COLOUR ME HAPPY Choosing yarns in vivid colours
As challenged or chilled out as crochet can make us feel, one thing has the power to enhance the experience – choosing yarns in vivid colours.
e’ve long been aware that crochet is the ideal way to help keep our emotions on an even keel, making us happier and alleviating anxiety. “Research suggests that ‘flow’ activities like crochet whereby an individual becomes engrossed in something that involves hand/ eye co-ordination can be a wonderful distraction from our worries,” says chartered psychologist Dr Rick Norris, the author of Think Yourself Happy: The Simple 6-Step Programme to Change Your Life from Within (www.cssands.co.uk). “During such activities people often report that they’re really surprised so much time has elapsed without them realising as they were caught up in the flow of the activity.”
Did you know that it’s possible to make your crochet experience even more positive simply through the yarn colours you choose? “Generally speaking red, yellow and orange are considered high-arousal colours while blue, green and most violets are low-arousal shades,” says Dr Norris. “However, the brilliance, darkness and lightness of a colour can alter the psychological message. For example, light blue- green shades appear to have tranquil and cool associations, but a more vivid turquoise will evoke a more excited response.” We speak to some vibrant crocheters to find out what works for them.
JOLTS OF JOY
Aoibhe Ní (www.facebook.com/AoibheNi Crochet) is currently hook- deep in a new collection of shawl designs. “It’s a blast to be back designing again after a bit of a hiatus,” she says. “I’m working on the fourth pattern in the collection. It’s Tunisian lace and will feature swirls.”
When it comes to new patterns, Aoibhe often chooses the yarn first. “It’s all down to how it appeals to me in the skein,” she says. “If I love the way the tones blend while it’s hanging on the yarn shop wall, I have an urge to make something with it. I usually choose the yarn before I have the design in mind so often the colour of the yarn will dictate my direction.”
For Matthew Spiers (www.onemancrochet .com) it’s all about ultra-vivid shades. “As a rule, I try to use a lot of bright contrasting colours,” he says. “I normally have a mental image of the colours I want to use, but start by lining up the yarns in different combinations just to check they really do work together. Quite often I find that although I really like the colour of two yarns independently, when used together they don’t have enough contrast and can appear muddy. This is when I’ll try adding in a new colour or just use the stronger shade.”
Lucy of Attic24 (www. attic24.typepad. com) has remained true to her love of brights since falling for crochet almost ten years ago. “My work’s always been all about the colours,” she says. “I’d walk into a yarn shop with a pattern in mind and choose my yarn based purely on whichever brand had the widest range of colours available.”
Right from the start, Lucy acted intuitively. “I’d select yarn based purely on my emotional reactions, seeking out the colours which made my heart beat faster and delivered a jolt of joy,” she says. “I favoured pure spectrum hues – rainbow colours or rich jewel shades – and instinctively selected palettes which were well-balanced without too many tonal differences.”
Different colours can work better for different kinds of projects. “I’m always drawn to neon pink when it comes to accessories,” Matthew says. “This is mostly personal taste but I find neon pink stands out well alongside other primary colours. With most of my personal projects I end up using variegated yarn as I love the mashup of colours.”
He adds: “Predictably, yellow lifts my mood the most. It’s not a colour I’d naturally gravitate towards but I find that when you’re wearing a piece of yellow clothing it always helps make the day seem a bit brighter… That is until you spill something on it!”
Cécile Balladino (www.gipsybazar. blogspot.co.uk) chooses colour combos that offer balance. “When I have to work on a very colourful project I choose an odd number of bright colours and a neutral,” she says. “It’s a bit like the composition of a bouquet of flowers. I often say that there are no ugly colours, it’s the mix that counts. Sometimes it’s surprising – some combinations seem nice together when the yarn is in a ball but when you crochet them it becomes ugly.”
Dedri Uys (www.lookatwhatimade.net) has an experimental approach. “More often than not, I don’t consider it consciously,” she says. “I grab a ball of yarn in a colour that makes me happy at that moment and use that to start designing. I rarely sketch first.”
