I'm heavily influenced by the colors of the southwest and the flowers of the far west.  Current project is a sock pattern with medium dusty blue and burnt orange with stylized flower motif.  All my designs these days are done with a knitting loom since I broke my L wrist in March and am still in a rehab phase.  No needles yet!