Sweater Knitting: Picking Colors

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I get two questions when it comes to my knitting: how do you knit that much and how do you come up with these color combos? It always tickles me that my knitting output and my color selection are the top questions but I’ve been asked so much recently about how I come up with these color combos I thought I’d talk about my inspiration behind some of my picks and share a few ideas I have for the future as part of my slow going Sweater Knitting Series.
Family Photos 1982
First, I should let you know that I’ve been color obsessed since I can remember. My mother dressed me in color and pattern all the time but at an early age I asked to pick out my clothes and had a strong opinion on what I wanted wear. I picked paint colors, wallpaper and carpet for my childhood bedrooms and my parents gave me a lot of creative freedom to pick what I liked regardless of how much they didn’t agree with my choices. I’m thankful they let me express myself. When it comes to picking color combinations it’s really just about what inspires me, what makes me happy and what I think is just fun. My husband (who has mid-range colorblindness) tells me that I clearly see a very vivid world. I agree with him.
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So here’s a prime example of inspiration inspiring a color palette. This is a random picture of a sunrise I took one morning when I was walking the dogs. But within this I see a great color combo that is similar to…
Cracked Pepper Cardigan
My color combo from my Cracked Pepper cardigan! A lot of times I say to myself ‘I really should knit a neutral’ but in the end there’s always a POP of color because I can’t just do a full grey sweater. That isn’t fun to wear. And neon peach surprisingly goes well with lots of other colors. On the color wheel it’s opposite blue so I pair this sweater a lot with varying shades of blue.

Pairings
Left to right: Lemonade Shop Sparkle DK in Girls Gone Wild, Madelinetosh Neon Peach, Hedgehodge Fibers Merino DK in Pucker and Madelinetosh Torchere

Currently I’ve been using the subtle colors and tones in yarns to create a color palette. This all started with wanting to pair the Madelinetosh Neon Peach with Torchere without really mixing in any neutrals. I’ve been thinking of a bold sweater for fall. Both of these initial yarns have ribbons of pink in them so I’ve added in a Lemonade Shop color pink that picks up the pink in the Neon Peach and a Hedgehodge Fibers color Pucker that pulls together the peach and the deeper pinks of Torchere. Now to ground this out I may actually use black for ribbing/bands since there are some black flecks in the lightest pink yarn but other than that it’s a color explosion of pink and orange. That’s how I come up with a color palette. I just see it in the subtle tones and stripes that vary in the color.
Striped saddle shoulder sweater
For me, the more colors and the brighter they are the more I love it. And that’s what really inspired my Saddle Shoulder Striped tee, it was just a lot of happy color. It’s a lot to some but to me this is perfection. Meanwhile others love how subtle the Cosette tee’s colorblocking looks.
Cosette final
This was just based on what colors in the entire palette of Pima 100 could I blend with the pink and purple I already had in my pile of leftovers. The heathered pink and blue make for great transitional colors to make this color spectrum work. But I also see making this top in a neutral like a pale grey or white and adding in a gorgeous green as the pop color. For me color is happiness. I pull at the little flecks of color in a yarn to find that color combo you wouldn’t expect. I use the underlying color to make contrasting color choices. But honestly, for the most part I just try to make it fun. So how do you go about choosing your colors? 

Sweater Knitting: Swatching

sweaterknitting
I only ever wrote one post in my sweater knitting series and decided it was time to bring that back and hopefully do more regularly scheduled posts about it since sweater knitting is my favorite and I still has so much more to learn. But today for this Friday I really have more of a question…
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How often do you swatch?

