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Reworking Bacardi’s Color Chart

The original Bacardi
[photograph from
No Sheep for You,
© and courtesy Interweave Press]

Color is a wonderful and powerful force in the world of knitting. I believe all knitters love color, and it can play as big a part in their knitting decisions as the fibre or the garment’s shape. A shawl or sock pattern that got passed over when shown in one color may suddenly become desirable when seen in one of the knitter’s favorite colors. This is one of the reasons we love to knit: whatever we are making, we get to choose the color.

A few years ago I decided to knit myself a cardigan. I had a generous stash of Super 10 Cotton, but no two skeins were the same color. Wanting something simple to knit I decided to make it striped, and to break up the visual tedium of stripes I mixed in dots and dashes. I chose from among the warm tones that suit me best. Dark gold, olive green, a pale, creamy yellow: these are old favorites for me. A light, sandy neutral helped to tone down the mix and keep it from being too intense. A bright, lime green, used sparingly, was a pleasing accent. And finally a sage green — in the context of the warmer tones it appeared almost turquoise, and looked so pretty next to the cream or the gold that it secretly became my favorite child in this little family of colors.

Not long after I finished knitting my cardi I heard of Amy Singer’s call for design submissions for her upcoming book No Sheep for You. I submitted photos and was delighted when my design was accepted. My B-cardi became Bacardi, out there in the world for anyone to knit. But as you may know, not everyone likes lime green.

It is one thing to see a garment in a single color and imagine it in another. It’s like being in a store, seeing a lovely garment and asking “Does this come in pink?” For the knitter the answer is always “Yes, if that’s the color you want”. But what if you see a multi-colored pattern you like, a garment you want to knit, but the colors aren’t the ones that flatter you and coordinate with your wardrobe? How would you go about picking six new colors to knit Bacardi?

Unfortunately there is no scientific process or magic formula. Color is subjective, and there are no right or wrong answers. One person’s winning combination may well contain another’s least-liked colors. In the end, the “right” color combination is the one that most pleases you, or the lucky recipient of your knitting efforts.

So how should you tackle the problem of knitting Bacardi in another color palette? For a start, you can rest assured that you will have no shortage of choices. The yarn I used, Super 10, is available in more than a hundred colors. I know some knitters who like cool greens and blues, so let’s look at a portion of Bacardi’s chart and try substituting some colors. Because the original colorway used an analogous color scheme (which means that the colors are adjacent or fairly close to each other on the color wheel) we will stick to blues and greens to start with.

If you search Knitty’s archives you will find some excellent articles about color theory. Here is a quick review of the three terms used to define the properties of a color: hue, value and saturation.

• Is it red, green, or blue? You are talking about hue. Imagine a rich crimson and a pale pink mixed from the same red — they have the same hue.

• Is it light or dark? You are talking about value. The pale pink and crimson have the same hue but the pink is much lighter in value.

• Is it pure, intense color like an artist’s paint right out of the tube, or has grey, white or black been added? Saturation is also referred to as intensity, purity or chroma. Besides being lighter in value, the pale pink is also much less saturated because it contains lots of white.

In this process of creating a new colorway, we will, naturally, be changing the hues. Do not worry too much about saturation. If you love bright, intense colors you may find that all six of the colors you will choose are highly saturated, but subtle, muted or “dusty” colors are beautiful too and might find a place in your colorway. Value will be an important consideration for each yarn chosen. It doesn’t matter if each color we choose has the same value as the color it replaces in the original chart, but all the new colors should be placed in the chart according to their values relative to each other.

Here is a representation of the six original colors, arranged from lightest to darkest --->

For color D we need one color that is lighter than all the rest to provide the highlight of the palette. The lightest color in the original chart is Maize, a pale creamy yellow. The darkest color, A, is Gold; it has the same hue, yellow, but is darker in value. To imitate this relationship in our new colorway [below] we will use a pale blue as D, the lightest color and a periwinkle blue as A, the darkest. There are many darker blues, and nothing wrong with choosing one of them, but keeping our darkest color relatively light will copy the look of the original design.

