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Besom: A Color Tutorial

I have a new pattern just published with Twist Collective, Besom is my first design with Twist and I couldn't be more pleased with the result!

A worsted weight cardigan that is simple and striking, Besom lets the colors do the talking by creating dynamic movement in the otherwise static design. The edges are faced and seamed for a clean and finished look and the pattern has a wide range of sizing; 34 (39 ½, 43, 46 ½, 50, 55 ½, 59, 62 ½)” / 86.5 (100.5, 109, 118, 127, 141, 150, 159) cm bust circumference. The cardigan is worked in the round and steeked (which means worked with extra stitches, sewn and then cut open) and the button bands are picked up and added at the end. This means that all the colorwork is created in the round and there are no wrong side rows within the patterning areas.

What I really wanted to achieve with this design was a color gradation that was simple and fun, which emphasized the pattern and inspired the knitter to try something new. I wanted to design a stranded pattern that was great for a knitter who is new to Fair Isle. The type of design where you perhaps don't need a chart after the first round of dots and it is easy to spot a mistake if you make one.

The colors for this garment are what really make it special.  Besom takes advantage of the wild new neon pink that has recently become available and uses it center stage as the main star of the pattern. Of course not everyone is into neon pink so why not change it up? set a course for color and let's talk about what might also look great in this design.

What makes the color work for this garment is the movement from the darkest color/shade on the outside edges to the lightest color/shade on the inside edges. This means that for the same 'look' as the original you should start with an outside color that is vastly darker in shade, meaning that if you squint your eyes the color is basically removed and one looks darker than the other. This combined with a main color that is similar in shade to the lightest pattern shade gives the pattern it's signature look. When you squint your eyes at the lightest color it should be close to the main background color, they can blend or almost blend together in front of your eyes.

Squinting your eyes reduces the amount of color information your eyes can receive and improves your perception of light and dark. This is called the color value, you can also use a transparent red color value finder such as this one.

Blues Scale: Dale Garn Freestyle colors from bottom to top: 5755, 5436, 6015, 0184, Background: 0004

Above you can see the colors present in the original sample, the dark purple moves into a more gray dull purple, into a muted pink and finally into the bright pink, the background of this garment is the dove grey heather. But what if you like blues better? And what about that neon green? The second colorway idea The Blues Scale moves from the darkest blue, though two lighter blue shades into the neon green. If you squint your eyes at these two suggestions you can see that the bottom shades are pretty close in shade (meaning that they appear almost the same with squinted eyes) the second to top shade on the blue scale is slightly lighter than the pink scale but the neons sit at about the same intensity.

Muted Scale: Dale Garn Freestyle colors from bottom to top: 2671, 2621, 4202, 0020, Background: 0017
Electric Scale: Dale Garn Freestyle colors from bottom to top: 0184, 0144, 0130, 0120, Background: 0083

Now these two color ideas are opposites, the first one is all muted browns and pinks on a background of white. As you can see the darkest color is definitely dark and very obvious and the lightest color blends in seamlessly with the background. This palette will give you a much more defined outer edge and a much subtler inner 2 rows of dots. In the original sample the inner 2 rows are the bright pink, and even though they are about the same shade as the background they are much more intense in color saturation. In this Muted color scale the lightest color is barely different than the background and will make those lines of patterning less visible.

The use of the gently gradating color in this garment and attention to the shades and intensity of the lightest and darkest create the depth and movement in the piece. 

The Electric Neon color scale to the right is the complete opposite of the original sample. It has such a dark background color and bright intense neons that the dot colors sit on top of the background. This is a fun colorway idea no mistaking that, but it will give a very different effect than the other color scales. You can see on the Muted color scale that the shades are far more integrated while on the Electric color scale they are very defined and sit forward to the eye. A Besom Cardigan created with the Electric color scale will not have the depth or movement that the original has. All the colors of all the dots will sit within the same depth of field for the eyes and will seem to 'float' above the darker background.

Pinks Scale: Dale Garn Freestyle colors from bottom to top: 4826, 4617, 4613, 2205, Background: a 2621, b 4845
Blue Scale: Dale Garn Freestyle colors from bottom to top: 8045, 6135, 6015, 7014, Background: a 2621, b 5755

While we are talking about depth of field let's take a look at how we can reverse the depth of field in the cardigan pattern. The top two scales above both have a color gradation that works within the original parameters of the design. The bottom colors are much darker than the background and the lightest color is similar in shade to the background. But what happens when the darken the background? The lightest colors become much lighter and are the focal point, whereas the darkest colors blend in much better with the background and are less obvious. This reverses the movement of the colors, instead of anchoring at the bottom and moving into the top the colors will anchor at the top and move into the bottom. You can manipulate this to change what areas of your body the garment will put focus on.

If you want to draw attention away from your waist but still work the patterning put your highest contrasting dots on your hips, if you want to draw attention away from your hips put the highest contrast on your waist. 

Grey Scale:  colors from bottom to top: 0090, 0083, 0007, 0004, Background: 3309, 4613. 4845, 4018

What about reversing the colors and neutrals? Work the dotted design with a transitioning palette of neutrals from black to grey and use a solid color for the background.The uppermost examples of this have the highest contrast at the outer patterning just like the sample. The lower left example has the highest contrast at the top which is opposite to the original. The lower right example uses a mid-ground red which has contrast with both the lightest and darkest shades on the grey scale. This will create visual contrast on both the edges and the inner rings while still having movement within the choices.

If you want to draw attention away from your waist and your hips skip the lower patterning completely and just work patterning on the bottoms of the sleeves and the yoke. Place your highest color contrast on the inner rings to place emphasis on the bust and forearms which slims the waist and hips. Or to draw attention to the face and neck place the highest contrast color closest to the edge of the garment which will naturally attract the eye there. 

I hope this post has inspired you to get creative with your color choices, and knit up a Besom Cardigan for yourself. Below you will find information on where to get the pattern and yarn for this project. 

                                                                                                             -Meghan Jones

All the yarn referred to in this post is Dale Garn Freestyle, the yarn that was used for the sample. Below is the full color card of Dale Garn Freestyle, and you can purchase this yarn from Mango Moon and Dale Yarn here. Below is the complete color card for Dale Yarns. 

You can purchase this pattern from Twist Collective here. 

Want to learn more about color theory? Check out my Color Theory for Knitters Post here for a basic introduction to color theory and how you can harness the power of the color wheel for knitting. 


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