Paul Newman’s baby blues, sprouts, peas and lemon sorbet yellow…..

tapestry wool

Some while ago, when I was working on the star quilts for Miss Peggy and Pearl, I was asked about how I make my colour choices, picking out particular colours and teaming them together in unusual combinations….at the time I said I’d be writing a post about it.  I got about half way through writing one then realized that what I thought was going to be quite a simple piece really was becoming a bit of an epic post so I’ve taken my notes and have tried to break down and show how I work and chose my colours and team ups across the mediums I work in which is fabric, embroidery and crochet.

embroidery silk strands

I love using as much colour as possible in my work and although there are pairings that I’m not so fond of, colours that I’ll shy away from, on the whole I’m happy to use what ever is going…it’s a bit different when I’m using fabric as I prefer to use prints rather than a plain solid so other factors like print design then begin to creep in, but for the most part if I can put in a little bit of every colour under the sun then I’m happy.

To begin with I think it always helps to have a bit of a basic understanding of how colours work, even if later on you throw “the rules” out of the window, then it still helps to know what is being thrown out…..I find having a sketchbook for colour notes and playing really helpful, it doesn’t have to be huge, but I like them big enough that I can work bigger than just thumbnail sized swatches of colour.

I generally start any colour sketchbook with some colour wheels over the first few pages in a variety of mediums (colouring pencil and paint, snippets of fabric or tufts of yarn)

The first three colours to consider are what are called the Primary colours….these are red, yellow and blue.  They’re the most simple and basic colours and you can’t make them by mixing other colours together.

mrs millers favourite

Red is always a hot colour, whether it’s chilli red or cherry, fire engine bright, post box red.

soporific blues

Soft and soporific blue…never a warm tone but always cooling. (just the memory of a walk amongst the bluebells in April can cool me down and help me sleep in August when the nights are too hot and sticky…)

Ultramarine, and icy, sometimes almost grey…Prussian and inky and Paul Newman’s baby blues…..

yellow buttons

Sunshiny and bright, golden and mustard, most mellow and lemon sorbet tasting yellow.

The next colours are the secondary colours.

From mixing two of the three Primary colours together you create the secondary colours…..(I think they make the happiest albeit safest) pairings when you team them up with either of the two colours that make them.

green moss on wall

Yellow and Blue together make green…fresh and vibrant, forest pine and leafy glade, sprouts and peas, the smell of a greenhouse on a warm Summer’s day….

little blocks 005

Blue and red together create purple…….mauve and violet, lavender meadows and blackberry crumbles, wild violets and shiny aubergines.

orange tapestry wool

Red and yellow makes orange….. the brightest fruitiest hue, to soft coral and peachy, apricot tones, amber and persimmon, tangerine and henna.

cats and quilts 003

Caramel, ochre, chocolate, mocha, chestnut and sienna, mushroom tones all velvey soft……Brown is a composite or neutral colour…it’s made by mixing the primary colours together.

It can be thought of as being a bit drab or boring and although it’s not a colour I tend to go for straight away when I’m making any wardrobe choices, I’m quite happy using it in crochet (blends of a range of brown shades or mixed in with blue, pink, orange or yellow look particularly good)

nine patch star patchwork block

Pink is a bit of a where did that come from colour, it’s actually a red tint although it’s often seen as a colour in it’s own right, and I know some people really don’t like it but I don’t have any of their qualms (pink and yellow is a particular favourite combination that I find myself using and wearing time and time again).

Before I finish off this first post regarding how I use colour, I just wanted to mention what I have found to be two excellent resources for super good reading regarding colour.

Firstly is the always inspiring Uppercase magazine, in particular issue 22, it’s full of beautifully illustrated interviews and essays about colour.  Visually this issue is a real treat, and the magazine reads like a rainbow….. (if you’re like me and live in the UK then you can buy it mail order from Housekeeping)

Secondly is the utterly brilliant Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook by Felicity Ford.  It’s an excellent book about looking at where to get your initial colour inspiration from and how to translate it into a workable project. I’ve wrote about it before but I love it so much and it’s such a great book I hope you’ll excuse me repeating myself.   Although this book is probably of more help to knitters, I’ve still found it riveting to read and it’s made me really think about where my colour choices come from and how I can make them even better.

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7 thoughts on “Paul Newman’s baby blues, sprouts, peas and lemon sorbet yellow…..

    1. The more colour I use in my work, the more I want to add, making the blocks for my “dear ethel” has made me want to use as many colours as I can for nearly everything I now make. It’s also crept over into my wardrobe and I can’t believe only a few years ago I only ever used to wear black.

      1. I tend to be a safe colour person. I really admire those people who can wear bright, loud colours. I love to wear black as my base and use colourful accessories.

      2. I blame it all on a pair of red shoes, from there on it the only things I seemed to buy for my wardrobe were colourful, tights, cardigans, dresses, drawers…..most of the black clothes have gone to the charity shops though I think there are a few things lurking away at the back. Wearing lots of colour always makes me feel cheerier even if I’m having a bit of a grump.

    1. Yeah I figure everyone already knows the colour wheel but it was at the top of my notes and it always seems the best place to start when writing about colour.
      Colour choices and what they represent mean different things for different people, I’m not sure I have a favourite colour but I guess I have favourite combinations which I’ve become more aware of over time.
      Oddly these pairings can change from day to day, one day purple and red will be perfect, another day when I try to repeat it I’ll think it looks pants and will want to mix red with pink.

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