01 October 2010

Its gray was not gray but a milky white

When I try to describe myself as a knitter and weaver, I usually turn to words like 'texture' and 'lace' (and 'process-oriented'). I don't describe myself as a colourist.

This is not strictly accurate because it suggests that colour is a secondary consideration for me, and it's not. The problem is that when most textile people talk about being colour people, they mean they're interested in bright, bold colours, often in lots of them at once. Texture may or may not be secondary to these people, but it's certainly true that the colour is what you see first in their work.

I am not a bold bright colours kind of person -- witness the colour scheme of this blog! -- but picking the right colour is important. Have you any idea how hard it is to find the right shade of grey? I am still not happy with the ones on the blog.

What the right shade is for anything is of course highly personal. I am convinced that when we painted the bedroom a lavender with rose undertones that we picked the perfect colour for bedroom walls. I am not sure the Viking believes that, but he was willing to humour me. And it took at least a week, possibly longer (I don't remember now) of staring at lots of paint chips taped to the wall, under different light conditions, to settle on that particular lavender.

The problem of finding the right shade is part of why I've never properly knit up and published the pattern for the Memento Mori mittens I drafted up back in 2007.

Memento Mori Mittens

I have a picture in my head about how these should look, and I need to find not one, but two right shades for this. I have spent the last three years looking fairly steadily for them with not very much success. They were brought back to mind recently by a hit to my Flickr stream for "memento mori mittens" and the discovery that there's now another Memento Mori Mitten pattern out there (very cool, very Día de los Muertos, and I love the use of colour in them).

So now I am actively back to searching for the the right shades for my own 17th-century tombstone-inspired mitts.

I have an idea that the darker yarn for my mittens needs to be a medium grey, semisolid, meaning that it will range a little bit toward pearl grey at the light end, and ash grey at the darker, but read from a distance as being a middle tone. And it must be a blue-toned grey, not a brown-toned one, because I don't like brown-toned greys. If it had a little mossy green tweeded in, that would be perfect, but I'm just hoping for 'good enough' at this point.

The lighter colour needs to be a white which is simultaneously creamy (by which I mean, a little warm, not glaring bleached blue-white, but without wandering off too much toward yellow or beige) and pearly (by which I think I mean luminescent, by which I think I mean slightly glossy, and by that I think I mean something about the quality of the fibre; some merino wools and wool-silk blends have that quality).

Some days I hate trying to describe colour. This is vaguely like the Yarn Harlot's quest for a cozy fierce dirty orange except of course I'm not a knitting rock star and close personal friends with a brilliant dyer who will patiently dye skein after skein, tinkering with the colour each time, until we achieve that right shade.

Oh, and it all needs to be a fingering weight. Not sport, not laceweight, but fingering, and I'd like it better if it weren't sock yarn with nylon in it. I don't want much, do I?

This is why people take up spinning, I think. They have A Very Particular Yarn in their minds and can't buy it anywhere. But I don't want to take up spinning for the extremely simple reason that I don't have the time to keep up with the hobbies I already have.

Wish me luck. I think I'm going to need it.

Denise Levertov

1 comment:

  1. My son has a perfect gray paint on the walls of one room of his loft. I'm here visiting, and brought my raft of paint chips so I can match my chip to his walls. Eureka. Gray can be so chilly, or a reminder of cinderblock. It's important to get it right. Good luck, Nora!


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