JF's Notebook
Photo of Jared Flood

Notebook

Penned by Jared Flood

Hello and welcome! I'm a knitter, photographer, designer and the creative director at Brooklyn Tweed. I use this notebook as a space to record inspiration and write about my creative work both inside and outside of BT. Thanks for reading, and don't be a stranger—I love hearing from you!

 

Our BT Summer of Lace Knitalong has been a great motivator for me to finish up a couple of lace projects that have been laying low in forgotten places for an embarrassing amount of time (cough — years). The brawniest offender was a worsted-weight Permafrost Shawl that I cast on nearly five years ago!

 

 

I’m very happy to say that she’s finally finished and — thank you, Wool — she looks just as good as she did when we began our journey together. She’s tagged along with me through multiple cities and on more moves than I care to mention, taking up final residence on my knitting chair here in Portland… the last place I’d have guessed she’d end up when I cast on that small circle of stitches so many years ago.

 

 

That’s one of the things I love most about knitting  — the layers of memory and meaning that get stitched in, especially on monumental projects that span so many months, years, faces, and phases.

 

 

Project Specs

Pattern: Permafrost shawl, originally designed and knit for the launch of Loft in 2012

Yarn: Shelter in color “Fossil” — the design took beautifully to a light and woolly worsted-weight

Needles: 5 mm (US 8)

Skeins Knit: 11; my finished shawl clocked in at about 515 total grams and measures 64″ in diameter after blocking

 

 

I’ve loved seeing all the lace that’s being knit this summer and am happy to be able to share some of my own knitting as well from the #BTLaceKAL17. Thanks to all of those who have participated!

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We’re in the throes of our big move(!), but today I was able to carve out a little time to sit and reflect a bit about one of my new sweater designs—the Rift pullover. This was a really fun piece to design (and had quite an entertaining evolution), so I thought I’d talk a little bit today about how it came to be.

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For some time I’ve been playing around with different ideas for shoulder epaulets—I think it started back when I was working on the Fort pullover for BT Men Volume 1 in late 2012. Originally that design had a single shaped shoulder patch on one side (see an old sketch below)—imagined as a little extra padding for a messenger bag (or any other type of shoulder strap) that might be worn regularly and protect that area of the garment from wear. After having added the garter patches to Fort’s elbows, however, I felt that another patch on the shoulder was overkill, so pulled that element from the design.

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Since I wasn’t able to get my epaulet fix then, I’ve been tossing various shoulder-detail ideas around in my sketchbook ever since. I liked the idea of an epaulet that was angled and followed the shape of the shoulder more anatomically, but didn’t love the extra bulk that resulted from affixing a separate knit piece as a patch. That made me start thinking about ways I could integrate the shoulder epaulet idea into the sweater fabric through a simple change in stitch patterning. This would also solve the excess bulk problem, especially when working on a design for worsted-weight yarn.

I burned through some of the more traditional ways of working a stitch-pattern epaulet pretty quickly (like horizontal welts seen on the shoulders of traditional ganseys—I love those details on classic fisherman sweaters) but still felt something was missing. I then began experimenting with getting more angled, shapely epaulets through a combination of short rows and welts, but it just felt too fussy. As I continued sketching one epaulet after another, they eventually began looking like raglan sleeve tops, as the slanting lines came down lower and lower on the yoke.

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My next thought was to work a traditional raglan and just change the stitch pattern to a rib or welt once I reached the sleeve cap. Before long though I realized I was sketching something very similar to one of Véronik’s pullovers (also from BT Men volume 1), Barrett. So again, the idea sailed onto the back burner to simmer some more.

Then one day I saw a woman on the subway wearing a sweater that looked like a raglan, but was actually a set-in sleeve with patterning that mimicked raglan shaping. The lightbulb moment I had been waiting for was here! I grabbed my sketchbook and made this sketch.

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The faux raglan allowed me to play with the depth of the raglan shape without actually affecting the neat fit of a set-in sleeve—something I hadn’t been willing to sacrifice. I started playing around with how deep the “raglan” lines would start, and how I could incorporate a full-fashioned rib pattern within the modified epaulet idea.