In the original palette, color B is Granny Smith, a light, saturated lime green which accents the other colors. Not a rule, but a suggestion: don’t be afraid to include one color that is a bit different, and maybe not your favorite. This color represents less than 14% of the stitches in the chart. You will never see a lot of it, but it can spice up the color mix if there is one that is a little brighter, warmer, or cooler than the others. In our new colorway, B becomes Sage Green. It isn’t more saturated than the others, but it is the warmest. It appears to be a warmer green in the context of the cooler blues and turquoises than it does on its own.

For the three remaining colors, E should be “relatively light”, C “medium” and F “relatively dark”. In place of the original Flax [E], we’ll use a turquoise that is fairly light but still holds its own against the lightest blue. The “medium” [C] is an in-between blue in place of the original Sage Green, and “relatively dark” [F] is a darker blue-green instead of the original Peridot.

Here is how the colors compare, from light to dark...

...and here is a swatch in our new blue-green colorway.

Let’s look at another example in which the values are again similar to the original but the hues have been changed -- this is sunset.

Looking at a portion of these new charts next to the original one [on the left of the three], it is clear that the lightest and darkest stripes and dots play the same role in each version. The contrasts between the other colors are not identical, but the look of the original design has been maintained.



This doesn’t mean you must restrict yourself to light colors. Perhaps you would prefer to have some purple with your blues. Let’s remove the green and turquoise yarns from the blue-green colorway and add three purples: a light lilac, a bright intense purple and a darker purple. The three blues used in the blue-green colorway remain, but they will not necessarily go in the same places in the chart. The pale blue is still the lightest color, so it remains as D, but two of the purples are darker than the blue that was formerly A, our darkest color.

Here are the colors, again from lightest to darkest.

There is now more contrast in the pattern because there is a bigger range of values from lightest to darkest -- this is blue-violet.

Now we’ll change a few of the colors again. The three blues are replaced by two more purples and mocha brown. The light lilac is now our lightest color, so it becomes D, and what was previously the darkest purple moves to F, to make room for an even darker plum in the role of A. Call this one purples.

The overall tone of this colorway is darker than the others, but the colors are still placed in the chart according to their relative values.

When choosing colors, be aware of the way a color can change depending on what other colors surround it. You might pick up a cool purple to put with some reds and find it now looks more blue than purple. The best way to predict how your six colors will work together is to physically put them together. You might try winding several strands of different colored yarns around a finger and squinting at the result to see how you like the effect. Of course, the way to know for sure is to knit a swatch.

Some knitters may be wondering about the software I use for these charts. It is Stitchpainter, by Cochenille. I find the interface clunky and the application’s lack of sophistication can be frustrating at times. However it is a great help to be able to take a chart like this one, and with one click change every stitch of pale blue to lilac. This software is a useful tool for experimenting with colors in a chart. What happens if we try pinks with purple rather than blue? Or reds instead of pinks?

Obviously, the options are almost endless and this can be daunting. If you are looking for inspiration, notice the colors in a favorite piece of artwork, a printed fabric or a hand-painted skein of yarn. If you can get to a yarn shop with a good selection of colors, take your time and find a spot in good light, preferably natural daylight. Get out skeins of all the colors you think might work. Try starting with a dark, a light and a bright, and then switch the skeins around until you find six that work together to make your heart smile.

To download any of these alternate color charts, click on the appropriate icon below. Charts are in PDF format -- you'll need the free Acrobat Reader to view them.

The original Bacardi cardigan pattern is only available in No Sheep for You,
published by Interweave Press.


Barbara Gregory knits and illustrates in Toronto. She likes to use many colors in both of these pursuits.

You can see examples of her efforts at her website and Ravelry, where her user name is “barbara”.