Anne of Green Cables: How to Choose Colors!

Well, students, you've done it! This is our very last summer school lesson at Jimmy Beans Wool University! Can you believe how much material we've gone over this summer? We learned everything we could possibly think to ask about yarn, fiber, and crafts: the different kinds of fibers that yarn is made from, where we get our products, how we use them all around the world...just to name a few of our topics! That long and winding road has led us, finally, to one of our most-discussed daily subjects: art. 

Perhaps one of the biggest considerations when starting any project is the color. But how do we choose the right colors? ESPECIALLY when you are trying to combine colors, and you're ordering online, say??? How can you know what goes nicely with what?

That is just what we're learning today!

So, you've found a project that you love, and it calls for you to have at least two colors. Your journey begins with our old friend, the color wheel:

We are all familiar with the basic color wheel that takes us through the colors of the rainbow. And, we all have favorite colors that we love to work with! I know my stash has way, way more blues and purples than yellows and oranges, for one. To begin picking colors for our project, what we have to understand is the relationships between different colors on the color wheel.

Say you want to make a sweater that has very gentle striping. You might choose two shades of yarn that would appear right next to each other on the color wheel for that: for example, a royal blue and a light blue would give you stripes that are not too loud. But if you were to use those same two shades of blue for a pattern with more intricate color work, you'd likely be disappointed in the outcome. All your hard work would be difficult to see! For something more intricate like that, you'll want to choose colors that have a little more space between them on the color wheel: blue and green, or blue and purple would do nicely -- or, for maximum contrast, you can choose the color opposite on the color wheel: blue and orange! 

The relative position of a color on the wheel to another color does say a lot about how those colors might go together. Here's a quick guide to different color relationships, so you can get a basic idea:

Of course, primary colors aren't the only piece of the puzzle when it comes to making fiber crafts, right? What about those pesky neutrals? Have you ever thought you were going to use a nice cream and have pretty pink accents, only to get the two skeins of yarn side-by-side and realize that just won't work? How frustrating is that?

Just like with the vibrant hues above, there are no hard and fast rules about choosing neutrals, but there are some key things to pay attention to. Every neutral yarn has a slight tone to it: grays can be warm grays or cool grays, for example. Creams can be very orange or yellow, or not so much. Oatmeal colors, a perennial favorite, can go either way! These tones are what you really want to pay close attention to, because they will make a huge impact on the way your project looks after it's all knit up. Here are a few different gray yarns we stock so you can see these tones side by side:

All of these are gray, but boy are they different! The Dr. Zhivago's Sky is a very blue gray, but if you look closely at the Great Grey Owl it also has cooler, bluer tones in it. The Smokestack and Kitten colors, on the other hand, are warmer grays: the Kitten almost has a touch of red to it, while Smokestack is not quite that dramatic. And all of these are the same yarn base: Tosh Merino Light! 

What projects have you struggled to choose colors for? Or, does this come totally naturally to you? Let us know in the comments below!

And, if you really are struggling to decide on whether the colors in your cart will go together, give us a call! We are always happy to take a look at the yarns in person, side by side, and help you make the perfect color combos!

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