“Suppose I were to begin by saying I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession. Suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious.” -Maggie Nelson, Bluets
I have thought often of these opening sentences from Maggie Nelson’s book, a lyric essay on love and on color. Some days they just drift into my head, and the feelings of that book come rushing forth. Making me think of both the feeling of falling in love, and the idea that one can fall in love with so much, beyond people and animals and plants.
Beyond the objects so often sold to us as love. That one could not just love a color, but fall in love with a color, was revelatory for me, at that time in my life. It still is, when I hold the idea in my head and let it burn.
It made me wonder what such a love made possible. It made me curious, not about her reasons for blue, which she provides in beautiful detail in the book, but about how she came to the realization that this was love. She talks about that, but, as is often the case, the love has an air of the inexplicable. But I too, have often been struck by love, not of a single color, but of them all, and like my love of words, even more so by the power of many of them in combination.
Sewing and knitting furthered this love of color, and especially the love of combining them
Until I started selecting fabric and yarn I’d never considered the idea that I could have a palette, a set of colors that felt like me. I’d always noticed color. But I didn’t think it noticed me. And yet here I had found a community of people that spent hours considering color. Loving color. Noticing it and being noticed back. What a bright world to inhabit.
I had a lot of ideas about colors
That neutrals were timid, jewel tones were bold, pastels were girly. That I had to choose which I was and stick with it.
But I feel different almost every day. Sometimes I want the comfort of a soft grey, which I no long see as timid, but as familiar and timeless.
There are mornings when nothing makes me happier than a peachy pink or sunny yellow. I’ve found myself drawn to colors I never thought I’d love like ochre and rust and brick red. And a cobalt or navy blue finds me on days when I want a color, but also want to feel relaxed and comfortable.
As I returned again and again to these colors when pulling yarn from the shelf and fabric from the bolt, I saw I had grown a palette without even realizing it. And I began combining these colors in my outfits and home. Now I find myself adding bits of green and dusty purples. My sunny yellows sometimes fade into soft oranges, my greys into pale browns and creams.
It sounds like it happened all at once, but it has been a slow process
And I like it that way. Sewing and knitting are slow things for me now, and I take inspiration from my favorite, most worn pieces, like a honey yellow, textured sweater, a blue dress, or an ochre, hand embroidered top, when I consider what to add to my wardrobe. This method feels more true to me, and though I am making less than I once was, and more slowly, I am happier with what I create.
I feel so in love with color, and so in love with making these days. It hasn’t always felt like that for me. I used to feel like I had something to prove with my sewing. But now that I have a clearer sense of what I want, and more of a focus on the process and the act of sewing, I feel proud of what I make and a stronger connection to other makers.
When trying to develop your own palette, look at what you already have, and what you reach for first in the morning, and figure out what is about that piece that you love. Color, silhouette, fabric?
Don’t be afraid to love a color others might think is too bright or too girly or too anything. What matters is how it makes you feel.
For me that changes almost daily. Some days I wake up and need to feel brave, so I reach for red. Some days I need to feel calm so I reach for cobalt or grey.
And sometimes I just want a little something extra, and need a splash of pink to feel playful and happy. Sometimes I want to feel all of those things! Brave and playful and content. And color is just the beginning, really. When you make things yourself, the possibilities are wide open. I still find myself amazed by this each time I make something new. I hope that feeling of discovery never ends. For any of us.