Colourplay

Have you fallen in love with Kim McBrien Evans’ shawl Flexture? It’s a pretty special piece that brings Kim’s creative brain and keen colour sense together with gobsmacked gradients and contrast colours from Murky Depths Dyeworks.

A woman modeling Flexture, a shawl with colorful stripes on an orange-to-blue gradient. The model has long grey hair and is perched on the edge of a table holding a mug.
Flexture, by Kim McBrien Evans. Photo c. Abrams.

The gradient that Kim used for the shawl is a gobsmacked DK double, or two skeins of DK-weight yarn dyed to create one long gradient. I love the result of dyeing doubles, but it’s really labour-intensive so I don’t do it often. Happily, I have a whole batch of DK doubles ready to go for the next gobsmacked update, on Friday 15 October.

How to choose colours for Flexture? It’s best to start with your gradient, then choose contrast colours from there. I thought I’d walk you through an example, using this lovely steely blue to grey gradient on Silky Yak DK:

A close-up of gradient yarn, from deep navy through soft turquoise and aqua to warm grey.
Silky Yak DK double, in delicious blues.

This gradient goes from a deep greyed navy to light turquoise with aqua dapples to a light warm grey, which is the natural undyed colour of the base yarn. The contrast colours for Flexture are used as stripes across the entire shawl, so I want to choose colours that complement the full gradient, from the darkest blue end to the lighter grey.

To give you an idea of how I’d approach colourplay for Flexture, I’ve pulled out some assorted mini skeins to play with– they’re fingering weight and not enough yardage to use for the actual shawl, but I have a lot of them, so they’re great for auditioning colours.

Four mini-skeins lying on the dark blue to grey gradient. The minis are pale aqua and green, dark magenta-purple, deep red, and soft heathery pink.
Colourplay for Flexture: The first palette.

I happen to love red as a contrast to blue, so I thought I’d start there. I really liked the weathered barn feel of the dark red (second from right) with the blues and greys of the gradient. And once I chose that first contrast, I started thinking about related hues in the red-to-purple range. I decided on a reddish purple that I love, plus a muted pink that will give a bit of variation in value (light/ dark) too. For the last colour, I wanted to pull something quite different, to keep the end result from feeling flat. Colour theory (and some vintage tea towels that I have) suggested the classic pairing of red/ pink combined with green. I auditioned several different greens before deciding on a variegated pale leaf green and aqua that gives a nice pop without being too shocking. The end result has a quiet garden feel to me.

Four mini-skeins lying on the dark blue to grey gradient. The minis are reddish purple, spring green, acid green, and golden yellow.
More colourplay for Flexture: The second palette.

Here’s another possibility– brighter and more lively than the first, this combo is built around the contrast of a deep golden yellow against the blue gradient. Using that yellow meant that my favourite acid green and a bright spring green fit right in, with all three making a strong statement against the main colour. For the fourth accent colour, I chose a medium magenta purple that really pops compared to the other contrast colours, while being a bit closer to most of the gradient in hue and value.

Of course, there’s an unlimited palette of potential colour combos! What to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncertain where to start when choosing your own colours? You can use colour theory if you want– the discussion in Custom Shawls is a great place to begin– or just start tossing your stash to see how colours look when they’re laid out together. Just remember that there’s no right or wrong answer. Colourplay is play, after all, of the most creative kind. Have fun!

Pattern: Flexture, by Kim McBrien Evans, published in Custom Shawls for the Curious and Creative Knitter, by Kate Atherley and Kim McBrien Evans (Abrams, 2020).

Yarn: gobsmacked yarn DK double, with 4 DK-weight contrast colours. The shawl uses one double, which is a single long gradient dyed over 200g (=2 skeins) of DK-weight yarn. Recommended fibres are Silky Yak DK (20% silk, 15% yak, 65% merino) or merino/ silk DK (50% merino, 50% silk).

Update: Friday, 15 October at 3pm Eastern/ 4pm Atlantic. Information about the update process is available here.