I won’t claim to be an expert on color theory or coloring of fibers. I’ve not done much dyeing, other than turning my old Converse Sneakers bright pink and wearable once more, and reviving the odd pair of pants that had lost my interest in whatever shade they were orginally made.
My experience with color comes from my gut. Certain colors feel a certain way together and can create a certain mood. They say that hot blooded Aries people (of which I am one) are drawn to hot red shades, and my house certainly has probably more than it’s fair share of the color. But, I don’t go for Fire Red, I go for Brick, for faded Raspberry, for Terra Cotta. Those colors have more to say to me than a straight bold primary or secondary shade. Then I’ve thrown in smatterings of coffee, black, mustard and navajo white, along with a few other bits and pieces for balance, breathing room and good measure.
When I work on a new design, I’m pushed in one way or another sometimes by color, sometimes by fiber and texture, and often both combined. Rarely if ever do I start out by saying “I’m going to make a ………….. (fill in the blank).” I will go to the studio and stare at my shelves of yarn, piled in crooked boxes or stacked in cones, I start pulling out one yarn and another, and shortly have a sea of color on my studio table. It’s that sea of color that determines what it will become, some colors just “look” more like a scarf or a hat, and yet others a purse or mittens.
Now I’m not out buying yarn on a daily basis; I have worked with the mostly the same shades for the last few years, adding in a few new ones each season, though rarely abandoning the older. When adding in the new shades and hues, I’m seeing whole new relationships and balancing acts appear – bringing life once more to older colors in which I had previously lost interest.
This brings me to my latest project. I have fallen in love with the Louet Gems color palette. The driving force behind these beautiful colors is Trudy Van Stralen, the founder of the company. I have been working with Louet Gems yarn for a short while (it’s the newest addition to the quality yarns I use in the Knitwhits kits), using it solely as a sock yarn for my adult sock kits and my Socks For Tots range. But the palette as a whole tells a story that can’t be told (easily) in smaller items such as these socks. I felt that the palette deserved a bigger stage. Enter “Amelie” the floral crochet throw. This design requires that each motif be made up of 3 colors, 2 of the same hue, but one light, one dark, and a third, preferably unrelated color as the border and contrast. . The Louet colors have a dustyness that I think appeals to the old-fashioned style of this type of design, and a large multicolored throw is the perfect vehicle to show off a good portion of the 36 available shades.
Within the range of available shades are a few primary colors, though the majority of shades are a few steps away. For example, there is a Neptune blue, which is like a light sky, but there is also Aqua. It’s the Aqua that will work here. There is an Indigo, and also a Navy, for this throw it’s the Indigo that will fit, being so dark that it’s almost black.
As I go through these colors there are a few that just don’t quite fit in, for my purposes at least. And yet, given the size of this project – my goal is to make a Queen size coverlet – the more colors I will have to pick from the better.
Since my chosen palette is leaning to an aged, softened look, the simplest way to increase my color range is to work with some of the remaining colors (that would clash too much as they are) and tone them down. I have selected a coral, a forest green and a cherry red to start. Here I will show you the coral. As it is, it’s too intense for my purposes and will visually stand out from the rest and create discord and unbalance. A simple and quick way to age a color is to …. make a cup of tea!
I’ve started here with a loose hank of yarn, (I would recommend starting with a small swatch so you can make a mistake or two before finding your perfect shade), which I’ve placed it in a shallow bowl. In the tea strainer is some Jasmine Tea. No reason for that paricular one, other than I know it contains black tea, it smells good and I have lots of it. It also happens to be quite weak, so I can’t mess it up too quickly. I will add hot water (this is option 1 – depending on your yarn type, option 2 may be the better choice) and let it steep. What I would suggest is keeping a clip of the yarn nearby so you can compare the colors. The longer your yarn will steep, the greater the change in color. Also keep in mind, if you are starting with a lighter shade as I have done here, that it will take the color quicker, or rather, the tea will have a greater effect, more rapidly. Option 2 is to make the tea first in a separate container, let it cool and then soak your yarn. In order to ensure even absorption of the color, be sure the yarn has room to move, and that it is presoaked and wet before placing it in the brew.
I would check the yarn fairly quickly, even within a couple of minutes if all you are seeking is a slight change of hue. However if you have a dark color to begin with, you will want to leave it for longer to see any changes.
Here you can see my Coral color has become a pale salmon. Now this change was fairly rapid, occuring within about 5 minutes in the hot water. Given that the color change is coming from tea, you are effectively staining your yarn, so be careful as if you go too far, you may end up with a result you don’t like. As with knitting itself, this is where a test or swatch will really come in handy and save you a headache later on. Remember, you can always make it darker, but it will be harder to remove the color, so caution is the key.
As for my Forest Green and Cherry Red? The changes were very subtle after a good hour in the tea – I did gradutate to straight up English Breakfast tea in the end for the darker shades, from which I now have a lovely deep leaf green and a rich roasted Red, just the right intensity and hue for my giant project.
(If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the pattern for Amelie, let me know, if there is enough interest I will add it to the Knitwhits site early, I have also included in the pattern information on selecting yarns, determining yarn quantities, color placement and of course instructions for the stitch motif itself)