I will be the first to admit that I feel like swatching is such a pain, when I’m ready to go I want to get started but it’s a necessary evil. I don’t want to spend all my time knitting a sweater that ultimately doesn’t fit and I’ve had a couple of mishaps early on with ill fitting sweaters becaus I just didn’t pay enough attention to knitting a gauge swatch or two to find the right needle for the project. And creating gauge swatches also lead me to consider using different weights of yarn and needle sizes to achieve gauge but get a different fabric. A perfect example is my Colorblocked Boyfriend Cardigan.
Colorblocked boyfriend sweater
The original pattern had a gauge of 16 x 22 stitches for a 4×4 inch gauge on size 8 needles. I got the same results using dk weight yarn and size 10 needles. It created a lighter fabric with a bit more drape to it which is exactly what I wanted. So do you always make a swatch before you get started on a large project? I’m curious to hear what you all do.

Motivation & My Knitting

I read this post on Instagram the other day by Karen of Fringe Association and it resonated with me. I’ve been struggling to finish my Flaum cardigan and finally decided to put it to the side officially. I’m not motivated to knit it and most sweaters fly off my needles. It could be because the Fisherman’s rib is tedious or the oatmeal neutral color is just too boring. Whatever it is, I’m putting it down for a bit. And if I let it sit for too long, I may just frog it and move on to the next project. No need to waste my time on projects that don’t spark me creatively. And honestly, although I see others knitting neutrals I realize that’s really not me. Rainbows are my neutral. Exhibit A, this is a neutral sweater to me:
Louise top down
I knit a lot but I’ve realized that I plow through projects that spark me creatively. When the yarn is super dreamy and the pattern is interesting I can’t wait to finish it. When a pattern is tedious and the yarn is boring I don’t want to be bothered. Once people come to this blog, check out my Instagram feed or look at my Ravelry page they always comment on how many sweaters I knit. Non-knitters hear that I knit 24 sweaters last year and immediately ask me why I don’t sell them (there’s a long list of reasons why not). Knitters typically just ask HOW!?! And I’ve realized a few things that make a difference for me:
My lap

  • I don’t have children.  Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I have 3 godchildren and a cousin I treat like my child. I just don’t have biological children of my own. If I did have children I think most of my hours would be spent with them and attending to their needs like my Mom did with us when I was growing. That would just leave the end of the day when they’re asleep to knit. Instead I have two small dogs who just want me to sit down and let them curl up on my lap or right next to me. It’s a perfect opportunity to knit, although sometimes I’m swatting a tiny chihuahua out of my face who just wants to lick me.

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  • I always have knitting with me. A couple days a week I commute in to work with my husband and that means I have an hour in the morning (and in the summer an hour in the evenings with daylight) to knit in the car. I can do a lot with just an hour. I knit when I bring my lunch with me or go to eat by myself at a restaurant. If I could knit in meetings I would but I feel like it would be frowned upon at work. Even my students know, when they have a test I sit at the front of the class knitting and watching for an hour and a half.

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  • I am a hermit. No really, I am. I relish my solitude. My husband travels for work and when I have a week or two in the house to myself, I knit without guilt of ignoring him. When I knit this pattern he was halfway across the globe.
  • I don’t put deadlines on my knitting. That is a big difference to me. I’ve done one test knit and may do others but only when I feel like I have the time (usually in January or the spring when I don’t feel like I really to make myself a new sweater). If I’m making something for a baby it might not make it for the baby shower but they’ll get something from me in due time. And I’ve said I want to knit things for the holidays but if it doesn’t get finished by December 25 I know it’ll still be cold in January or February! Taking away that pressure keeps my knitting more enjoyable.

These things make a difference in the amount of time it takes me to knit a sweater, on top of the fact that I’m pretty fast and don’t have to look at my hands anymore when I’m working on straight stockinette stitch for big sweaters. I consider myself lucky that I get to make as much as I do and can hopefully keep up the pace for a bit but also know that I have to give my hands and wrists breaks so I don’t over do it (I haven’t knit anything for about 36 hours now because I just need to pause). So that’s the method to this sweater knitting madness and why I’m already on sweater number 24 this year (you can see all my projects on Ravelry here) and will most likely surpass last year’s total.

Any other questions?