colour tricks

Yesterday I wrote about choosing colours for the plaid cowl.  As promised, I’m going to discuss the hiccup I encountered when it turned out that colours had played tricks with my eyes when I picked colours with Jeni.  Colour has such an emotional and psychological role in our lives that, even though I had done the swatches I shared with you yesterday, I managed to mess up.  I did not order one each of a light, medium, and dark tone.  Instead, I ended up with a dark and two mediums.

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I had planned to do the cowl with a lovely and vibrant horizontal run of leaf green, but I had a feeling that wouldn’t work. I knew it was time to swatch.  And this project offers ample swatching opportunities.  With a main colour and two contrasting colours, there are 6 possible combinations. The contrast colours aren’t equally used, so there will be one that gets twice as much visual space on the cowl.  So, for example, using green as the main colour still leaves me with two options: dark grey as contrast colour 1 and blue as 2, or blue as CC1 and grey as CC2.

If you’re the type to love to play with swatches and enjoy the surprises they can bring, then have at it!  But if you’re looking for more guidance, the pattern gives advice, as does yesterday’s post.

This stitch pattern looks good a lot of ways but, if you’re like me, you’re a knitter who envies weavers the ability to produce plaid.  It’s why I starting playing around with the stitch pattern, after all.

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So let’s look at the three swatches I did yesterday, with each of the three colours as the main colour.  For contrasting colours, I used the lightest colour as the one that would be the thinest.

On the left, the green works reasonably well, but there isn’t a strong sense of the crossing of colours.  It’s that crossing of a horizontal and a vertical that makes this stitch pattern mimic plaid.

With the middle swatch, the dark colour just steps back into the background, allowing the texture of the contrast colours to really move forward, which doesn’t work for the look I want at all.  It might be nice, but it’s not plaid.

On the right, we have the blue as the main colour, and the thin band of green seems to hold it’s own weight as a vertical accent.  It’s the one I like best, especially in person.

Why does this work?  After all, in the black and white photos I take of the three colours the blue and green are indistinguishable from each other!  But colour as a physical fact also gets layered with our emotions, our psychology, and our perceptions.  There is something about the way the green shimmers, especially in person (no doubt due to the amazingly glorious 50% silk content).  There is such energy to the green that it picks itself up and lifts itself lighter than the blue, as it were.  I’m so glad I didn’t have to write a sheepish note to Jeni of Fyberspates explaining that my psychology had overruled my swatching brain.

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