Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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Said the Palette to the Closet: Color Me Surprised!

My closet is just full of surprises.

There are the fun surprises, like finding that shocking-pink cashmere V-neck I’d thought I’d accidentally thrown away during a houseguests-are-coming organizational frenzy. Then there are some less pleasant surprises, such as a broken zipper on the skirt that would have been the perfect thing to wear out dancing or the jeans that don’t quite fit any more. And every once in a while, something simply serendipitous (not to mention alliterative!) takes you by surprise, usually when you think you have things all planned out, but then the plan changes…

The other day, I went to the library in search of books about dyeing (please note the crucial  letter e in that word). Specifically, I was looking for useful information about dyeing yarns with acid dyes (I touched on my adventures in Dye-land recently). I’m working on a book proposal on this topic, so I naturally wanted to see what’s already out there. Since I had already done extensive online searching, including scans of library databases, I wasn’t totally surprised at the meager results: less than a dozen books grouped in the dyeing category, and almost all of them focused on (a) dyeing fabric, primarily cotton fabrics for quilting (which requires a different type of dye), and/or (b) using natural dyes. (Of course, it could be that books that would meet my criteria were all checked out, but I checked on the library computer before I left, and this was not the case.)

However, it’s virtually impossible for me to leave any library empty-handed, so I looked around the color/art section and found…

…this!

The Color Scheme Bible

The Color Scheme Bible, my latest library find. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com; click the picture to see this book at Amazon.com.)

Yes, I know it says it’s about interior design, but if you look, you’ll find that most color palette-oriented materials available do seem to be for interiors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put them to use in your closet! In fact, the following experiment may just inspire you to try new color combinations with the clothes and accessories you already have, not to mention the way you choose new items to add to your current wardrobe. Try it!

Here’s what I did.

Step 1. I skimmed through the pages of palettes (organized into sections by color families: pink, grey, blue, etc.), settling on this one that jumped out at me:

Pick-a-Palette!

Step 1: Pick-a-Palette! I chose this one primarily because I know I already have several things in my closet in the main color (bordeaux, although they’re calling it damson berry). I love the general idea of wearing several different shades of red together, so this seemed like a good place to start.

Tip: Make sure your palette has a minimum of 3 colors: main color, secondary color (often a contrast to the main color), accent color. A simple, high-contrast wardrobe example would be a black skirt (main color), white blouse (secondary color), hot pink heels (accent color). If your palette has more than 3 colors, like the one shown here, you’ll have that many more options, particularly with your accessory colors.

Step 2: Start with something in your main color. I found this skirt. (This should be a garment, not an accessory.)

Main color: skirt

Step 2: Main-color garment: Bordeaux skirt.

Tip: When laying out your garments, it helps to put them on top of a white sheet so you can judge the color effects without distractions. (This is especially helpful when I’m laying things out on my bed— it’s covered with a deep claret-red comforter.)

Step 3: Add a secondary-color piece. An ensemble is not made with a skirt alone, so I pulled this be-sequinned espresso-brown tank:

Step 2: Top that skirt!

Step 3: Top that skirt! This is the closest match I could find to the darker secondary color (top left on the book page), which they’re calling “eggplant”. This deep brown looks pretty close to me.

Already I have an outfit of pieces that I hadn’t previously thought to combine!

Step 4: Add another secondary-color piece. I wanted to find something in bright pink (the other secondary color in my palette), if possible:

Hand-knitted capelet

Step 4: Add pink! Hand-knitted capelet, combining bordeaux shades with both light and bright pinks. Also note the difference made by adding multiple new textures to this outfit. Layering also makes it more versatile.

Notice how with each additional step, I’m actually creating a new look? And all based around the same skirt, and all done with things I already have!

Step 5: Add accent colors. I’m so intrigued with the sort of deep chartreuse and bright turquoise accent colors in my palette, neither of which I would have thought of pairing with bordeaux. I’m not so sure I have anything in those exact shades, but this sweater comes kind of close to the chartreuse:

Accent-uate your palette!

Step 5: Acc-ent-uate the palette! With the addition of the chartreuse cashmere pullover, this outfit suddenly feels totally different. Okay, I’m not sure this particular sweater works wonderfully with the style of the skirt, but the point is to start to visualize new color combinations, right?

 Step 6: Add another accent color, this time with accessories, that is, if I can find anything in my closet that’s reasonably close to turquoise. How about this green bag? It’s kind of in the same color family. I think. Ooh, and this turquoise scarf!

