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Finding Color Inspiration in Unexpected Places

Knitting to Heal: Carol's Project Knitwell StoryIn this guest post by Phyllis Alberici, she finds yarn-spiration from an unlikely source.

Two weeks ago I received a text message with an unusual image: an abandoned railroad car.

I was sitting on the porch on a hot humid afternoon enjoying a vanilla ice cream cone and hoping writing inspiration would strike when a message with a photo popped up on my cell phone. It was from my son who has the kind of job that takes him to unusual places.

“Check out this picture I took.” Wait! Could that be an old freight car painted with graffiti? The colors were a palette of subtle teals, greens, rusts, pinks, silvers, reds and more. What I saw wasn’t a rusting rail car shoved aside to rot but a painting with colors that blended and swirled.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” he added. It certainly was.

My usual reaction to graffiti scrawled on railroad cars is “Look at the mess they made.” My Dad used to say, “See before you speak,” and these words came to me as I processed the image on my phone. Time and age had mellowed the graffiti to something worthy of a skein or two or more of yarn. My son had sent me an image that fascinated him and I found color in an unexpected, and unlikely, place.

As crafters, we expect to be a little overwhelmed, happily so, when we look at racks and bins of yarn. Ideas start to percolate at the potential in each skein. We cruise the internet or admire someone else’s projects looking for new ideas.

But think about this: what if we went looking for color palettes in unusual and unexpected places?

Last winter I became ill, seriously and unexpectedly sick in a way that changed my life. Color and yarn pulled me through and out of the dark place the illness had taken me. Skeins of yarn wove themselves into a lifeline. I started to look for colors where I hadn’t before.

Yesterday I decided to go on an expedition with the railroad car picture in hand. I wanted to see how any colors I could find to incorporate into a stranded sweater or scarf, a cowl or maybe some mittens for the winter ahead. Or a blanket. Winter is always a great time to make a blanket.

But before I could think about a road trip, I was side-tracked by a colander full of colorful tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden. Unlike the colors of the railroad car, these colors weren’t mellow and soothing. These screamed at me to take a picture. Now I had two reasons to head out on a yarn expedition with two completely different palettes: one soft and mellow, the other bold and sunny.

I’m always looking for new ideas for colors to put together for my never-ending list of projects. I think I’ll start carrying a camera with me just in case. How about joining me? It would be great fun to see your photos of the unexpected colors you find out there.

Where do you find inspiration for your projects? Check out a few of our favorite color palettes, based on artwork:

yarn_colorpalette_heartland yarn_colorpalette_amazing2 yarn_colorpalette_heartlandtweed
Color palette created with Heartland® Color palette created with Amazing® Color palette created with Heartland®


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  • MsBxq

    One crispy-cold Fall morning on the campus of the city university, I was walking through the Park Blocks and was in awe at all the beautiful shades of the spent Maple leaves, as the morning sun cast a glow that created a translucence effect with the other leaves on the tree. I get many color combination ideas from nature.