Tag Archives: color exercises

Colour Confident Stitching: a book review

It’s been a while since I wrote my blog posts about color exploration and about some good books to use for learning how to use color. You can find all those blog posts under the color exercises tag.

I was at the library recently and browsing the craft shelves to see what was new (the main branch of the library had been closed for years even before 2020 to be entirely rebuilt, so the collection has changed a lot). I noticed a book about choosing colors that I thought would be helpful for any fiber artist, even though it is primarily written for embroiderers:

Colour Confident Stitching: How to create beautiful colour palettes, by Karen Barbé. Pimpernel Press Ltd, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-910258-65-1

Continue reading Colour Confident Stitching: a book review

Yarn wrappings

Somehow, the more I hang around other knitters, the more I end up with bags of random skeins from yarn swaps (very casual affairs: bring yarn you don’t want any more, take yarn you like, anything left goes to the reuse shop that sells lots of craft supplies). I’ve also had two people randomly thrust bags of yarn stash at me and ask me to find a home for it. Well, all right, I suppose. Until I run out of room and start to feel mentally blocked because of too much yarn.

Lately, I’ve been in stash buster mode. I just finished knitting one shawl design from discontinued yarn and am considering (though I had other plans) working on another with this yarn:

Continue reading Yarn wrappings

Book Review: KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned this book in the same post as Sequence Knitting, then went on to only review the latter. Now it’s this book’s turn.

KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, by Felicity Ford. KNITSONIK, 2014. ISBN: 978-0993041501. Website: knitsonik.com. Ravelry group: KNITSONIK

Continue reading Book Review: KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook

A Knitting Library: On Color

I’ve seen friends of mine talking recently about difficulties in choosing color combinations. These are some books that I hope might provide some good ideas, both with choosing colors and with different techniques for working with multiple colors in knitting.

The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, by Margaret Radcliffe. Storey Publishing. ISBN 978160342040

The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques starts out with basic information about the color wheel, how neighboring colors affect each other, and some ways of testing yarn color combinations. Lots of books include this information, but it’s a good idea to have access to the theory somewhere. Radcliffe then moves on to what I consider the really valuable parts of the book: how to play with color in textured stitch patterns, how to work with different kinds of multicolor yarns to best effect, and in-depth information about how to work stranded knitting, intarsia, twined knitting, and other techniques. If I could only have access to one book about knitting and color, I think I’d pick this one.


One of my favorite ways of choosing colors (if I’m not limited to choosing from yarns that are at hand) is to look around me for something that has color combinations I like already, whether a piece of fabric, the view out my window, or a picture. The next three books all have examples of this, and I suspect this might be a more helpful method for choosing colors for some people than the color wheel. You might also want to look at the Color Exercises I did a few years back to get some ideas for software to help with this.

Color from the Heart: Seven Great Ways to Make Quilts with Colors You Love, by Gai Perry.

“What?” I imagine you saying, “a quilt book?” Yes, a quilt book. I learned more about working with color from this book than anywhere else, and I am certain that there’s a lot that anyone can learn from it. For instance, she shows that if you’re combining a lot of different blues in a project, throwing in the occasional blue-green or violet will still give an overall impression of blue. She discusses some ways of working with regular color theory as well as pulling color combinations from things that you like. There are exercises that I suspect can be used for scrap knitting (sock yarn blankets!) as well as scrap quilting. If I could only have two books about working with color, this would be the second.

Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, by Alice Starmore. Dover Books. ISBN 9780486472188

I’m including this not only for Starmore’s instructions on how best to arrange colors in traditional Fair Isle colorwork, but also because she talks about how she pulls color combinations out of photographs and her surroundings and provides examples.

Knitting Color: Design Inspiration from Around the World, by Brandon Mabley. Sixth & Spring Books. ISBN 9781933027074

The beginning of this book is Mabley’s suggestions for pulling colors out of pictures that the student likes and also about swatching (not gauge swatching – just learning to put colors together). I think I’d recommend getting this book from the library and then purchasing it if the book as a whole inspires you.

How about you? What books about working with color would you recommend?

Oak leaves in winter

Sometimes the light catches something in just the right way and I have my camera with me. Look at this vivid red, the result of sunlight shining through dried up oak leaves:


I ran it through the palettes app I’ve been using on the iPad, and came up with this, that I sorted by value (I read this very interesting post today):


I recently was going through my fiber arts books and discovered that I own a Dover book called Folk Designs from the Caucasus by Lyatof Kerimov, which has some interesting charted designs in it that I want to use in conjunction with Sara Lamb’s book, Woven Treasures.

I combined the palette above with one of the designs in there and came up with this combination, which I quite like. It’s also a fairly common traditional color combination, but the book I was working with was in black and white.


On further reflection, I think it’s truer to the original photo if the background is pale grey:


I also played around a bit in Percolator, which I’ve recently been having fun with, and which I think might be a good way to pull out a palette:


Sea anemone

I think this might be the penultimate Monterey Bay Aquarium color exercise. Here, have some striking sea anemones:


I used Palettes for iPad to pull out this set of colors:


And then used Sketchbook Express to paint in squares of color in a grid. I used a design from Sarah Don’s Fair Isle Knitting, sample 11 on page 37.


I didn’t care for the grid lines, but I realized while cropping the result that I could have fun with the preset filters in my photo editing apps. I was actually kind of surprised by how much easier it was to visualize a finished product based on the result.


