$16,000 Secrets for Knitting and Crocheting With Color

In 1997, I paid more than $16,000 for the classes that resulted in my degree in textile design. That was actually a bargain compared to what many other students pay for a design school education — especially these days. I was able to earn that degree in only 9 months since I already had a Bachelor’s degree and didn’t need to take any of the foundational courses like Art 101. Hmmm. Well, considering it was only 9 months worth of classes, maybe it wasn’t a bargain at all. That’s debatable. $16,000 is a lot of money to spend on classes, no matter how you slice it. But as to whether or not it was worth it, that particular debate isn’t the topic of today’s blog post.

Why I’m telling you all this: Today, more than 20 years later, I’m still a textile designer. And today I’m going to share with you a couple of the most important takeaways from my design school education on the topic of color. If you aren’t inclined to pay whatever the going rate is for a design school degree, now you’ll at least have access to several of the most important things I learned after having paid my $16,000. Here are 3 of my $16,000 secrets for knitting and crocheting with color:

Secret #1: Flower Centers Should Visually Pop Out From the Flower Petals

I see a lot of knitters and crocheters making a big mistake when they choose the colors for their floral projects. They pick colors that match each other too closely for the flower centers and flower petals. This works FANTASTIC when you’re choosing a skirt and a blouse to wear — but it makes for boring flowers.


Instead, choose a color for your flower center that’s much bolder than the color you use for your flower petals.

Which Flower Colorway Is More Interesting? While the BUTTON on the left is undoubtedly more interesting than the button on the right, it is the wrong choice for this particular flower. Why? Because there is no contrast between the color of that button and the color of the nearest flower petals. The button on the right, although it is kind of boring, is a much better choice -- because the color of the button pops out from the color of the nearest flower petals. What would be even better: A Czech glass button like the one on the left, but in a deeper color like the button on the right. If I could find one like that, it would be the best choice of all.
Which Flower Colorway Is More Interesting? While the BUTTON on the left is undoubtedly more interesting than the button on the right, it is the wrong choice for this particular flower. Why? Because there is no contrast between the color of that button and the color of the nearest flower petals. The button on the right, although it is kind of boring, is a much better choice — because the color of the button pops out from the color of the nearest flower petals. What would be even better: A Czech glass button like the one on the left, but in a deeper color like the button on the right. If I could find one like that, it would be the best choice of all.
Which Flower Colorway Is More Interesting? Again, the flower on the right has much more color contrast, which makes it the more interesting choice -- despite the fact that the baubles on the left are actually the more interesting of the pair.  Since they're too similar in color to the flower petals, the interesting details get lost. They'd be better used in a different-colored flower, where their intricate details would stand out more.
Which Flower Colorway Is More Interesting? Again, the flower on the right has much more color contrast, which makes it the more interesting choice — despite the fact that the baubles on the left are actually the more interesting of the pair. Since they’re too similar in color to the flower petals, the interesting details get lost. They’d be better used in a different-colored flower, where their intricate details would stand out more.

Secret #2: You Can Make Any 2 Colors Match Each Other

I didn’t actually learn this secret in design school. I learned it on the job shortly afterward. (One of my design school classmates helped me get the job). I was working as a textile print colorist. As the newest member of the team, I was typically assigned to work on the weirdest, oddest projects for the company’s least important clients. What fun!


Except, it did turn out to be fun. I learned a TON in the process. And, through trial and error, I figured out that you can make any 2 colors match each other. It was necessary for me to learn this, because I was forced to work with my clients’ color palettes — and they came up with some bizarre color palettes.


So here’s the secret: In any computer program that has a gradient function, you take color #1 and color #2, and you plop them into a blank document. Then you create a gradient between the 2 colors. Then you use the color picker to choose the most interesting-looking color that’s somewhere in between the 2 shades you’re trying to coordinate. Use all 3 of these colors in your finished design. Usually, you’ll want to use the gradient color or one of the other 2 colors as the main color, and then you’ll use the other 2 colors as accents.


