Question of Colours

Take a look at this and see if you agree with me that the colours are really chaotic here,

This thread is a Lizbeth sample that I receive from Handy Hands together with my order many months back.  I have not used it mainly because of the colour mix.  Individually, I could have liked the shades but when put together like this, it is too much for me to handle.  I decided to give it a go just to have a feel of Lizbeth since most tatters have shown a liking for it.

My first feel of this size 20 thread is that it is like Flora and I am not taken by it yet.  I need to play with it a few more times to see if it will grow on me.

Now, back to the tatting above.  Like I said, the colours are very chaotic.  I can barely make out the shape of the design because the change in the shades are too stark and sudden.  The colours are distracting me from  the design itself.

Compare it to this one below,
I tatted the design again, now in two colours.  Here, the design is more defined and the shape clear cut. BTW, the thread used here are Olympus 40.

And the point if this exercise is to gather opinions of fellow tatters on this question -
How does colours shape your opinion of a tatting design?  Do you see the colours first then the design, or the other way round?

Granted that my choice of the multi-coloured thread for the first sample may be extreme, and that I have used solid colours for the second model, but the next point to ponder is,
Do you make a study of the design before choosing the thread, whether it would look good with variegated/mix coloured, or solids? 
Or, do you just pick a favorite thread and start tatting?

As for my own thoughts, I feel that variegated/multi-coloured are better suited for a sparse design, or one where the blank spaces in the design compliments the tatted portion.  I would not use variegated/mix-coloured where there are many switching of shuttles because of the many breaks in the colour flow of the thread, unless you keep with the SLTs.  I would consider varigated/mix-coloured for a design that have more chains than rings because colour flows are reflected better in chains rather than rings.

These are my own personal views.  I would love to read how you see colours in tatting.


  1. I haven't used Flora thread but I like Lizbeth and since you say they're similar I may give it a try.

    I agree with everything you've said about this particular shade and it's use in this design. It's way too much for me and you can't admire either the design or thread.

    "Do you make a study of the design... Or, do you just pick a favorite thread and start tatting?"

    I find a design I want to try which can take a while. Then I look back at which shades I've used recently and try to use something different. If I don't like how it's going then I stop and try again using another shade I haven't used in the last few items I've made.

  2. I think the varigated ball you have would be good for a simple edging. I really think about the colors and the combinations but I tend to use simple colors. What would happen to the desing if you used only one color. Or if all the rings on the varigated version had been done in a complementary color would the design of the doily show up better?

  3. Jon - don't get discouraged by this particular Lizbeth. I love Lizbeth, but this one has white inbetween the other colors, and I think that's ugly. If it had no white, it would be much better, don't you think? Try another of their veriagated threads. I think Lizbeth is a joy to work with.

    You must not be an HDT addict. I am!

  4. I like to work with solid colors, so I have not done much tatting with the varigated threads. But I have just done a few crosses and bookmarks using the varigated threads. I very carefully choose the patterns because of the fact that I worried how they would turn out with the varigated colors. I feel that the pattern has to be "right" to use varigated threads. Certainly all patterns will not work as you pointed out with your first design. There I see a big blob of uncorridnated color screaming back at me. I do not see the design - the eye doesn't know what to focus on. Where as with the yellow and tan design, you see and recognize a very pretty design. Well formed and very pleasing to the eye. I feel simple patterns would be best to use with the varigated threads. This is just my opinion. I am anxious to hear what others have to say about this.

  5. The color and pattern caught my attention right away. I think it's awesome! Each person has their own preferences, but just so you know I think it's cool and your work is great! :)

  6. I agree with you, the colors are chaotic. However, I don't think they are unpleasant, it gives the piece an unusual feeling of movement. I think both are nice, but for different reasons. I like the top one because of the feeling of movement, it makes me feel like birds wings, fluttering. I like the second one, because here the repetition is obvious, it looks delicate. Each piece offers a different feeling.

  7. I think it depends on the thread. some multi colored threads are not as abrupt. Hand dyed especially blends better between colors than the mass produced, so the color change is more gradual. THat seems to help. Or when the colors are more tonal, for example a medium pink changing to medium purple and medium blue is easier to look at than a thread that goes directly from a dark to a light color. THe size of the tatted work is another issue....larger pieces can handle more color change when smaller ones may feel akward in the same thread because the color change breaks up the design more infrequently. Good thought provoking questions!

