Choosing Colors for Handknits

February 28, 2011 at 8:32 am 1 comment

I love color, love, love, love color. There are brilliant reds and greens in my living room, my handknit socks are all pinks and purples, and I can’t seem to get over my addiction to having 10 different colored sharpies. When I got serious about knitting, my love of color spilled into my yarn choices. I bought all the pretty colors my heart desired. I never thought a love of color could be a bad thing… until last year. You all may remember several blog posts on the Cranford Cardi. It was my first sweater, and my first design. All in all, it was a good experience, the garment turned out like I expected with the exception of two critical things. 1) The sleeves were too short and too tight. 2) As pretty as the color was, it went with almost NOTHING in my wardrobe. I had a white shirt it might look good with on occasion, but really, a whole hand knit sweater, and it goes with a single shirt??? I quickly decided that was never, ever going to happen again. No more spending hours and hours on a garment that would be that limited in it’s practical use.

This experience has drastically changed the way I approach color choices in yarn. I no longer drift to the garish pinks and purples, aquas and greens for larger garments with significant time investments. Instead I look for the warm creams and browns or the subtle grays or clean sharp blacks. Neutrals have become my best friends. The Reformation Day Sweater was a perfect example. I made it out of a nice classic brown, it was actually undyed 100% alpaca. I wear it with everything. It goes with every long-sleeved basic tee I have, and there was almost nothing I can’t throw it over on a cold day. It’s the ideal hand knit.

I have also since realized the importance of checking on the NY&Co. or Ann Taylor websites before picking colors. Those are the stores I drool over and wish I could drop $500 on every season. They are my standard of excellence in all my clothes shopping, even if I can’t afford to buy things there. If they say electric salmon is the in color this year… guess what, that’s the color I’m looking for in the target sale racks. If they say it’s all about ballet flats, I’m off to payless to expand my collection. Why shouldn’t they have a say in what I knit?

We as knitters are well acquainted with the conversations we have with our non-knitter friends, you know the ones where we are desperately trying to prove that we are still cool and normal, even if we do have a hobby commonly perceived as a grandmothers craft. The problem is that so often we give them positive re-enforcement for their misconceptions by knitting things that frankly look like they belong to Grandma. We choose colors and patterns that interest us as knitters, but we wouldn’t dream of spending money on if it was on a hanger at Target. We get so focused on cables, lace, and color work that we forget that our work of art is going to be seen by a less than educated world, that won’t understand how much work went into that fair isle yoke and only see a sweater whose colors and shaping belong in the 80s.

It’s an interesting balance that the fashion-consience knitter really needs to watch. We knit because we like hand knits, they’re better quality, potentially better fitting, more comfortable, and generally a lot nicer than anything we’re going to find at the retail stores. There’s a sense in which we as knitters have to say to ourselves “to heck with fashion, I like this sweater, it’s pretty and comfortable, and it’s worth it.” The sweaters we make aren’t ones you could buy, otherwise why would you knit? To an extent, going against the grain of fashion is what we signed up for when we decided to be knitters.

BUT… we do our skill a great disservice when we completely thumb our nose at every store in the mall, every color, every cut, every shape. Because when we wear that sweater we are so very, very proud of and it doesn’t fit anything like what is generally accepted as current fashion or doesn’t follow any of the color guidelines of the season, that is all the untrained eye sees. They don’t see your reversible cables. They see an ill fitting sweater with colors that remind them of highschool.

So now, I do a lot more “window shopping”. I like to get a sense of which colors are in, which colors work for blouses, which work for cardigans, or pullovers. This is so key to our knitting projects. It’s important that we honor our hard earned skill with the fashion know-how it deserves.

This years spring release is all about gray, that’s the color this year, and I wanted to create designs that would inspire many beautiful, fashionable, spring knitting projects. Here’s a sneak peak!



Entry filed under: My Designs. Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Catherine  |  February 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I identify very closely with what you say here. It is so easy to get carried away with the joy of knitting but end up with something unwearable. This is one reason for most of my knitting projects being non clothing (or just scarves and the odd pair of socks). But I continue to search for the perfect wearable sweater or cardigan and to that end when I look at a pattern I ask myself ‘would Jigsaw sell something like this?’ (sorry I dont know the US equivalent – though its not too far from Anthropologie)


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