From that moment on my inspiration was really sparked. I made several charted variations, ultimately coming up with the version that you see in Rift. Once the shoulder detailing was decided, a nice opportunity for an integrated side detail to the body presented itself, too—a traveling rib that splits at the underarm and flows seamlessly into the detailing on the yoke. I love that a special detail like this brings something unexpected to what is otherwise a very classic silhouette. From a knitting perspective, I also felt like it arrived at that beautiful balance between lots of stockinette knitting and just enough stitch play to keep things fun and interesting throughout the process.

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Pattern writing and grading on this piece was definitely a hard nut to crack! Since the shoulder details would have specific idiosyncrasies based on the size of the finished garment, no specific set of rules or written instructions worked very well. So I opted for the more “bespoke” route of charting out the front and back yokes for each individual size. The end result included 6 total sizes with finished chest measurements ranging from 39.25” to 59.25”. (A big thanks to our tech editor Robin for being a great sport and indulging my charting neuroses!) The pattern is quite long as a result, but don’t be fooled—most of the pages are charts for additional sizes and you’ll only need to print the two that pertain to yours.

The treatment of the neckband was kept very minimal, letting a ridge of purl stitches set off a simple rolled stockinette edge with a sewn bind-off. This integrates well with the busier epaulet ribs.

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I love how this simple sweater turns out to be just enough of a head-turner to seem fresh but not showy, which is a balance I think a lot of guys like to strike in their attire. Something as comfortable and easy to wear as a sweatshirt but just fancy enough to work when dressed up for the office, too.

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Thank you for your kind words about my Agnes post last week! I thought I’d keep the design-inspiration train going today and share some backstory on my second Met-inspired garment from Winter 15, Carpeaux.

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I spent a lot of time photographing sculptures on our day at the Met—especially those located in the beautiful Petrie European Sculpture Court (pictured above). One piece that especially caught my eye was a bronze monument to the great 19th-century French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Modeled by a younger sculptor named Émile-Antoine Bourdelle in 1908-09, Carpeaux is shown wearing a voluminous coat with dramatic drapes and folds. I loved how the sculpture had a feeling of being simultaneously very solid and very soft, with the rough-hewn garment frozen in motion. The combination of structure and drape got my gears turning. I particularly loved the idea of translating inspiration from fabric to metal and back to fabric again.

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After seeing the piece and doing some freeform sketching, an idea for a blanket-front cardigan began to emerge. I like a garment that has an element of drama but can still maintain a sense of shape and contour. The bronze coat got me thinking about both drape and structure, and ways in which I might be able to play with these two themes in the same garment. I liked the idea of pairing voluminous fronts with a more tailored back. When casting on the garment at the hem edge, the width of the “back” piece is quite narrow. As the body is knit, the back increases rapidly to its full width. Shaping the garment in this way results in a pair of graceful arches (illustrated in the right photo below) that angle the drape-fronts forward for a more flattering, figure-friendly line. Since the garment has such a generous amount of fabric in the front, trimming out some bulk in the back would keep the silhouette from becoming overwhelming.

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Brioche is one of my favorite stitch patterns, and I often turn to it when I want to accentuate the shaping elements of a piece. When working in brioche all your shaping is worked in pairs (double increases and decreases) to maintain the ribbed appearance of the fabric. Traveling lines are quite apparent when working larger shaped passages within the fabric (Oshima’s yoke explores this idea as well). In the case of Carpeaux, the stitch pattern highlights the unusual back shaping (as well as adding Brioche’s characteristic plushness and squish for coziness!)

I was also thinking about stitch patterns that could be reversible, since the fronts of this sweater hang open to reveal both sides of the fabric. Brioche already looks identical front and back, but I had hoped to add a decorative element to the cardigan front and landed on  a few simple (and reversible) cables worked in the brioche pattern that would be as attractive on the wrong side as they were on the right.