When you’re knitting or crocheting, there’s one obvious step missing here: You need to translate these colors to yarn colors. The key is to work with a yarn that has a massive color palette. Cascade 220 is the yarn I recommend. Red Heart Super Saver is also an option, although I don’t personally recommend crocheting with acrylic. You might not be able to find exact matches in these yarns for the colors you’ve selected, but their color palettes are large and significant enough that you’ll most likely be able to find workable options.

I bet you’d like to see some examples of this, wouldn’t you? OK. I don’t have any ready at the moment, but I’ll work on putting them together for you soon. You’re invited to subscribe to my newsletter, if you don’t already, to keep up with my upcoming posts and projects.

Secret #3: When You Create a Color Palette for a New Design Collection, ALWAYS Consider Including a Green.

This is a tip that will likely prove to be more helpful to knit and crochet pattern designers who create complete collections rather than single designs — but if you do happen to create collections, I hope this tip will help you.


Green is one of the most important accent colors to consider including in a color palette — and this holds true for both fashion and home furnishings. For starters, it’s hard to create appealing floral designs without green — and many of the top selling textile designs in both fashion and home decor are florals.


Even if you aren’t working on a floral, if a colorway you’re designing somehow seems wrong, injecting a small amount of green into the design can often improve it.


Along with that tip is another important one: Not all greens are created equal. A pale celery green usually beats a vivid emerald green — although right now, vivid emerald green is totally on-trend, so use it to your heart’s content if it’s a color that appeals to you and otherwise works well in your designs.

(Temporarily FREE) Color Theory Classes

Creativelive is my favorite website — and they have some upcoming color theory classes scheduled to stream for free. These are classes you would ordinarily have to pay a bundle for; so if you’re interested in watching them, it’s worth it to RSVP for the classes and note them on your calendar so you can tune in when the free broadcast is available. I haven’t actually watched these particular classes yet. I’ve RSVP’ed for the free broadcasts and I do hope to catch them when they air.

My Favorite Books About Knitting and Crocheting With Color

Crochet Kaleidoscope by Sandra Eng


Crochet Kaleidoscope, a Book of Crochet Motif Patterns. Find a Variety of Lovely, Colorful Crochet Motif Patterns by Sandra Eng. Interweave Press Is the Publisher of This Crochet Pattern Book.
Crochet Kaleidoscope, a Book of Crochet Motif Patterns. Find a Variety of Lovely, Colorful Crochet Motif Patterns by Sandra Eng. Interweave Press Is the Publisher of This Crochet Pattern Book.

Crochet Kaleidoscope is almost like 2 books in one; it’s part color theory manual and part crochet pattern book. I own other books on the topic of crochet motif patterns, but this one is my new favorite; it has inspired me to crochet bunches of projects, and there are dozens more patterns from the book I still want to try. You can see photos of some of the projects I made in my book review of Crochet Kaleidoscope.

Where to Buy Crochet Kaleidoscope:

The Alterknit Stitch Dictionary by Andrea Rangel

If you don’t know how to do Fair Isle knitting / stranded colorwork knitting, this book will not only teach you how to do it; the book will also give you some fun and useful colorwork patterns to try as well as some instructions for outstanding finished projects to work on.

Where to Buy The Alterknit Stitch Dictionary:

Knit Yourself In by Cecilie Kaurin and Linn Bryhn Jacobsen

This colorful book is super-duper creative. Read it if you want to learn how to design your own colorful knitted panels; or you can also knit the SPECTACULAR examples shown in the book exactly as is. The authors explore lots of fun themes and motifs — floral designs, animal patterns, rock and roll themes, and others. This is one of the most inspiring knitting books I own. It includes designs for the whole family — ladies, gentlemen and children — and includes a broad range of projects including sweaters, socks and more.

Where to Buy Knit Yourself In:

So there you have it: Those are my $16,000 secrets for knitting and crocheting with color, along with a list of some of my favorite color resources. I hope you find this information helpful when you choose colors for your knitting and crochet projects in the future.

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