Hermit crab color exercise

Hasn’t even been a week and here I am again. I have a newish iPad 2 and have just been finally settling into it, which means I want to play with color on it, too, as well as making use of the WordPress iPad app. This whole post was produced on the iPad, from text to pictures. Though I did take the original photo with a proper camera. Anyway, here we go!

Here is a hermit crab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Look at those gorgeous blues and purples! There’s also a pale color behind the hermit crab with its jaunty hat—I keep thinking it’s something like a pale chartreuse, but no. It’s actually more like a shade of creamy grey! Just goes to show how adjacent colors affect each other, I suppose.


Most of the online color palette generators don’t really work all that well with the iPad (because you can’t upload a picture using the usual menus and because it’s hard to get a picture’s link). However, I did find a satisfactory one that plays well with Flickr and Facebook. It’s from BigahugeLabs.com: http://bighugelabs.com/colors.php.

Here’s the palette it gave me:


That’s all very well and good, though I didn’t end up playing with that any further. I was more curious this time about iPad apps. The one I found is called Palettes. I’m going to borrow a description I wrote on Ravelry: “There’s a free version and two paid modes. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely user friendly – it does benefit from RTFMing. It’s also probably overkill unless you’re used to graphic design programs or web development. I do like it, but I have done both, so. If I do much more of this color palette stuff, I will probably shell out the money for the paid version.”

The free version didn’t automatically make a very impressive palette from the photo; it was mostly greys and blacks. Since it was free, I couldn’t create a palette with more than five colors, so I made two:



This time I decided to design a hexagon quilt; I used a free app called Sketchbook Express. I found some hex paper online and downloaded the picture. I wrote down the RGB numbers of the colors I wanted from Palettes and then used the paint bucket tool to fill in the design I wanted. And here we go!


I am quite happy with that; I played some with using some colors as both dark and light, which I always enjoy. What do you think?

Black Sea Nettle

I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium last fall, as I think I’ve mentioned, and got several photos with interesting color combinations that really stretch my boundaries. Here’s one that has a classic complementary combination, orange and blue:


I’m not going to show all the intermediate steps this time. I used Graphic Converter to pull out some color choices (very similar to what Photocopa came up with, actually) and put them into a design that could be done with two color knitting and that evokes something about the ruffliness of the jellyfish:


I tried to do something like the percentages of the different colors and I like the effect, though I might choose slightly different hues next time.

neighborhood in late afternoon

Color exercise number two: a photo from my neighborhood, in the late afternoon:


First, I opened the photo in GraphicConverter. This time I pixellated the picture and used the eyedropper to pick out some representative colors.



This time, I thought I’d have some fun with a grid designed for helping chart warp-faced weaving (by Laverne Waddington).

I didn’t use all the colors from the square above, but I had fun with it:


I like that! And interestingly, I think I got the proportions to match the photo pretty well, though I wasn’t trying for it.

Just for an arbitrary difference in choices, I went back to Photocopa, with this result:

photocopa - across street

I picked out a color combination I wouldn’t expect myself to pick out (because I’m not much for yellow or chartreuse):

photocopa across street 1

And played with the oval grid again:


I surprised myself by liking it, though it’s paler than I would ordinarily prefer.

I also picked out a more stereotypical palette from the Photocopa color choices:

photocopa across street 2

and then did a design using both it and the less stereotypical colors:


It works well enough, though I’m not thrilled by it. I think I could come up with better combinations and proportions, but I’d run out of time for this particular exercise (not that I’m setting a limit; I just have other things I need to do too.)

Next time I’m going to pick a photo with almost no colors that are in my standard choices.

Constructive criticism welcome!

Playing around with colors

I’ve been wanting to play some with color schemes for a while now, as well as stretching the colors I work with. Some conversations on Ravelry as well as some books I’ve read cemented that desire. I particularly haven’t cared for yellow or orange in the past and still don’t care for pink. I prefer muted colors to bright ones. I’m not necessarily going to step outside those preferences much, but I am going to try to push the boundaries a bit.

I want to avoid feeling pressured to produce finished objects, so I’ve decided that for the moment I’m just going to produce color schemes. If I happen to actually go on to weave or knit or spin something specific based on the results, fine. If I don’t, that’s fine too.

I’ve been taking more photos lately; I’ll probably mostly work with those. Today’s exercise is based on a photo I took purely for the colors. I’ve been eyeing these blackberry leaves for a while now. (That is, I don’t care for the photo as a photo.)


First, I opened the photo in one of my photo editors (in this case, GraphicConverter), zoomed in the photo so I could see pixels, and used the eyedropper to pick out some representative colors – if I included the pylon in the upper right corner, I had a whole rainbow to choose from!

little blobs of color from all over the rainbow, but muted

I decided to leave the pylon out of things, but to include the cattail beige from the upper left as the background. I made stripes in three different color groupings:

stripes, but no yellow

Since yellow can brighten an object, I decided to try to add a bit:

stripes yellow 1

That seemed like a little too much (I’m trying to think about rough proportions from the original images, among other things), so I cut back on the yellow a bit:

stripes yellow 2

That seems good!

There’s also a color palette tool I found online a while back, called Photocopa. It pulls out a selection of colors from a photo and also creates several palettes, not necessarily using the basic selection. These are the ones it pulled out from the blackberries photo:

color swatches selected by the Photocopa online application

I picked out these five colors:

PHOTOCOPA blackberries-1

and then played some with proportions:

PHOTOCOPA blackberries 2

All in all, I’m pleased with what I did, and I think I would feel happy to work with the final results of both processes. I worked in some yellow and orange, and once a bit of pink. Constructive criticism welcome!