Now let’s continue talking about designing colorwork socks. In the last post I told you that successful colorwork requires contrast. You can achieve contrast via saturation (light vs. dark) or pairing complementary colors (color wheel opposites naturally contrast with each other). But that’s not the end of the discussion on contrast. You can also achieve visual contrast by varying texture.
That’s right. By adding textured stitches, you can create contrast and dimension in your knitwear. (You can also do this with other textiles, but for now we’ll talk about knitwear.) While this might not be 100% relevant to traditional colowork, it is still a useful design concept, and I would feel remiss about skipping it. And, let’s face it, it’s not unusual to see textured stitches paired with colorwork, so let’s discuss.
3.) Texture – creates visual contrast
Using both knit and purl stitches, rearranging stitch order, and skipping stitches all produce contrast in knitting. You may know this technique by a common name: stitch patterns. Stitch patterns are as old as knitting itself and consummately popular. Why? Because they’re interesting and draw the eye. You can use texture all by itself to create contrast.
This swatch has a single, highly saturated hue: black. If you have ever knit with black yarn you know that the depth of the saturation really reduces the eye’s ability to distinguish one stitch from another. (Have you ever found yourself/heard your knitting buddy talk about when you can only knit on that black project in full daylight while bending toward the window…. That’s because the saturation is so dark that your eye has trouble distinguishing one stitch from another. There’s not enough contrast to knit easily.) The gigantic bubble textures plus the open holes on the edge creates contrast when very little is present otherwise. While it might not increase the ease of knitting, adding big texture to a super saturated hue increases it’s contrast and gives the knitting more visual interest.
Additional notes on adding texture to super saturated colors:
- Bigger & bolder is better. Finer textures are likely to get lost.
- Use holes: yarn overs or bigger i-cord holes like above. This allows the background to show through increasing contrast.You could even use a buttonhole technique to add longer slits.
- Decreases are really hard to see on super saturated hues. Keep them to a minimum to save your sanity.
Another extreme example. This cowl features a single color – white. While white allows the eye to see more contrast than black simply due to it’s lighter saturation, a flat stockinette fabric would blur together. Here holes (yarn overs) and increases/decreases are used to great affect. The entire fabric has a glorious texture which is easily seen, despite the lack of other contrast.
This isn’t knitting. It’s a woven jute rug, but it’s still a fabulous example. (You could knit up something really similar by plotting out a stranded colorwork chart or grabbing a mosaic knitting stitch pattern.) The colors here only have moderate contrast. To my eye, they are borderline for being good choices in a colorwork project. From a distance, their close saturation and close relationship on the color wheel means that the over all look is likely to be “blendy” – without distinct edges. Blendy means your pattern will be lost due to the lack of contrast. However, texture has been added to give the rug the “pop” it needs. It takes it from being borderline boring into pleasing with a hint of interest. (Not to mention great for cleaning off the bottom of your shoes.)
So what can we take away from this? If you have a colorwork project that is almost there, but your colors aren’t quite working out, consider adding a spot of texture to one of the colors. Try reverse stockinette or seed stitch but add it only to one color. The play of texture is often enough to achieve that elusive visual “pop”.
Take a look at this detail shot of my design-in-progress. While it’s true that this project doesn’t lack for contrast, thanks to my choice of complementary hues, don’t you think those few purled rows really set off the hem? I think so, too.
Finally, eye candy. Low contrast, high texture. Isn’t it wonderful?
Photo Credits & Thanks
A huge thank-you to Heidi and Carrie for allowing me to use their swatch & cowl photographs respectively. I ran across their work via internet searching and they graciously allowed me to share their wonderful work with you. It perfectly illustrates my points and I appreciate their generosity. Catch up with them here:
KnitCroBlo Day 6: Document the current state and use of an object you have knitted or crocheted.
I actually don’t know exactly what these mittens are up to now. They were for a swap partner, and I hope she is getting lots of use out of them!
I knit them from the Fiddlehead Mitten pattern. The yarn is Andee dk from Henry’s Attic, that I hand dyed for this project.
They were so much fun to make, and are super dense. I had to go down to a 000/1.25mm needle to get gauge, so I opted not to line this pair. I need to make some for myself but like most things, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
I designed these socks for the Sock Knitter’s Anonymous July 2009 challenge. Right now the original pattern (released in 4 parts for the challenge) is available for free.
I loved designing these socks, but they were a challenge. I had a total of 3 weeks to design and publish the pattern. (The designer they had lined up had to decline unexpectedly.) They were my first colorwork design. There are two versions – a 2 strand and a 3 strand – and they’re available in two sizes.
By the time I got done knitting both socks, I was pretty much (happily!) exhausted. It was a whirlwind tour and I had a million ends to weave in. My mom fell in love with the socks and offered a trade. She would weave in all the ends if she could have the socks. Done! I love seeing the fraternal twin socks on her feet. It’s as satisfying as completing the pattern and finishing the knitting.
I finished the Thrummed Mushroom colorwork mittens for my swap partner. I carefully washed and blocked them, lovingly wrapped them, and mailed them on their way to Canada…..and then realized I never took a finished picture of them! Oi! What an oversight! Anyway, they’re beautiful and I hope Jane likes them. Jane, if you’re reading this, then you know what to expect, but you’ll have to wait to see them in person before you know what they really look like, because of my aforementioned omission.
Click the picture of the Mushroom Mitten Chart to be taken to the actual chart. Use as you like, but please don’t reproduce the pattern or mitten for sale. Thanks!
Sometimes I forget that I know how to do other things beside knit and dye yarn. There was a time when I spent the majority of my free time sewing and quilting. In fact, before the girlies were born, I even had my own long arm quilting business. Imagine a huge sewing machine set on a 10′ table used for quiliting full sized quilts. The pregnancy quickly put an end to that business, as there was no way for me to be able to run the machine with a huge belly. But I do have a beautiful, hand pieced Mariner’s Compass tree skirt, quilted by myself to show for that business venture. Just prior to that I worked in a small, specialty sewing shop for several years.
I was acutally nicely impressed with my ability to remember how to sew after about four years of very little sewing. It’s so hard to sew when you have little kids, and no dedicated space. I sewed these cute flannel and fleece rag quilts for the girlies for Christmas. Their original fleece and flannel blankets (Given to them just after they were born…) were wearing out. I got these done, start to finish in two days. Not bad, given that I’ve also been knitting a hat, knitting a scarf, sewing mittens and quilting. True, the project is simple, but it did involve cutting 80 squares, sewing a x down the middle, piecing together the quilts and cutting 1″ slits along every seam, and the entire outside of the blanket. The girlies like them, and I hope the blanket transition will be a smooth one. The fabrics were chosen to hide wear and show minimal dirt, and are cute to boot!
Merry Christmas to you all, if I don’t check in before then. I was just working out my shopping list, and let’s just say it’s a good one. I have at least three steady days of Christmas celebrations and chaos looming before me, and a lot to get done before then. I wish you a very blessed and crafty New Year for you and yours, too!