How to choose the right yarn colors mix?

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Choosing yarn colors for your projects seems like a nightmare? Mixing shades results in ugly and disturbing compositions? However hard you try you can’t achieve a perfect harmony?

OK, face it, either you have it, or you don’t. If you’re born with it, then mixing colors comes naturally and effects are stunning. If it doesn’t run with your blood – you need to understand some basics about colors to make it work.


6 strategies for yarn colors mixing and matching – go wild and get it right!


THE color wheel

The color wheel.

If you’ve ever had to choose wall paint color, then you probably have seen and used the color wheel as well. It’s a very handy tool allowing us to see and confront different color combinations and is widely used in the décor industry.

The color wheel was first described by Isaac Newton in late 17th century. After years of experiments with light refraction Mr Newton managed to identify primary colors – red, yellow, blue, and secondary colors, which are obtained by mixing primaries – purple (blue + red), green (blue + yellow) and orange (red + yellow). Later on, tertiary colors were added, received by mixing secondaries with the nearest primary. And so on…

Each color segment in the wheel consists of different ‘shades’. The more you go to the center, the lighter the shades are (pastels). Going into opposite direction (towards edges) – colors get stronger.

Knowing how this works we can come up with various strategies of mixing and matching yarn colors.


Strategy 1: All colors or no colors

If you’re not too familiar with optics, then you may be surprised that black and white are not considered colors. From the physics perspective black is an absence of all colors, whereby white is a combination of all colors (that is why neither of them is included in the color wheel). Thanks to unique capabilities to reflect or absorb light, both black and white have some interesting features that we can utilize while designing our projects.

White fantastically brings out texture. Any pattern that includes bobble, basket, rib, shell, or any other texture stitches will come out spectacular and subtle details will be perfectly seen. White and beige yarn shades create the feeling of coziness, safety, and warmth. And for those exact reasons they are commonly used for blankets, pillows, and winter garments. Black on the contrary, ‘hides’ texture and makes crocheted work look more ‘flat’. But it does look mysterious and sexy.

By choosing either black or white yarn color, or mixing both in different proportions you can achieve phenomenal outcome in your crochet or knitting projects.


Strategy 2: Complementary Mosaic

Colors that reside on the opposite sides of the wheel are called complementary colors. For example, green and red complement each other, so do orange and purple. Look at the image – cabbage compliments strawberries, oranges complement blueberries. Can you see how that mix can bring out color depth and how each of them stands out nicely when placed next to each other? Using ‘complimentaries’ can work very well if you want to achieve lively, contrast and high impact results.


Strategy 3: Monochromatic boredom

Monochromatic designs use different versions of the same color. Just take out one sector of the color wheel and you get all you need.

If you take a look at the image of an iceberg – what do you see? All in different shades of blue, right? That is why I call it boring. Of course, depending on your needs, you may want to use this approach and achieve great results. Monochromatic designs work really nicely if you need toned and harmonious appearance. And if you add some interesting hints of bright colors (e.g. a button or colorful edges) then the outcome may be fantastic.


Strategy 4: Go analogous!

analogue yarn colors

Analogous colors are those in the immediate neighborhood on the color wheel. Look at the flower composition image. It includes violet, pink, red, orange and yellow – colors residing next to each other on the right-hand side of the wheel. Don’t know what you think but I love it!

Be careful though – this type of approach may cause the outcome to look very heavy if you choose to use only strong versions of colors. The flower composition feels balanced because light yellow, orange and violet was used to offset dark red and pink. If we went with strong version of those as well, the results may have been disturbing.


Warm and cold yarn colorsStrategy 5: You’re hot, then you’re cold

Color temperature relates to the feeling it creates when we look at it.

In general, red, orange and yellow tones are considered warm, whereby green, blue and purple are considered cold. Look at the image – left-hand side feels way warmer than the objects on the right. What do I mean by ‘in general’? Well the trick is that primary colors can have both warm and cold shades. Think about warm lagoon blue vs ice-cold blue, or warm raspberry red vs cold sour cherry red.

Mixing warm and cold yarn colors can create very interesting effects. But be careful – warm tones look much more ‘offensive’ so you will need to add way more cold shades to achieve perfect balance.


Strategy 6: Get inspired by nature

Finally, look around for inspiration. Nature gives us the most beautiful color compositions ever – be it autumn trees with variety of oranges, yellows, reds and greens, gorgeous golden beach washed by crystal blue waters, or colorful birds with stunning black-and-white plumage and funny red beaks.

Take a photo if you see something breath-taking and try to recreate the mosaic applying colorful yarn. I very often use this technique and even if I’m not able to find anything interesting in my neighborhood – I look for inspiration on the web. It really works well!

Yarn colors mixing inspired by nature

Yarn colors – release your inhibitions

Whether you prefer toned pastels or vivid colors go ahead and experiment with various compositions. Don’t be afraid. Take crayons, paints or even eye shadows (sic!) and put your ideas on a piece of paper. Or take colorful objects, like fruit, vegetables or Lego’s, and keep arranging them until you are happy with the results. I used this approach when designing my Free Llama Crochet Pattern. With pretty good results 🙂

What I found over time is that in any type of crocheting or knitting projects it’s not necessarily the texture or fancy stitches that make a difference. It’s playing with colors. The simplest patterns look stunning when they are made with harmonious, interesting and unique hues.

I keep my fingers crossed for the outcomes!

If you feel thrilled about yarn color mixing and matching then you may want to try out Temperature Crocheting. You’ll be able to utilize all strategies 🙂

Let me know how that went or if you have your own ideas for color mixes – leave a comment below or contact me at cogito@cottonnutty.com.


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26 thoughts on “How to choose the right yarn colors mix?”

  1. These are some great tips and advise on choosing colors for a project. I think it depends on what you are making, as to how “wild” you might be with your color selection. Personally I like coordinating colors if I am making for myself or the house. But I am far more adventurous when I am planning something for my granddaughter. Referring back to the color wheel is a great recommendation.

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  2. I am delighted to have found this article about choosing yarn colours. Most of my crochet projects are single-coloured. If the project has 2 or 3 colours, I try my best to get the same coloured yarn. How boring, right? I suppose this is the best way to go because I’ve had devastating results when choosing my own. Your strategies are very helpful and I’ll try with the colour wheel method for a start. I’m excited about how it’ll turn out. My next project in mind is a summer top for my daughter which I’m been searching for a pattern. 

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  3. I am surprised that sometimes black and white are not considered colors. Though I am impressed to learn more about colors. Incorporating color mixture in my projects indeed has been very difficult for me, I think I will use your theory I’m my projects. Thank you for this wonderful article.

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