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Week Of Colour : strategies for stranded colourwork

October 15, 2017

Let’s admit it. Even for experienced designers, choosing colours for stranded colourwork can sometimes seem daunting.

So what do you do? You may pull out all of your yarn in a given weight, or head to your local yarn shop, and then feel overwhelmed by the colourful mess of possible options.

Max is undaunted by the pile!

Week of Colour : 5 days, 5 example hats

Our Week of Colour is designed to make the process of choosing a palette simpler. This coming week we will outline several colour strategies which you can use as a guide. Beginning with a colour strategy can help by narrowing your choices to a manageable number!

Wanna skip ahead? Check out all our Week Of Colour Posts:

To choose yarns for my Week of Colour hats, I began by pulling all of my DK weight yarns, plus some sport and light worsted weight too. Then I played with them, pairing, combining, and recombining before casting on.

choose a colour strategy

How does choosing a colour strategy help? A strategy narrows the focus and limits your decisions. For example, once you decide that you’re going to work in 2 colours, then all that remains is to choose which two. You can simply choose your main colour, then try out various contrast yarns until you find one that feels right. Or if you decide you would like to do a Fair Isle style blend using 3 background colours and 3 foreground colours, you may begin by choosing the approximate value of either your background or foreground, then choosing the opposing blend that will have sufficient contrast to make the pattern really pop!

In the past we shared tips for knitting colourwork, how to collect your favourite colour combos, and how to choose a great colourwork palette, but the Week of Colour will delve deeper into the specific ways you can use colour in stranded patterns.

Clayoquot HatSpotlight by Tin Can KnitsMukluksClayoquot Cardigan by Tin Can KnitsNorth Shore

After you’ve knit a number of colourwork projects, this process may become second nature to you. You will get comfortable improvising on the needles. But when you are starting out, it helps to choose a strategy and narrow down the set of decisions that you’ll have to make before you can cast on. The Week of Colour starts next Monday, October 16th!

The Week of Colour

  • Monochrome Monday will look at monochrome and 2 colour pairs
  • Tonal Tuesday will illustrate how effective an ombre can be
  • Wacky Wednesday will explore wackier combos; using handpaints and speckles, marled, handspun, and self-striping yarns
  • Tricolour Thursday will cover the complexity you encounter with three colour combinations
  • Fair Isle Friday will overview the Fair Isle blending technique with a 6-colour example

Even given LOADS of info, you’re still not guaranteed to nail it the first time. Swatching is vital, because it’s nearly impossible to know whether you’ll like the finished combination until you get the yarns on the needles. Still, we we hope these tutorials point you in the right direction!

Are you ready for this?!

If you want to play along, get the Strange Brew pattern. Along with the fair isle yoke sweater recipe, it includes a swatch hat & cowl pattern for DK weight. This is the pattern that we have used to create all of the swatch hats this week. We’re also hosting a Strange Brew (and Dog Star) KAL starting October 19th, with plenty of time for Q&A in our Facebook group! Learn more and join in now!

What are you most confused about?

When it comes to stranded colourwork or Fair Isle knitting, many people have questions! Let us know, in the comments, what is holding you back, or what you’d like to learn, and we’ll do our best to cover it in our coming tutorials. Many knitters find Fair Isle knitting delicious and addictive once they get started, so we would love to introduce you to this world of colour!

Fair Isle Knitting

Follow along by visiting the blog, or find us at your favourite social spot. If you aren’t already getting Tin Can Knits email updates, sign up now to get our special stories and knit tips once or twice a month. And you can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest too!


Some Fair Isle Favourites from TCK:

Spotlight by Tin Can Knits

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2017 6:38 am

    I have started knitting my charity hats with fair isle. I am progressing nicely, but have a problem with the pattern when I get to the marker for the end of the round. The pattern has that little jog in the knitting that I just cannot seem to adjust no matter what I try. I wonder if you could give me some hints on how to avoid it. Thanks.

    • November 14, 2017 11:13 am

      Hi Peg – the jog is definitely a bit of a problem, it’s just really not the prettiest part of any Fair Isle project. There are some fixes that other knitters employ, but I find they all leave that part of the pattern looking a little ‘off’. We just live with it, putting it at the back shoulder in sweater yokes, or wearing it in the back of our hats.

  2. Herta permalink
    October 30, 2017 2:09 pm

    I’ve tried 2 colorwork projects (started with your coffee cozy) and loved the effect. I was disappointed by the jog though. I understand why there’s a jog and I’ve read about some pretty complex ways of reducing it, but I’m wondering what experienced knitters do for larger projects like a hat or sweater. Do you just live with it? Do you have a favorite way to eliminate it?

    • October 31, 2017 10:01 am

      Hi Herta – great question. I have found that the complicated fixes are still visible, so I just live with it. I keep my jog at the least noticeable place on the item (back shoulder for sweater yokes, or underarm for the sleeves and body), and when blocking I give it a little push so it is a little less apparent.

      • Herta permalink
        November 1, 2017 7:26 am

        Thanks! Reassuring that pro knitters just live with it. Your patterns are stunning.

  3. October 20, 2017 2:12 pm

    You people do an excellent job with your knitting – ideas, yarn colors, designs – all can knit –
    beautiful – be proud of your talent.
    Bev Killick

  4. Linda Foord permalink
    October 20, 2017 11:08 am

    Would love to know if this design could be made on a mid gauge knitting machine, or just the body and sleeves with the yoke hand knitted

    • October 20, 2017 2:18 pm

      Hi Linda – Emily has recently taken up the knitting machine. She is using lighter weight yarn than DK, but adjusting the size she knits

  5. Christine permalink
    October 16, 2017 6:14 pm

    I’m really enjoying this series so far. Thank you for the inspiration and guidance!

    I’ve never attempted colourwork before but would love to try with the mishmash of yarns I already have in my stash. So, I’d like to learn your views on combining different yarn textures in colourwork. For example, nearly all of the yarns in the picture (the one featuring the red-toned yarns wrapped side-by-side) have their own unique ply style – none are the same! Some are “twisty”, some are woolly, the middle maroon appears to be “hairy” (possibly an alpaca blend) and I personally have some quite smooth crepe-twisted wool yarns in my stash. Would you ever combine these different textures in your colourwork and do you have any tips on where you’d place the different textures in the pattern? Thanks!

  6. Ivana permalink
    October 16, 2017 12:25 am

    I have never tried Fair Isle knitting – so I would like to read some tips and tricks for beginners as well as tips for easy Fair Isle projects.

  7. Christy Campbell permalink
    October 15, 2017 3:04 pm

    I’d love to hear your take on yarn type for colorwork. Superwash or not, woolen or worsted spun, cheap like Drops or Cascade or more expensive? I’m just starting and want to experiment. Thanks!

    • October 15, 2017 10:21 pm

      Hi Christy – we have enjoyed working with lots of different types of yarns really! We have used superwash and non-superwash and while they have different effects, I can’t really say one is better than the other for me. One piece of advice is that woolly wools tend to be a bit more forgiving if your tension isn’t spit spot to start out with. I would stay away from acrylics or cottons, they don’t tend to have the same memory as wools.

  8. Linda permalink
    October 15, 2017 11:36 am

    How to carry the threads”.

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