Saturday, February 27, 2010

Off the cuff and up my sleeve

Much to report on the Handstrikket this morning. As you may remember from my last dispatch, I finished the interminable plain stockinette body and started on the sleeves. Woo hoo! But then I hit a road block - and lots of frogging. The problem: colors.

I designed my original sleeve colorwork as shown below. The design looked great on screen - sufficient color contrast between the dark blue and dark brown. I was convinced it would work well.

I was wrong. In real life, the two dark colors are so similar in value that they are almost indistinguishable in all but the brightest light. Color value is simply how dark or light a color is. In this case, the blue and brown are equally dark and therefore share the same value.

So back to the drawing board. This time, I placed the lightest color, white, up against the dark brown. This picture shows the new sleeve colorway and a swatch of the original design (shown in the chart above).

I think I've got it right now. I like the contrast a lot better. This experience proves what I know to be the truth: it is very difficult to pick colors for fair isle designs, and contrast is key. In The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, Ann Feitelson writes:
The fundamental Shetland rule is that the pattern must be readable and coherent. Patterns are, after all, what this kind of knitting is known for.
For the pattern to show up, there must be sufficient contrast between it and the background. Shetlanders say, "the pattern is either light on dark, or dark on light." In other words, contrast is the ruling principle.

In addition to revising the cuff colorwork, I need to amend the yoke patterning, too. In the original, the yoke starts at the bottom with a dark blue border (see left chart below). I've revised it to start with a white border; this will tie into the cuff design, too (right chart).

I know where I went wrong in my design process. I used the original Handstrikket my mother gave me over 30 years ago as my guide; it has a white background and a dark brown initial border. I should have thought about this and reversed the values. Lesson learned.

To end today's post, I want to share a picture of my much-overlooked cat, Monica. Ironically, she perches perpetually by my keyboard hoping to catch an errant pat on the head. She personifies irksome! But she is remarkably sweet and spry for a 17-year-old feline. She even manages my pug, Moose with aplomb, despite the fact that he sucks every bit of love out of a room. So today I honor Monica - and promise to pay more attention to her, despite what my ever-demanding pug thinks.


  1. LOVE the contrast now!
    I also am not a fan of cats as a rule, but I like Monica's attitude and the photo of her.

  2. What a difference between the 2 color placements. Lookin' Good. Lessons learned from knitting experience. I like those self teaching experiences..they are sure teachers.

    Cat's? I think they are ok..but lean towards the previous commenter. Moose..I'll look at him from a distance too. I'll take fish anytime, though!

  3. Thanks, girls! It's an interesting lesson learned.

    Teresa, I'd rather scoop cat crap than clean a dirty fish tank. MEGA ICK.

  4. Changing things around is part of the designing process. I love your cat, CATS RULE! :) They know it, and I bet the dog knows it too.