Once she has a sense of the direction the design is taking, Dedri steps back. “I decide if I can carry on with the colour I’m using, or if I need to start again with new colours that better suit the pattern. Occasionally I take inspiration from other things, but usually I just look at the colours I have and pick the ones that make me feel good.”
Lucy’s methods of choosing colours have subtly changed over time. “I find a great deal
“I ’ d seek out the colours that made my heart beat faster . ”
of satisfaction in designing projects that have a very definite source of inspiration now, as I love to share the story behind my design journey,” she explains. “The colours found in nature, flowers and landscapes, often provide my palette. For example, my Moorland Blanket was inspired by the Yorkshire Moors in summer when the heather is in full bloom, and my latest blanket was inspired by the colours of dried hydrangeas.”
Lucy is a firm advocate for what she calls ‘soul colours’. “I believe everybody has their own soul colours, which they’re drawn to above all others based purely on feeling and instinct,” she says. “For me, it’s the blue/green area of the spectrum that sings to my sea-loving soul. Think turquoise, aqua, duck egg, sage green and storm blue. I feel an acute emotional pull to these colours and find them completely irresistible when I’m putting together a colour palette for a project.”
The way you combine colours is also key. “I’m a big fan of the watermelon pink and green, as well as yellow and blue,” says Matthew. However, he warns, sometimes the colours you’re naturally drawn to may actually leave you feeling a bit flat when you crochet with them. “There are colour combinations that I like in other scenarios but that oddly don’t work for me with crochet designs,” says Matthew. “I’m a big fan of grey in painting and architecture, but I’ve tried crocheting with grey a few times and always end up wishing I’d made it in a brighter colour.”
Dedri has had similar experiences. “I go for bright colours such as pinks, yellow, green, purples, and blues,” she says. “Although I love monochrome or pastels when other people use them, they don’t make me as happy to work with as bright colours do. For me, the process of making is as important as the finished product, if not more important, so it’s vital that the yarns I work with make me smile as they glide through my fingers.”
For Lucy, saturated shades offer a quick route to a cheerier day. “I’m a self- confessed colour addict,” she says. “Rainbow colours ordered in their natural way – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet – never fail to make me smile. I’ve been obsessed with rainbow colours for as long as I can remember (yes, I was that child who obsessively kept her felt-tip pens in rainbow order) and to me there’s no better colour combination than that harmonious order of natural hues.”
Cécile advises dabbling with a variety of combinations to find what works best for you. “I like to get out of my comfort zone,” she says. “I also regularly have sudden cravings for colours that I thought I didn’t like before.”
The absorption of coming up with a perfect palette offers the added benefit of creating the state that Dr Norris calls ‘flow’. “When I compose a range of colours, I forget the world around me,” says Cécile.
With his love of acid brights, it’s no surprise that Matthew describes himself as “an acrylic man at heart.” He explains: “I love the uniformity and brightness of colours that you get with it, especially when it comes to neons. That said, I’m a sucker for anything by Easyknits or Schoppelwolle.”
Aoibhe is a huge fan of indie dyers. “There are several local hand- dyers I adore,” she says. “Despite my love of colour, I’m not the most naturally gifted when combining tones, so I like to hand that over to the experts. Irish company Ellie and Ada always has an admirable eye for what works together, as does Hedgehog Fibres. Both dyers often surprise me with what colours they’ll put together in a skein, and I love that.”
Cécile relishes the opportunity to try new yarns. “I’m an explorer, and I love that there are
“Colours found in nature often provide my palette . ”
so many possible choices,” she says. “If you take a vintage pattern and crochet it with today’s yarn, that makes a huge difference. My favourites are hand- dyed pure cotton yarns.”
Dedri most loves to work with Scheepjes Stonewashed and Plump by Mrs. Moon, “for how great they feel to work with, but also because they look luscious worked up.”
