Friday, February 10, 2012

Colorwork 1 - choose yarn and colors

Believe it or not, there's a little more to colorwork than just choosing two colors you love and putting them together.  Not a lot more, but more.

First, how do you choose colors?  For smooth and easy colorwork, choose two colors of the same exact fiber from the same yarn line.  As and example, two or more different colors of Classic Elite Inca Alpaca.  It comes in 45 colors, and provides variation across the color spectrum.  Why the same yarn line?

Stranded Colorwork
Not all yarns are created equal, and not even all yarns of the same fiber and weight are created equal.  As you can see in the example, these two "worsted" yarns are different thicknesses.  They are both from the same manufacturer, both merino wool.  One is superwash, and one isn't.  Depending on what you're making, this may not matter at all.  If you know not to launder the piece as if it were all superwash, great.  If you're felting, this is a problem.  A very slight difference won't show much in a stranded colorwork situation.  In stranded, each color stitch needs only to match itself in size.  If the other color is slightly different, it's fine. 

Fair Isle Swatch
If it's Fair Isle or striped, it will yell at you!  Fair Isle is entirely dependent on every stitch being exacly the same size, or the pattern wont work.  As you can see in the example, when they aren't, it's pretty obvious.  The red stitches were knitted much more tightly than the white, and the white are very uneven.  It's still pretty, but after the time and money you've invested in making a piece like this, you'll want it to look its best. 

However, if texture and striping are your goal, maybe you really want the yarns not to match.  In that case, run with it!  Or, maybe you're holding two yarns together for a marled effect, in which case you may choose two yarns of totally different weights to achieve just the color proportions you want.  The swatch in the example is made with a worsted wool and a bulky cotton alpaca blend, creating a very chunky, textured look.  The texture pops much more because of the two yarns held together than it would in either yarn alone.  (I know this because I tried it.)
Two Yarns Held Together
For the garment you're about to make, would you like it to coordinate with clothes you already own?  Maybe bring a garment you'd like to coordinate along with you when you shop.  Do you want to coordinate with clothes you haven't purchased yet?  Check the Pantone color chart for the season you'll be using the garment.  They keep archives of top fashion colors for years past, present, and future.  (Ever wonder how all the clothing manufacturers end up on the same page for color every season?  Mystery solved.)  Even if the clothes haven't been made yet, it's likely that the palette on Pantone will accurately represent the clothing choices you'll have in the upcoming seasons.  (Not sure?  Check it out here.)

Yes, there's more to it.  We'll go over it in the next several posts.  You'll be great at this!

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