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Color me…neutral.

Color—my favorite thing to talk about and play with and really do just about anything in relation to.

As part of the Sock Club for the past two years, we have done some in depth color studies. I really love doing these, and do not really have the opportunity to do them with every shipment.

So, I have decided that we should also do them here, where we can all be involved. Since it is fall and the turn back to the earth, we are going to start with the oh so warm and comforting brown.

I have been musing over this idea and how I want to approach it for a few weeks now (I am a little slow these days). Right after Oregon Flock and Fiber, I received a very interesting email from another dyer with a question that at first glance seemed simple enough but the longer I sat with it, the more thought provoking it was.

She wanted to know why someone so consumed with color wears such neutral colors. (I wore shades of gray that weekend.)

It took a bit to answer her because it did give me pause.

The obvious answer is I am not a small woman and honestly these are the colors that look best on me, or at least I think they do. I like to use bright colorful pieces like scarves as accents to my neutral self. 

The more I thought about this and also about brown and color in general, I realized that her question gave me pause because she was curious as to how a person who obviously has a love affair with color did not decorate themselves head to toe with it. Since it is not the first time I have been asked this question, and most probably will not be the last, well back to the thinking…

So why is this true for me? I have seen a lot of obvious colorful people all decorated on the outside with what I assume is an expression of what they (at least) like. And you know I admire those colorful souls that can pull that off and carry it well. That is most certainly not me. It actually makes me feel a little queasy, and I now know one of the biggest reasons why.

I need to be neutral because what is true for me is I immerse my whole self in whatever palette I am exploring. I experience it on a cellular soul level and almost become one with whatever hue or shade or tone I am loving at that moment. I know it sounds corny as hell but nonetheless it is true for me.

It’s actually my general approach to life. I am a full immersion kind of girl. This approach does create problems for me every once in a while but mostly it leads me to very rich and rewarding experiences. I cannot imagine life any other way and certainly not the color part of it.

I would be very interested to hear from other dyers or artists as to their feelings and experience about our art.

So stay tuned for my first installment of Color Immersion depravedDyer style beginning with case study #1: All That Is Brown.

  1. I have been a study in grey recently…

    I get overtaken by certain colors, and only want to wear them with jeans or black or whatever. For a while there it was green, now it’s grey. (And there was a long time when I couldn’t ‘do’ brown because it reminded me of a ‘brown phase’ I’d had when I was rather sad.

    I am fascinated to see where your immersion takes you, and by proxy, us.

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  2. Sarah Hauschka #

    I am remembering a brief conversation at Sock Camp earlier this year. I voted for obsidian as my favorite color, because it was a wonderful foil for everything else. What I dyed in the class was full of color, but the dark neutral was there in my mind.

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  3. Tracybird #

    Born to a woman who is constitutionally incapable of wearing anything but black, brown, navy or bone.  I wore very bright colors in my 20/30s, but now I seem stuck in varying shades, hues and concentrations of the colors red and green.  My favorite color, by far is blue, just not for wearing.

    I used to wear one color from head to toe. Socks, tight, shoes, pants or skirt, shirt.  All beige, all grey, all black.  Very wierd. I think it was a reaction to a weight problem I had in my 20s.  all one color was supposed to be slimming.

    Knitting has broadened my wearing choices.  I always had black or brown or navy socks.  Well now, that would just be SAD for handknitted socks wouldn’t it?  Knitting has just made me so thrilled with color.  I get the same goofy look on my face as I do when I see sheep.  All warm and gushy inside.  I thinks that is why I like knitting shops so much.  The colors are wonderful to take in.  All of them.  Except orange and orange and purple:-)

    I bought blue yarn (LSS in Spinel)at OFF last month, just to break out of my red and green mode.  We’ll see how well I do going forward

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  4. JulieM #

    I cannot wait to see your color immersion results.  I love neutrals—they make a perfect backdrop as well as a focal point.  I love color and am constantly fascinated by the incredible results indie dyers get.  However, I tend to wear much more traditional and conservative clothing.  So, where to use some of these wonderful colors remains a puzzle to me!

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  5. Lolly #

    Because of where I work I have to wear boring clothes so I think I make up for it with the yarn I buy. I gravitate towards bright jewel tones and colors as that lets me show my real personality in accessories.  But you must have the beautiful muted colors to show of the bright vibrant colors to work.

