Saturday, November 20, 2010

Not necessarily the neutral

Gray yarn

The end of the year is a great time to take stock of the ol' stash. There's holiday gift-knitting to do, and the days between paychecks seem to be lengthening in lockstep with the winter nights, so using what's already on hand feels blessedly thrifty. I could lose some serious amounts of daylight pawing through the bags and bins in that closet I keep hidden from my husband (um, and the drawer under the daybed, which I just now realized has also somehow gotten filled with yarn). It all feels so nice and looks so pretty...and it can also say so much about you, if you're looking closely.

Something I noticed on this most recent trip through my assembled reserves was that they've undergone a distinct spectrum shift. I've never been much of a colorwork person, relying mainly on texture and shaping for whatever visual interest I feel a design needs, but I do love color, and the color I love most is gray. For one thing, it makes my somewhat-indeterminately-colored eyes, which some people say are blue but I prefer to think of as gray, look REALLY gray when I wear it. (There's a certain shade of sea-green that my eyes will totally reflect if I wear it close to my face, too, which is kind of a neat phenomenon, but I haven't see much of this hue in current fashions.) Gray doesn't seem like a neutral to me at all; "neutral" implies passivity, a background that just sits there and lets a real color take the stage, whereas I find gray to be much more protean and responsive than that. It can so easily be two colors at once--blue-gray, green-gray, violet-gray, cream-gray, putty, oyster, pinkish-gray in mauve and lilac, brownish-gray in oatmeal and mushroom. Charcoal, slate, off-black, silver, sweatshirt heathers...gray's got a lot going on. It's been my default color for a long time now--so long that perhaps I've started to take it for granted.

I've dabbled recently with green (see for instance Decimal and Myrtle, and my recent dress design for the new Brooklyn Tweed SHELTER yarn), but that's been more a marriage of convenience than a real, deep attachment. Green yarn felt right for the project, I knitted it, and then I kept on walking. Green is a supporting character, an accent color, not a cornerstone of the ol' wardrobe. (This might explain why I have so many green handbags, I now realize. Like five of them. WAY more than any other color, including gray.) In my mind, green goes with stuff; stuff doesn't go with green. What I saw when I started piling yarn up on my floor, though, was a whole lot of orange all of a sudden. Whoa! How'd that happen?

Orange yarn

Without even realizing it, I've started a love affair with orange. I'm cheating on gray with vermilion, coral, tangerine, and sunset, with carmine and copper and rust. It's not that gray doesn't still inspire me--it does. I'm working on something in pewter-colored Panda Silk right now, and loving it. But orange seems to be pushing a different button in my brain.

Looking back, I guess you could see it coming. First we moved to Austin, where the college football fans bleed orange and you can't throw a rock without hitting something in the UT colors. Then I snapped up a bunch of fluffy coral-rose yarn at a swap my knitting group had a while back, along with a couple of balls of discontinued terra cotta Shine Sport. That yarn drew me to it, but still felt This year's Althea sweater and skirt was my first big fling, though. I actually swatched that yarn in another color called Platinum--a pale gray that just didn't do it for me somehow--and then switched to Tiger Lily when it came to the real knitting. And now, I can't seem to quit this color. I bought some variegated gray-and-blue Berocco the other day, swatched with it, felt meh about the results, and then traded most of it back for store credit. Which I ended up spending on fiery orange-red Regia 4-ply sock yarn.

I think that Regia is going to end up being my trip knitting while I'm holed up over the holiday next week, and I'll be honest--it feels a little like I'm taking my mistress on vacation with me while my wife stays home and looks after the cats. I still love you, gray; I really do. I just needed something new, something that made me feel...alive. I never meant to do this, but I've fallen in love with orange. Perhaps it won't last. Perhaps I'll always be turning back to the colors of cold sea and stormy skies. At the moment, though, it's all about my darling Clementine...


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Snowden. Perhaps you could arrange a meeting of the wife and the mistress...a little stripe action, maybe?

Anonymous said...

Previous comment was from Jene.

Steven said...

Great post. I love this paen to gray. And while I will keep silent bout your fling with the ernge, I know you'll come back.

And if you don't, I'll be there to pick up the pieces.

Dana said...

I have to admit, I was hurt at first to read your comments about green (it's a star, dammit, not a supporting actor!). Green is such a staple for me (teetering on the edge of obsession, really). But then I realized I, too, am drawn to gray. And really gray and green are not so dissimilar - especially when you think of shades like sage and silver. Perhaps green deserves a little more respect from you, Snowden!

...Great post.