Adding accessories

Step 6: Adding accessories. The scarf comes closer than the bag to the palette’s accent colors, but this exercise is not really about rigorously matching colors; it’s just about playing with colors. (The scarf is one I hand-knitted with some luscious merino/cashmere yarn that I dyed to create this ombré effect; the scarf is made with just 1 skein. Here’s where you can find this yarn in my Etsy shop.)

 Step 7: Add finishing touches. I’m going to put a favorite sweater-jacket in a deep rose-red over this outfit and see what happens!

Finishing touch: Jacket!

Step 7: Finish with a jacket! To my eye, at least, this ensemble suddenly looks much more cohesive. Again, the color of my jacket doesn’t exactly match anything in the palette, but it works. And the felted wool adds another textural surprise!

Tip: Looking at this last photo makes me realize that it’s a great example of the use of complementary colors, in this case, red and green (and various shades thereof). Remember my color theory crash course? Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel—the origin of many a fine color palette.

Step 7, Part Deux: Try a different accessory color. Just by switching the turquoise scarf for one in shades of pink and red (also one of my own hand-painted yarns), this look changes yet again. And this time, the red/green complementary color thing is even more apparent:

The Big Scarf Switch

Step 7, Part Deux: The Big Scarf Switch! Changing to this subtly-variegated scarf makes a crucial difference with all these solid colors. And for me, considering all the different textures I now have in the outfit, this combination works the best, color-wise; it’s just shades of red and shades of green. Simple!

Looking at these photos again now, it really still amazes me that I could, in a matter of minutes (less if I hadn’t been taking these photos!), pull together an interesting outfit in a color combination I hadn’t thought to try before now. Quelle surprise, indeed!

Find a color palette that speaks to you, then take it into your closet. I’m betting you’ll be surprised by what you find!

I’d love to know what happens when you try this! If you want to get started right now (you know you do), browse palettes on ColourLovers. The link will take you to my page there, but you can search through the whole site; for example, when I searched for “bordeaux”, these are the palettes that came up.

 

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Color, Theoretically Speaking

Yes, folks, as promised, here’s a fun little color theory crash course, cleverly disguised as a book review of sorts. What book, you ask? Why, it’s “Color”, by Betty Edwards (the acclaimed author of “The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”). Okay, this seems like a pretty generic title for such a massive subject, so it’s subtitled “A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors”. Yes. That’s so much better.

Color by Betty Edwards

“Color” by Betty Edwards. Yes, the subtitle suggests that this book is geared towards art students, but stay with me— it does connect to your clothes! Click on the picture to see this book on Amazon.com

To back up for just a minute, last month, I started hand-dyeing and painting yarns for the first time, which I started writing about in this recent post (lots more to come on that in future posts). And a funny thing happened almost immediately: I realized how little I actually know about color! Sure, I’ve been producing a line of color-sequencing yarns* based on my own color concepts for over 10 years, and focusing on color-palette creation more recently, but when it came to actually mixing dyes in an attempt to create unique colors, it took me maybe 5 minutes to figure out that I needed more information. That’s when I found this book.

“Color” is written primarily for artists, yes, so most of the exercises are relative to painting. However, there is so much information about color itself that I found the book not only incredibly helpful in terms of basic color theory, but that it also greatly increases my awareness of, and appreciation for, the use of color in actual artwork. But for purposes of this post, I’m focusing on the color theory. I hope you’ll find it as beneficial as I have!

I did promise this would be a crash course, not a treatise, so I’ll make this as brief as possible, starting with a classic color wheel:

Color wheel

Color wheel. Isn’t it pretty? Courtesy of Northlite.net. Click the wheel to see it on their website.

You’re most likely already familiar with the color concepts presented on the wheel: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary colors. Personally, I thought I had a handle on this, but some specific details gave me new insights. For example, I was aware that each secondary color (green, orange, violet) is a combination of 2 of the 3 primary colors (red, blue, yellow), but I didn’t know that the tertiary colors  (the hyphenated ones) are each a combination of a primary and a secondary color. And for dye-mixing purposes, believe me, this is quite a revelation, as you’ll see.

Tip: When I was just looking around for a good color wheel image, I was startled (and somewhat confused) by the enormous range of wheel styles. My advice is to stick with the basic 12-color wheel; it’s really all you need.

Now that we’ve absorbed the color wheel concepts, let’s move on to the 3 main attributes of a given color: hue, value, and intensity.

Just for fun, let’s use Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid, as our example:

Radiant Orchid

Radiant Orchid. Can you name its hue, value, and intensity? (I couldn’t, before reading Betty’s book.) Click on the picture to find this fab flash drive at Pantone.

