Choosing Colors for the S’mores Cowl

The S'mores Cowl, a handknit cowl featuring classic Fair Isle X's and O's

Now that the S’mores Cowl has been released as an individual pattern, I wanted to share some tips on how to choose colors for colorwork knitting. I designed the S’mores Cowl to be a good pattern for knitters who are new to colorwork. I chose two simple motifs and just three colors, varied the background and foreground colors and pattern placement to achieve a more complex look without being intimidating to knit. The pattern achieves variation by first switching the background color while keeping the same color in the foreground, and then going back to the original color combination but switching the background and foreground colors.

I’ve knit two sample cowls, one in more neutral colors (above) and one in brighter colors (below), to show different options. Although the final look is quite different, I used the same process to choose both sets of colors.

The most important thing you need to look at is the contrast in your color choice. Both sample cowls use two darker colors for the background and a lighter color for the foreground. This is more obvious in the neutral sample (let’s call it Sample #1), but if you look at the colors for Sample #2 in black and white, you can see it’s true for that one as well. Although they are all ‘bright’ colors, the yellow appears lighter in the black and white photo. You could also reverse this and use lighter colors for the background and a darker color for the motif.

What if you want to knit a pattern with more than three colors? I used four colors in my Rionnag Cowl and Hat (below) patterns and varied the contrast levels a bit within motifs. In that case, I paired two lighter colors as either the background or motif colors, one dark color, and one brighter color – the brighter color is in between the light and dark colors in grayscale, so can be paired with either one. Another trick I used to choose the colors for the Rionnag samples is that I essentially used only three colors – three hues in color terminology, but for the fourth color I picked a different shade of one color. So in the blue and yellow sample, I chose light gray, yellow, and two shades of blue. For the other sample, I choose a warmer light gray, orange and again light blue – and for the fourth color I chose a brown, which you can think of as being a darker shade of orange. By keeping two of the colors in the same family you can keep the pattern from looking too busy. You can see this in traditional Shetland and Fair Isle colorwork – using many shades in the same color family to achieve the subtle gradations that style of knitting is known for.

I hope these tips help to make choosing colors less intimidating. Please share your projects using #BullockOzkanDesigns and #SmoresCowl or #RionnagHatAndCowl. I’d love to see what you create! For more tips like this subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll also receive a discount code for 30% off an individual pattern in my Ravelry shop.

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Introducing the Rionnag Cowl

Rionnag6b_small2Introducing the Rionnag Cowl, a lightweight, yet warm cowl that’s perfect for those cooler spring days.

This cowl design started with the colors of the wool, specifically a natural gray, a heathered blue, and an orange.  I was digging through the new basket of Tukuwool Fingering at my local yarn shop – they had recently started carrying this yarn and I wanted to check it out. The first thing that caught my eye was these gorgeous heathery colors, both the natural undyed grays and the dyed colors, and I just thought these three colors played nicely together.

Meanwhile, I have lately been collecting books on fair isle, both vintage and new. A motif in A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book had caught my eye. I saw the combination of stitches and immediately thought ‘cowl’, so I drew it out, bought a fourth color of the Tukuwool, a beautiful dark brown, and began swatching.

The image I had in my head was a gray cowl, that is, I wanted the background to be this lovely natural light gray shade. But when I swatched the motifs using that as the background, they just didn’t pop. And so I selected a few smaller motifs and tried again, swatching with both dark and light backgrounds, but I just couldn’t get the proportions of the colors right. However, I was really intrigued by the small Norweigan star motif with the darker background – only I still wanted a light gray cowl! So I swatched again and settled on a gradation from light background to the motif in the center with the darker background, back to the light background. And so Rionnag was born (Rionnag means ‘star’ in Gaelic).

The Tukuwool Fingering is a beautiful wool for colorwork. Though it is woolen-spun, it has just a tiny bit of a sheen to it that really highlights the depth of those heathered colors. It’s well worth searching out for this cowl.

Rionnag is available here. From now until March 15th, 2018, any two cowls in my shop are 25% off, no code needed.