Mystery Afghan Knit-a-long: Choosing the Right Colours

The time is almost here for the Mystery Afghan Shopping List to be released and, although Rowan will be giving several colour suggestions, you can also choose colour combinations yourself. So, I thought I should write a little bit about how to go about choosing colour, especially if you are undecided.

Colour Theory is a very complex subject involving everything from colour mixing to colour meaning. In this post I will try to discuss some of the basics in order to help you choose from the fifty shades of Rowan’s Pure Wool Worsted yarn so you will end up with an Afghan to treasure for ever. Of course, this will help you choose appropriate colour combinations for any project that you might be considering.

I would like to add that I am an artist and painter and have written a practical colour theory course which I have taught at the University of the Arts, London and in private companies in Germany and the USA.

Colour Theory: The Basics

12COLWH3On the 12 colour wheel shown above, the primaries are numbered with a 1. To make a secondary colour, numbered 2, you need to mix together two primary colours. To make a tertiary colour, numbered 3, you need to mix together an adjoining primary and secondary colour, for example blue (primary) + green (secondary) = blue-green (tertiary).

Any particular colour has three attributes: hue, value and saturation. Hue is the term that is used to distinguish one colour family from another, as in blue from red and orange from yellow, and is used to help describe something, i.e. a ‘green’ apple or a ‘blue’ sky.


Red fully saturated and lightened by adding white.

Value is the degree of lightness or darkness of a colour and a colours value can be affected when mixed with another colour and by the adding black or white.


Red and it’s complimentary colour blue-green are muted and then ‘greyed’ towards the centre of the image above when mixed together and the resulting colour will be darker than the two original colours.

Saturation is the relative purity of a colour and colours are muted or greyed by being mixed with their complementaries (the colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel, i.e. red and blue-green are complimentary colours). In their purest, most brilliant state, colours are at maximum saturation. As other hues are mixed in, they become more and more neutral (greyed) and are said to be lower in saturation.

Choosing Your Afghan Colours: Where to Start

Firstly, decide where you will be using the Afghan and go to that room and collect together a range of items that reflect the room’s colour scheme. Place them together to study. Take a photograph if it helps.

room items_s

Here’s an example of some items from my lounge where I will be using my finished Afghan.

Monochromatic Scheme

Using my selected room items above and after looking at the 50 available shades in the Pure Wool Worsted range I could go with Ivory, Soft Cream, Almond, Toffee, Cocoa Bean, Rust, Chestnut, Hazel, Buttercup, Gold, Seville, Papaya and Garage. That’s 13 colours from the 50 available…..quite a good selection!

PWW12COLRSHowever, the simplest idea would be to choose just one of these colours.

If you think you would like to enhance the monochromatic scheme you could add a neutral dark or light shade to add a bit of tonal interest. Choose from Ivory, Soft Cream, Almond, Toffee, Cocoa Bean, Clove, Black, Umber, Granite and Moonstone. These are all neutral shades from the Pure Wool Worsted range and can add some lightness or darkness to your chosen color.

papayaIvoryHere I have chosen Papaya and Ivory. The image I have drawn above is to help me decide how much of each shade I would like to use.The more Ivory yarn I use in relation to the Papaya the lighter the overall effect will be (as seen towards the right).

papayaUmberAnd here I have chosen Papaya and Umber which gives a totally different feeling to the one above.

Colour and Grey

PWWgreysIf you choose a strong saturated colour such as Papaya, Cardinal, Morello, Plum, Peacock and Periwnkle and team it with Moonstone or Granite you do run the risk of creating a complimentary hue over the grey. For example, if you use Cardinal (a fully saturated red) it’s complimentary hue will be seen on the grey which will make it appear a greeny-grey. Or, if you use Papaya (a fully saturated orange colour) it’s complimentary hue will be seen on the grey which will make it appear a blue-grey. You may want to bear this in mind when mixing a strong saturated colour with grey. If you do want to use a grey and do not want this to happen I would go with the darker grey shade Granite as the complimentary colour is less likely to appear.

Analgous or Harmonius Colour Scheme

Analagous or harmonious colours are colours which are found adjacent to each other on the colour wheel, i.e. blue, blue-green, green. From my selected items I could go with Gold, Seville, Papaya and Buttercup but would probably want to add a dark neutral (Cocoa Bean or Umber) and/or a light neutral (Soft Cream) to add some differing tones. As I prefer the more saturated colours rather than the muted ones I would probably limit this choice to Buttercup and Papaya with Soft Cream and Toffee as tonal contrasts.

PWW6COLRSComplimentary Colour Scheme.

If you want something more striking choose complimentary colours……colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, i.e, red and green, orange ad blue. They work together by enhancing each other: orange will make the blue appear a more vivid blue and the blue will make the orange appear a more vivid orange. Complimentary pairs from the Pure Wool Worsted shades are Cardinal and Peacock, Plum and Buttercup, Papaya and Periwinkle. If you wanted to use some lighter complimentary pairs which would be less striking you could try Pretty Pink and Oxygen, Splash and Soft Cream.

PWWsplashcreamAs my room colours do not contain any complimentary pairs I could only choose near complimentaries which could only be Papaya and Garage or Papaya and Hazel. But another interesting colour idea would be to use Garage and Papaya with the shade Hazel acting as a ‘bridge’ to help bring the colours together. If you look closely at Hazel it is a heathered colour with flecks of bright orange on greeny-orange yarn.

PWW3colsI do hope that has help you prepare for the moment you have to choose your yarn colours when the Mystery Afghan shopping list is published. When deciding on your yarn colours please do try to look at the colours on a shade card containing the actual yarn if possible and not from a computer screen.

If you need any help with colour choices please leave me a reply and I will try my best to answer your question. Click on the Leave a reply link found below at the bottom of this post or click here, and when the new page opens scroll to the bottom of the page to the ‘Leave a Reply’ box.

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Take a look at all the shades available in Rowan Pure Wool Worsted.

Keep knitting!