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The body of the garment is worked in a single piece from hem to shoulder—illustrated in the above diagram. Note that the schematic is shown in exploded view, with dashed lines representing “seamless” areas. In the end I opted to forego closures on a garment like this, allowing the fronts to be treated more like a blanket or shawl when worn. It would easily be suitable for a single pin closure—or even belting—to give additional styling options. The sleeves are worked in Stockinette to balance out the bulkier nature of the brioche body and to give a little visual contrast to the garment as a whole.

05_carpeaux

In the end, the goal was for something of a statement piece that didn’t swallow up the wearer—a bit of drama without feeling too over the top. And as always… something fun to make.

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AGNES_01

Today’s Notebook is devoted to Agnes, my second design from our Met Museum collection from Winter ’15. One part of the Met that I really love is the modernist wing. The early 20th-century was such a rich and interesting time of change in art history, so it was a treat to go trawling for inspiration there. The simplicity of much of the abstract work in this portion of the museum makes it a common occurrence to hear visitors saying things like, “That painting is famous? But I could do that!”, though that reductive, spare quality is actually imbued with a huge amount of struggle and meaning for the artist, and I find that a subtle interplay of color and form can actually be powerful despite its often “simple” appearance.

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One of my favorite minimalist artists is the painter Agnes Martin (she’s also the namesake for this design). Her approach to art was probing, individualistic, and even spiritual. The particular painting of hers that really resonated with me—an Untitled work from 1984 (shown above left)—is all about composition with barely any color whatsoever. Though it might seem like an odd place to find inspiration to some, the piece got me thinking about boxy silhouettes and bands of subtle color, ultimately serving as the baseline for the final concept.

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Just a few steps away is Jasper Johns’s White Flag from 1955 (shown at right)—a perfect example of tone and texture adding beauty to a monochromatic surface. These two works got me thinking about the subtle use of warm and cool tones, and I wanted to capture something of that subtle richness with my own interpretation. I love a temperature-based approach to color and honed in our three palest neutral shades for the first variation of the pullover. Notice how the Snowbound (grey) band at the bust appears cool (almost blue) due to its proximity to the warmer tones of Fossil and milky brown Woodsmoke.

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Any time I design with stripes or colorblocking, I begin by illustrating countless variations of the garment digitally to assess proportion, balance, hue and value. Here are a few variations of this design that I was playing with during the initial phase (Version C being the final version).

Before too long, I realized that it might be fun to work up an additional variation with bolder colors and a different layout sequence (it also meant I could pull from a few more works of art at the Met!). The second version of the sweater also allowed for some variation to the fit of the garment. I really like the combination of a skinny sleeve with a boxy silhouette but know that a lot of people prefer a more relaxed fitting sleeve, so I wrote the pattern with two sleeve options: slim and classic. In our photographed samples, the bolder version (colors Cast IronLong Johns & Fossil) is the slim sleeve and the tonal “Jasper Johns” version is the classic (a wider upper arm and slightly deeper armhole).

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The higher-contrast palette of the second sample was inspired by two other paintings in the modernist wing, each Untitled works from painters Al Held (1959, left) and Clyfford Still (1960, center). I also stumbled upon the Young Woman Peeling Apples painting (1655, right) by Nicolaes Maes (over in Dutch Masters…) which fit perfectly into the theme, too. I loved that this one was from a completely different era but related so perfectly to the concept.

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Tips for Your Own Version

I also wanted to talk about a few tips that might be helpful for any of you knitting this design but wanting to experiment with your own colorblocking palette/layout. When working with fields of color, a key thing to keep in mind is that darker values will visually recede while lighter values “come forward”. This rule is obviously more relevant for a high-contrast palette; you’ll notice that if you squint at my pale version it reads more or less as a single hue, and this will be true of any combination of colors that are close in value (read more about color and value from my earlier posts here and here). I did choose to arrange the pale colors from darkest to lightest moving up from the hem, which gives the garment more visual weight at the bottom and fools the eye into thinking the shape is longer than it really is. This is generally flattering on the figure.

