5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Yarn Color

My favorite sweater bit the dust a few years ago. It was an ordinary store-bought cardigan – nothing special – except that it was green (more on that in a minute) and had a black and white striped ribbon on the underside of the button band. I freaking loved that sweater. I wore it until it was threadbare, and then – in a moment of decluttering fury – I got rid of it.

As much as I love decluttering – and as much as that sweater really was on its last leg – I missed it when it was gone. Finding a replacement was easier said than done. Sure, cardigans are everywhere, but not THAT one.

It wasn’t the sweater, itself, that captured my fancy – it was the color. I’ve never liked wearing green, but this wasn’t just any green. It was different. Special. Dare I say, perfect? It went with everything in my closet. It was great with my skin tone. It was just an all-around fantastic piece of clothing. I thought I didn’t like to wear green, but the truth was, it’s the shade of green that matters. 

I couldn’t find a sweater off the rack, so – fiber artist that I am – I decided to knit myself a green sweater. Except finding that perfect green yarn was just as tricky.

The Right Color Matters

I didn’t know I cared so much about the shade of a color until I had a hard time finding the one I had in mind. What I learned from that search was that maybe we can wear any color we feel like wearing (we can!), and it’s just the shade of the color that might turn us off. Maybe there’s a green (or a brown or a yellow or an orange) for everyone.

If you’re on a mission for the perfect yarn color and can’t seem to find it, here are 5 things that worked for me (and they’ll work for you, too):

  1. Find a real-life example that shows the color you’re looking for. Look in magazines, online, and while you’re out shopping. My search started with a screenshot of a kelly green purse I found online, and I used that as my initial reference. Seeing the color on an actual item or garment of clothing can often help you make sure it’s the one you’re looking for. (Be cautious about online images, though – see #4.)
  2. Get a paint chip. Color can appear in different ways to different people – and when it comes to what a color is called, I’ve found that everyone has their own opinion. My search for kelly green was met with advice about jungle green, emerald, evergreen, Christmas green and more. So much depends on the screen and the person viewing it, and their own experience with color. If you have a specific color in mind, it may help to visit your local home improvement store for a paint chip (or paint card) that clearly demonstrates what you’re looking for. It’ll make it so much easier to explain the color to others, and you can keep it with you when you’re shopping to make sure you have something accurate to compare. Take that paint chip to the yarn store when you’re shopping so you can show them exactly what you’re looking for. (This is also helpful for making sure you’re seeing the yarn color clearly while you’re shopping; differences in lighting and what it’s next to can affect the way you see color on a skein. Having a paint chip with you can help you verify if the color of yarn you’re looking at is the one you want.)
  3. Ask for help. Fiber folks love to solve a knitting mystery, so don’t be afraid to let your knitting friends or community know that you need help. Many hands make light work, so invite your friends to pitch in and offer ideas; they might help you find the winner sooner. When I reached out to my community, I was met with the motherload of green yarn options that I hadn’t come across on my own. Color names will vary between brands and dyers, so an online search isn’t always fruitful. (And if it’s a less trendy color, yarn sellers may not bring it with them to festivals or events.) Sharing your search with your community can help you find what you’re looking for faster. Asking for help led me to dozens of options.
  4. Check the color on every screen you have. If you’re shopping online, color accuracy can be tricky. So much depends on the accuracy of the photo, but also on the quality of the screen you’re using to view it. If you’re thinking of buying yarn online, check the way the color looks on every screen you have (phone, tablet, laptop, etc…). The screen on your newest device will likely be the most accurate. (Make sure your screen brightness is turned up! It makes a big difference.)
  5. Keep yarn samples of the shades you love most and take them with you when you shop. I’m notoriously guilty of buying yarn and getting it home, only to hold it next to my other skeins and realize the one I brought home is a little too brown, or a little too purple. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re not holding it up against what you have at home. If you have a few favorites that you KNOW are the right shade for you, keep a little strand or swatch with you so you can use it to compare it to other options. It’ll help you avoid buying colors that might end up sitting on your shelf, unused.

Your next knitting project deserves the perfect color. If you’re having a hard time finding the perfect yarn for your project, enlist reinforcements for faster (and often more accurate) results.

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