Saturday, 27 September 2014

My completed Renulek Spring 2014 Napkin; how I chose my colours

On 7 September, I was able to borrow my brother-in-law's camera and take a good picture of my completed, blocked Renulek Spring 2014 Napkin in natural daylight, and do some justice to the colours of the threads. Here it is at last! :-)

Renulek Spring 2014 Napkin, finished and blocked

It's 17 inches (or 43 cm) across after blocking. I feel really proud of it, of course, and I'm just sorry that there isn't any state fair in Singapore where I can enter it and have it displayed. Anyway, I have submitted it in an online competition. :-)

Several people have said that they really like the colours I used. I have listed them in my previous posts; here I will just tell how I came to have this colour scheme. There was a tat-along for this doily on InTatters earlier this year. I was watching as the other members tatted each round of this doily in various lovely colour combinations. I was at that time working on the Victorian Trellis Doily (in cream only), but finally I caved in and decided to join, and went to look at my thread stash and choose colours. So, I didn't buy any new thread — all the colours I used, I already had.

I should mention that, shortly before this, the Tatting Designers Online Class had discussed basic colour theory. Our instructor, Susan K. Fuller, showed us colour wheels at various websites, and we looked at complementary (i.e., contrasting) and analogic (i.e., similar) colour schemes. We talked about warm and cool colours, intense and dull colours. In particular, I remember learning that yellow was a very powerful colour.

I also already knew that it's quite easy to overwhelm the design of a doily by using variegated colours that are too strong — as exemplified in this post by Jon Yusoff. I thought, I'm not very brave, I'll probably go with analogic colour combinations.

So, with all this in my mind, I put my balls of Lizbeth 40 side by side and looked at them. I had a vague idea that I wanted to create an impression of flowers on a background of leaves. Somehow I decided on Butterfly Breeze and Pineapple Parfait for Round 1. I think I picked Pineapple Parfait because I thought of Round 1 as a flower, and a flower ought to have a yellow centre. I had a few other colours shortlisted, but nothing firmly decided for the rest of the doily.

So, after tatting Round 1, I wanted some blue flowers for Round 2. Enter Arctic Waters. Blue flowers with yellow centres — Pineapple Parfait again.

In Round 3, I meant to start introducing Leafy Green. But, as I wrote in this blog post, I changed my mind. I realised that I had to use Pineapple Parfait yet again to make the flowers in Round 3 pop forward.

At that point, I realised that Pineapple Parfait was the powerful yellow foundation for the colour scheme of my doily. I decided to use it only for the rounds that seemed like flowers. At that time, that was only Round 8 — Renulek had not yet come out with the final rounds. But when I saw her Rounds 12 and 13, I knew that they needed to be partially or completely yellow, too. For the rounds that seemed more like leaves and vines, I planned to use green threads, but combine them with variegated threads to suggest little blossoms among the vines.

Round 4 needed to be a more receding colour combination than Round 3. Which green? I decided on Spring Green. It's weak compared to yellow, but it's a little stronger, more forthcoming and more spring-y than Leafy Greens. I had found out in Round 3 that Butterfly Breeze was not as strong as Fruit Fizz — so I now used it in Round 4.  I finally introduced Leafy Greens in Round 5, which I wanted to be still more receding than Round 4.

At about Round 5, I decided that six colourways was enough! I would not introduce more. So, Pineapple Parfait to accentuate flower centres or other important parts of the design. Three colourways for flower petals — Butterfly Breeze, Arctic Waters and Fruit Fizz. Two greens to give some variety to the cooler parts of the pattern — Spring Green and Leafy Greens. Also, I would try not to use the same colours for petals and leaves in successive rounds, but alternate between them.

That was my overall plan, but I didn't decide for sure on the colours for each round until I had finished the previous round and could look at the whole doily as it grew. For the final round, I was very tempted to introduce a seventh colourway — something with yellow and pink/red, for the edges of the big yellow flower petals of Rounds 12 and 13. I had a ball of Tropical Fruit Punch, and I matched it with my Pineapple Parfait. But then I realised that Butterfly Breeze also had yellow and pink. It was also particularly nice to finish Round 13 with the same colours that I had started with in Round 1.

I knew I was breaking the rules for colours in doilies — I had way too many! I would swamp the design! I kept wondering whether my experiment would work out. Would the design of the doily be clear? Or would it be a garish mess?

Now that it's done, I think I can declare the experiment a success! :-D I can see a few reasons for that:
  1. Three of my variegates are analogic colour combinations. That is, Pineapple Parfait is a combination of yellows, Arctic Waters a combination of blues, and Leafy Greens a combination of greens.
  2. Except for Pineapple Parfait, each colourway marched in only one round, then was switched out. This kept the multicolour variegated colourways (Butterfly Breeze and Fruit Fizz) from swamping the design.
  3. Both my multicolour variegates have yellow or orange as one of their colours. This gave them some harmony with Pineapple Parfait when I combined them.
  4. I had an overall intention — Spring Flowers — for the scheme of colours and the impression I was going for.
Lessons for future doilies? I think the main one is, use the stronger, 'popping forward' colours for the parts of a doily that you want to emphasise, and the duller, more receding colours for the parts of the doily that are more like background. I'm using this principle in the much more muted colour scheme I'm using for Jan Stawasz's Moje Robótki 8/2007 Big Doily. Also, look at the design of a doily and have an idea why you want to use a colour in this or that place. Also, yellow rules!

And finally… with perseverance, and good company on the journey — Yes, I CAN finish a big doily! :-D


  1. Very enlightening post, Grace, And can't say it enough .... your doily Rules :-)))

  2. Your doily is beautiful, well done on finishing it. A real master piece hope you win the competition

  3. Your doily is so absolutely gorgeous and really says Spring when I look at it!!! :) My husband just saw it and said buy it for me, or make me one!!! some point I may be making it, but it sure won't be as gorgeous as yours is!!! :)

  4. Well, you did a really good job with those colour choices! Fabulous.

  5. Gorgeous, and thank you for your thoughts on how you chose your colors.

  6. This is beautiful I love this one I did one of her doilies too!

  7. I love how you describe this process, and how you have synthesized a number of different sources to come up with the colours. Having a guiding vision is a good idea before starting any project- though I admit I sometimes rush in and just want to start :) Thanks for sharing this - it will be helpful to many of us :)

  8. Great job! And yes, you CAN! : ))

  9. I'm glad you color experiment worked out so well, your doily is spectacular! Ü. It was fun tatting along with this one!

  10. Aha! I DID see this! : )) it is so pretty.