How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question from one of my recent workshops. A student from my creative embroidery course at Leeds Central Library asked the question during our first session and I thought it would be a great topic to cover.

“How can I find out more about colour?”

Like most of the of the questions I get asked, there are lots of different answers so I will share my thoughts and ideas with you.

Colour Theory…

Many years ago when the year was 1990 something, I had to do several exercises as part of my A Level in textiles that explored colour theory using paint. I found it incredibly frustrating and I haven’t used it since!

The first colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton around the start of the 17th century. The three primary colours are red, blue and yellow. The three secondary colours are green, orange and purple. These are made by mixing two of the primary colours. There are six other tertiary colours.

You can pick up an artist’s colour wheel and colour mixing guides in art shops and online that can help you explore the relationship between colours. The above quote is from and has lots more information about colour theory. There is a lot of information online about colour theory so I would recommend reading more to see if this works for you.

Using your materials…

As a process led artist I love to go to my stash of materials to help me decide on the colours I will use for a particular project. Sometimes I like to use colours that colour theory wouldn’t necessarily match up but they work for my project.

When I’m looking for threads that match, this means that I’m happy with the colour. It might be a contrasting thread, this means that I could select a red thread for a green background fabric. I can also select a complimentary colour like a yellow thread on an orange fabric. If i’m not sure about a colour, I take a break for a few minutes and come back to it. If I like it when I look again then I go for it.

Colour matching…

And lastly a tip when colour matching thread to fabric, never lay a skein or reel of thread on the fabric to match the colour. This doesn’t give you the full picture when you’re trying to find the right one to buy. Instead unravel a little bit of thread and lay that on the fabric, this gives you an accurate impression of how the stitched line will look.

You can get colour charts for your favourite threads too, this will help you if you’re buying them online and can’t do a colour match.