How to choose colors for stranded knitting

Choosing colors for stranded colorwork knitting is challenge, but not a rocket science. I wrote several tips how to choose colors. The example is my design Wintering cap, which I knitted in different yarns and colors.

You cannot go wrong with a traditional 2-color scheme: red/white, gray/black, gray/white (below) , red/black. The examples of these popular color combos are below, executed in different yarns.

Pattern: Kittery Cap. Yarn: Tynn Alpakka by Sandness Garn
Pattern: Wintering cap. Yarn: Heritage by Cascade
Pattern: Wintering cap. Yarn: Signature Cashmere by Smitten Yarn Co.
Pattern: Wintering cap. Yarn: Signature Cashmere by Smitten Yarn Co.


For non-traditional 2-color scheme, choose high contract shades from the same or the opposite color family. For example: hot pink/burgundy:

Pattern: Wintering cap. Yarn: Signature Cashmere by Smitten Yarn Co.


You can make the color scheme a bit more sophisticated: 3- and 4- colors.
Take 2 (or 3) yarns of the same color family and the 4th yarn of opposite color in a darker shade. Make sure that there is still a good contrast between the two darkest yarns. For example: white/baby blue/steel blue + forest green. See two pictures below.

Pattern: Wintering cap. Yarn: Sunday by Sandnes Garn

Here is another example of mixing 3 colors of one family (green, gray-greens) and 1 contrasting color (mustard yellow):

Pattern: Kittery cap. Yarn: Tynn Merinoull by Sandness Garn (greens), 2-ply Cashmere by Jade Sapphire (mustard)

Another variation is on the last photo, #4: 2 yarns of one color family (purple and lilac) and 2 colors of opposite color family (dark mustard, light mustard)

True head turner can be a multi-color scheme. The most winning combos are the 2 sets of the opposite color families. This will make an unforgettable item. Again, watch for the contrast of any two colors you use in a row. See #5 on the last picture.

Important tips when selecting colors

• To determine the contract take a picture of yarns side-by-side under day light in black-and-white mode. The difference in tones will translate into nice, crisp contrast.
• If you plan color changes for both – background and foreground – the transition will be smooth if you change 1 color at a time, knit at least 2 rows and change another color.


Еxperiments with medium-weight yarn in stranded knitting

The rule of stranded color knitting is to use finer, same weight yarn (sports or baby). But there was nobody to tell me this, so I bought a lot of medium weight yarn like Cascade 220. Now the goal is to knit myself out of this accidental stash. I experimented a bit. I hope, the results will be of benefit to you, too.

Warning: the swatches from the experiments looked hopeless first. The fabric was lumpy, with holes. The swatches must be blocked before one can see whether the idea has any merit.

Idea #1

To combine medium-weight, stiffer yarn with thinner, softer yarn. Like Cascade 220 (rated for #7-8 US needles) and Cascade Heritage merino/silk (rated for #1-3 US needles) using needle size that is an average of 2 recommended sizes.

Right swatch above, on #6 US needles: the fabric came out reasonably thin but stiff. Great for hats, jackets (worn without a coat over it) or coats. In sum, where an item must retain shape.
Left swatch above, on #7 US needs: the fabric came out thinner, as if it was knit with Cascade 220 alone. And it was much softer than Cascade 220 alone. Suitable for hats, heavier sweaters and coats.

Verdict:

  • The pattern should have more foreground color, i.e. more than 70% of stitches should be with thicker yarn.
  • In flat knitting: 2 edge stitches should be in foreground color to produce an even selvage.
  • Knitting is reasonably fast, because of the large needle size.
  • It is best to catch the floats every 3 stitches.

Idea #2

Use softer, fluffier yarn for background.

The swatch below holds a real promise. I used fluffier, softer medium-weight yarn for the background. The label is lost, but I would say it is alpaca or alpaca blend.
The experiment on #7 US needles yielded the swatch of perfect thinness, density and drape to make any object. Fluffy fibers of the background yarn nicely covered holes after blocking.

Background: medium-weight soft alpaca
Foreground: Cascade Heritage merino/silk.
Needles: #7 US

Idea #3

To mix even lighter, fluffier background yarn and stiffer foreground yarn that hold shape well.
Background: Katia Alpaca/Silk, rated for #4 US needles, 2 strands plied together. It has the softest hand. Knitting in a single strand is perfect for scarfs and shawls. Unfortunately, Katia Alpaca/Silk is discontinued, but there is an adequate substitute under label Drops.
Foreground: merino sports weight from Katia Ombre set.
Verdict:

  • The idea is a keeper! The best swatch in a batch: soft, but it will hold shape well
  • The background fluffy yarn creates an attractive halo over the pattern
  • The proportion of background to foreground yarn in a pattern can raised to 50-50.
The foreground and background yarns are 50-50 in the pattern.
Grey: Katia Alpaca/Silk Red: Katia Ombre merino sports weight
Needles: #7 US
The vest where idea #3 is applied.

The pattern is derived from the folk textile pattern of the Komi people.
Another post will be about the Komi knitting and the techniques used in this project later.