Surprising Seasonal Colour Palettes

For a fibre artist, one of the great joys of changing seasons is the inspiration to be found in the colour shift—fresh greens for spring, jewel tones and neons for summer, orange and yellow tones for autumn, frosty blues for winter. It’s easy to fall back on these colour “presets” to make the constant challenge of choosing colours easier. But have you ever wanted to break expectations and create a seasonal colour palette that’s recognizable, but uniquely “you”? The tips below are some of my favourites for pulling together surprising seasonal palettes.

Tip #1: Play with Value and Saturation

Hue is the aspect of colour that we most associate with the seasons. Orange is most closely associated with autumn, for example, but there are many shades of orange. The easiest way to create a surprising seasonal colour palette is to start with typical seasonal hues, and then push and pull those hues in different directions, whether that be by playing with value and saturation or with the hues themselves. (If you’re not familiar with these terms, make sure to read Tabetha Hedrick’s article on hue, saturation, and value here.)

Below, I’ve created three different spring palettes. The first palette is composed of conventional spring hues: vibrant colours that are very close to the pure hues on the colour wheel, like SweetGeorgia’s Element colour collection.

spring flowers of various coloursFor the second palette, I took the same hues and decreased the saturation, resulting in more muted versions of those colours. Then I shifted the hues themselves to be warmer, resulting in a more unified palette overall.

In the third palette, I moved the original hues in the opposite direction, increasing the saturation and darkening the value. I shifted most of the colours cooler, but warmed the yellow for contrast (and because warm yellows are my favourite—this is where personalization comes in!)

These same types of shifts can be applied to any conventional seasonal palette, in an infinite number of ways. Each alternate palette will have its own mood and atmosphere, while still retaining the undertones of the conventional palette.

Tip #2: Add a Seasonal Splash

A single colour can completely change the feel of a palette, adding a vivid punch or moody sophistication. For palettes that are less overtly seasonal but still capture the feel of a season, try grabbing a favourite colour palette and adding a pop of a strong seasonal colour.

In the example summer palette below, I’ve chosen four colours that are the opposite of what’s expected: muted and soft instead of bold and bright. But adding a surprise pop of intense orange ties it back to summer without being too obvious. When working with yarns in an actual project, try playing with the proportion of your surprise colour to the rest of the palette. This will push or pull your palette closer to or farther away from an overt seasonal look.

“Seasonal Splash” is the approach I took when choosing my colours for SweetGeorgia’s Autumn Dahlias MKAL in 2022. I based my moody autumnal palette on the Lighthouse sock blank. Taking cues from the dark pinks, purples and blues in the sock blank, I added muted mauve and charcoal grey. Even though almost none of the hues I chose were traditional autumn colours, the touch of orange from the sock blank along the picot edge grounds the whole palette in the season.

Tip #3: Add an Out-of-Season Splash

Yet another option is to do the opposite of Tip #2! Grab a typical palette and add an unexpected colour that doesn’t seem to belong in that season. This works best with an analogous seasonal palette (colours from the same colour family), such as the burnt autumn hues or wintry blues below. Your surprise pop could be from the opposite side of the colour wheel, such as the teal in the autumn palette, or simply a hue with opposite warmth or coolness, like the rusty red in the winter palette. As with a seasonal splash, an out-of-season splash can radically change the look and feel of your project depending on how much is incorporated.

Ready to Make Your Own Surprising Seasonal Palettes?

If there’s a struggle every fibre artist can relate to, it’s choosing colours. I hope these tips have given you inspiration and a helpful jumping-off point for no-fear seasonal colour choices. Go forth and make palettes!

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One thought on “Surprising Seasonal Colour Palettes

  1. Giao says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you.

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