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Choosing a Palette for Colourwork

September 1, 2014


Choosing a palette for colourwork is a challenge. It seems as though you can just choose a few colours you like and go nuts right? Well let me tell you from experience, this is not always the case. Choosing the palettes for the Clayoquot cardigan and toque took what felt like a million swatches and a few failed hats before I finally settled on the colours I did! Here are a few tips to choose your colours (and avoid the million swatches like me!)

Light and Dark

The key to a good palette is a mix of light and dark. If you choose 3 dark colours (or 3 light) there will be a low level of contrast and the difference between the pattern and the background won’t be as crisp as you might like. I prefer to choose my main colour first, usually something distinctively light or dark (I find medium a little harder to go from), then the accents.


Once you know your main colour it’s time to have some fun. Do you want your hat or cardigan to have a fun and bright feel? Perhaps something more neutral subdued? A cool palette or something warmer? There are many ways to go once you have your main and here are a few examples to get you going:


These are a couple of prototype hats Emily created in Rainbow Heirloom Yarn. On the left: MC Fluffy Bunny, CC1 Favourite Auntie, CC2 Killer Flamingo – Emily went with a lighter background colour and 2 darker contrasts. Notice that the contrast colours are similar, there isn’t much contrast between them but there is high contrast between the MC and the CC’s.

On the right: MC New Asphalt, CC1 Fluffy Bunny, CC2 Aussie Sunshine – for this hat the background colour is dark while the contrast colours are lighter. There is less contrast between the contrast colours but Aussie Sunshine is a very vivid colour, making it pop.


MC Something Blue, CC1 Winter, CC2 Marshland – (Sweet Fiber Merino Twist DK) for this hat I went with something wild for the main color but I wasn’t happy with the contrast between the first contrast colour and the main colour, not quite zippy enough! (zippy being a technical term)

These are the final colour palettes I used for the hats and the sweaters (all in Sweet Fiber Merino Twist DK). A few things to note:

For Hunter’s sweater I used a dark MC (Marhsland), a light CC1 (Paper Birch), and a medium CC2 (Something Blue). Enough contrast to go around!

For Emily’s sweater I went with a light MC (Winter), and 2 dark contrasts (Marshland and Moss). I wanted the deep blue and green to mimic the sea. While both the contrast colours are darker, the green is saturated and vivid, letting it shine next to the blue. The pattern really pops!

For Eric’s toque I went with the same palette as Hunter’s sweater but in a different way, lighter background color, dark CC1, and a medium CC2

For Bodhi’s toque I chose a darker background (Sea Glass), a light CC1 (Canary), and a medium/dark CC2 (Spanish Coin), a good mix of light and dark, neutral and colourful, making for a fun hat!

The free Clayoquot toque pattern is a great place to play with colours and make sure you have a stunning palette before embarking on your Clayoquot sweater. So go forth and choose your colours!

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More colourful knits from TCK

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Emma permalink
    December 25, 2019 5:06 pm

    I usually take a picture of my yarn options with my phone and convert to black & white. If there’s enough contrast in the b&w, the different colors will pop in the final product.
    Thanks for the pattern :)

  2. Mark permalink
    April 7, 2017 1:04 am

    What a beautiful hat! Just started fair isle and am addicted. Thanks for the pattern.

  3. Colombe Fillion permalink
    September 2, 2014 8:36 am

    Est-il possible de recevoir vos informations et patrons en français?

  4. September 2, 2014 2:47 am

    So very cute !!!

  5. Katie K permalink
    September 1, 2014 8:44 pm

    Personally, I think that business about values of light and dark being important is exaggerated. Colors getting along is much more important. We don’t, after all, live in a black and white world.

    • September 4, 2014 1:31 am

      It’s not so much about a black and white world, I agree that rules are meant to be broken! It’s just a question of how the pattern pops against the background…or doesn’t pop depending on the look you are going for.

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