Monday, December 31, 2012

A Lesson in Color

I have a skirt design in the latest issue of Knitter's Magazine called Trompe l'oeil.
Creating this piece was a bit of a journey. I began with a motif from Mary Jane Mucklestone's excellent book 200 Fair Isle Motifs. I drew the chart, then mirrored, flipped and edited it until I had a design that pleased me.
When I made the initial swatch, it occurred to me that the motif looked like a bit of stockinette stitch with the stitches expanded. Can you see it? Try squinting.
The original swatch was done with one self-striping yarn and one solid color.

Knitter's acceptance of the submission happened to coincide with the semi-annual gathering of the clan for the trade show known as TNNA. I met with Rick Mondragon and Elaine Rowley from the magazine in the booth of Universal Yarns to select the yarn to be used for the project.

We quickly decided against using a self-striping yarn. The initial swatch was worked at a 16" circumference. When that yarn was worked in the round at a size appropriate for adult hips, the stripes would become very narrow, losing the effect we liked in the swatch.

We chose 100% wool Deluxe Worsted because it has a wonderful range of colors and because we knew it would be a good choice for the steeked zipper opening I had in mind. Rick and Elaine wanted this piece to fit into a harvest-themed color story in the magazine, so we settled on Roasted Almond for the main color. A range of 6 or 7 blues and greens would be worked in stripes for the background. The result was this:

Awful, right? How in the world did the three of us think these colors would work? After all, it's not like we're new at this. Between the three of us, there are over 100 years of experience knitting and choosing yarn for a variety of projects. Yet it was not until I saw them together in the swatch that I knew there was not enough value contrast between the greens and the almond, and the almond was just too middling - neither dark enough nor light enough to carry the piece.

So I collected my wits and my yarn and worked up some alternatives. The first aimed at retaining the almond as the main color.

The second changed the main color to a deep purple that the good folks from Universal had tossed in my box "just in case you want some options".

As you now know, that "just in case" skein was the hero that saved the day.

The moral of this story: If you are going to make a multi-colored piece, don't commit to the colors until you've worked up a swatch. No matter how many times you go through the process of choosing colors, you never really know if they will play nicely together until the swatch is done.

In case you are wondering, all the ends hanging off the sides of the small swatches are a by-product of my swatching technique. I wanted to work the pattern in the the round on a circular needle for speed, but did not want to make a large swatch. So I cast on enough sts for 2 pattern repeats, and worked a RS row. Then I slid the stitches to the other end of the needle, pulled the yarn across the back, and knit another RS row. I continued this way, knitting only RS rows and carrying the yarn across the back. When I had two repeats complete, I bound off, then cut the long strands across the back so I could block the swatches flat.

I know lots of people are spending their holiday leisure time knitting. How can I tell? One of my duties at Twist Collective is to respond to questions that come to the errata mailbox. The past week has seen a flurry! Fortunately, there was only one actual error - the rest just needed clarification or advice.

A very Happy New Year to one and all! May the blessings you received in 2012 be multiplied, and may the trials be forgotten.