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.

Simply Crochet - - Contents - Writ­ten by Judy Dar­ley.


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 ( “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.


Aoibhe Ní (www.face­­heNi 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 (­man­cro­chet .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. 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.lookatwha­ti­ 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.”


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.”


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.

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