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With pullovers, you typically want to downplay the appearance of width in the waist area (particularly true of boxy oversized garments), so in the higher-contrast version I chose to place a wide block of Cast Iron covering the mid-section, covering the bust with the darkest shade to create a more androgynous form by de-emphasizing the curves there. By contrast, the pale version has a narrower stripe at the bust with the skirt worked in a single color, which has more of an empire waist feel to it. Knowing that the less graphic nature of the pale palette side-stepped the “widening” issue, I thought it would be more fun to play with some subtle front-back changes too, so I flipped the placement of Fossil and Snowbound from front to back, which makes for an interesting detail when viewing the garment in profile (the left photo above gives a nice visual of the difference between front and back).

The yoke color block is the most fun to play with in terms of how tall it is, since it interacts with the neckline as well as highlighting the angled shaping of the shoulder and the intersection with the armhole. I like the idea of a shallow block there to look more like epaulets or shoulder patches, but in the end, I wanted it to be deep enough so as not to bisect the neckline.

And that’s probably about all the nerdy design talk you might be able to handle for one day! The bottom line is that Agnes is a modern, comfortable sweater that’s easy to wear and a fun canvas for your own original creation. For those of you who choose to knit this, I hope you’ll share your own take on the design!

 

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Although collection launch days always feel super exciting around here, this one feels especially fantastic since we can finally publicly welcome Norah Gaughan as the newest member to our in-house Design Team!

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I remember my first encounter with Norah’s work. I had a job on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and I often spent my lunch break soaking up all the knitting knowledge I could absorb in the Barnes & Noble that used to occupy the corner of 66th and Broadway. (This was also where I picked up most of my intermediate-to-advanced knitting knowledge, hunkered down among the bookshelves sponging up as much technical info as I could between my morning and afternoon shift…)

One day I spied a beautiful new hardcover face-out on the shelf: Knitting Nature. Leafing through it was mind expanding. Not only were the garments unlike anything I’d ever seen—swirls and polygons and fractal shapes cunningly transformed into wearable art—but the styling and production quality were totally arresting. It was the first time I realized how much was possible in melding the arts of knitting and photography which, in hindsight, was a pretty major moment for me.

For eight years since, I’ve been following Norah’s design career, marveling at her prolific and agile brain. I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled to now call her a colleague at BT. Working with her in the past few months has already been a complete joy. Check out Norah’s first few designs from our Winter Collection— Chainlink (pictured above), Marshal, and Nomad—and please join me in welcoming her to the BT family!

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My very talented cousin, Craig Flood, is a videographer in Portland, Oregon. Back in November, he was visiting NYC and staying with me as a houseguest during photoshoot week for our Winter collection (coming tomorrow—so excited!). When I began telling him about the concept for the art history-inspired shoot I was working on for the collection, he thought it sounded like the perfect subject for a video story—and so we decided to do a cousin collaboration!

Craig tagged along with me on the days leading up to the shoot and captured a nice look at the process involved in weaving it all together.

I’ve had the idea of doing a collection of designs inspired by art historical references for years. I loved the idea of bringing my post-academia love of art history together with our work at Brooklyn Tweed in some way. In college I spent 9 months abroad in Rome studying art history and fell in love with the lighting and composition of paintings from the Baroque period, especially those of the Dutch Masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. I thought it would be a fun creative challenge to create imagery inspired by this genre of painting for a knitwear collection, and to use art historical references as a springboard for our designers to begin concepts for their garments. Last November, when our Design Team convened in NYC for our regular design retreat, we took a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to gather inspiration for some of our newest patterns in the Winter 15 collection.

Craig’s video is a nice glimpse into our process for putting a shoot together; I hope you enjoy it! (I’m much more comfortable behind the camera—leave it to my little cousin to get me to sit for an interview!)

A huge thanks to Craig for making this beautiful video and enhancing my own creative journey on this project!

And of course, stay tuned for the new collection tomorrow morning! (You’ll get an early peek at the designs in our “History of Art” story at the end of the video.)