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  6. Alice in the Heartland #

    The state of Iowa would fit right in to a study of brown right now. Corn and beans drying in the fields giving them a golden tan (or dull dusty brown). When you get up close you see the reds, russets and greens hanging on till the end. Harvested fields being turned over (disked) showing the deep rich loamy soil Iowa is famous for. Think dark chocolate brown. The trees turning color (some actually go through the red/gold stage that New England is known for this time of year) but most of them go straight to varying shades of brown and bare.

    Looking forward to a Depraved Dyer look at browns.

    Oh as to clothes color choices. Who cares? Wear what’s comfortable and fits the environment in which you work. If you feel you need “slimming” colors fine. If you want to be bold and brassy also fine. Tina is as Tina does. But you already know that. Hugs from a knitter way behind in her club knitting.

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  7. Hazel Smith #

    Alice is right. What colours you choose to wear is your business. What is practical for work(dyeing) and what is better for socializing surely are two entirely different things. However, I will hesitantly make one suggestion. Gray looks absolutely fabulous on silver haired men and women. That’s not you. Why not make your lush, warm browns your base colour? I’ve seen you only in pictures, but I think the warm colour would suit you and think of all the lovely jewel tone and harvest fall accents you could add to it to minimize the monotony(if you thought it was getting monotonous). However, I don’t like to be dictatorial. Just keep dyeing your wonderful yarn and you can dress like the Paper Bag Princess for all I care. Actually, she wore light brown, not the yummy warm brown of which I’m thinking. Time to get back to knitting socks with your Rare Gems light weight. Cheers and red wine, Hazel.

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  8. There’s something universally ironic about it.  If you look at all the supposed fashionistas that attend fashion shows and all the editors for the fashion magazines that declare what color is in for the season (X is the new black), what are they wearing?  Unrelenting black, black, and black.  Same thing with the makeup artists.  They put models in whacked out makeup and what are they wearing?  Absolutely no makeup at all.  Purposeful irony or not?  Who knows. 

    That said, I think neutrals (browns, blacks, creams, grays) are always a good foundation to showcase a color or a certain group of colors.  So there is always that.

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  9. Oh how wonderful!  I am ready to go along for the ride-I know it will be most excellent!

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  10. I clap my hands and say, YAY to BROWNS!!!

    You know, about those ‘neutrals’-I do the same (dressing-wise).  For me, I think I just don’t like to call that much attention to myself and like to be more low-key, blend in.  Then shock people with some of the stuff that emerges from my mouth!

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  11. Tanu #

    A colorway with a base of brown…a woman after my own heart!

    I love to look at colorways based on the color wheel and since brown is right smack in the middle, i like to make it lean in certain directions.  My favorite brown is a deep, rich, chocolate brown which leans towards the reds – has a touch more of red which gives it the warm comforting feeling.  I love this with a contrast color and opposite red would be the blue/yellow area so colors like turquoise or mint-green look stunning with the chocolate brown.

    Now, in terms of ratios (and this is all my personal preference here), when using the neutral brown leaning red, contrast colors look best to me in “splashes” or that the brown is the major part of the colorway (75% or higher).  Or if you use other colors that are on the red side of the wheel such as pinks, oranges, and purples, i like the neutral to be approximately 50/50 or even to have brown as the “splash”.

    Hope this provides food for thought and i can’t wait to see what you do with the colorway!

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  12. I agree with Alice and Hazel – wear what you feel comfortable in and like, because when you like what you wear it give you confidence and you look fabulous. (And you would look fabulous in warm browns, I think.)

    I wear a lot of black and brown. Mostly because it’s easy. And because I can pair either with green. Lots of green. Any shade of green, from palest mint through pond scum to deepest forest. Love me some green! (green goes well with gray, too… just saying)

    My mother loved, and looked lovely in, a bright orange-red. She could never understand why I avoided it, but it makes me look like some zombie nightmare. Reds that I wear must be reds on the bluer side of the scale. And just a little splash. Red looks lovely with brown.

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  13. Hazel Smith #

    Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! The amazing, the astounding, the fabulous, the talented, the practical genius, the famous Judy Becker mentioned my name in her comment. I’m overwhelmed!!!! Cheers, and lots more red wine, Hazel.

    P.S. I guess that was a little over the top, but it’s probably as close as I’m going to get to Judy Becker in real life since we live on opposite sides of the continent.

