Divine Color!

I bought this fabulous color-wheel umbrella (at left) from the Museum of Modern Art’s online store last week, and it has me thinking about color palettes. When you love every color, as I do, it’s easy to respond impulsively to color and end up with things that don’t harmonize very well, or to avoid color altogether when there are too many choices. As with most things, a little planning can help a lot!

Designers–of clothing, books, magazines, or seasonal fabric collections–create a color palette at the very beginning of the idea and design process. Here at Stitch, we determine a color palette, or color story, for each feature in the magazine early in the planning process, and then we send out a color palette with our request for submissions for each issue (we’ve closed submissions for the current issue, but we’ll alert you here when the next call goes out). Our project designers can select from the palette, and then every piece in the story relates visually and thematically.

Stitch editor Tricia Waddell explains the process for choosing color palettes:

“For each color story, I think about the fabric possibilities and the mood I’m trying to convey.  Do we want elegant and luxurious, bright and happy, or subtle and sophisticated? Will the fabric focus be patterned cottons, rich wools, or feminine silks? Then I review color trend resources like Pantone and look at the latest fashion and home décor magazines and websites for inspiring color combinations. When we create the color palettes, we look for colors that look fresh and unexpected together but that are also very wearable and accessible. In the end, it all comes down to what looks good on you or in your home, or colors that just make you feel happy. A good example is the color palette for our upcoming “Getting Fancy” project story on using special-occasion fabrics to sew some holiday sparkle. We used rich deep colors, perfect for velvets and silks, plus metallics for a little glamour, and some brights to make it modern.”

“Getting Fancy” color palette for Stitch Fall 2010 (due out in September), designed by Pamela Norman


As you’re getting ready to sew for a season, or for your home, you can build a color palette in the same way. The Colour Lovers website is a fantastic resource; you can browse thousands of palettes for inspiration. If you have a theme in mind–say, “beach” or “fiesta”–you can put a keyword in the search box and see palettes that designers have created around that idea. Or you can search by hue, by combinations of hues, or by popularity.

Or maybe you have a photograph that you’d like to pull a color palette from. In that case, visit a site such as Color Palette Generator that lets you upload an image, and automatically converts it to a color palette. For example, here’s my photo of flowers from the farmers’ market:

And here’s the color palette that Color Palette Generator made from it:

Once you’ve generated a color palette (you can also make a grid with fewer shades), you can identify the shades that you love best from the photograph.

Color tools and trends are a lot of fun. I hope this colorful post inspires you to try new combinations as you design and sew. What’s your favorite color combination? Tell us in the comments!

Happy sewing!



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