Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips

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Color(ing) books

This hasn’t been the greatest week for me crafting-wise. I took my new ridged shrug project off to a crafting day with friends and at the end of the afternoon, I’d added 6 inches to the project, but lost 5 stitches somewhere along the line. At a gauge of 2 sc = 1 inch, the shrinkage was noticeable. Rip, rip, rip.

The very next day, I finally realized what was bothering me about the scarf I was knitting. I’d managed to start the first half with the wrong end of the yarn, knitting the colors in the reverse order of what they had to be to make the pattern come out right. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure this out until I’d knitted 8 inches or so. Rip, rip, rip, RIP.

So instead of going into greater and gorier detail about the recent set-backs in my crafting, I’m going to write about color knitting books instead. I love books on color and color theory, and I’ve read a couple of them recently, so the topic is on my mind. Really, given how little I actually use the things, I don’t need a lot of them. They pretty much all cover the same territory: little swatches of color that start out simple and end up in complicated combinations. At this point, I have a small collection of them, mostly “wishful thinking” books. I barely work with computer graphics, printing, painting, and so on, but I have several books aimed at that audience, where the swatches have RGB and CMYK values listed. I haven’t found them to be much use for knitting or crochet, but they’re great for admiring—just pick one, open it, and gaze at all the pretty little color swatches. [sighs happily]

Color Works: The Crafter's Guide to Color by Deb Menz

Well, if one of something is a sample, two is a set, and three is a collection, then I’ve finally got a collection (a sub-collection, anyway) of color books that are meant for knitters. Color Works: The Crafter’s Guide to Color goes into color theory just as deeply as my other books do, but Deb Menz’s examples are all from 9 crafts: spinning, knitting, weaving, hand embroidery, bead embroidery, surface design, machine embroidery, pieced quilting, and paper collage. There really is a difference between looking at flat spots of ink on paper and looking at photos of knitted swatches, beaded swatches, woven swatches, and so on. And unlike the other two color/knitting books, Color Works comes with a set of tear-out color tools that you can use to help you choose colors for your projects, as well as a pocket on the back cover to store them in. I appreciate the thought, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to tear them out—it feels too much like vandalizing the book! Menz also includes a chapter in which she talks about designing projects for each of the 9 crafts. Still, she only gives each craft one page of pictures and one page of explanation, and even with knitting, I didn’t find that enough to be helpful. If you want to read about color theory, definitely consider this book, but if you want to focus on knitting, you may want to consider one of the other books as well or instead of Color Works.

The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe

You can guess the focus of The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques from its title. No modern book on color can get by with minimal examples, but even so, I think that Margaret Radcliffe’s book has wonderfully lush photography. She says at the beginning that this “is not a color theory book,” but she covers the basics of hue, value, and saturation in her first chapter. And that’s the end of that: after that, it’s all about how various knitting techniques affect and are affected by the colors you use. There are chapters on stripes, pattern stitches, stranded knitting, intarsia, and other techniques. There’s also a chapter on multicolor yarns, which isn’t really a technique, but I’ll happily forgive her, since I could use some practical suggestions on how to bring out the best in those yarns. Oh, and there are also chapters on finishing touches (cast-ons, bind-offs, embellishments) and designing, and a large appendix to refresh your memory on basic knitting techniques. And a bibliography if you want to read more about what she’s discussed. And did I mention that there are lots of clear, rich, photos?

Exploring Color in Knitting: Techniques, Swatches, and Projects to Expand Your Knitting Horizons by Sarah Hazell & Emma King

Last year, another book on knitting and color was published: Exploring Color in Knitting: Techniques, Swatches, and Projects to Expand Your Knitting Horizons by Sarah Hazell and Emma King. Of course, I picked it up. Sure, it might have duplicated Color Works or The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, but I was willing to take the risk (more pretty pictures!). And as it turned out that there isn’t much overlap between them after all. Exploring Color in Knitting is another book that focuses on color theory, so yes, that’s like Color Works. But color theory explained solely in terms of knitting is a different beastie altogether from color theory explained in general terms that apply to several different crafts. But even if the two books were exactly the same in that regard, I would still treasure Exploring Color in Knitting for the practical tips that the authors included, especially how to re-color a Fair Isle design. I’ve seen several Fair Isle sweaters with lovely patterns worked in colors that were also lovely, but would make me look, well, not-so-lovely. I can find a use for this guide!

So the results? I think The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques and Exploring Color in Knitting both belong on the knitter’s bookshelf, as they complement each other. Color Works is a nice book to have around if you have the space, but its contents are mostly covered by Exploring Color in Knitting. However, if you do any of the other crafts in Color Works, you’re likely to find it more useful.