Lucy’s favourite yarns all share a specific quality. “They’re those which make the most divine blankets – I’m as obsessed with crocheting blankets as I am about colours,” she says. “Blanket yarn needs to be soft and snuggly, but also durable and washable. It also needs to feel really good as it glides on and off your hook as so much time is spent working on a large blanket project. I use Stylecraft Special DK yarn for my blanket making. This is a premium acrylic yarn and ticks all my boxes for softness, durability and workability. It also comes in a large range of beautiful colours which keeps my colour-loving soul happy and inspired.”
PERK UP PROJECTS
Choosing the right project for your mood is also vital. “The projects that make me happiest are the ones where I experiment and see what happens,” says Matthew. “I tend to use really bright yarns when playing with ideas and coming up with designs as it helps me visualise more possibilities.”
Variation is all part of the fun for Aoibhe. “I design almost exclusively in Tunisian lace, but when I need a lift, I throw my time into simpler projects,” she says. “I find projects with simple stitches very soothing. A repeated sequence of actions that my hands know well allows my mind to wander and find a solution to what’s bothering me. Once I find a solution, I can get back to the fancier, lacy stuff.”
The same is true for Lucy. “There’s nothing more pleasurable than working rhythmic rows and it’s very rare for me not to have a stripy blanket in progress,” Lucy says. “I can almost meditate when working long rows of a repeating stitch – it relaxes me.”
She’s also a fan of mandalas. “There’s something appealing about immersing oneself in crocheting circles of pattern and colour, simply for the joy of creating.”
For Dedri, the choice of project depends on the type of emotional buzz she’s seeking. “I make flowers if I need a quick lift, and baskets if I need a more substantial lift,” she says. “The bulkier the project, the more instantaneous and substantial the result, and the resulting emotional reward. Although blankets aren’t the project I reach for when I need a lift from making, they’re the items that comfort me the most when I am feeling down. Snuggling under a bright blanket goes a long way towards making me feel safe and upbeat.”
ON YOUR SLEEVE
If you’re crocheting items to wear yourself, it’s also important to consider the shades that flatter you. “I’m always attracted to teals and aubergines, because they suit my skin tone and hair colour best,” comments Aoibhe. “I also love the subtle hints of other colours in both those tones. In teal, you get this beautiful, complex mix of sea green and azure, and even warm grey in the right light. And aubergine has a purple that contains currants and chocolate and merlot. It’s almost good enough to eat!”
Cécile agrees. “I must admit that if it’s a project for me, I’m sure to choose aqua, turquoise, sea green, fuchsia, magenta, purple or aubergine,” she says. “These are my basics. My favourite colours are aqua and magenta.”
Fave combinations for Dedri include what she describes as “brights, not garish brights: light and dark pink, light and dark purple, light blue, turquoise, sunshine yellow, and light lime green. I also love Happy Moody, which comprises petrol, burnt orange, sunshine yellow, pistachio, and rust. If I can only use one colour, I tend to choose turquoise or sand.”
But what makes us prefer certain colours? Dedri’s choices bring a tropical beach to mind, which, Dr Norris says, is key. “The psychological association of a colour is often more meaningful than the visual experience.”
Aoibhe can attest to this. “I’m a firm believer in the power of raspberry,” she says. “It’s cheery, bright, and complex so I find as colours go, it’s perfect. Raspberries also make delicious jams and tarts, which remind me of my childhood, so for me, it has all of those wonderful things connected to it, too.”
Regardless of the subtext, colour is essentially a joyful thing, and that’s something we can all embrace. “I think that’s what I love so much about crochet,’ says Matthew. “It opened my eyes to a world of colour.”
“A repeated sequence allows my mind to wander . ”
Left: a rainbow of shawls by Aiobhe Ní, photographs by Julie Matkin . This page: Colourful Humankind scarf by One Man Crochet, photograph by Matthew Spiers.
Clockwise from left: Aiobhe Ní’s De Danann shawl, photo by Julie Matkin; planning hydrangea colours, photo by Lucy Attic24; One Man Crochet’s Shambala 2016 mask, photograph by Matthew Spiers; Sophie’s Universe CAL blanket, photograph by Dedri Uys.
Above: Lucy Attic24’s Moorland blanket. This page: Cécile Balladino’s Folk Socks.