Color Balance Beyond Clown Barf

Folks, I have to confess something shameful, in hopes that it will raise awareness and prevent needless suffering. Although I love to knit with color, too much color unnerves me. After years of therapy, I finally understood why: it’s my clown barf phobia. And I’m not alone.

What is clown barf? It’s an all-too-common condition created by handpainted or variegated yarns. When we match the wrong type of variegated yarn with the wrong pattern, we lose whatever initially drew us to the skein of yarn. Colors and stitches fight each other, resulting in invisible cables, lace that doesn’t stand out, muddy pools of color, or unwanted stripiness. Heartbroken and frustrated, we often vow never to buy variegated yarn again, until another skein calls to us and the cycle repeats itself.

clown barfClown barf is tragic, but it’s not inevitable. Start with a vaccine as an early preventive measure. You can find these vaccines all over the place: they’re outstanding pairings of a colorful yarn and a suitable design. The more often you’re inoculated, the more easily you can avoid clown barf as you plan a project. Because we care, the Spring 2017 issue of Love of Knitting contains five such vaccines in our “Painted Love” story, where designers worked with gradients, handpaints, variegates, and self-striping yarns to create exquisite accessories.

Other remedies for clown barf include swatching and any activity that helps you master color theory or develop your personal color style.* It’s always useful to look at colorful designs and figure out why they do or don’t appeal to you. And again, we’ve got you covered in this issue. “Some Like It Striped” includes four striped projects, and the bright children’s projects in “Little Knits” explore color combinations, too. When you need a break from this riot of color, “Quiet Spring” goes monochromatic with five classic knits for women and men.

My phobia has calmed down over the years: as I knit more and more successful multicolor garments, my confidence grows. Now I can consider two, three, sometimes even five or more different colors within the same project! If you too worry about clown barf, remember that Love of Knitting is here to help.


*Don’t miss Carol J. Sulcoski’s Love of Knitting articles on handpaints and gradients for more tips and design ideas. She explored gradient yarns in the Summer 2016 issue. Issues from 2015 contain her three-part series on handpainted yarns: definitions and general guidelines in Summer 2015; solid and semi-solid handpaints in Fall 2015; and wild multicolors in Winter 2015. Get all the 2015 issues for a special price in a digital collection or on CD.

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