Playing with colourful cakes or balls of wool is up there as one of the most satisfying things about yarn crafts. I’m sure you’d agree that colourful crochet can put a smile on anyone’s face! But having to decide which shades to add to a new crochet project can be mega stressful too. How on earth do you choose the best hues to have?! It can be a bit of a head scratcher, especially if the doubt creeps in. But, please! Don’t be afraid of the big beautiful wool, learn how to play with it instead!!
I wrote a fairly decent blog post about how to choose colour in crochet back in 2016 and I’ve just read it. It still stands and I’m pretty pleased about that. However, since 2016 my palette has definitely evolved. In that post I mention about going for random selections of colour and yep, you can definitely see that that was what I was doing. I was clearly going through an Ugly Granny phase too. Not a bad thing.
I have learned an enormous amount from playing with random colour palettes, which has been, hands down, the best part of my crochet adventure!
So how has it evolved from there? The short answer is I dunno, it just happened! Hmm, what about a longer answer that might actually be helpful?
My crochet adventures started in 2010 without much of a clue. Colour consideration wasn’t top of the list. I was too busy darting into yarn shops; grabbing balls in a panic! I didn’t belong and didn’t want to outstay my welcome. What a way to start a mindful hobby! It’s obviously absolute nonsense but I know others feel the same. That’s just anxiety talking, stamp that sucker down and be proud.
[OMG! Side moment: the penny has just dropped about why I was making Ugly Grannies! It was all the panic bought yarn being used up! Not quite the same mentality as my Nanna’s make do & mend approach, but kind of similar… Aaannyway…]
After a lot of years mucking about with different yarns I realized that I have two very definite colour personalities and I am so happy about that. My ultimate goal is to tinker and play to see where a mash up of both might lead. I love modern brights, love em! They are great in smooth merinos and fluffy mohair, and let’s not forget; perfect for top quality acrylics but I am also head over heels for natural tones and yarns too. I need toothy wool with bits of straw, and it’s exciting to use yarn when I know it has been spun just up the road from me. Just because I love crazy brights doesn’t mean I can’t also love an undyed alpaca. Natural, earthy colours aren’t boring, they are classics to be revered. They are the cool kids; the brights are kawaii cute.
What I will say is don’t expect to have it down pat right from the start. Using colour in your craft means having a certain amount an expressive freedom and you need to explore that to discover what works for you. I have always been guided by my mood, by the seasons and by what everyone else is up to. Who isn’t?! Trends have a role to play in this whether you like it or not. We absorb fashions like osmosis, we’re all influenced whether we know it, or not.
Essentially, it’s about getting knee deep in a lifelong experiment of matching colour with crochet. If you want.
The Basic Principles of Colour in Crochet
The nutshell version: it’s all about balance.
You want to know more? Um, I’m not sure how to expand on the original blog post where I say balance warm with cool, and light with dark. Balance out your brights with a neutral, plop in a navy amongst your pastels. If you don’t want to bung them anywhere, think about their placement, even distribution is a safe bet.
If you use these principles as a basic starting point you won’t go far wrong. In 2016 I hadn’t refined the colour palettes I was using, instead, I just chucked all the balls in the air to see what landed where. Sometimes literally. Now I like to think my choices are more deliberate.
Whilst (arguably) using more polished palettes in 2021 I am not a fan of too many rules. Therefore, please don’t feel like you have to dutifully follow some strict formula. Ultimately, go with your gut. If it works for you and it makes you happy, then that’s a winner!
And just to contradict myself with another side note, I do have one rule when working with colour for crochet. The stitches of crochet don’t always look their best in colour-pooling yarns. Where this might create brilliant stripes in knitting, it creates a blocky pixel in crochet and I’m not keen. I will always bear that in mind if purchasing a non solid colour base.
Put it into Practice
I like big stripes of crazy colour combos but also a whole hotchpotch of them fighting each other too. If in doubt, try this: use your go to shades but swap out just one samey ball of colour for one that you’d not normally go for. Nothing bad will happen, honest! If you’re feeling queasy about diving straight in make a swatch first. Then perhaps make a smaller project like a bag or hat. Big blankets and garments can follow later.
This is part of a process, a journey if you like (ugh, I hate that word!). It’s not an overnight change.
As long as you remember that it’s all about balance then you won’t go far wrong. Also, use of colour in crochet is totally subjective! What I think looks awesome isn’t going to work for everyone. There are times when I’m not fussed about that thing other people say is the bees knees. It really doesn’t matter. Conversely, someone else will put together a crochet colour palette that will blow my mind! I wish that I’d come up with it! Wistful envy pops up to say hello but I try to remind myself that others feel that way about my dodgy choices sometimes too! A full circle of different ideas.
Each time you put a load of shades together you’ve learned more about what works and what doesn’t. And if nothing else it’s a very good excuse to buy more yarn. Keep going.