Mags Kandis, editor of Folk Style
"English," Mags told me during our phone conversation last Friday, "is my second language." I was puzzled—maybe she had spoken French or Greek as girl? I heard no trace of an accent in her voice, but the phone can be deceiving. Finally, I asked her: "Well, what is your native language?" "Color!" she replied, with a laugh. And looking at her Modern Quilt Wrap, and the beautiful Folk Style book that she put together (or "wrangled," as Mags says), I would have to agree: Mags is absolutely fluent in the rhythm and grammar of color.
Most of us, however, feel insecure when it comes to that particular language. Me, personally? I'm one of those folks who feels that color is an alien language. I balk at the idea of designing anything in colorwork, because I am afraid of saying something horribly wrong, making some awful Color Faux Pas. I wear a lot of solid colors; my knitting is the same way: lots of solids, where texture and lace form the interest, rather than color.
So I asked Mags: How does she choose the colors for a project like the Modern Quilt Wrap? I was hoping for the magic-secret formula that would turn me into a color-speaking genius. Her answer: Listen to the language of color you already speak.
Her exact words were: "Don't think too much about it—Just do it! Let the colors come at you, and let them speak to you. Be fearless. You know when the colors work for you, and when they don't."
For those of us who don't feel fluent in the language of color, this Being Fearless stuff might take a bit of confidence building. Here's an exercise I've found really helpful: Flip quickly through a book or magazine, looking only at the colors, not the content. Stop when a page speaks to you solely because of its colors—and then spend a few minutes studying the colors that spoke to you. Could you design a version of the Modern Quilt Wrap based on those colors? This exercise is a way of having a Color Conversation with yourself, a way of developing your own "ear" for the language of color. Practice these sorts of color conversations (could you knit a sweater to match a favorite photo?), and you'll gain more vocabulary for, and more confidence in, your color choices.
The Modern Quilt Wrap and me
In choosing the colors for the Modern Quilt Wrap, Mags said that she had had eleven balls of Rowan KidSilk Haze in a basket, each a different color. She kept rearranging them, and then standing back to look at them, until it became clear that two of the colors just "didn't belong." She took those two colors out of the basket, and voila—the remaining colors were perfect.
What if you can't see the yarn in person, or don't have access to all the colors? Here at Interweave, the editors and designers work from color cards, sometimes called sample cards. You can purchase these color cards, made with actual snippets of the yarn in all the available colors, for a small fee either from the yarn company directly or through the shops that sell the yarn. Color cards are invaluable tools, well worth the small investment, particularly when you are working with a project where several colors are involved. Take the time to order a sample card first, and you won't have to stress over whether that red you saw on the Internet is really orange-red or blue-red.
And finally: Yep, that's me in The Wrap. I've been wearing it around the office for days.
Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.
My Red Scarf design for the Red Scarf Project is coming this Wednesday to Knitting Daily! The yarn for the Husband Sweater is on backorder and may not arrive for a while. I am in serious peril of ordering nine balls of KidSilk Haze for the You Know What. (Help me, Obi Wan).