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November 14, 2014


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I consider myself severely color-impaired (my ideas about what will look good together never turn out to be accurate!) - but it would be fun to have tons of time to spend doing the exercises in the book, no one of which seems to be overwhelming in size. I think my only handicap would be the lack of a complete collection of all the colors of J&S yarn...what does one do if one does not have All the Colors to match to one's environment??

Felicity Ford


I am glad you like the exercises in the book - I did try to find ways of making them manageable and inviting :D

Regarding your questions...

There are quite a few folk talking on Ravelry about how easy it is to phone up J&S and request one ball of every single shade and Alice Starmore's recommendation in her amazing Fair Isle Knitting book is the same: pick up one ball of every shade from a supplier who sells a very large range of 2-ply Shetland wool! I think it's a nice compromise to buy the shade cards; it's a smaller investment than a ball in each shade but still gives you access to All the Colours.

Very often there are shades in the environment/an inspiration source for which there is no identical yarn match. There are so many zillions of colours in the world that it wouldn't be commercially viable for anyone to try and produce yarn shades to match every possible one!

In my experience it's no fun to get too hung up on whether or not the available yarn shades are an exact match for your inspiration source. Instead, when you can't find a good or even approximate match, there is fun to be had in figuring out the compromise! This can be a wonderful exercise in deconstructing and contemplating both the colour of your inspiration source and the yarn shades that you have available; you usually have to decide whether you are more interested in keeping the value of the original colour (it's lightness, darkness etc.) or the hue (whether you would call it blue or black or pink or yellow or whatever)... and it can be surprising and joyous to discover that when the precise green you wanted for a project doesn't exist, a blue or a brown might actually work in its place.

Hope that helps some! xF

Deb Robson

Felicity has weighed in, and I’ll let you know something about my compromises in this regard. When I design colors for a garment, I’ll go to the yarn shop with the biggest selection of colors and sit on the floor, putting skeins next to each other and doing my best to visualize what might work for the idea I have in mind. Then I select a skein of each candidate to take home and swatch—and if I’m waffling between some options, I’ll get those alternatives and try them out at home. This isn’t an infinitely acquisitive process, because over time I’ve gotten better at choosing the first (or second) time.

When you’re working with *learning* color, it doesn’t matter a whole heap what yarn you’re using. You can learn a lot regardless. (If you’re designing a garment, of course it does). And I have a few less expensive ways to dabble with color ideas. One involves using either wool embroidery yarn (I’m thinking Paternayan) or cotton embroidery thread (DMC has a great color range). You can get a heap of colors pretty fast and relatively inexpensively, and work with them either in knitting (easier with the wool) or cross-stitch or needlepoint, if you have or can noodle at acquiring those skills.

One thing I might consider doing here is getting the J&S shade card and then matching colors to DMC cottons in the range I’m considering using for a project, then doing preliminary “swatches” in cross-stitch, then getting J&S colors to do “real” swatching. DMC cottons are often on sale at the craft outlets. Paternayan pricing varies, depending on where you buy it, but still can be a good option.

The things to watch out for here are the subtle shifts that will happen in the change from one fiber type to another, and from one stitch-formation process to another. The cotton yarns will be more lustrous (will reflect more light) and there’s a slight color-perception change involved in moving to wool. Also, cross-stitches are exactly square, and knit stitches in most cases are a bit wider than they are tall (although this is less pronounced in color work than it is in some other techniques, and may only be a marginal issue in designing for Fair Isle).

If you set your non-jumperweight yarn samples up right, you can end up with mug mats and other useful small items—even a tiny baglet or some such—in addition to having narrowed down your color choices for swatching for a project.

Above all, have fun with color! The exercises will help you play and do that.

— Deb

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