Covid has left many knitters relying on the internet to pick out yarn for their next project. Many local yarn shops that are not currently open to the public due to the pandemic, do have websites where you can order yarn for curbside pick up or delivery. If you are buying a yarn you know and love, the process can be convenient. If you're picking out colors for Fair Isle or stranded work, it can be a nightmare.
I'm here to share with you a great way to make sure the colors you select have sufficient contrast. Contrast in colors refers to difference in light between the foreground and background, or in the case of knitting, the pattern and the background. Fair Isle bands are either light on dark, meaning a light colored pattern on a dark background; or dark on light meaning a dark pattern on a light background.
1. If you're looking at a website from your phone, pick out the yarns you think you want, then take a screen shot of each one.
2. Using an app like LAYOUT, you can pull the pictures you just took into the app so you can see them in a group, or side by side. This will create one picture of all of the screen shots.
3. Click on the photo, hit EDIT, then go to filters (on an iPhone it's the three circles that overlap) and apply a black and white filter. This strips away all of the colors and allows you to look at just the contrast. You want sufficient contrast between the colors so that the pattern looks attractive to the eye.
Yarns that are too close in value, without enough contrast will not look their best. In Fair Isle, you should be able to see your pattern in black and white. If the bands look like a completely white band or completely black band, then the colors won't work. Some colors are deeper than others and more saturated and that's good. Not all colors need to have the same intensity, but you should be able to tell them apart.
This also allows you to group your colors into light or dark. In the Milan Hill Mitts, 4 colors are used: 2 dark colors and 2 light colors. Each band uses only 2 colors and it features either a light on dark pattern or dark on light. The photo to the left is the mitt and to the right is the same mitt with a black and white filter applied.
You'll notice on the right picture, that each of the pattern yarns can be seen, some stronger than others, but they can be seen. By looking at your colors in black and white, you can more easily match them up to a pattern's color key.
In the Milan Hill Fingerless Mitts below, the yarns used are Morehouse Farm Merino 2-ply sport weight in the following colors:
Bright/darker blue is Pacific (color A) dark
Oatmeal (color B) light
Chocolate (color C) dark
Aqua (color D) light
When you hold Oatmeal and Aqua next to each other and take a picture, they come out looking exactly the same, like two skeins of white yarn. So you can use these, just not together in one band.
If you are in a yarn shop, gather your yarns and take a picture of them side by side. Apply the filter and see how it looks! Hopefully this will help you make sharp color choices, so when your yarn arrives in the mail it's perfectly contrasting for your next Fair Isle Project. To find out more about the Milan Hill Fingerless Mitts, click on this link. <Milan Hill Mitts>
Hello! I'm Donna Estin, knitwear designer, certified master knitter and instructor. I enjoy designing artistic knitwear that is comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.