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  14. linda A Reynolds #

    I love color and have found many times the artists whose color work I have most admired have surprised me in their choice of color in their clothing. Silvertons’wonderful artist, Ann Altman ,whose vibrant paintings are impassioned with color is a very quiet subdued person and dresses in a subdued manor yet her artwork is awash with fantastic amounts of color. One of my favorite artists of all time, Georgia Okeefe wore only black yet her work in color is incredible. It seems to me that the color came out of her and she kept her person self in black to make way for the wash of color she put in her work. I think it helped her work stand out more than her self. It was almost as if she wanted to be behind the canvas , or to recede and let the color come forward and speak for her.  Personally during a very trying part of my life I found myself wearing black ,lots of it and not even realizing I was doing it. One day it shifted and I started wearing color again. Now,I find as I age I wear more colors,sometimes as accents and sometimes just because it feels right. Color is an interesting subject. Dark brown I think is beautiful but on me I feel a bit saddened by it,on some women it looks elegant and wonderful. Yet,I just bought the most beautiful grey brown cashmere to make a cowl with. I thinks tints,tones, and shades bring out different emotional reactions in people. Perhaps it is what individuals visual memories the color triggers.

    I am not surprised you choose neutral colors to wear because you are a gifted color creator and I thank you.

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  15. Amy Detjen #

    I agree with Alice: you can’t live in the Midwest all winter if you don’t appreciate the beauty of 13 shades of gray and 17 shades of brown! Even so, by March my eyes are starved for the barest glimpse of true spring green.

    Tina will knock our socks off with her neutrals, just as she did with the Raven collection.

    Amy, of the unrelenting purple

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  16. One sees colors differently by their context: just like humanity itself, each one influences the one next to it in how it is perceived and reacted to.  By keeping yours neutral, you let each set of colorways flow forth unimpeded.

    I know that when I have a project that’s stalling out, I need to go put on an outfit that compliments rather than clashes with that bit of knitting, and then it just comes naturally.

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  17. Alice in the Heartland #

    I agree with Hazel! Wow! First Hazel herself then not only Judy Becker (Hi Judy!) but Amy Detjen too! I’m touched. A sincere Thank You.

    Now waiting for Tina to start color case study #1: All That Is Brown.

    Hoping the sun stays out tomorrow so I can get some snapshots of harvest time and put them up on flickr.

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  18. Georgia O’Keefe only wore black.  I believe she is reported as having said that she wanted her morning preparation to be easy so she could immerse herself in her work.  Michael Kors only wears black, too.  He said he also likes to keep his closet easy.  I, too, have been dressing in neutrals, especially Eileen Fisher, mostly in black and brown.  I love brown.  I think when color is your work, there is a psychological need to have a bit of separation between work and the rest of one’s life.  Just like cardiologists don’t wear intarsia heart sweaters, people who work with color often don’t wear a lot of it.  Just my 2 bits.

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  19. From reading the comments it’s sounding like the artists are wearing neutrals so that they don’t detract from their art when they are showing it.

    I’m a large-sized woman who had her black period but moved toward rich colors.  My standard building blocks are neutral bottom half and colored upper half with socks to match (or harmonize if the matches are in the laundry) the upper half.  With my hair going silver my palette has increased to include some cooler colors.

    (Unsolicited advice—you’re welcome to ignore) I would try to steer toward the medium to darker warmer tones of neutrals.  With your light hair the lighter colors can tend to make you more washed out like a gray day in February.

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  20. Hazel Smith #

    There is a colour called “gallery gray” because it’s often seen on art gallery walls and shows the art on the walls to advantage. Years ago, when they were discussing Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto-lots of glass and very gray in the lobby areas-the designer said that he wanted the walls to be neutral and the people to provide the colour. What a warm and lovely idea!!!

    P.S. One of the advantages of beginning to go gray is that I can now wear a very sparkly, silver jacket that I lusted after and finally bought.

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  21. Val Champ #

    I started dyeing fabric for quilters about 6 years ago,.  It was nothing to see fabrics hanging from the trees in the front yard, or off of the fence, or just laying in the grass.  The more that I dyed the more I realized that blue was not my favorite colour, but that red was..the redder the better.

    But I never wore red.  I wore olive green a lot because I was used to it.  I was in the Air Force as a helicopter mechanic and we wore blue…all the time except when we were in olive drab.  Neither colour looked good, but they were “familiar”

    After I retired…the safe colours were gone..however red entranced me…literally.  I have been retired 9 years now and I don’t believe that there is a day that I don’t wear something red…it motivates and energizes me.  If I hadn’t been dyeing fabric tho, I am not sure that I would have gone that way tho…something about the changing of the fabric from plain to colour inspired me to start wearing red?  I am not sure, however I do know that I have yarn enough to knit 2 red sweaters…really who needs 2?  But they will be fun to knit and terrific to wear.

