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knitspiration: dark shadows

Have you ever been indecisive about your next project? Do you spend hours scouring websites or your local yarn store looking for the perfect yarn? How about that time you thought you were selecting an amazing color, only to be unable to find the appropriate pattern?

Yeah, I've been there too.

In my knitspiration posts, I'm going to teach you everything I know regarding color theory, fiber content, and pattern selection so you can go into the world armed with the knowledge necessary to ensure predictable, reliable, and professional results in your finished garments.

So, why it knitspiration important? Why not just wing it as the mood strikes you? Well, it has its advantages, which I've narrowed down to these four major benefits:

 Avoid Stash Death

I have five of the most beautiful skeins of silk/wool yarn sitting in my stash. They've been there since I started knitting almost a decade ago. I've attempted to start about a dozen projects with them, always excited about the potential to show off the beauty of the colors as they appear in skeins and yarn cakes.

I've never succeeded. It has arrived to the point where the $100 I invested is not really valuable to me any more, and it's not for a lack of trying or desire. If only I knew then what I knew now, I would have been more equipped to make an informed decision. 

This informed decision would have avoided what I refer to as "stash death". I keep the yarn because it's beautiful and I refuse to get rid of it (desperately looking for a use, It's caked up in a glass vase and now is part of the decorative shrine to knitting on top of my stash storage). 

But I would much rather be wearing it!

So Your Favorite Color Is . . . 

There's a good chance any stranger can look at your stash and determine which color is your go-to. Not okay.

It's fine to have your favorite colors in your stash, there's nothing wrong with that per say. The problem is you don't realize it's your favorite until you have too much. If you're anything like me, I don't walk into my local yarn store or place orders with my favorite online shops saying "I'm only going to buy blue or green yarn today."

I usually walk away with something in a shade of blue or green.

Now, this isn't really a problem if I have a project in mind. However, it does cause a couple of issues to arise: first, if I actually knit up my stash right now, I'd have nothing but scarves and sweaters and hats and socks in blue and green; second, if I'm knitting something for say - my niece - I'm generally uninspired by the colors I've stocked for myself.

Understanding the power behind color and what it convey or how it can make you feel is important - you'll go into a yarn store appreciating everything the spectrum has to offer, giving you more variety in both your own wardrobe and in your knitted gifts.

Enhance The Pattern

Color doesn't guarantee a perfect end result. It's only half the battle.

Remember that one time you had a beautiful yarn and a phenomenal pattern and started knitting it up, only to absolutely hate it half way through? Yeah, I have a few of those WIPs I refuse to frog because of the hours I put in knitting away on them. While preparing to write this post, I looked at them objectively and feel empowered to say they're downright ugly.

Are you amazed by the way designers select their colors, stitches, construction techniques, and develop a pattern that's just right? By having a familiarity with color theory, you'll be able to make adjustments in the yarn you select so it still comprises your individual preferences, but it will also work just as well with the yarn chosen by the designer for the pattern.

Stay Inspired To Finish

If you avoid all of the situations above, you'll stay inspired - excuse me, knitspired - enough to finish your project. The sheer excitement will fuel you, and you'll feel like a billion dollars when you've accomplished the feat of not only completing your project, but also when you rock it out in the world. 

There's no better feeling than someone being in absolute awe in a garment you're wearing, and when they ask where you bought it, to be able to reply "Oh, this? I made it."

Our 'Dark Shadows' knitspiration board featuring tones of black. All images from Pinterest and Tumblr.

Now that we have the advantages of becoming knitspired out of the way, let's talk a little about our first knitpiration board, featuring one of the most controversial colors known to humankind: black.

Controversial? You bet!

I'm going to skip over the "black is not a color" debate (which would have been be enough to prove my point). Instead, let's focus on the history surrounding the color black, what it means today, and what its characteristics mean for you in your crafting.

Prior to the Middle Ages, black was seen as a regal color, reserved for those with authority: the clergy, nobility, and judges all preferred black. We can still very much see this influence today.

Through the Middle Ages and until Victorian England, black was the color to avoid. It lost favor with the upper classes, and was instead connected with the dark arts and witchcraft, which meant almost everyone avoided the color if they valued their life.

In the Victorian period, black became the defacto color of mourning among widows (when Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria wore black every day for the rest of her life). Black tie was considered "semi-formal" (white tie was reserved for the most formal events) for men, but women overall avoided the color unless they were actively portraying their loss to society.

It wasn't until the 1960's - more specifically Audrey Hepburn's iconic Givenchy gown in "Breakfast At Tiffany's" - that black became linked with fashion, and the "little black dress" was considered a staple for every woman to have in her wardrobe. Ironically, this happened in the woman's fashion world just as men were beginning to prefer blue suits for formal occasions rather than tuxedos. For example, JFK was the last POTUS to be sworn into office wearing formal attire, rather than a suit.

Eventually, as clothing became more casual, black was harnessed in order to convey a sense of elegance and professionalism and give a sleek look to the clothing styles that were becoming more acceptable with each successive decade.

Reflect on the difference between a structured pencil skirt and matching jacket worn by the typical woman in the 1940's and the legging and sweater combination considered acceptable today, and you'll get an idea of what I'm attempting to convey.

All of this historical knowledge is important. It's for all these reasons we associate black with some powerful adjectives: power, authority, elegance, class, formality, fear, enchantment, and sadness.

So, what's the best way to use black? Well, that depends on the pattern.

If we're looking to invoke elegance, class, paired with something casual yet polished enough to become a staple garment in your wardrobe, then you're going to want to select a pattern that's simple in either shape or stitch (ideally both).

Are you going for a more powerful, authoritative look? A finished piece that's going to be worn only once or twice a season because it's that special? Or maybe an iconic accessory that empowers you to face a grueling winter? Well, something unusual in the construction or stitch should be used if that's the end result you're looking to achieve. 

To illustrate my point, I put some of Spellbound Fiber Co.'s "Coven" colorway to work on my knitting needles. I was looking to create something that was intriguing to the eye - something I could pair with a simple coat (not a lot of buttons, no great embellishments, simple construction) but would totally up the ante of my outwear presence as we round the corner of the winter season hear in Chicago.

The final result was this scarf, which I've named "Pass The Stitches, Please?":


Without getting completely off topic, this black is heavily influenced by its blue (yes, blue) nature, as well as the pops of brown the dyer has thrown in for intrigue. 

Now, that's a lot happening in two skeins of yarn. It would have been difficult to downplay, in my opinion, so instead I decided to increase the volume with what I would consider a very "loud" stitch pattern. Otherwise, I would have been trying to design against the yarn's very nature. You'll notice that the rest of the scarf is simple - it's just a strip of fabric, after all. 

However, I did get what I wanted: it's a statement scarf. Wearing this, I'll draw attention to my neck and face, and I couldn't get away with wearing a coat that would compete. 

What are some adjectives you would use to invoke the feeling this scarf gives you when knit up in black? How about if we imagined it in white? Would the words we use be completely different?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!