Patterns, Tips, Yarn

Tips for choosing yarn colour

Most knitters will have heard a story like this:

A customer in a local yarn shop has looked through piles of patterns but can’t find what she wants. The LYS owner asks what she is looking for. “I want a red sweater, “ says the customer, “but none of these are red.”

And all though we might laugh, we all know that sometimes choosing a different colour for a pattern can be difficult.

There are lots of reasons why a pattern will be pictured in a particular colour. It could be the designer’s favourite shade, because it fits with the theme of a collection or magazine, or because it is a colour for the yarn that season, for example.

However it may not be a colour that you like or want to work in. So how do you decide what shade to use instead?

First of all, will the colour you choose go with your or someone else’s colour scheme, whether that be in terms of clothes or home depending on what you plan to make?

Remember that colours can complement each other, you don’t need to match exact shades necessarily.

Once you have some shades or colours in mind look to see what is on offer in the yarn but think about which of your options have the same tone as the original pattern colour. This is because using a lighter or darker tone could affect how your stitches and pattern detail show up.

yarn colour
Different colours or tones can make the stitch pattern look different

And don’t forget to make sure all your yarn of one colour is from the same dyelot – it is very frustrating when you discover that one section of your beautifully made jumper is a different shade.


Whether making something using Fair Isle, stripes or any other colour technique choosing your yarn shades can seem complicated.

yarn colour

You want colours to work together but be different enough for the pattern to show. A colour wheel can be helpful here.


Using colours that are near each other on the wheel (analogous colours) will give you a more tonal effect, whereas colours from opposite side (complementary) will result in more popping contrasts. Looking at a colour wheel may help you narrow down what yarn shades might work together for your project.

Then if you are shopping in a local yarn shop, hold your shortlisted colours together to help you imagine how the colours will look in your finished piece.

If you are shopping online, copy pictures of the yarn in the different shades you are considering. Then you can use some photo-editing software or a free collage maker like to look at the colours side by side.

The more you play with colour and experiment the more confident your will become putting colours together or spotting which shades will best show off a stitch pattern.

1 thought on “Tips for choosing yarn colour”

  1. Something I just learned (the hard way) in choosing yarn if not just to hold the skeins side by side to assess the colors, but if possible, without undoing the skeins try to put a strand or two of the colors next to each other. I picked a heathered gray, an orange, an aqua and a lighter green, all of the same line, and skeins side by side they looked great. However, as I’ve been working on the project, (Leethal’s “Robin” shawl) there just wasn’t enough contrast. The project is a so-so result. Useable, but not one I just love. Sort of a B-.


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