Buy All You’re Going to Need for Color Matching

If you’re a knitter, you probably already know how important it is to buy all the yarn you’ll need for a project all at the same time, making sure your lot numbers are the same. But for some of the rest of us, it’s something we don’t really think about, about how colors change over time. Sometimes it’s just a different dye lot, and sometimes it’s that the company tweaks the colors. Or maybe–as I suspect–they forget the recipe for a certain color and just make up something that looks close.


I’m working on a project now that involves colors I don’t usually use, and in prepping the project bag, the one I carry with me when I leave the house, I grabbed a couple skeins of #794.

Freeman-Zachery floss 1 IMG_9754

When I got ready to thread my needle, I realized the colors weren’t even close. Well, not to me, they weren’t. The one on the left is older–its wrapper is different from the newer skeins–and it’s a completely different color. This isn’t something I think about, and I was surprised (and a tiny bit irritated) to find that what I had on hand didn’t match–I had to make a trip to the store to buy more. Two skeins would have been enough, but I needed two *matching* skeins.


This makes me think about two things: one, of course, is the importance of buying enough of something–floss, paint, markers–to get through an entire project if the project is one in which precise color matching is important, and the other is the opposite: how futile it is to stock up on something you might use years later. I could buy a bunch of skeins of the “new” #794, but if, ten years from now, I’ve used all but a couple and want to start a project that requires, say, half a dozen, I probably won’t be able to buy four more and have them match exactly. I keep my floss in drawers in a wooden cabinet; think how much more this would apply to something that’s exposed to light and could fade, like paper that won’t fit in a drawer.


I know: this is probably A Big Deal only to those of us for whom color is reallyreallyreally important, but if you ARE one of us, it’s something you’re going to want to keep in mind when you begin a series. If you dye your own fabric, for example, it’s really tough to get an exact match unless you measure and/or time every. single. thing. all the way through. If you’re binding a series of handmade books in dyed leather or printed book cloth, and it’s important that they all be the same color, it’s something you need to plan for. Where’s the happy medium between making sure you have enough and stocking up on stuff that you won’t be able to match later on? I have no idea. For painters, perhaps it’s not that important: I don’t know how long paint lasts, but I’m guessing most people don’t keep the tail ends of tubes lying around for years and years. For me, I can just dedicate a drawer to bits and pieces of odd floss (I have one already). It might work for you, too–a box or bin where you can toss the ends of left-over things–paint, fabric, hand-made paper–that you won’t be able to match ten years from now but that can be mixed or incorporated into something where color matching isn’t that big a deal.

Layered, Tattered and StitchedIf stitching is your thing, check out Ruth Rae’s Layered, Tattered and Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop




Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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