  1. Hue refers to the color family your color belongs to; to determine this, find the color on the wheel that you think is closest to Radiant Orchid. I’m thinking Red-Violet.
  2. Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color: white is at one end of this scale, black at the other. Radiant Orchid looks like it’s slightly on the medium-dark side.
  3. Intensity (also known as saturation or brightness) refers to a scale that goes from bright to dull. A fluorescent color, for example, would definitely be at the bright end, while a smoky shade would be closer to the dull end. Our Radiant Orchid looks like it belongs on the brighter (but not brightest) end.

Tip: If you have worked in Photoshop or another photo-editing application, you’re probably familiar with the term “desaturation”; if an image is completely desaturated, there’s no color at all— it’s greyscale. So you can think of colors on the dull end of the intensity scale as having grey added to them, replacing color. In dyeing, as with mixing paints, adding a bit of the complementary color—the one exactly opposite on the color wheel—also dulls the intensity, but without changing the original hue.

So Radiant Orchid can also be described as medium-dark, medium-bright red-violet. Ta-dah!

Okay. I realize this is still just theory. How does it apply to my dyeing projects? Well, since I’m determined to mix my own colors from primary dye colors (as opposed to using pre-mixed “fashion” colors), this is of tremendous help to me in planning which primaries to mix together. For Radiant Orchid, I’ll no doubt have to experiment to get an exact match, but I’d say that starting with red and blue, with a higher proportion of red (to make the hue red-violet), in a solution that’s not very diluted (so the value stays medium-dark), and possibly with a touch of yellow-green (red-violet’s complement) to slightly dull the intensity.

And what about dyeing your clothes? Well, assuming you’re starting with something other than a pure white garment, technically what you’ll be doing is over-dyeing, that is, adding color to an existing color, as I did with my jeans in one of my early dyeing projects on CYC. So if you’re starting with light-blue denim, which is already on the dull side of the intensity scale, you may want to dye it with a bright shade, which will take on some of the qualities of the original denim color (fiber dyes are essentially transparent); if you used, for instance, a bright shade of green dye, your results will most likely be an interesting blue-green hybrid, but your jeans will probably not be as bright as the dye color itself.

Honestly, now that I’ve learned about color hue, value, and intensity, I feel so much better prepared for my dyeing experiments; instead of just throwing colors together and waiting to see what happens, I have a solid basis with which to predict the results. This (I assume) will not only save me time (less experimenting), but also money, for the dyes and the undyed yarns I’m starting with.

I’ll leave you with this liberating thought: you don’t have to ever dye anything to apply these basic color theory principles to your wardrobe! Simply going into your closet and really looking at the colors that have collected there will give you new insights into the colors you prefer. Dark, light, bright, smoky, neutral, happy? Try to think of words that sum up your colors— then remember them when you’re shopping, dyeing, or otherwise changing your clothes.

*You can find my color-sequencing yarns in the Scraplet Skeins section of my Knittique Etsy shop. (Be sure to look at the color cards to see the entire color sequences in each skein.) And while you’re there, take a look my first hand-painted skeins, in the New! Hand-painted Yarns section.


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Liebster Award!

From my new blogging friend Michelle over at Preppy Boho comes a Liebster award nomination for Changing Your Clothes!

liebster-award

The Liebster Award recognizes upcoming blogs and tries to direct people to them. As it reads, the purpose is really to discover new blogs and help new bloggers on the way. Continue reading


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We Interrupt This Blog-Cast…

… to introduce The Renegade Seamstress! Beth is an incredibly popular blogger focusing on refashioning clothes, and I love/follow/am inspired by her!

Here’s just one example of her work:

Before

One of TRS’s projects, before

Continue reading


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Lindy Reads: The Thoughtful Dresser

The Thoughtful Dresser, a book by Linda Grant that started as a blog, is one of my favorite clothes-related reads in the past few years. (Click here to go to Linda’s blog; click here to find the book for sale at Amazon.) Its subtitle, The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter, really describes the content so well that I don’t have anything to add. Except, now that I think about it, that this book not only relates some remarkable stories of the ways in which clothes can transform lives, it also dispels the erroneous mindset that people who love fashion are superficial (or worse, boring). I highly recommend this book, and would love to know what you think of it!

The Thoughtful Dresser

The Thoughtful Dresser, by Linda Grant: one of my favorite books on the subject of clothes. (Click on the picture to go to Linda’s blog.)