Two tones for the win!
If you’re ready to try colourwork, but you are anxious about choosing colours, a monochrome or two-colour combination is a conservative choice. You’ll probably be able to choose this kind of palette and get it right first time. If you’re ordering online, and want your choice to work out first time (don’t we all?!) then this is a likely winner. Low risk, and high satisfaction!
This post is the first in our 5-part Week Of Colour! Check out the other posts too:
Monochrome, technically, means an image that has only one colour. That colour could be black, red, blue, green (you get the idea), but the image is made up only of tones of that single colour.
To pare things back to the very most basic, Monday’s hat uses black as foreground on a white background. If you use white (or lighter grey) with black (or darker grey), you’re pretty certain to have success. The difference in effect comes in how much contrast there is between the two colours. You may prefer a very high-contrast pair, or a lower-contrast pair; they create different moods.
To make this hat, I used John Arbon Knit by Numbers DK in ‘KBN55’ (white) and ‘KBN02’ (charcoal). I LOVE working in this soft-as-butter yarn and I enjoy the satisfying way it blooms and melds together into a lovely fabric for colourwork.
I followed the hat pattern that is included in Anthology, making a child size hat, using the chart included here. I used 3.5mm needles at the 1×1 ribbing and 4.0mm at the colourwork and stockinette. After blocking, I found I had achieved a slightly tighter (smaller) gauge than the Anthology pattern called for; the gauge measures 25 sts & 27 rounds in 4”, while the pattern calls for 22 sts & 26 rounds. So this child size hat came out a little bit small; it’s a good fit on Neve, my 18-month-old toddler, but it probably wouldn’t fit an older child. Confused about gauge? Review the basics here.
What I learned about gauge was that if I use this yarn to make a Strange Brew sweater, I would either have to try using a larger needle size (I’d try 4.5mm) or adjust the pattern for the gauge I did achieve (6.25 sts per inch rather than 5.5 sts per inch). We have a tutorial on adjusting patterns for a different gauge here.
Monochrome with a twist
For Alexa’s monochrome cowl she worked with a marled yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in ‘newsprint’, along with tweedy solids ‘cast iron’ and ‘snowbound’ for the ribbing and the Fair Isle. The ribbing is a garter rib, worked as follows:
Round 1: [k1, p3] around
Round 2: knit
Work rounds 1 and 2 for a 1×3 garter rib.
Then she worked in newsprint for a few rounds, then worked the chart below in ‘cast iron’ and ‘snowbound’, followed by newsprint and another section of garter rib.
The overall effect is punchy contrast in the colourwork section of the cowl, with a marled look for the rest. A winner for sure!
An (almost) Monochrome North Shore
North Shore is still one of my very favourite things I’ve designed. When I was up in Alaska this past summer I brought the original sweater and the knitters there took an immediate liking to it. I could see why, it seemed like it was made for Cordova! Water, trees, mountains, all hallmarks of that beautiful place.
I re-fell in love with the North Shore sweater and after some colour consultation with Melissa of Sweet Fiber, I cast on a North Shore for Hunter (ignoring all the other WIPs and deadlines I had at the time). This sweater is mostly greys (‘smoke’, ‘paper birch’, and ‘charcoal’) but has a pop of blue in the waves and the sky with ‘marshland’ and ‘sea glass’. I am in LOVE with this colour combo for this sweater, I might just need to cast one on for myself…immediately! For all the details on Hunter’s North Shore check out the Ravelry project page here.
Pump up that contrast!
But back to the colour! I’m very pleased with the high contrast effect of the black on white pattern. I think the swatch hat would look pretty great in other monochrome combinations too.
A related strategy to monochrome colour pairs is to use 2-colour pairs. Here are a few examples of colour pairs. Probably the most critical aspect to consider when choosing colour pairs is the level of contrast between the yarns.
One thing we always recommend to those who are new to working with colour is to develop a colour file of combinations you love. In fact, we’ve written all about it this, and included some of our own favourite combos!
To help you choose just the right monochrome or two-colour combination, we created a Pinterest board of all kinds of beautiful projects that use this colour strategy.
Are you ready to tackle colour? We’re running a fun KAL starting this Thursday, October 19th. All the details are here!
Share the colour love:
Colour is one of those things that many knitters find very difficult. Practice makes perfect, and we find knitting colourwork patterns HIGHLY addictive! You can’t help but knit just one more round to see how it will look. It’s a delicious adventure. To share this colour strategy, just click the links below to share this blog post on Instagram, Facebook or by email. And invite your friends to join in the KAL too!
Monochrome Fair Isle from TCK:
February 2, 2021 @ 12:23 pm
I love the cowl. Where would I find complete instructions? Thanks
February 4, 2021 @ 1:29 pm
Hi Becky – You can find the Anthology pattern here: https://tincanknits.com/pattern/anthology?g=9
October 20, 2017 @ 11:56 pm
What an amazing amount of info thank you. I love following your blogs and tutorials and am about to spend more time in my next project playing with colours and techniques. I’ve learnt already that playing is the operative word and to put one’s work down and return after a walk in nature when the going gets tough. If you get back to Vancouver Island go look up the Victoria Knitters Guild they are a great bunch of women and Seaside Yarns in Sooke.
October 16, 2017 @ 5:36 pm
For the cowl, which colorwork pattern was used? I have the strange brew pattern but I can’t tell. I’m guessing the 15 row pattern?
October 18, 2017 @ 1:34 pm
Hi Kathleen – we’ve added the chart into the post, thanks for asking!
October 16, 2017 @ 9:44 am
Those are all so beautiful. I am not experienced enough to try patterns, but you make it look easy! :)