Spring brings thoughts of color after a winter of a bleak and lackluster palette. This winter was especially so since there wasn’t much snow to freshen up the landscape. How refreshing to the eyes to finally see the yellows, greens and pinks again.
I’ve been doing some thinking about color, especially as to how it fits in the world of counted cross stitch. Choosing colors is a huge part in the designing process. I will admit it has been a struggle for me at times. There are patterns I designed years ago that still make me cringe because of the colors I chose. In fact, when I brought one such piece in for framing, the comment was something along the lines of how it would be hard to frame the piece since the colors were all fighting one another. *Ouch*
Since my motto in most artistic pursuits is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Every artist was first an amateur”), I give myself some grace and then dive into learning more about the area in which I feel the weakest. This is the same way I approach piano practice. There is always a fix for the weak spots but it usually involves more diligence and focused practice. The same goes for color.
This winter, since I spend more time indoors and life seems to move more slowly, I pulled out a few coloring books and purposely worked on improving my sense of color. I have always enjoyed coloring and was doing it long before this latest coloring craze. I don’t have any fancy coloring pencils, just the ones Crayola makes. After choosing a picture, I spent time seriously thinking about the colors I wanted to use. I learned about tonal colors and choosing colors on the opposite ends of the color wheel to complement one another. I used a separate sheet of paper to blend several shades of color together for a different effect. I wouldn’t say that I am now a color expert but I do think I grew in my color knowledge. On the plus side, it was a very enjoyable pursuit.
(I had some help from a six-year-old friend for this next one.)
When it comes to cross stitch and color, there are many opinions. I realize in most cases, the choice of colors (the stitched model, the front of a chart) is what catches the buyer’s eye. I’m sure charts are rejected because the colors used do not appeal to the buyer. However, I would challenge you to look at a chart and see the other color possibilities. Some color choices are better than others. Some patterns are beautiful patterns but the colors may not work together or may not be to your preference. Some stitchers make conversions that are better than the originally called-for colors. Honeybee over at The Copper Fox has an extremely helpful post on doing a color conversion. She takes you through step-by-step on changing out the colors in a design.
Another thing to keep in mind is how difficult it sometimes is for designers to provide color conversions in charts. For instance, two of my next three releases were stitched with silks, some highly variegated. Trying to find a DMC color conversion to put on my published chart is a frustrating exercise. I designed the piece and stitched the piece with the silks and for me to try to find a comparable alternative is a challenge and truly not that enjoyable to me. If one does not want to use silks and would rather use DMC, that’s completely fine and even encouraged. My point in writing this is to say, be brave! Pull out a color card or your boxes of DMC floss (or your cotton over-dyeds), some different colored fabrics and start gathering together some colors. You don’t have to do it like I did it. You don’t have to use any of the materials I used – my materials (floss, fabric) are suggestions. Once you start seeing it that way, you are free to make changes. That’s the beauty in creativity. Make it your own! Take my pattern and change it up to suit your interests, your room décor, etc. I love perusing popular cross stitch patterns on line and see what other stitchers have done with them, colorwise. It is very inspiring to see where other people’s creativity takes them.
Sometimes you will find that you made some wrong choices. I do this often. Yes, it is a pain to have to rip everything out but diligence always pays off in the end and the hardship is always worth it. Consider it part of the creative journey. And as with most journeys, the destination may be the goal, but don’t miss all the learning opportunities along the way!