 

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I wanted to take some time today to share a bit about Hawser – one of my new designs in BT Fall 14. When I first started working on this garment, I hoped to adapt some of the qualities found in traditional fisherman sweaters into a more modern and flattering wardrobe item for women.

Sometimes design ideas behave really well – doing exactly what you think they’ll do from concept to execution – while other times, it’s more like a wrestling match. Hawser was one of those, and went through a few different iterations on its journey. Perhaps sharing some info about the design’s evolution will give you some modification ideas of your own!

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Hawser

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An A-line silhouette is one of my favorite sweater shapes, especially for cozy, knock-around, fall and winter garments, so that’s where I began. The super-sized rope cables are quite large (A “hawser” is a thick rope or cable used for mooring or towing a ship, and is derived from the French word haucier – “to hoist”) and needed to be handled carefully to avoid overwhelming the wearer. I started with 4 – which immediately looked like too much, so took one out and went for a 3-cable arrangement. I originally drafted the garment with a traditional set-in sleeve yoke placing the two outer cables flush against the armholes. It turned out to be an unflattering, bulky fit at the shoulder, and looked to me like an awkward meeting of sleeve and body. So that idea was out. I wasn’t necessarily feeling like a raglan or round yoke would work here either, so took some time to chew on other ideas for a few days (giving an idea time to marinate is essential for me to find solutions to design problems, I’ve learned).

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To leave some extra room for the allover double moss stitch at the shoulder (rather than having the cable fall right on the seam line) – a drop shoulder seemed like a viable option, though I wanted to avoid the bulk of extra fabric at the underarm that a traditional drop shoulder provides. To make the upper yoke more fitted, I gave the shoulder line a more dramatic slope and added an outward-leaning slope on the armhole edge; with this new shape, the sleeve would join the body well below the shoulder, all the while avoiding an excess fabric problem of a standard drop shoulder. Things started feeling better at this point!

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The change for a (modified) drop-shoulder combined with the A-line shape threatened to created an overly boxy garment, so adding a slim sleeve that fits directly into the armhole seemed like an appropriate final touch for the fit. A bonus of having a sloped armhole opening also meant that no sleeve cap shaping would be required – the sleeve couldn’t be simpler! The results still hint at that boxy look, but with a more anatomically friendly silhouette. The final shape also allows the double moss stitch to go over the shoulder (see the photo #2 above), which kept that area of the garment from becoming a visual eyesore like it was in the original. The schematic below shows the final shape (and knitting direction) of the garment – which is worked circularly from hem to underarm with the front and back of the yoke worked flat; sleeves are worked circularly in their entirety.

SCH_hawser-01

Aside from shape and fit (the foundation of every garment) – you know I love the subtle details! There are a few little things stashed away in this design that I thought I’d highlight, as they’re sometimes less apparent in photographs. There is continuation of the 1×1 hem ribbing running up along the sweater’s side “seams” in a band, creating a visual detail that also hide the garment’s A-Line shaping (double moss stitch can start looking a little messy when shaping is worked directly into the stitch pattern). You can get a little peek of that in photo #1 above – look just below the the lower portion of the left arm. The large cable crosses – occurring over a total of 17 stitches – utilize a special yarn over technique on crossing rounds to provide a little extra slack for the working yarn as it carries across the wide cable; this keeps the finished cable from distorting or buckling. Finally, a doubled collar (knit to twice the desired depth then folded in and tacked down to the inside of the garment) gives a sturdy finish to the wide crew neck and balances out some of the bolder effects of the deep hem and large vertical motifs.

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Hawser Design Swatch

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Here is a photo of one of my first swatches for the design, hanging out under another design swatch (this one didn’t make it into the final collection, but I have plans for her still!).

All in all, it was a fun process from start to finish. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this sweater’s journey, and I can’t wait to see what sort of variations start popping up out in the world!

