Getting started on a new knitting or crochet project is always exciting and a big part of the fun is in the planning. What are you going to make, what yarn might you use and what colours will you pick? Your yarn choice will depend on what you’re making but the colours you use are very much up to you. Given the wide range of colours available in knitting and crochet yarns, making a choice might seem a bit daunting. However, there are a few considerations to take into account that should make it easier to narrow down your options.

When it comes to choosing a colour palette then it’s a good idea to start with one key shade and then build from that. To decide on a garment’s colour palette, hold a selection of colours to your face and see how your appearance changes – you might be surprised at the different effects. You can do something similar for the palette for a homeware project – place a selection of different colours around your home to see how they appear. Once you’ve picked out a predominant colour that you think will work (and ruled out those shades that won’t), then you can make a choice of other colours based on that.

There is a very useful tool that can help you decide which colours work together – the traditional artist’s colour wheel. This is a diagram that shows 12 colours arranged in a ring and in their order in the spectrum. Three of the colours in the wheel are known as the primary colours – red, yellow and blue. Between each of the primary colours are three secondary colours; the secondary colours are created by mixing together the adjacent primaries. Red mixed with yellow creates shades of orange; yellow mixed with blue makes shades of green and turquoise; blue mixed with red will produce purples and mauves.

Pastel, neutral, warm, cool palettes

Looking at the colour wheel can help you see how colours relate to each other. Complementary colours are those that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel – for example, red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple – and, when used together, these colours create vibrant combinations. Choose complementary colours when you’re after a bold effect. Harmonious colours are those that sit near to each other on the colour wheel – for example, red and orange, yellow and green, and blue and purple. When teamed together these colours will produce a subtler effect, with no extreme contrasts.

Another thing to consider is what is know as the colour temperature – whether a colour is ‘warm’ or ‘cool’. Generally speaking, the warm colours are on the side of the colour wheel that is predominantly influenced by red; the cool colours are on the side influenced by blue. However, all colours have warm and cool versions – a maroon shade of red will be cooler than a scarlet. You can combine warm and cool colours but they don’t always work together well, especially if they are in the harmonious range – a cool turquoise won’t necessarily go with a warm shade of blue.

Not shown on the colour wheel are those colours known as neutrals – shades that range from brown through to grey. These colours are mixtures of the other colours in the spectrum so, although it’s not so obvious, they can have a warm or a cool bias, depending on how much red or blue they contain.

So when you come to picking a palette, start with colours that work well for you and then use a bit of colour theory to help you select the additional shades.