Recognizing that inspiration can come in all manner of form, there is inspirational technique with which I had not previously connected; that of color. A short while ago I wrote about having attended a class at Stitches West that opened my eyes to a new way of looking at colors in general and combining colors into more intriguing schemes.
When I signed up for the class, I imagined that I would be spending my day learning about color theory; the color wheel, primary colors, complementary, tertiary colors, etc. but no, what transpired instead was an awakening. The class was taught by Laura Bryant of aptly named Prism Yarn (a great source of colorful, hand dyed yarn). She teaches a Josef Albers (The Interaction of Color) technique of looking at color weights rather than hue and/or value. She warned in her opening remarks that the class would forever change the way we look at colors and she was right. We knew that she was right within the first hour.
Laura stepped us through several exercises (holding up color cards) to begin training our eyes to see that color does not exist in a vacuum, that there is impact on a color when viewed upon different backgrounds or next to other colors or even when stitched in different patterns. “Heavier” colors tend to recede whereas “lighter” colors appear to advance.
By the time we broke for lunch, we were in awe. We had arranged a multitude of yarns at our table according to their weights. The premise was that any 3 yarns of the same weights would go together. Four of us seated together were staring at a hideously ugly burnt orange that no one in their right mind would combine with it’s neighbors. As the instructor dared us to prove her wrong, we thought we had it in the bag and set out to do just that. Just knowing that it wouldn’t work, I chose the orange, a bright pink and a variegated green / purple. and I’m quite certain you’ve already guessed the answer. It worked. They not only went together, they were amazing together. We had the opportunity to look at everyone’s work as well and found that there were several such stories. Needless to say our minds were blown by this time and we couldn’t wait for the rest of the experience.
The afternoon brought more revelations. We saw how the color combination can be influenced by choice of stitch (stitch choice can assist with integrating colors) and explored the differences between telling a stitch or a color story through the choice of colors in our knitting. A great tip that I picked up is to gather color combination ideas from scenery or photographs (hints of a scratch file); find a photograph that speaks to you, pick out the colors, match to yarn and voila! A great combination that you’ll love as well. Our final exercise of the day demonstrated the technique of using a 3rd yarn to pull two disparate colors together in one piece and again, it worked beautifully.
Tip: One of the tips given in class is to arrange your stash by color weight rather than by fiber, fiber weight or by color. In fact, I hear tell that there is a yarn store in the greater Northwest (Tricoter in Seattle, WA) that is arranged just so, making it much easier for knitters to find yarns that go together (Brilliant!). I’m also told that the book Simply Sweaters (possibly authored by the owner of Tricoter) treats color in this fashion. I haven’t seen it yet myself but have put it on my ‘to be checked out’ list. In fact, it was suggested that we could be arranging our closets that way too. That’s another whole topic. sigh.
Admittedly, it was a crash course and I have much practice to do before being totally adept at the skill but it was a terrific beginning and an experience I truly enjoyed. A gift that keeps on giving, I would heartily recommend to anyone who wants to gain greater confidence in working with colors, who may have this opportunity, to take it as quickly as you can. It will change the way you look at colors.
If interested, Knitting Universe hosts the Stitches conferences during which the classes are taught and there are 3 events yet to come this year. This particular class is entitled Color for Knitters.
OR you could do some reading on your own via Josef Albers’ book Interaction of Color.
OR you could decide to let someone else do the work for you (not nearly as much fun) in which case, you might check out the yarn colors that Laura designs at Prism Yarn (no, I’m not an affiliate) since she is so well versed in the process.
Have you had any similar experiences or do you have other inspirational tips to share? I’d love to read your thoughts on the subject.