Thanks for reading and all my best,

Jared

 

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Dear Knitters,

September! It’s always been one of my favorite months. While summer may be psychologically over when the school bells ring, the season just seems all the more golden as the fair weather lingers, mellows, and starts to offer that refreshing autumn crispness in the mornings. While the lazy liberty of vacation may be over, falling back into the year’s routine has its own productive pleasures, too. (There’s still the possibility of weekend camping trips, after all!)

Fisherman-inspired knits for Autumn

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Most importantly, as we well know, Knitting Season is officially open. It’s no longer too hot to contemplate taking up that big cardigan you didn’t finish last winter. Or even if it is, you start to think how good that pile of pieces in your workbasket is going to look at your favorite autumn wool festival (if you can just knit a second sleeve and a collar and sew them all together…). Motivation kicks in.

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BT Fall 14

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I can never resist the call to cast on new projects in September, and that’s why I’m excited to share our BT Fall 14 collection today: a whole fleet of garments and accessories inspired by the rich traditions of nautical knitwear. Our design team set out to reinterpret fishermen’s sweaters in ways we hope will surprise and delight you. From cables to geometric textural patterns to brioche, you’ll see classic elements enlivening completely modern shapes. Whether you like your sweaters generous or fitted, A-line or fashionably oversized, you’re likely to find something in the lookbook that will make your needles sing.

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BT Fall 14

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Construction details and design features for each garment are highlighted directly within the new lookbook and give a great at-a-glance summary of what kind of knitting is in store for any given pattern. We’ve also included a new kind of written feature in this lookbook. Shooting the collection in Red Hook, Brooklyn got me thinking about our roots and mission as a company. Rather than just using Red Hook as an evocative backdrop, we felt compelled to share with you something of its history and its present. Feeling the energy that’s being generated there as community leaders try creative solutions to put their town’s unique resources and people back to work inspired all of us. It affirmed my own resolve to grow Brooklyn Tweed in a way that fuels local industry and helps keep American manufacturing traditions alive. I hope you’ll enjoy thinking about that aspect of our craft as you read our Red Hook essay and share your own reactions and ideas with us!

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BT Fall 14

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I’m also looking forward to showing some of our Red Hook footage in a new BT Vignette video next week, and to turning the spotlight on some of the designs in BT Fall 14, so stay tuned for more to come. If there’s a garment you particularly want to see featured, please let us know!

For the moment, I hope you’ve got a few moments to settle in with the lookbook, enjoy the new collection, and dream up possibilities for your own wardrobe.

.Happy fall!

JF_SIG_printed

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color_thoery_02.

On Tuesday we talked about some of the fundamental “rules” of color theory as it pertains to knitting stranded fabric with multiple colors of yarn. Today I want to share some of my own design swatches for the Atlas pullover/cardigan that illustrate these concepts.

When I begin a new design, the first major block of time is spent making several swatches. This is never truer than when I am combining color (where swatching may comprise over 50% of the entire design process!). Knitting stranded colorwork is a very specific applied use of color, and it takes a lot of practice to begin understanding how colors work together in this format. More often than not, a color choice you were sure would be perfect doesn’t come together the way you thought it would, or better, a combo that you didn’t feel too terribly excited about ends up working beautifully. The only way to know for sure is to knit up your motif and see what happens! (Bonus: Knit your swatches on varying needle sizes to test what kind of fabric options you have; remember that stranded knitting is virtually twice as thick as single-color stockinette, so a more relaxed gauge is often preferable.)

For Atlas, a total of seven colorwork swatches were made (6 of which are shown in the following image; the 7th is used as an example below to illustrate what doesn’t work).

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Atlas’s yoke motif requires the use of 3 colors and is intended for use with three contrasting values of color: Light, Medium and Dark. For me, the choice of value is the first and most important step in choosing a trio of color, followed by the selection of hues. In this case I chose triads of color that live in similar color families (browns, blues, greys, etc.), but you can just as easily mix hues from all parts of the color wheel, as long as you keep the value relationship in place.

Swatches 04 and 06 were eventually chosen as final colorways for the knitted samples (click here to see the final result for each colorway), though most of these options would have made perfectly adorable finished garments for children.