    Sorry, I think that I got off track here…I have a head cold and that is my excuse I guess….I do love what you do with colour…that is for sure.

    My trip back into knitting after 25 years has been inspired by your colours…

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  22. I’m embarking on my own color study as I finally get down to some scientific dyeing. I tend away from wearing more than a t-shirt with some solid color on it and a pair of blue jeans, but after knitting socks for a while I eventually accepted color on my feet. My socks still seem a bit loud to me at times, but I guess I enjoy working with color more than wearing it!

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  23. marcy #

    I have been pondering this. I think that wearing the neutrals opens you up to the world of colorful.  The fact that colors can compliment and on compete with what you wear allows for the creation of colors and blends. 

    Do painters start with a fuschia canvas? i think not…

    A neutral base wardrobe allows for colorful accents…just sayin…

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  24. My sister is a painter and says she wears neutrals because she loves all the colours and doesn’t want them to get jealous. I had to extract myself from my black phase and think of brown and blue as real colours and not just neutrals. I love to wear different shades of the same colour and see how they interact with oneanother.

    Wear what helps you be yourself.

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  25. Dyepotgirl #

    What a riot! I’m a dyer and I’ve been asked the same thing on quite a few occasions. I love color, and my yarns and fibers tend to be bright rich saturated colors. My friends can spot something I’ve dyed right away. I tend to wear more neutral colors, and jeans and T-shirts are pretty much my idea of comfort, in fact it’s been called my uniform LOL! I don’t care though, when I’m in jeans and a T-shirt I’m comfortable and happy. I’m tall and definitely not skinny (no petite thing here. When I was younger and skinnier my friends called me Amazon woman!) so I usually wear a dark blue, gray, or some other neutral colored shirt, though occasionally I’ll wear some bright color just because. I do love bright colored scarves, mittens, and most of all socks! I love wearing bright hand knit socks, especially with clogs. It’s so much fun and people don’t expect it. When I take my shoes off for spinning at my wheel, bright socks seem to jump out and cheer that I actually get to have time to spin.

    Like you my dyeing goes in waves. I get a certain color combo that I get addicted to and then use it in all sorts of ways until it leads me to a new color combo for me to obsess about. Whatever colors I’m exploring, I’ll use them everywhere and in every conceivable combination. I’m drawn to those colors like a moth to a light bulb. I just can’t help it. Right now I’m into browns and blues, but I have a feeling that will change very soon.

    If I let my color explorations dictate what I wear, I would be buying a totally new wardrobe every time my color obsessions changed. I can’t afford that, and I’d rather be playing with my dyes than shopping, so it’s a neutral wardrobe for me. That doesn’t mean that I never buy something new that reflexes my current color passion, because I do. It just means that those purchases tend to be few and far between. Plus, that way I can accent whatever I’m wearing with really cool socks!

    The seasons tend to lead me into new color yearnings and I’ve learned not to buck the trends. I love really getting to know new colors and how they play with all the other colors. It’s so much fun. I really love all colors. I tell everyone that I’m a color slut because it’s so hard to pick just one favorite color LOL! If push came to shove it would probably be blue, but I can’t imagine having to pick just one color. It would be like choosing only one favorite food. I guess I just like to wear my bright colors where I can see them, and usually what I get to see is a riot of color. I couldn’t do that if I wore bright colors everywhere else. Besides, how can you not be cheered up by wild and crazy colored socks!

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  26. Reading your post, I realized I do the same thing.  My sister and I love using bright jewel toned colors and super saturated hues on our yarns and fibers.  However, neither she or I wear a lot of color.  I know I tend to wear darker colors.  I usually wear mostly black or dark grey with a touch of an intense color. 

    I think I know why I do it.  I have always been pretty awkward and shy.  I know in crowds I wish I could disapeer.  I just recently moved away from a job where I was ridiculed for loving to spin and for loving yarn.  I don’t feel comfortable having people look at me.  However, I find yarn and fiber beautiful.  I want people to see the things I made and have their eye drawn to it.  I want to use it as a way to share a memory or my favorite places.  Although most of our colorways are bright, we recently did one called “Misty Mountain.” We live close enough to Sun Valley and drove up for a fold festival.  On the way home, we took the long way back through the Sawtooth Mountains.  They looked so mysterious and magical covered with fog and mist. 

    I guess in the end, I feel comfortable sharing yarn and fiber, but not really myself.

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