Getting Started with Gradients: Tips from the Book Gradient Style

The designers who created the gorgeous garments and accessories showcased in Gradient Style have taken a wide variety of gradient, variegated, solid, and semisolid yarns and combined them in myriad ways to create innovative knitted designs. They have done the work for you in figuring out how to feature gradient color schemes in the most effective (and fun to knit!) ways. But what if you have a different taste in yarns/colors?

In the “Getting Started with Gradients” section I’ve written for Gradient Style, I take the mystery out of substituting yarns or colors in a pattern to create your own gradient designs. While you’ll find a wealth of helpful, and detailed how-tos to gradient knitting inside Gradient Style, here are a few tips and tricks to get your needles moving.

Making Your Own Gradient Palette

Commercially dyed yarns that knit up into colorful gradients are undeniably attractive and are a wonderful option for creating a fade effect. But it can be even more satisfying to create your own by blending colors and yarns of your choosing. Your ultimate goal when choosing a color palette for a gradient is different from choosing a palette for a standard striped or stranded colorwork project. While most types of colorwork knitting rely on contrast to make the motifs pop, a gradient or faded look requires seamless color blending. To begin, pick one or two colors to “ground” your gradient—i.e., the color or colors you want at either end of your gradient. If you want to base your gradient around a single color, you only need to pick the color you want at one end of your gradient.

A color wheel |affiliate link| is a great tool to have on hand as you get comfortable experimenting with colors in your gradient knitting. Find more basic tips color theory in relation to gradients, check out Gradient Style. © F+W Media, Inc.

By using tints and shades, you can create a monochromatic gradient (below), which blends from light to dark within one color. This style of gradient knitting is the easiest option to make and wear since all the colors will have the same undertones and look harmonious together.

You can find pre-selected gradient palettes in the form of mini skein sets like the ones shown here. Top: SweetGeorgia Yarns, Party of Five Tough Love Sock, Cobblestone. Bottom: SweetGeorgia Yarns, Party of Five Tough Love Sock, Jellybean. F+W Media, Inc. by George Boe.

Analogous colors (above) create an appealing gradient, and in my opinion look very natural compared to more complicated gradients. The more colors you add between your end colors, the more gradual the gradient will appear. You can use speckles, flashes, and other brief spots of color to aid and soften the color shifts.

Complementary colors (those on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as the purple and yellow tones found in the Flame Lace Shawl are a great starting point for dynamic color-shifting gradients. The best way to blend complementary colors is to choose analogous colors that fall between them on the color wheel to smooth the transition between these two very different shades; speckled or variegated colors are very useful here.

Or, if you’ve fallen in love with two colors that are not analogous or complementary, don’t worry! You can use the technique of looking for speckles or flashes of similar colors to bridge the transition.

Yarns Shown here illustrate how you can make a gradient palette out of two random colors (in this case, dark blue and grey) by incorporating speckled yarns that feature both colors. © F+W Media, Inc. by George Boe

Gradient Techniques

Once you’ve chosen your color palette, you are ready to begin knitting your gradient. There are several methods for blending colors, depending on the project and the look you’re trying to achieve.

If you’re following a pattern that incorporates a gradient, the designer will usually provide detailed instructions for how to get the look displayed in their project. However, if you’re modifying a one-color garment into a gradient, or if you’d like to try a different gradient than suggested, you can experiment with the methods outlined in Gradient Style.

TIP: If you’re modifying an existing pattern, you’ll need to calculate how many rows will be in the total piece based on your row gauge and use that to determine when to switch colors in your gradient for a balanced look. (Or, use that information to create a purposely-unbalanced look, such as a gradient yoke on a solid-body sweater.)

While using gradients in your knitting can take a little thoughtful planning, the end result pays off immensely by creating undulating and mesmerizing effects. You’ll be surprised after a little practice, how effortlessly you’ll be creating your own gradient palettes to incorporate into all of your knitting.


It’s time to get your gradient on!

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