  8. I like using multi-colored/variegated threads for designs that go from the center to the outer edge and then back again, such as with Mary Konior's Spinning Wheel. That way I can feel the flow of the colors. I'm very hesitant when using those threads in designs that are completed in rounds. I feel like the colors either clump together or look disorganized. An exception to that rule would be Mary Konior's Primrose Path. With that doily, individual motifs are tatted and joined together for the innermost and outermost rounds. For the center round I chose a solid so that I wouldn't run into clumps or pools of color.

  9. When I decide to tat a design, I study it and work out which colour or colour combination would look best. When I look at a piece of tatting, I see the colour first and then the design. Your work is lovely.

  10. For me, I look at the overall piece and try to figure out it's personality before choosing a thread. I love variegated threads, but always try to use a solid color with it if it's a large piece. Also, I try to get threads that I know have a slower transition between colors.

    Not only that, but I also look at the pattern or examples of the final product and try to think which would look better. I think this is a habit that I picked up from a teacher I had at ITT. How does color affect the mood of your place? Do they make "sense" in that the colors match and add to the overall design?

    .. Maybe that's the graphic designer wanna-be in me, but those are my thoughts..

    This is a nice pattern to show the differences. Which Lizbeth did you use for the first example?

  11. I used to think that variegated threads always looked prettier and fancier, but I've learned better. There are some patterns for which they simply do not work, and others where they are perfect. There are also some patterns that can take either a variegated or a solid, though one may still look better than the other.

    I also like to pair variegated colors with solids sometimes. If the solid is a match for one of the colors in the variegated, it can give it a much smoother look. This is one of the things I like about Lizbeth, the matching solids. Sometimes a solid that contrasts highly with the variegated can also give a very interesting effect.

    I once tatted your Sweetheart bookmark with a variegated thread on the inside and a contrasting solid on the outside. The effect was striking and not at all unpleasant, but you couldn't really see the pattern that well. I recently did it again with two solids, and the design absolutely jumps out at you.

    OTOH, I've done Mary Konior's Anniversary trim several times in two solids; again, it's a very striking look and I will definitely do it this way again. But I recently tried it with a variegated on the ball and a matching solid on the shuttle. It came out amazingly pretty; the colors almost looked braided, they way they seem to twist around each other.

    I agree that in the examples you've used, the variegated thread is probably too busy for the pattern. However, I have used this thread in other designs, and it can be very nice. Try pairing it with black for a very bold look.

    For floral designs, I often like to use a thread that's different shades of one color paired with a solid green. I also sometimes like to use a variegated green (especially Yarnplayer's "Leafy") for free-form leaves and vines. In this case, the shading can give the piece depth.

    A lot of people like to do butterflies in variegated threads, but this actually bothers me (not that I don't ever do it). Real butterflies are symmetrically colored. This can be achieved with a variegated thread, but it's harder as you have to be careful to start each wing in exactly the same place. I personally think it's better to use two or more solids for a butterfly.

    So the bottom line is, yes, I do consider the overall look of the design when choosing my thread. I think it makes a huge difference.

    Sorry to write such a novel, but this is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

  12. Variegated colours often don't work in chains; I found this out many years ago when I used to crochet a lot! I think this pattern would have been quite striking, if you had tatted the rings in a solid colour, perhaps the dark red. This would have drawn the eye in a different direction and made it visually stunningt..
    I also agree with the commenter who said that white, in this colourway, destroys the impact of the variegate. That was very interesting, because I had never stopped to consider it, but she is quite right!
    I usually choose my threads first, and then decide what to do with them!

  13. Interesting post and interesting comments. I'm NOT a variegated thread lover anyway so that top one shouted HELP, LET ME OUT at me. Really like the two plain colours together, though.
    I am, however, enjoying the HDT's available now but again 'with caution'. SO much depends on matching the thread to the design and what 'looks good' together on balls (even with plain colours) doesn't necessarily tat up well. I spend ages 'matching' up threads and experimenting before I start a piece.
    Currently I'm sort of working on a design which I HOPE will showcase the variegated threads I've been given but again it's taking a lot of experimentation!!

  14. How insightful you are!

    I haven't tatted a doily yet (stil on my to-do list). However, I like to use variagated thread for specific objects, such as a leaf or a flower.

    Most objects that occur in nature tend to have colours that compliment each other. Therefore, I would probably not buy thread that has contrasting colours in the one ball.

