Make & Hue

Tricks for Choosing Colours

Hand-dyed yarns, with their stunning variations in both shade and hue, offer up an irresistible opportunity to explore our creativity and express a small piece of ourselves. For some knitters, though, the challenge of trying new shades or mixing up fresh colour combinations feels a little daunting. Should I change things up a bit with yellow? Would this blue really work with that purple? Should I go complimentary or contrasting or just stick with neutrals altogether and give up this cockamamie idea of colour combining?

I get it. We knitters want to break the mold without breaking the bank. We want to play and discover without being overwhelmed. The best place to start is learning a wee about colour theory. Felicia nails it with the FREE online workshop called Colour Play. In a little under an hour, you’ll gain a solid grasp on the fundamentals like tone, value, saturation, and harmony.  Even as a designer, I experience uncertainty when it comes to colour selection, but I happen to have a few tricks up my sleeve that’ll help you select colours quickly and easily for your new pattern right now.

Trick One

Know the project. Look at the pictures and find out exactly how many colours you need and how they’ll be used. For example, in our China Rose pattern uses two colours. The dominant colour is darker and lacey while the secondary colour, a contrast, is used in the striping. Knowing this information will help guide your choices. You’ll know pretty quickly that your dominant colour can be light to medium in hue and saturation, but not so dark that you can’t see the lace. Because you don’t need to worry about compromising stitches, the secondary yarn can be anything that coordinates with the primary colour.

Trick Two

Start with what you know and love, because if you already love it, then you’re going to wear it. If your mom loves orange, start with orange. If you crave purples, then begin right there at the purple shelf. The only question, then, is whether you want to go light or dark and the stitch pattern (see Trick One) will help you answer that.

Trick Three

Google a colour wheel and choose from the most basic combinations for fast results:

  • Monochromatic (different tints and tones of the same shade; think light to dark)
  • Analogous (colours next to each other on the wheel; like light blue and green)
  • Complimentary (colours opposite each other on the wheel; like orange and blue)
  • Split-Complimentary (a base colour plus a colour on either side of the opposite colour on the wheel).


Let’s work with our purple start for the China Rose pattern. If we have Lavender, we could consider Empress (Dark Monochromatic) or Lilac (Light Monochromatic), West Wind or (a lighter Analogous), Ginger or Linen (dark or light Complimentary), or Lemon Curd and/or Pumpkin (split-Complimentary using one or both colours). Let your personality and the pattern help you choose here: If you want to try a stark contrast, but afraid of it, go with a neutral one like Linen. If you’re going for a subtle effect, stick with monochromatic.

Trick Four

Go with what makes your heart pitter-pat. Hold the yarns or swatches together. What makes you go swoony? Whatever one does that is “the one,” regardless of how pretty the others are. This heartfelt choice is the moment your intuition gets to shine and lead your creative spirit. Follow it. See how easy it is?

Trick Five

This final method is for everyone who just needs a quick pick, something to not have to think about more than a few minutes. First, either go to the beautiful internet and find a picture that moves you (nature never steers you wrong, FYI) or download a palette-making app like Adobe Capture (my favorite) or Palettes and snap a pic of something pretty around you. Then, all you have to do is choose the colours you like from that palette and put them together. Voila! Instant colour combo that works almost every time.

Colour is such an invigorating way to deepen your fiber-crafting experience, so put these tricks to use and let us know what you think.


About Tabetha Hedrick

Tabetha Hedrick is a knitwear designer and writer raising a family just outside the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee. As the Design Director for SweetGeorgia Yarns, her days (and heart) are filled to the brim with knitting, art, writing, editing, planning, and finding ways to put it all together. In the midst of that fibre-filled life, you'll find her living simply in the sweet spot where creativity, discovery, parenthood, and life intertwine.

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