Monday, January 27, 2014

The problem with orange

Recently, I have been up to my ears in earflap hats. (Witness the photo below, which was taken after I had knit so many earflap hats that I was discovering earflap hats hidden away in various niches in my room. I honestly couldn't say how many there were in the end. Perhaps they were breeding in those niches...?)
4 earflaps + 1 Seaman's cap, and I was almost warm.
They were mostly very earthy, such as the ones you see below, because they were made from hand spun and naturally dyed yarn created by a friend of mine who somehow, miraculously, does not knit, despite my threats offers to teach her.
This is the best my floor ever looks.
Earth tones are comfortable to work with. They hardly ever clash and they almost always go with anything, especially other earth tones. They can lull one into a false sense of crafting cockiness confidence. And of course, as we all know, that is always when something unexpected happens, such as running out of a discontinued yarn on the second sleeve of an almost complete sweater or finding, for instance, that it is possible to "naturally" dye a color that looks like a woolly traffic cone, it is so bright.
The orange is actually brighter than it appears in this photo.
Which brings up to the problem of orange.

Orange is one of my favorite colors. Given a choice, I will gad about in orange. I do not fear it, despite the bad rep the '70's gave it. (And avocado green and sunflower yellow, although they may have had it coming.) As a make-do kind of knitter and thrifter, I've had to deal with some seriously volatile colors before. There is a trick to it, and I wish I knew a lot about color theory to give it to you in learned and technical terms, but I don't. I just have some practical applications that I can pass on to you, Dear Reader, so that you may make lemonade from lemons. Or a decent knit from something truly appalling. (I dare you! Your friends will be impressed - if they care at all about such things.)

It's pretty straightforward: reduce contrast.

Which means if you have chartreuse or hot pink or CalTrans orange, don't pair it with black. Don't pair it with white. Get an earthy tone, something that might be called a neutral tone, or its near cousin, or get something that is close to the offending color, but not quite it. (And is not offensive in itself, otherwise you have a bigger mess to deal with.) If you go look at my Hex Scrap Afghan, which was an exercise in making do with horrendous '60's and '70's Orlon yarn, you'll see the various combinations I've used.
This actually was the best looking earflap hat.
With this particular hand spun orange monster I combined a tannish colored yarn - a neutral. I worked it in stripes rather than big blocks of color in an attempt to diffuse it somewhat. (IMHO, there is less overall contrast if the color goes over all the project, as opposed to say in a foot wide circle in the middle of your sweater or something. Unless you really do want a bulls eye on your chest.) This tamed the eye-searing effect of the orange, and strangely enough it became a very beguiling hat which won immediate favor from all those who were fortunate enough to look upon it - even over its more subdued, earth tone siblings. I'm fairly certain it didn't get gifted over the winter holidays by my spinner friend, who made some kind of noise about keeping it for herself.

She was also kind of shocked that orange can be "fixed." Now you know, too. 

Don't fear the orange.

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