If you are planning on knitting a garment or accessory that uses more than one colour of yarn, how do you go about choosing which colours go together? If there are only two colours in your knitting project, I find it much easier to choose than if there are 3 or more colours. Complicated Fair-Isle patterns can seem very daunting unless you choose the exact colours used in the sample.
One way to choose colours is to use a colour wheel. On the wheel you can choose whether you want bright, pastel, or more grey colour pallet (shade, tint, tone). Once you've decided on that, chose the colour combination you would like. Colours on opposite sides of the wheel are complimentary and often cause "drama" in your piece. Choosing two colours that have one colour separating them (like green and blue) and then adding in their compliment (red-orange) makes for an exciting knitting garment rather than choosing 3 colours that are next to each other (blue, green, and blue-green).
Next you need to vary the values of the colours you choose. If you use all dark colours they just blend together and turn into "mush". By choosing a light, medium and dark colour you are really able to see the 3 colours of yarn work together to make a pattern. You can also add white and/or black to the colour mix.
This is all well and good, but is there an easier way? I would like to suggest that there is. Take a look at your clothing. I'm sure you have a favourite patterned shirt or dress. What colours are in it? Can you see how they work together?
I really like to use fabrics to choose colours. Someone has already done the hard work for me and I can choose fabrics that appeal to me. The example above on the right is bright and bold, using yellow, green, blue, white, and black to create drama. A more subtle approach would be to use the sample on the left. A dark grey green, a pale green and a beige/tan.
Both my Edgewick jacket and GreenRidge pullover use 3 colours of yarn and a slip stitch pattern to create texture and interest. You will need some colour knowledge to pick your yarns. So the next time you are out shopping, be sure to look at the patterns and colours of the clothes you like. Maybe even take a few pictures to analyze later when you are stuck on which colours of yarn to combine together.