Coping with colour block

It’s a bit like writer’s block, I suppose. Except I don’t believe in writer’s block; if you said you had ‘writer’s block’ in a newspaper office, people would come and yell at you. So I don’t get writer’s block. After all, I depend on writing for my living. What I do get is an overwhelming desire to clean the fridge. Ahem.

But I do, quite evidently after our dyeing day described in my last post (oh, and sorry for the delay – work), get colour block. And that’s not colour blocking, as in a Vogue stylist’s idea for a feature. That’s being stuck with one colour (er, black is a colour, isn’t it?) or group of colours.

I rest my case:

See. Black. Purple. Grey. Gloom, despondency and a tendency to lurk in graveyards. OK, there’s something there that could be described as pink, but it’s not exactly cheerful. Miss Havisham would approve of my colour choices.

And I keep doing it. I’m sure I’m not the only person who gets stuck in a colour rut, or am I?

So I decided the time had come to do something about it. After all, I’ve got a basket of fluff that needs spinning up, and it’s all sorts of colours.

Yes, there is some familiar purple in there, but it’s mixed with other things; there’s even a hint of orange. And there’s green (though that is my default ‘I’ve got too much black’ reaction). But they’re all roughly the same palette. Hm.

Now, a bit before the informal ‘Dyeing Club’ we’d got together to play with a new drum carder. All sorts of exciting possibilities were available (yes, phew, there was black – I took some black merino along), and I produced several batts. I used most of the black merino on the first two, and then I had no choice but to branch out. So I went for it.


No, not brave enough to deal with that one yet.

And there was this:

Hm – a hint of mist, perhaps coming in off the sea, spreading out among the tombstones at Whitby? That green? Lichen on stone… Oh dear.

Significantly, and possibly unsurprisingly, the two I produced when I used all the black are the ones I’ve spun up already. Despite that, I was quite pleased; they didn’t feature purple or grey, they even had a hint of startlement with some bright blue silk and lime green thrown into the mix.

But I felt I could do better, so I bought a bag of fluff in some radical – for me – colours. Royal blue. Peacock. Turquoise. Acid green. Lime. Apple. Shh – yellow.

And then I got the fluff out and put my two spun skeins next to it, and I’ve done it again.

There’s no black in the fluff, but spot the colour palette:

Oh, for goodness’ sake. I need my head seeing to.

So I’ve decided to take special care with spinning this fluff up (it’s BFL – Blue-Faced Leicester – so it’s got a lovely sheen to it). I’m separating the colours to give me more definition, to make the individual colours sing out, to avoid any potential muddiness. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turning out, and I’m hugely pleased with my new wheel, which is a joy to spin on.

I’m really taking my time, but I’ve nearly finished the first bobbin. I can’t wait to ply this up – and I’ve had a thought. Perhaps, since the colour palette is so similar, this will work together with those two skeins when I knit them up? Hopefully it will cheer them up a bit, as well.

And in the meanwhile, I’ve another new bag of fluff.

Sigh. Well, there’s no black in it – this time. Why purple? Why? I know I like it, but I’ve got a lot already. Mind you, this is lovely. And it’s Polworth fleece, nice and soft. And there’s a bit of green in it too… I clearly can’t be trusted to take unconscious decisions when it comes to colour. I need to really think about it a bit more.

I’m good at doing it in theory; now I need to do it in practice. Red. I need more red. Maybe I should face up to that sunset-coloured batt next…


22 thoughts on “Coping with colour block

  1. ohdebs

    I don’t see what you are so sorried about Kate. I think they are ALL beautiful. 🙂
    But I especially like the batt of sunset. And I am not even a orangey person. Green is my color!

    1. kate Post author

      I’m approaching the sunset with care – er, that came out rather more philosophical than I intended! I’ve probably got enough sunset-coloured fluff to spin about 75 metres or so, so I’ll need something to put with it. The only problem about that is that I don’t have anything … (Oh hang on, I do have a Manx Loaghtan fleece – maybe that would work?)

      Go green!

    1. kate Post author

      I can feel myself being drawn to buttercup….

      I once bought some blue summer tweed (Rowan) and, urged on by friends to be brave, some pink to just add a teeny-yiny trim. Made the sweater up, it’s OK, but somehow it has found its way into my craft fair stock. Fallen at the last hurdle. The ‘actually wearing it’ hurdle!

  2. Marilyn

    Hello Kate, long time lurker here! I enjoy your blog. Ah, color. I’ve worn either purple or teal for decades. Navy has my attention from time to time, then the orange and pink thing sneak in ( they aren’t very good at sneaking….). Let it all make you happy- all of what I’ve seen here is delicious..

    1. kate Post author

      Hello! Good to ‘meet’ you!

      It’s a minefield, isn’t it? I’m quite good at colour, but not at applying it to myself. Maybe I need to start with baby steps, adding a bright note or two to my black / grey (my equivalent of your purple or teal, both of which are much more interesting than black or grey)… I did once knit an entire cardigan in orange, because I do love an orange note, but I felt like an advertising hoarding of some kind. Way toooooo much!

  3. madewithloops

    I love all those colours and you are not the only one stuck in a colour rutt…with me its always blues and greys, and sometimes green and brownish. I sort I’d made an effort the other week at the Bluefaced Leicester weekend…only to find I had bought same again..oh well, at least it will go with the rest of my wardrobe :))

    1. kate Post author

      I did laugh when I read this – I had just the same ‘AGH!’ moment when I opened my fluff and put it next to those skeins.

