Posts Tagged ‘study’

Consulting the Experts on Color

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

This is part 3 of my article about yellow that missed being published in 2006 when a magazine went out of business. The article has been updated.

It’s not something we generally think about much if at all, but most of us see the work of color experts every single day. Fashion, food, and craft magazines, advertisements, variegated yarns, and print fabrics are created for maximum appeal. Creators want you to buy them, so they make them beautiful.

For the price of old magazines and yarn or fabric already in our collections, we can consult their color expertise.

For my study of yellow, I gathered magazines that were destined for the recycling bin. When I saw attractive photos and ads with yellow in them, I tore them out.

Yellow, blue, turquoise collage

I ended up with a lot of pages that featured yellow, turquoise, and blue. That summery combination reminds me of swimming pools and sunny beaches with turquoise waters.

Maybe it wasn’t strictly necessary, but it was fun to make this collage…

…and these swatches.

Yellow, blue, turquoise swatches

Intarsia cables are kind of a pain, but they look so nice…

Intarsia knitted cables

As yarn lovers, we’re very familiar with variegated or multicolor yarns. Yarn manufacturers consult experts, predict fashions, and they pick the colors they think will appeal to the most consumers. The same goes for fabric manufacturers.

Go ahead—borrow their expertise!

yellow, pink, blue knitted swatch

Lion Brand’s Lion Ribbon (probably discontinued now) combines yellow with vibrant pink and blue. Small amounts of green, orange, and violet appear between the major colors. I tried to use similar proportions of solid colors in my knitted sample.

The pattern is Barbara Walker’s “String of Pearls,” most likely from her Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

Next time: “A Suffusion of Yellow” (Thank you, Douglas Adams.)

Yellow Around the House

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Still working through the unpublished article about the color yellow, this is part 2. The previous post has a list of basic steps for studying a color.

Izzy the cat with fabric and a margarine tub

Awww, Izzy. She was a pretty and sweet cat!

Like many animals we’ve known, she knew how to present herself to her best advantage. The Holstein-patterned fuzzy fabric matched her perfectly and made us wonder “Is it a cat? Is it a cow?” Meow!

The yellow margarine tub happened to be nearby, adding a pop of color to the mysterious scene.

Yellow with black traditionally means danger or caution, in nature and in human environments. Think of bees and some wasps, with their yellow and black abdomens; think of yellow and black striped road signs that alert drivers to bridges or odd intersections.

Yellow, black, and white seed stitch knitted scarf

Yellow and black can be a jarring combination, but I think adding white lifts it from the caution zone into a happy place.

So when I saw Lion Brand’s black and white FunFetti (now discontinued, I’m sad to say), I didn’t even make a study swatch. I combined it with yellow Wool-Ease to make this scarf. It was my first yellow triumph, thanks to Izzy the cat.

Bluebonnets, Winecups, Engleman's Daisies

Around our house, we had wildflowers. In this bouquet we have Texas Bluebonnets, which you probably recognize as lupines; Winecups, which look like brilliant Easter eggs hiding in the grass; and profusely yellow Engleman’s Daisies. They form one of our spring’s most delicious color combinations.

The bouquet inspired me. I wanted to knit the blue, magenta, and yellow.

But wait! Let’s go back to the basic steps above and answer the questions:

What other colors are near the study color (yellow)?

In the garden, I saw blue and magenta near the yellows, but also green.

Are the nearby colors lighter, darker, or similar in tone to your color?

The magenta is darker than the yellow, but they seem to have the same saturation. They’re brilliant. The blue and greens seem paler and recede from the brilliance of the yellow.

Do you see shadows or highlights that enhance the study color?

There are some shadows in the greenery, but to me they don’t enhance the yellow.

What are the proportions of the various colors?

In the bouquet, the proportions of yellow, magenta, blue, and green are roughly the same.

intarsia sample of wildflower colors

Instead of using a pattern with rigidly spaced repeats, I went for randomly colored intarsia squares. I love this sample!

