Finding the Best Yarn Companions

It is fall in the Pacific Northwest and my urge to knit is strong. Even stronger than the urge to buy school supplies! (Every September I want to buy pens and paper. How can that still be true, after all these years?)

One of my favorite yarn choices is a combination of a one multi-colored and one solid-colored yarn, probably because a wide range of effects are possible. Some combinations have a bold, high contrast look while others combinations are subtle and complex.

MV Woolens-61MV Woolens-62

These pictures show details of a vest I made using sock yarns. Much of the impact of this combination comes from the high contrast between these two yarns. The contrast is created in part by a light-dark contrast and in part by a contrast of hue or color. (These are only two of seven kinds of contrast Johannes Itten discusses in his classic work The Elements of Color, but two are enough for me.)

Creating light-dark contrast is easiest when the dark is black, but as you can see in the swatches above, other dark colors can also work. The dark color dampens (not a technical term, I know) the colors in the other yarn, so you need to choose a brilliantly colored or very light yarn to have high contrast. Here are two examples:

016Ingles Peak Hat

The scarf is Steven West’s Spectra scarf using a black sock yarn paired with Noro Silk Garden Sock. The hat is my own design and is made with Cascade 200 and Crystal Palace Mochi Plus. Even though the solid color in the hat is a dark charcoal, not black, there is still high contrast. Both pieces use a multi-colored yarn with long color changes, which creates a different look than the multi-colored yarns with shorter sections of each color.

Peer Gynt Upper Front & Sleeve

The second factor is a contrast in hue. This sweater has light-dark contrast but very little contrast in hue; both yarns have a shade of purple in them. Up close the other colors in the variegated yarn are quite visible but I’ve learned that standing back from the yarns gives a better perspective of how the finished sweater will look. Compared to the other samples, Spectra and this sweater have larger blocks of color which are also predictable, and these factors make it easier for the eye to see the two yarns as separate.

Green Swatch Yarn 2 Green Striped Swatch
This swatch uses two yarns that have less light-dark contrast and only partial contrast of hue. The yellow and turquoise in the multi-colored yarn contrasts with the dark green solid but the green sections are similar to the solid. Integrated into a single fabric they look different than if used in coordinated clothing, where there are large blocks of each color (think shirt and pants). The similar hue causes the two yarns to blend rather than contrast. I wasn’t happy with this experiment.

Blue Lakemoor Yarn Blue Diagonal Vest Side
My last example uses yarns that are very similar in terms of light-dark and hue. The effect is muted and subtle. And yet the direction of the stripes remains clear.

I hope this information is helpful as you think about how to combine yarns to create the effect you want.

Thanks for dropping by. I’m off to more KnitKnot Adventures.



4 thoughts on “Finding the Best Yarn Companions

  1. Pingback: Introducing the Lakemoor Vest | KnitKnot Adventures

  2. Jann, what a great blog post. I will re-post it. I always struggle to train my eye to identify complimentary colors that do not make the variagated yarn disappear into the background. The same attention is needed when you put to strands of yarn together – the choices make a big difference on how much the multi-colors pop.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s