  15. I think, Jon, that you wanted some input on the design angle using variagated threads?

    When designing a doily (which is not very often) I personally always use a cheap solid colour that I don't mind cutting great sections out if it does not work! (Know what I mean?) Sometimes a pattern just flows and there is little retro-tatting but sometimes it doesn't and then it would take far too much time to undo!

    When the pattern is complete, I judge by the shape whether it would be best done in a single colour, two or more solid colours or variagated. I must say that I do not use much variagated threads, but that is my personal choice.

    As far as Lizbeth thread goes, I find it quite smooth to tat with, until you get well into the ball and then it can become a bit 'lumpy'. I have a lot of this thread and have found this problem with several balls! A shame really, as it comes in beautiful colours!

  16. Many points well taken ahead of me. How do I pick color/pattern? Most of the time I pick a pattern and then choose the thread colors. I hardly ever plan to use a variegated by itself. I use a solid to help define the design. I think the Lizbeth thread you chose is simply not appropriate for the pattern. It might look great with a different design....the bigger question is how to figure that out ahead of time. Some people have talked about the length of the colorway and how it affects the end look, as well as having or not having white in the mix. Those are all important factors and probably understudied. I prefer to use varigated or multicolored threads for flowers or simple bookmarks. Depends on the project too. I tatted a giraffe in a multicolored orange (no white) which seemed perfect to me as animals have varying shades in their fur. Same with flowers - you have a contrast of light and shadow. I agree with Miranda about butterflies. I've used the variegated but solids always appeal to me more in the finished flutter.

    I do think the colorway of your 1st example ends up looking random. Sometimes the thread develops a pleasing and intriguing secondary design when it's tatted up but it's hard to predict when that is going to happen.

    Good questions!

  17. I am not a tatter but would like to add my comments. The colour combination just does not do justice to this pattern - the pattern is lost in it. The more I look at it, I seem to be getting a headache! But your tatting is gorgeous as usual :D

  18. Wow, I didn't expect to see so many responses to this post. Thank you for giving your views. There are many points to be picked from them.

    CrazyMomTats, I agree that the LIzbeth thread will be more appealing without the white. I am managing quite well fighting the addiction to HDT, LOL.

    Thank you Tatting-Marie, God's Kid.

    Walden, you have put up a very interesting point. It never occured to me to attach 'feeling' to tatting, but I can feel the part about the birds' wings fluttering.

    Thank you Krystle, Wendy.

    Diane, I understand what you are saying about the pooling of colours when using variegated thread. A good point about breaking this by having portions in matching solids.

    Katherine, I don't know the code for the Lizbeth thread. It came in a spool rather than a ball and there are no numbers on it. Sorry.

    Write away, Miranda. There are many useful things to be gleaned form your 'novel', :)

    Linda, you read it well. Like you've said, I too started a new design using solids, usually white, to get the first take of the shape that is going to form. I then decide later on the colour and type of thread to use, 1 or 2 colours, or variegated.

    Jane, you may not be in love with HDT but you do match your solids very well.

    Thank you Gina And Margaret for your coments.

  19. Variegated threads can look superb like on your blog header or foul like on your example.

    If I were you I would be trying out that thread to see does it look good in any design...with or without a solid colour!!

    It's all a matter of marrying the thread with the pattern, initially by trail and error, but hopefully eventually by experience. Varigs can bring life into a design or drown it.

    I do admit to be biased towards the particular colourways that I dye!

    Great discussion.

  20. P.S.- For Katherine, the variegated thread is Lizbeth color 113, Jewels.

  21. I enjoyed reading all the comments everyone made. It seems everyone had great views to submit. It's amazing how we saw some things the same and other we viewed so differently. One comment on the Lizbeth threads. I do like them but did fine one ball that I had purchased had a lot of "slubs" and knots where the thread was joined at least 10 times. It was a real mess. But I fine it great to tat with and the colors are out of this world!

  22. Tatskool, who can blame you for being biased. Your hand-dyed are gorgeous in any shades.

    Thank you Miranda for the information on the code for the Lizbeth thread.

    Today, I received two balls of Lizbeth from Paula of Needles, Hooks and Paperback Books as part of the giveaway that she hosted in her blog. I'll be using that two balls, one solid and the other varigtd, together on a new design that I have just finished today. Pictures will appear when done, :)

  23. Jon, I agree with what you said about the colors in the variegated thread being too harsh and distracting.
    I look at a pattern first and if I want to use a variegated color I will pick as you do, a pattern that is less complex. The more complicated patterns benefit by using solid threads or variegated thread that has a subtle change to it such as an overdye.


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