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color theory

Color resources for knitters and spinners

what we do, maker's momentAlicia de los ReyesComment

Now that we've covered the basics of color theory, here are some helpful online classes and video downloads to help you dive deeper into using color in your knitting or spinning, some from Craftsy and some from Interweave.*

Knitters

Want to learn more about combining colors in your knitting? I absolutely loved A Practical Approach to Color for Knitters by Franklin Habit! Franklin is a really gifted teacher—smart, thoughtful, and encouraging. The information he provides is top-notch, his swatches illustrate his points brilliantly, and I loved the stories of his color-deprived childhood. Do check this one out.

I also really liked Anne Berk's Simply Stunning Colorwork, because most of the techniques she teaches use only one color per row, which is perfect for the limited-bandwidth knitting I'm doing these days. This class made me want to knit lots and lots of striped things.


 
Spinners

Spinning Dyed Fibers with Felicia Lo was one of the first online classes on color for spinners. Felicia (the owner of Sweet Georgia Yarns) leads students through an exhaustive discussion of how different spinning techniques affect the look of yarns made from hand-dyed fibers. This is an early Craftsy class, and in some ways it shows (the class is quite a bit longer than it needs to be, IMHO), but there are some gems here if you're willing to invest the time. Plus, you get to watch Felicia spin some truly stunning yarns. 

You'll also want to check out two DVDs on color by Judith MacKenzie: The Spinner's Guide to Color Theory: Mastering Color Without Dyeing, in which she teaches viewers how to blend already-dyed fibers to produce just the hues, tints, tones and shades they want, and The Spinner's Color Toolbox, in which she uses dyed fibers to make a stunning variety of textured yarns. In addition to being an amazing spinning teacher, Judith is also a very gifted dyer and colorist. I got about a zillion ideas for spinning projects from these classes.

I've mentioned (and linked to) Jillian Moreno's two DVDs on color before, and not just because I love her. I think they are both great—clear, succinct, and loaded with samples and swatches: 12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top and 12 (Plus!) Ways to Spin Batts.

Last but certainly not least, there's Color Works for Spinners by Deb Menz. Deb is the author of the ultimate book on spinning color, Color in Spinning, and I'm partial to anything she does, because I took my first dyeing class with her. She is a precise, patient dyer and a wonderful teacher. 

*A quick note: some of these are affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and end up purchasing a class, I get a small kickback. I love Craftsy; their classes are well-shot, well put-together, and cover a whole range of topics that crafters can't necessarily find locally. Interweave's video products have in my view been much more uneven, so rest assured that if I recommend something, I've seen it and liked it. 

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: knitting naturally

dyer's notebook, what we doAlicia de los ReyesComment

For the last post in this color theory series, I'd like to introduce you to Beth Smith, an accomplished spinning teacher. She's written for Spin-off and Knittyspin and is on the editorial board of Ply. Her book, The Spinner's Book of Fleece, is a detailed guide to finding, prepping and spinning different breeds of wool. Today, she's sharing why she prefers to spins undyed fiber.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Beth Smith loves to spin white wool. 

I am Beth Smith and I have a white wool problem. Well, not a problem, exactly—but I love to spin it, weave it and knit it. (And if I was better at crochet I would probably crochet lovely white dresser scarves with white thread.)

My friends know this about me and tease me to no end. Most of my friends dye their wool, and the ones who don’t buy it dyed. When I signed up for the Sheepspot Fiber Club, I asked if I could please have the undyed fiber.

When I teach classes, most of the fiber is undyed. Not necessarily all white—but no added color.

I have my reasons.

Let’s start with the basics. Personally, I like the look of white. I do wear plenty of color, but I like how I can see the twist and the texture a bit easier through the white and shadows of the fiber. 

In addition to making the texture more obvious, working with natural fiber opens your eyes to the different shades of natural white from different breeds of sheep. Very few breeds are pure, snowy white; they range from eggshell to creamy yellow. I have long had a weaving project in mind where I make something to wear that takes advantage of these very subtle shifts in color and value.

I never get bored spinning white. I just finished a project where I spun and plied the yarn for two white skirts. I needed a total of 11,000 yards of two ply yarn. That’s 22,000 yards of singles. And I never got tired of it.

I have, however gotten tired of spinning some dyed fiber.

I also like to teach with undyed fiber. The breeds we study must be undyed to completely show the texture and crimp of freshly scoured fleece.

But I also use plenty of undyed wool for my skills classes, for two main reasons.

First, my students can easily see differences in twist in white wool. I often talk about how the amount of twist affects the finished project, and it is important for students to be able to easily see the differences in the yarns they are spinning. 

