Working with Colour

Do you enjoy working with colour in your knitting?

It can be a little intimidating; when you knit in a single colour you don’t have to worry about matching or complementing colours so it’s a little simpler. However combining colours can be beautiful, fun and very economical as it gives you the option of making the most of leftover yarns.

I’ve found that there is no one size fits all when it comes to colour combinations. It depends on the type of colourwork you are doing and of course your personality and how much contrast you want in your colours. I’ll go through a few different ways of combining colours and different things to look out for with your colour choices. Feel free to break all the rules though as you never know what surprises you might come up with!


Do not underestimate the lowly stripe when it comes to combining colour. This can be used in many innovative ways! Just looking at the size of the stripes; wide stripes give big blocks of colour, narrow stripes blend colours very closely. You can even adjust the width of the stripes of the work (as in Viminal) to create a totally different effect, with one colour morphing into another.


Any colour combinations can be used in stripes. If you go for a bold contrast it’s going to be very vivid but you can use an extremely subtle combination such a in Pente.

Pente knitted cardigan
Copyright Jared Flood


If you have several colours that are similar but different it can work really nicely to create a gradient effect. This allows one colour to fade into another. I created this on the original Santa Rosa Plum cardigan with colours that go from a light pink moving into a plum colour.

Santa Rosa Plum

I’ve created a gradient with several different colours in Half Moon Shawl, to cover over the colour change I’ve used a neutral colour in a purl contrast row that hides the colour shift. This technique can easily be adapted to any pattern, even one that’s not intended for colourwork.

Half Moon Shawl


Slip Stitch/Mosaic Colourwork

This is one of my favourite methods of combining colours! You can take any colour gradient or set of colours and make them all work nicely together. In Probys I used it to blend several colours smoothly.

Probys fingerles mittens

In Billow Crest you can see slip stitch colourwork being taken to the next level! It looks like stranded colourwork but you are only ever working a single colour in each round. To create the 2-clour effect you slip the colours that are in a different colour, allowing them to be pulled up to the next row.

This is taken to a whole other level with Ribosome where the cable is worked in slip stitch for the dark colour allowing it to appear to float above the garter stitch stripes!


Stranded Colourwork

Stranded colourwork is often very intimidating to knitters, especially if there are several different colours to be combined. You may discover that it’s going to take a bit of swatching in order to get the best combinations for you. To start with you want to look at the colour ‘tone’ – how dark/light is the colour. This has nothing to do with the actual colour! The best way to see this in action is with a black and white image. If you take a photo of your colours in black and white you can immediately see the different ‘tones’ of the colours. This is what is going to give you a nice contrast and allow your colourwork to ‘pop’ rather than blending in together.

In Waning Crescent I’ve also used purl stitches in the colour changes to blend the colours together for a more subtle look.

Waning Crescent sweater


This is of course not a definitive list, but hopefully it’s enough to get you thinking about all the different things you can do with colour combinations.

What will your next colourwork project be?

2 thoughts on “Working with Colour

  1. Thank you for this interesting post. I do not work nearly enough colour work, but I really enjoy the little I do. It is just that I am really bad at putting colours together and imagining how they will work, so get really insecure. I’d like to try new combinations, but fear it will be a mismatch, so I pour over project pages for designs, and I am very grateful for the fact that you present your kits with several options of colour combination.
    The lovely earthy colours of Probys I think would go very well with a sweater… or won’t they?
    It was also good to get a refresher of some of your patterns. These designs are all beautiful, but goodness me, Viminal – so simple, yet so beautiful – I am smitten!

  2. All fabulous designs. Love the different looks. Mosaic happens to be my favorite method. Love stranded dedifbs, but always have a problem with tension.

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