Picking Colours By Saturation

If you are still on the fence as to whether to join this Fall’s MKAL 2021, Stephen West’s shawl mystery knit along, this is a fantastic place to jump in! There’s still plenty of mystery to go around but for anyone more cautious about committing to colour, as it is Week 3 there are a number of teaser/spoiler pics out in the world to peek at. New to Mystery KALs (knitalongs)? Read more about it here!


In this year’s MKAL, Stephen West suggests five skeins of solid or tonal colours with a variety of saturation. If saturation has you stumped I will share with you how I made my colour choice for this MKAL to hopefully shed some light on what this means and why it could be important to your future knits.


Saturation is sometimes referred to as colour intensity: a fully saturated colour is one of pure colour while a fully desaturated colour appears as grey. In colour theory, saturation is defined by a range from pure colour (100%) to grey (0%).


One of the joys of such a large shawl MKAL is being able to use five full skeins of yarn that I have been coveting but not using in my stash! I fear I may not be alone in purchasing a skein or two of lovely hand-dyed fingering weight and just staring at it for weeks, months or sometimes years without finding it a project! At the store one of our favorite things is to have people come with a skein or two of such a favourite, and matching it with complementary yarns to round out a project.

Having a long and deep stash dive, here is what I started with…


So where to start? Are you familiar with the mono/monochrome feature on your phone’s editing options? Well, this can help you unravel the mystery of grey-tones! I took this photo, and then used it to figure out which skeins had similar saturation levels as a means to being able to pick between similar levels:


I found it helped to sort them according to intensity, and then I could actually pull five colours that I felt worked together with various levels of saturation:



Pretty neat, eh? If you notice in the colour photo above, brightness alone is not a determining factor in saturation. There’s a lot of variety in the mid-tone levels of saturation, and this also helped me decide whether I wanted to add in a speckled skein; in the photo the yarn second from the top showed me that the many of the colours speckled within that skein are pretty mellow in terms of saturation. The skein kept a consistent level of saturation and could be used without being overall too distracting. And from this I chose these five colourways for my shawl:


But colour choices do not stop here. Now that I had five skeins, which order do I place them in for my shawl? Again I would go back to opting for a monochrome photo to help me with this and I use what Stephen West calls a “lazy swatch” to play with choosing how best colours work together. A lazy swatch consists of using a small piece of cardboard and wrapping a few lines of each colour side by side. Then you can edit the photo into a black & white mono, to see how different colours balance each other. If you want colours to stand out from each other, you want to place ones of different saturation levels side by side; whereas if you want a mellow colour change you could gradually scale the saturation of your colours.


Of course, that assumes that a pattern will be using colours (ie MC, CC1, CC2…) in an orderly fashion which is almost never the case with Stephen West’s MKALs! He is known to throw multiple colour combinations together. But it always helps to know this colour theory as a starting point to any project.


And if you are the type of knitter that needs more control over your colour combinations, this is where you can dive into the myriad of spoiler photos that show the hundreds of works-in-progress to help you choose which might work best for you. And as always, if you need a helping hand in finding that perfect skein or combo, you can come by our fav little LYS and together we can dive into our shared wonderful world of colour!


SPOILER ALERT... below is a photo of three of our team’s colour choices at different stages of our MKAL 2021 WIP!














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