The second reason is that there are slight changes in the texture of the wool when it is dyed. I can’t say exactly what the changes are, but you can feel a difference. Regardless of the breed (even Merino!), undyed fibers slide past each other a bit more easily. There is also much less possibility of compacting or fulling, which sometimes happens with dyed fibers. So it's for the students' own good!

I understand that not everyone is going to have the same loving feelings toward white wool that I have—but I do hope that those people who take my classes will be understanding of me and my color-free leanings. I love working with undyed fiber. If you don’t think I’m serious, check out my book full of undyed yarns!

All photos © Beth Smith.

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: color theory for knitters

what we do, dyer's notebookAlicia de los ReyesComment

I'm thrilled to have Janine Bajus of Feral Knitter on the blog this week. Janine is an accomplished color work teacher and pattern designer—and she sells yummy Shetland yarn. Find her on her website or on Ravelry (username feralknitter). Continuing our studies in color theory, Janine shares how to use hue families and value sequences to choose yarns for your next Fair Isle project. (And never fear; she breaks it all down for you, step by step!)

Sasha has introduced the concepts of hue, value, and saturation. One of the pleasures of life is playing with color, and the more we learn about it the more fun we can have. That’s all well and good, but let’s ask the tough question: how can you choose colors that work together?

Well, color theory can help you answer this question, too! On the back of any color wheel you will find several suggestions about color families that work well together. These are called harmonies.

One simple combination is called a triad: three color families spaced equidistantly around the wheel. In this case it's blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.

Or you can choose two color families that fall directly across the wheel from each other, like red and green, yellow and violet, or blue and orange; these are known as complements.

There are many more such harmonies that you can choose from with some confidence that your colors will not clash.

I had trouble using a color wheel at first—it seemed like I could never locate the color of the yarn I held in my hand on the wheel! I began to understand color relationships when I found the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool, an expanded color wheel with 24 hue families. Each hue family is illustrated with the saturated form of the hue, plus its tints, shades, and tones—when I saw them all together like this it all made sense.

Something else is happening in the examples I’ve used, though—it’s not just about the hue families. Fair Isle knitting designs depend on value sequences as well as color: the values move from dark to light into the center point and then move back out to dark again (or, of course, the value movement could run from light to dark to light! So many choices…).

To pick a color combination, first choose the hue families you want to work with and then find several values within those families—this is where it is handy to know about tints and shades! Then arrange the colors by value so that they move from dark to light (or vice versa) in your pattern.

If you want to learn more about using color theory to create lovely designs, I recommend Color Play by Joen Wolfrom! I guarantee that learning more about how colors work together will add pleasure to your fiber life.

All photos © Janine Bajus.

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: color theory for spinners

what we do, dyer's notebookAlicia de los ReyesComment

I'm *so* excited to have amazing fiber artist/teacher/spinsib Jillian Moreno (perhaps you know her from Knittyspin?) share how she shifted a fiber from a variegated colorway into a gradient colorway. Don't know what those terms mean? Don't worry! She spells them out below. Take it away, Jillian!

Dorset Down  in Boardwalk.

Dorset Down in Boardwalk.

When I first started spinning I used to just spin everything as it came. I would buy beautifully dyed fiber, split it in two, spin it from end to end and ply the two singles together. I did that for a long time, but now I can’t quit playing with fiber I get. I rarely spin fiber as it comes anymore.

Take this gorgeous variegated Dorset Down roving in the colorway Boardwalk from theSheepspot fiber club (above). I got it into my head that I wanted to make this variegated roving into a gradient yarn.

The difference between variegated and gradient is simple. A variegated fiber or yarn has several colors that appear more than once on the length of the fiber or yarn; it can be in a pattern or a random placement and is usually in fairly short color runs. Agradient fiber or yarn has several colors with each color only appearing once, usually in longer color runs.

Because I like to play with my fiber, I spun this roving in a couple of ways.
I spun part of it as it came into a fine single and chain plied it, keeping the colors as distinct as possible. Here’s the roving ready to spin. 

And the finished variegated yarn.

Then I made the variegated roving into a gradient. I divided the roving by color, just pulling it apart, trying for cleanest break I could get. I didn’t worry too much about perfectly clean breaks since I like some variation in my colors.

If you want only clear color, keep pulling out the tiny bits of color that don’t belong out of your fiber chunks. These little bits are great to save for making batts.

I chose a color order and spun the fiber into a fine single and chain plied it.
Here’s the finished gradient yarn.

Here are the two yarns side by side, variegated on the left and gradient on the right. Similar, but different. I love it.

Here’s a different view. The gradient yarn is on the left and variegated yarn on the right.

