Although I love knitted colorwork and stranded or Fair Isle sweaters and accessories, I haven't created a lot of designs using multiple colors. Most of my stranded projects, like the Ferrovia collection or the Fish Isle Child's Pullover, use just two colors of yarn (although the latter uses a variegated contrast yarn, which is an easy way to add interest to simple colorwork).
So I am really a novice when it comes to designing with multiple colors. I do have a couple of great reference books: The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Anne Feitelson, and Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting.
(A few useful terms: "stranded knitting" and "Fair Isle" are often used interchangeably. Fair Isle is one of the Shetland Islands, which are part of Scotland, and is where Fair Isle knitting originated. "Stranded knitting" refers to a style of knitting with yarns of different colors, in which the yarns not being actively knitted are carried or stranded on the wrong side of the work, as in the above photo. In classic Fair Isle knitting, many colors may be used in a single garment, but only two colors are worked on any one round.)
Both of the above books discuss color theory and how to combine different colors at some length, but I will summarize the primary tenets for color knitting as follows:
- Choose colors that look nice together.
- Choose colors that have enough contrast so the design is visible.
#1 is somewhat a matter of personal taste, although as with sounds, colors do have inherent physical properties (wave length and all that) such that some combinations are naturally harmonious, and others, discordant. #2 is very important because without enough contrast, you might as well not go to the trouble of creating the design, since no one will see it!
Of course it's not that simple to combine multiple colors in a pleasing way; you also have to consider how to transition between colors, which colors to use for background and which for the design, and where the focal point of the design should be (and how to use color to draw the eye there). But the crazy/fun/frustrating part is that it's not as simple as you might think to even achieve #1 and #2! Why? Because colors look different to the eye depending on what other colors are around them.
I recently finished a design with a Fair Isle yoke for a book of knitting patterns that won't be published until Spring 2018. I had worked up several possible Fair Isle patterns for this knitted top, and really liked two of them, so I decided to use the 2nd place finisher (swatched below) in another (self-published) design.
The colors I chose for the book project are shown in the swatch and also in the first photo; I used the olive green for the body. I didn't want to use the same colors for my self-published design, so I decided to use the teal for the body, and a different combination of colors for the yoke.
The Brown Sheep Company was kind enough to provide their Cotton Fleece yarn (80% cotton, 20% wool) for my book project, but rather than ask them to send more, I purchased a few more colors of Cotton Fleece (see below).
Next week: More swatching...and more, and more...