      I suppose it makes it easier when deciding what to wear in the mornings (sigh)…

  4. Anne

    I think we all suffer with this from time to time and I too have a whole load of purple in my wardrobe !! On the other hand I love colour hence the dyeing 😉 and I love to knit accessories as colour accents and then decide if its me or not . At least in that respect black goes with everything 😉

    1. kate Post author

      Ah yes, but you look good in purple. I look – increasingly, and probably not surprisingly – like an ageing Frenchwoman from about 1920 in all me black. Actually, is that a bad thing? I remember the really old women of my childhood and, boy, were they matriarchs (mind you they were smart, and I’m not). Scary. That’s it, I’m channelling my great-grandmother. It had to happen.

  5. knitsofacto

    Graveyard colours, my first choice always, good Welsh vibe you’ve been picking up, that’s all 😉 I am knitting with a yellow-orange, or maybe that’s an orange-yellow, most discombobulating. So I keep telling myself it’s quite probably a lichen colour 😉

    1. kate Post author

      Hee hee hee, I think it’s something to do with the weather – at least today, visibility about 50 metres – or maybe because I live next door to a graveyard? (My brother does too, 250 miles away – most strange coincidence)

      You be careful with that orange / yellow / dangerously bright colour, you may get drummed out of the country. (I sound like the Amish chap – old Mr Lapp – at the end of Witness: ‘You be careful out among the English, John Book’…)

  6. islandthreads

    oh Kate I smiled the knowing smile all through reading this, I wear black all the time, my favourite colour is blue but only wear it in small quantities except for the rash moment 15 years ago when I bought a beautiful cerulean blue jacket which I do wear sometimes, I also like and wear purple, I used to wear a lot of grey but not so much now, I love your grey mist and lichen, the sunset would to me make a beautiful felted sunset wall hanging with embroidery, I like the Royal blue. Peacock. Turquoise. Acid green. Lime. Apple. Shh – yellow. but doubt if I could wear it, I think we wear what we feel comfortable in, Frances

    1. kate Post author

      Another one!

      You reminded me of something I’ve not thought about for years when I read about your jacket! I’ve worn basically black for so long, but when I was trying to get my first job from Uni I did what was then called the ‘milk round’ – big employers came to Cambridge and did lots of presentations and held loads of interviews. I didn’t want to work for any of them, but panic got the better of me and I joined in. Wearing all black, including scary black boots (I did deign to wear a skirt), with very, very black hair, and – wait for it – a tomato-red velvet jacket with BRIGHT crimson lining which I’d found in a charity shop. Agh……

      Fortunately, I have no idea what has happened to that jacket over the years. Phew. Your blue one sounds much nicer. Mine was (I’m guessing its age here) a late 60s or early 70s drug-crazed nightmare of a jacket. Happily the lapels were quite restrained – after I interfered with them.

      1. islandthreads

        your comment about your hair being black reminded me …………
        I have reddish hair and spent my youth hateing it, I worked as a hairdresser but my Dad forbid me to dye my hair, I married at 18 and shortly after I dyed my hair black! no one recognised me, friends saw my husband and I out and though he was with another woman! I liked it but after I finished work it was too costly to keep up and fiddly,
        your jacket sounds very Carnaby street was it velvet, Frances

        1. kate Post author

          Certainly was. It probably was Carnaby Street in its day but by the time I got it, it was rather more Cambridge Oxfam. I seem to remember it costing me the massive sum of 50p (I really know how to splash money about).

          I also spent a long time trying to cover up red hair – I like it now!

  7. ohdebs

    I am thinking about all this again as I just came in from seeing the most beautiful sunset of oranges, lavenders, blue grey and pale pink and blue. I looked at the sky and thought I would like to spin it! We’ll see…I still have a lot to learn and I have not even tried dyeing yet! I was also thinking about how I get blocked in my watercolors too… Its hard to break loose sometimes. xo

    1. kate Post author

      Ah HA! It’s got you!

      I was working at a friends open garden on Sunday (it’s here), and between serving lots of cups of tea I managed to take some photos. She’s a textile artist, so it’s not surprising that she’s very good with colour, but I kept thinking about natural dyes and how I could create a spun yarn in those colours… Amazingly, I met three other spinners among the visitors, too, and I only knew one of them – spinning and gardening must go together…

      1. ohdebs

        What a wonderful garden! It’s funny that now when I look at things I am thinking of yarn. I sent a picture to a couple of friends (of the sunset last night) and they both said “Do you feel a painting coming on?” Ummm… maybe but maybe not. More like a scarf or a sweater. lol.

        1. kate Post author

          Oh dear, there’s no stopping you now…. Years ago, I remember looking at a stunning autumn treescape and while everyone else was oooohing and ahhhhing, I was thinking ‘I could knit this’. Are we sad?
          No, we’re just creative!

    1. kate Post author

      I wasn’t even going to reply to this. You know that is the start of a long and dangerous path, don’t you?

      I’ve not bought dye yet – so far I’ve been collecting dyestuff (or ‘compost’ as it has been called by some eejits) from the area around me.. I’m sure that won’t last.


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