Looking at the six swatches above – one of them jumps out at me as being slightly less successful than the others (at least relative to what my original goal was). Care to venture a guess? In my opinion, Swatch 05 is the least successful (though not a failure). Do the “squint test” at all 6 of the swatches above and see how the motif on Swatch 05 fades to darkness more readily than the others, particularly in the upper “elongated diamonds” section. This is because Colors 1 and 3 are closer in value to one another in Swatch 05 than they are in the others.

Another interesting item to note: in all six swatches, I prioritized the darkest value for Color 3, since it held the most “heft” in terms of defining the overall yoke motif. For Colors 1 (sweater color) and Color 2 (yoke contrast color), however, I played around with swapping the position of the Light and Medium values. For example, swatches 02 and 06 use the Light value as the sweater color, and the Medium and Dark values for the yoke motifs. The other swatches use the Medium value as the sweater color and have Light and Dark contrasting in the yoke. Both results are pleasing. The take-away: when your value structure is solid, you’ll find success in just about any configuration of Light, Medium and Dark (and! even more swatching possibilities)!

Below is an example of how quickly low-contrast color combos can turn muddy; I encountered this situation when I was swatching with shades of brown:

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hi_lo_contrast

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The upper swatch was my first attempt combining browns from our palette. Tuesday I mentioned that you’ll sometimes be surprised at how similar values can appear in the finished knitted fabric, even when they seemed sufficiently different “in the skein”. When you work two shades onto a “grid” of knitted fabric, mixing color stitch for stitch, the colorwork fabric puts the value relationship to the true test. In this case, “Nest” (color 1, which would be the body of the sweater) appeared plenty different from “Truffle Hunt” (Color 3, the darkest shade) when I held the skeins together, but looked much less so when knitted. (Try the Squint Test here too.) So, it was back to the drawing board.

The second brown swatch shows how dramatically different the motif is when just a single color was swapped out for a darker value. The High Contrast swatch subbed “Pumpernickel” for “Truffle Hunt”, a much darker shade of brown. The results speak for themselves!

I’d like to make one final comment about all of this before wrapping up today’s post. When it comes to design and color, I don’t mean to insinuate that there are hard and fast “rules” for success. As in any creative endeavor, that author/artist/designer’s vision and intention are what should guide the decision making process from start to finish. In some cases, a lower-contrast, tonal colorwork palette might be your goal and in that case, choosing colors with similar values can get the job done (in this case, I recommend choosing wildly different hues with similar values, which can result in some very interesting combinations). I’ve structured this post with a more traditional approach, assuming that the goal is to easily see and decipher the graphic motifs featured on Icelandic yokes – and with that goal in mind, a “light-medium-dark” approach will automatically give you a strong foundation to begin your color pairings.

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alt_atlas_colorways

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Though only two colorways made it into the final BT Kids collection, I wanted to post a few more options here for anyone who may have seen a combo featured today on the blog that they might want to run with – on Atlas, or any other 3-color stranded project you might be planning. We’ll also be posting these alternate colorways on Atlas’s pattern page for reference as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little soirée into color theory for knitters! It’s a subject I love talking about — many thanks for letting me indulge!

– Jared

 

 

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color_thoery_01

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I always jump at the opportunity to design a new Icelandic pullover or cardigan. After returning from my summer trip to Iceland in 2012, my love of the traditional Lopapeysa has been at an all-time high. My first swing at a traditional Icelandic sweater design was Grettir in our BT Winter 13 collection, with a more recent follow-up design – Atlas – in BT Kids.

One of the most enticing aspects of Icelandic sweater design is the opportunity to play with color. It’s truly amazing how a wide range of results can be produced from a single colorwork chart, based solely on the use (or abuse!) of hue and value. Choosing yarns for colorwork, however, can be discouraging if you aren’t familiar with a few fundamental rules about color theory. This week I wanted to share some tips with you that every colorwork knitter (or designer) should have in their arsenal.

