colorwork hat half in color and half in black and white

Q&A: How do I pick colors?

Overwhelmed about picking colors? We have good news for you - every single person who works at (and often those currently shopping at) a yarn store loves to go fantasy yarn shopping, which means we are always happy to help! That said, there are some general things you can consider to help narrow down your choices...


  • Cables? Complicated lace? Fancy crochet stitch? Yarn color will definitely interact with your stitch pattern. Yarn that is especially dark or variegated can obscure the patterning - and all of your hard work. Lighter and less-variegated yarn will put your motif front and center so it can shine.
  • What is the garment? How will it be worn? If you want an everyday wardrobe staple, say a cardigan to leave at the office and put on over anything, neutrals will help your new garment or accessory to mix and match with the most outfits. On the other hand something that you expect to wear only every now and then or as a statement piece - well, no reason not to let it be loud and proud!
  • Who is the recipient? If it's you, balance the fun of your comfort zone with the practicality of a color you will actually wear. Knitting or crocheting for someone else? If you can, ask the person to offer suggestions. Otherwise, imagine their favorite outfits and colors. Not sure? Neutrals are always a good bet. 
  • Last but not least, gather intel. If your project is on Ravelry, check out the Projects tab to see if anyone has uploaded pictures of their finished projects. You can instantly see the exact item you want to make in a rainbow of different colors. This can be a lifesaver for colorwork, in particular.


  • Decide if your project will be helped by a bold contrast or if you want something subtle.
  • Want bold? Bust out your smartphone and open up the camera app. Find the filters and select something monotone. By stripping out the colors and just showing light and dark, a black and white picture should give a pretty good idea of how much punch your contrasting colors have.
  • Looking for subtle? Tonal pairings are nearly always pleasing. Yarn lines often have lighter and darker versions of the same color for just this use.
  • Channel your elementary school art teacher and go take a look at a color wheel. Colors on opposite sides pop the most to our eyes.


  • Start with a color family you love. If you are into blues? Go for it! Grays? We've heard there are more than 50 shades.
  • Find the spot in your LYS that has the most natural light. For us, the north-facing Brooklyn Tweed nook with its floor to ceiling wall of windows is always a winner. Also, when it's sunny, our back room with its skylights can't be beat. Natural light gives the best idea of what the color play will be.
  • Still unsure? Bust out your phone again and take pictures of the possibilities. Sleep on it. Get second opinions! There is no reason to rush into a decision.
  • For fades especially, keep that phone out and take a picture in the order you decided on! In addition make sure to write it down somewhere! Even though we are all always sure we will always remember... usually we forget.

Last but not least, love your colors! Find something that will make your heart sing and put a smile on your face with every stitch you make.

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