How to Design Crochet Patterns Part 5: Selecting Yarn Colour

My favourite part of designing my own patterns is that I get to decide what colour(s) I am going to use.  Selecting the colour of your yarn is a personal choice and if a certain colour or combination of colours makes you happy then go for it!

In my final post of my How to Design Crochet Patterns series, I want to discuss some of the things I think about when choosing colours because I have found that my most successful projects (e.g. shawls that I wear most) are often more thought out than a simple equation of “I love that colour = beautiful project that I love equally as well”.

Single Colour Items

Making items out of a single colour that you love is always the easiest option, particularly if you are buying yarn on line as even if the colour turns out a little different than expected it doesn’t have to match anything!  My top tip for single colour items is to make sure you keep it interesting either with your stitch pattern or your yarn texture.  Block colours are a great foil for showing off your fancy hook-work.

The block colour shows of the fancy stitchwork - Indian Summer Lace Top - free crochet pattern from Make My Day Creative

The block colour shows of the fancy stitchwork – Indian Summer Lace Top – free crochet pattern from Make My Day Creative

Multi Coloured Projects

If you are looking to make a multi-coloured project combining many solid shades then I would really recommend investing some time in really looking at colour combinations.  There are so many easy ways to do this!  My top tips are:

  • Get a Pinterest board and pin multi-coloured projects, prints, patterns and even photos that you really love. Look at what colour combinations re-occur on your board and use these palettes.
  • Try reading about how quilters select their fabric colours. You may never make a quilt in your life but the colour matching skills are totally transferrable!
  • Do follow people’s blogs whose eye for colour you admire, even if it isn’t your personal taste. It will push you to consider mixing things up in ways you hadn’t thought of.
  • Don’t be afraid to drop in an unexpected contrast. For example: a palette of neutral greys and creams is lovely, but it can be transformed by adding a bright pink or chartreuse green.

    A traditional colour palatte -Christmas Stocking - Free crochet pattern.

    A traditional colour palette -Christmas Stocking – Free crochet pattern.

Variegated Yarns

In my opinion variegated yarns are one of the hardest things to get right.  The problem is that they look beautiful in their skeins but often once wound and hooked up the colours can sort of blend to look different.  This is particularly true in crochet more than knitting because each stitch uses more yarn – it is taller, and some of the yarn is hidden inside the loops of the stitch so you effectively loose sections of colour.  This means that the length of the stitch (or stitch repeat pattern) relative to the variegation length (how much yarn there is before the next colour change) is quite critical to the look of the finished project.

For example – a short variegation usually leads to a speckled effect, and long variegations or even gradients are needed to make wider “pools” of colour.  I personally feel that the shorter the variegation, the more careful I need to be about how I use the yarn to make sure I really show the colours off well.

I’d probably define a short variegation as a change of colour 12 inches or less.  Short variegations tend to produce a speckled or watercolour effect which can be very pretty.  My word of warning with short variegations is related to my point on yarn texture in my previous post in this series – frequent changes in colour tend to disguise any beautiful stitch work.  So in general, keep it simple and let the colours do the talking, not the stitches!

Shooting Stars Cowl - a Free Crochet Pattern by Make My Day Creative

Shooting Stars Cowl – a Free Crochet Pattern by Make My Day Creative

An exception to this might be a project like my Shooting Stars cowl.  The stitches are pretty fancy, but the broomstick lace is actually designed to show off the yarn by showing lengths of it rather than using it in close stitches.  Each star stitch used just the right amount that it appears to change colour every “star”.  You will probably find yourself making swatches of different stitches to try out your variegated yarn more than with solid shades, so be prepared.

Close up of star stitch with trails

Close up of star stitch with trails of yarn made from broomstick lace

If your yarn is making your project look quite “busy” then there are a few ways to calm it down a bit.  The easiest is to mix your variegated yarn with a solid colour.  I like a neutral, to make the variegated yarn pop.  Try using a clean graphic element – like the stripes in my Pacific Rim Shawl – to contrast with the variegation and add structure.

Pacific Rim Crochet Shawl - free pattern from Make My Day Creative

Pacific Rim Crochet Shawl – free pattern from Make My Day Creative

Another thing you can try is holding two strands together – a variegated and a solid to water down the effect of the variegation, or two strands of the variegated, to make more of a flecked or tweedy effect.

My final tip is to consider using two different variegations together, in contrasting colourways, for example, a blues and greens variegation with a reds and pinks variegation.  Sound crazy?  Well it is a little.  But if you are after a lot of colour without having to weave in the ends from multiple stripes, I suggest you consider this because it can be very effective.  (The example shown below is a free knitting pattern from Musings of a Yarn Mom.)

Two color variegated yarn blanket - photo from The Musings of a Yarn Mom

Two color variegated yarn blanket – photo from The Musings of a Yarn Mom

Do you have any colour top tips?  Or have you surprised yourself by pushing your colour comfort zone?

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9 thoughts on “How to Design Crochet Patterns Part 5: Selecting Yarn Colour

  1. Great ideas! My rule of thumb is the more complicated the yarn is, the simpler your pattern should be, and vice versa. You said it most eloquently. :-)

  2. I do love your site!!!! Every time I look some pattern or any tip you give to your followers, (I am one of them) I thank your generosity and creativity very much!!

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  5. Great series of tutorials! Thanks a lot for them… I wanted to start creating my own triangular shawl for a great mohair yarn I was given for my birthday and didn’t know where to start … I’ve got a bit clearer now, so I suppose after studying for a while the thing will come out by itself ;-)

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