With the yarns spiraled like this you can really see the difference. The colors in the gradient are used only once and the colors in the variegated are used more than once with much more blending between colors. The blue is a particular standout.

Just for fun I spun and plied together one single of the variegated and one single on the gradient. It’s a color mixing party!

There are so many ways to work with a braid of fiber. One day I want to knit a sweater using a single colorway manipulated in a huge variety of ways; I think it would be stunning.

All photos © Jillian Moreno.

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: saturation

dyer's notebook, what we doAlicia de los ReyesComment

Welcome to the third post in this series on color theory and how it relates to knitting and spinning. Want to catch up? Find the entire series here.

So far, we've talked about hue and value. You might remember that hue is another word for the basic, brightest colors on the color wheel and value is a measure of how much black, white, or gray is mixed into a particular hue.

Now, I'll share with you a bit about the final piece to making sense of color: saturation. Saturation is a measure of how bright or intense a color is; the more saturated it is, the closer it is to the purest or brightest version of itself. You can think of earthy tones and neutral colors (like grays and browns) as being less saturated, and bright rainbow hues as more saturated.

My big book o' dye samples.

My big book o' dye samples.

This last measure is confusing for some people because we're used to talking about a color wheel—that is, a two-dimensional diagram of color. But in reality, color has three dimensions, which I've shared with you here: hue, value, and saturation. Maggie Maggio, an amazing polymer clay artist and one of my favorite bloggers on color theory, has a great description of how to visualize color in three dimensions here.

If you're interested in color theory, do poke around on Maggie's website, Smashing Color—it's a fantastic resource. Another fun way to play with color (literally) is to try Blendoku, an online game you can download for your smartphone or tablet that asks you to fill in the intermediate steps between two colors. It sounds complicated, but it's really fun (and addictive!) to drag and drop different shades of blue to get from gray to purple.

Next, I'll be sharing perspectives on color theory from a few favorite spinners, knitters, and fiber artists. Stay tuned!

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: value

dyer's notebook, what we doAlicia de los ReyesComment

Thanks for joining me in learning about color theoryI think it's so useful for all us makers. Has learning about color theory helped you? Let me know in the comments! 

Last week, we talked about hue. Hue refers to the basic, brightest versions of colors found on the color wheel, like blue, green, and yellow. This week, we're diving into the concept of value.

I mentioned in my last post that most colors you see in everyday life are tints or shades. A tint is a hue with white added to it (so pink is actually a tint of red); a shade is a hue with black mixed in. 

Clun Forest Sport in Inchworm , a tint of yellow-green.

Clun Forest Sport in Inchworm, a tint of yellow-green.

There are also tones, which are hues with gray added to them.

The value of a color is how light or dark it is on a scale relative to white; the brighter the hue, the higher value it has. 

Columbia Aran in Blood Orange ; most of the colors in this semi-solid skein are shades of red-orange.

Columbia Aran in Blood Orange; most of the colors in this semi-solid skein are shades of red-orange.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell which colors in a group are the brightest; one easy way to do so is to take a picture of the colors and then use a black and white filter to render the photo in shades of gray. I've done this below to make the range of values in this Cheviot top (in "Gummi Bear") more clear.

It's important to consider value when combining colors. Fair Isle knitting, for example, requires colors of different values to make the patterns pop. In spinning, thinking about value can help you predict which fibers will "barber-pole" when plied; the greater the range of values, the more obvious the barber-pole. Below is a picture of Targhee top in "Cultivate" and the yarn I spun from it. Because there's a big range of values in the colorway, the barber-poling in the final yarn is quite evident.

Next week, I'll share with you one final aspect of color—saturation—and then I'll give you some tips for using color theory to create color combinations.

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: hue

dyer's notebook, what we doAlicia de los ReyesComment

If you've been knitting or spinning for any length of time, chances are you've come across a few color theory terms such as hue, value, and saturation. These words can be intimidating if you don't know what they mean, but they come in handy when you're talking to other fiber artists, and when you're trying to choose colors for your next project.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share the basics of color theory with you. This will help you learn to recognize what makes some color combinations work well (and others not so much).

First up: hue. And the good news is you already know what hue is... it's color. Hue refers to one of the colors on the color wheel: a primary, secondary, or tertiary color. Remember primary colors? Red, blue and yellow are the most basic hues. Mix them and you get secondary colors: purple, green, and orange. When you mix a secondary color with a primary color, you get a tertiary color, like one of my favorite blue-greens.

View over Barcelona (modified) by  robin robokow

View over Barcelona (modified) by robin robokow

Think of hues as the basic, brightest building blocks of all the different colors you find in yarn and in everyday life. Most of the colors you see are actually tints or shades of hues. More on those next week!

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!