3KCBWDAY1 Shades of Meaning

My leftover balls of yarn attest to my preference for vibrant colors.

“With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.”

Henri Matisse

Last winter I dyed my hair a shocking red color, not because I was in love with that particular shade, but because I was in need of a spark to reignite my bored and tired self.  While I am a natural strawberry blond, by late December each year the lack of sunlight has wreaked havoc on my hair, turning it a dull brownish color.  In the same manner, finishing up the end of a semester as a high school teacher during the winter months is always accompanied by exhaustion and the need for revitalization of my spirits.  In the winter an infusion of bright bottled red is a surefire way to to add a punch of energy and warmth to my appearance and to my psyche. 

In a similar manner, I am very aware of the emotional impact of colors when I choose clothing, yarn for my knitting projects, or fabric and paint to decorate my home.   While I can appreciate the earthy organic appeal of brown, I never feel quite comfortable wearing this color or living surrounded by this woodsy tone.  While I do have a few brown pieces of clothing (and I often don these garments in the morning as I get ready for school), I habitually take them off again before I leave home, in favor of wearing fuchsias, greens, purples, or blues.  

I have knitted a brown vest with wonderful chunky multi-toned yarn, but before its completion the unfinished work sat in a bag for well over a year.  I literally dreaded looking at the brown yarn, especially in the middle of winter, choosing instead to work on brighter-colored garments whose hues instantly affected my mood in a positive manner.  Ultimately, I did make myself finish the vest, with just enough time left before the temperatures grew warmer to wear it once  before packing it away for a year.  The garment is cabled and attractive, but wearing it makes me feel dull and washed out. I do sometimes, however, choose black clothing, but typically because this color (or lack of color, I suppose) serves as a backdrop to highlight colorful makeup, hair, and sometimes a bright scarf or belt.  I have knitted a couple of black items, including a favorite lace sweater, but when these garments were works in progress, I often put them aside for a while, so that I could handle and look at something more colorful.

Here is the vest.  I am
smiling in  this picture, but
feel dowdy  wearing earth

The fact is, color has an overwhelming impact on my consciousness.  Of course, I am not alone.  Writers and artists are well aware of the effect of color, hence the dystopian world of 1984 is depicted as gray and dusty and the movie world of Pleasantville is only imbued with color when its inhabitants break out of the constraints of their sanitized world.  Apparently, according to an article by Jeremy Laurance in The Independent, depressed people actually do tend to see things in shades of gray.  The author of the piece gives Claude Monet as an example.  Monet, renowned for his use of colors inspired by nature, used "sombre" tones to paint his dying wife.  And marketers have known for ages that color impacts a person's attitude and behavior--hence the prevalence of hunger-inducing red in restaurant dining rooms. 

I loved the colors of the yarn on this mannequin so much (which was on display
at Vogue Knitting Live in January of 2012), I had to take a picture. 

So maybe the rich hues of hues of yarn and fiber I gravitate towards and the dyes I have used from time to time to tint yarn provide effective coping mechanisms for me.  Bright colors help me to deal  with the dull cinder-block world of the public high school classroom, with its current mania for  testing, data, and accountability.  In this environment, one which pays lip service to individuality but praises uniformity, one where students and teachers are sometimes cut off from the world in all its rich variety, texture, and color, vivid tones, like my red hair coloring or the dazzling shades of a variegated yarn, provide a boost of cheerfulness and hope. 

The rainbow colored sweater made with
Noro yarn perks up my spirits (as do the
beautiful spring blossoms behind me.)


  1. Oh, that Moro carding looks so lovely on you!

  2. Love the sweater, great colours! And it does look lovely on you, because you look so happy in it! So I agree, colours can really make a person happy.

  3. First, thanks for being a high school teacher. I teach 5th and it is the highest grade I would want to teach....second, bright red hair is great and I dye mine several times a year. Third the green Noro sweater is beautiful....

  4. the rainbow cardigan definately suits your colouring better

  5. Hooray! A teacher, first of all!
    You are very eloquent in this post. The intellectual flow and vibe that permeate your thoughts and examination of color was extremely enjoyable!
    I love that Noro cardi on you. You beam in it!

  6. I love the photo of the vibrant colors! I tend to use softer tones but should consider vibrant ones too. You look super in your Noro cardi!

  7. Been having a longer look through your posts from last week. I find this one fascinating - and the thing that really strikes me about the two pics of you is that while you are smiling in both, in the first one you seem less at ease, more tentative and diffident while in the second you are confident and have a lovely assured poise about you. Clothes ought to be superficial and in a sense of course they are but while often we think about their impact on others it's amazing just how influential they are first of all on ourselves which is interesting really when you consider that we don't see them on us as extensively as others do. Like you, I am usually an eschewer of brown (and yellow and orange) in what I wear and tend to make. Earthy muted tones have to be treated warily in my book although I am beginning to experiment with their role as a neutral canvas against which to wear other accent colours more. Either way the impact of colour on the wearer is much more than just what suits a particular colouring I think. And I wonder what it is that makes us instinctively love some colours and not others. Association? Light-reflectiveness? Education / culture? Environment? May be all of the above! Thank you for setting me thinking. I suspect your high school students are very lucky to have you. All the best teachers have that quality of triggering reflection and thinking. Elizabeth


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