In today’s post (Part 1), I’ll talk about the difference between hue and value and how these two attributes of color are intimately linked to the success of your final project. On Thursday (Part 2), I’ll show you how these theories were applied (with varying degrees of success) during my own design process for the Atlas pullover and cardigan. My hope is that these simple colorwork rules will keep you from the heartbreak caused by muddy, hard-to-see colorwork motifs in your knitting.

Hue & Value

When talking about color, there are two important terms to understand: Hue and Value. Every color under the sun (with the exception of  pure black and pure white, depending on who you ask) has a hue and a value. These two words describe the two basic “ingredients” of color, and understanding their distinction is key to successfully combining color in knitting.

Hue refers to the attribute of a color by virtue of which it is discernible as red, green, blue, etc. The word “hue” is often used interchangeably with the word “color”.

Value refers to a color’s relative degree of lightness or darkness.

The easiest way to think about value is by visualizing color on a greyscale spectrum. Remember that every color has a value – though it may sometimes be difficult to discern depending on how saturated a color’s hue is. The diagram below shows a range of values from pure white to pure black, with equal intervals in value from one shade to the next.

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Value Scale

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Why is value important? Because it helps our eyes discern between colors by way of their contrast. The greater the difference between two colors’ values, the more contrasting they appear to our eyes and hence the easier they are to “read”.

Using Value When Choosing Color

With stranded knitting, value is especially important because colors are “mixed” as the fabric is created, with single stitches of one color neighboring single stitches of another. (Value is less of an issue with broad stripes or colorblocked fabrics because the surface area of a single color is large, making it easy for the eyes to distinguish between even subtle shifts of hue and value. Not so with stranded colorwork. If your value structure is not sound, all your careful handwork may result in a muddy motif that is difficult to see (and appreciate!).

Your best course of action is to “value test” your colors before you begin knitting. The easiest way to test your values is with the squint test. Place your potential colors on a flat, well-lit surface and huddle them next to one another. Squint your eyes and study how squinting causes the colors to become more or less similar in value. When squinting, values are easier to recognize. If – once squinting – your colors become MORE similar, you likely are working with colors that are too similar in value and should consider pulling in something with more contrast.

The second, more high-tech method, is to take a snapshot of your colors on a digital camera (smartphones are wonderful for this purpose) and convert the image to greyscale. A black and white image removes all hue information and leaves only the values of each color to compare. This is a fantastic trick that takes all the guesswork out of the equation. 

Below, I’ve shown two different color schemes for a 3-color Icelandic yoke. The photograph on the left shows the colors as they appear to our eyes; the photograph on the right has taken all hue information away, leaving only values to be contrasted. It’s pretty easy to tell right away which of these two color groupings would make a more successful finished piece:

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Value_01

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Value Combination 1 uses colors “Woodsmoke”, “Tent”, and “Artifact” and represents a true light-medium-dark value relationship. (Squint at the screen and look at the greyscale image on the right – the values become even more obvious than they are to the naked eye).

By contrast, Value Combination 2 uses three colors that look beautiful together upon first glance (“Thistle”, “Wool Socks” & “Homemade Jam”), but when the hue information is stripped away, these colors look virtually the same. (Squint again to double-check.)

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Value_02

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If both color combinations were used to knit the same colorwork motif, you would quickly notice  a drastic difference in the overall effect on the finished fabric. Combination 1 would have a graphic effect that enhances the angular motifs found in Icelandic yokes, while Combination 2 would cause the motifs to fade into a much less discernible configuration.

When choosing colors for colorwork patterns, the assessment of value should always be your starting point. I keep a trusty snapshot of our BT Shade Card – converted to greyscale – readily available. When I begin a new colorwork design and start pulling potential color combinations, I assess their value before deeming them worthy of swatching.

You can see below how quickly the palette separates itself into light, medium and dark values with a simple black and white conversion:

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Shade_Card_01

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In the next post, we’ll take these fundamental rules for a test drive by looking at my design swatches for Atlas – examining why some are more successful than others due to their internal value relationships.

Stay tuned for more colorwork geekery later this week!

– Jared

 

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