Really, it’s one of my favorite samples and I have wanted to expand this idea into a project for a while—I knitted the sample in 2006. But what would I make?

Within the past year, I think I have settled on a project.

Poet Sandi Horton (read one of her poems here) has written several pieces for my Celebrate Doilies exhibit. She sent me a few as inspiration for a wall hanging. Her poem “Texas Hillside” describes these flowers almost exactly, and someday I’ll make a randomly-colored intarsia check wall hanging about it.

Next time: Consult the Experts.

Studying Yellow

Friday, April 14th, 2017

This article was written for a magazine that went out of print before publishing it. It seemed a shame to keep it to myself, so here it is, and I hope you enjoy it.

Yellow crochet, the start of a doily

Sunshine, cowardly, lemon, journalism: yellow is many things. I was surprised learn that yellow is also “difficult.”

A friend took a creative color workshop with a well-known knitting instructor. Each student chose one color to study for the day. “But don’t pick yellow,” said the instructor. “It’s difficult.”

I scoffed at this, but to my amazement, I later heard the same pronouncement at an international quilt show.

Well, I say if a color is allegedly difficult, working with it is the only way to learn to use it well.

So let’s take a look at yellow together, and then you can use these methods to study any color you may find difficult. The best part is, no color wheels are necessary.

Basic Steps

Decide which specific color you want to study.

Yellow ranges from pale creams (yellow + white) to rich olive shades (yellow + black). Yellow school-buses are really orange-yellow, while fluorescent yellows have greenish overtones. Given the large variety of yellow, I concentrated specifically on brilliant yellows.

Observe your color in different surroundings.

Look for your color in nature, in human environments, in magazines, quilts, your own home, photos, museums, and books. At this stage, the goal is to gather lots of information about the color, and avoid judging the color combinations you see.

Answer these questions about the color and its surroundings.

  • What other colors are near the study color?
  • Are the nearby colors lighter, darker, or similar in tone to your color?
  • Do you see shadows or highlights that enhance the study color?
  • What are the proportions of the various colors?

Answer the questions in words rather than just taking a visual impression in your brain. Writing answers on paper may help you focus on words, rather than just relying on a mental snapshot.


Make sample swatches.

Knit or crochet samples with the color combinations you observed. This is your chance to try out some interesting stitch patterns. I still use Barbara G. Walker’s treasuries of knitting patterns. For crochet, my favorite is Harmony Guide to Crocheting Techniques and Stitches, by Debra Mountford, editor (1992).


Yellow in Nature

Yellow wildflowers along a caliche road

We have lots of yellow out here in rural Texas, and so I took some photos for this study. Here’s a picture of a county roadside near our house.

I wrote answers to the questions listed above:

The lemon and orange-yellow flowers are surrounded by deep yellow green and paler dusty green leaves; also light brownish gray dried leaves. The caliche road and the earth are light beige with pink undertones, but very bright. Flower centers and shadows are dark. Shadows aren’t exactly black. The amount of yellow is small in comparison to the greens and browns.

Just so you know, you may not like how your samples turn out. I didn’t like this one.

Yellow flowers and caliche knitted sample

Going back to the original photo and my own words, I realized I didn’t include the deep shadows that added contrast to the scene. Here’s the next sample with the deep shadow color added.

Yellow flowers and caliche knitted sample

I didn’t like this one much either, but I have learned not to let this put me off. Making these samples was not a waste of time. I learned something about these colors together. They may be perfect for a wall hanging someday. They may look better in different proportions. They may look a lot better to me in a few years.

Yellow flowers and caliche knitted sample

But it was time to move on.

Like you see in this picture of nightshade berries and a grasshopper, yellow in nature is often seen with black, gray, and various shades of brown. Sometimes a tan or grayish bird has a surprising patch of yellow feathers.

Here are knitted samples of yellow with grays and tan.

Yellow knitted with grays and tan

They’re okay. I won’t be making a garment with these colors, probably. But the yellow and gray combination makes a pretty good wall hanging!

Yellow knitted with grays and tan

Next time: Yellow Around the House.