ColorWorks: The Crafter's Guide to Color by Deb Menz does not set out to be an intimating book. It does mean to be a comprehensive looks at color principles as they apply to crafting and a distillation of what the author admits are "mountains of color information" she's picked up in her years as a crafter.
Despite trying to be simple, the book can be a little daunting if you try to read through it in one sitting and then immediately apply the concepts. If, on the other hand, you use it as a guidebook and really study and play with color with the book at your side, it's a full color education.
ColorWorks is divided into seven main chapters dealing with different principles of working with color including:
- ways to describe color
- basic color relationships
- understanding value
- color contrasts
- color harmonies
- characteristics of various crafting media and how color affects them
- choosing colors and design in various crafting media
The most wonderful thing about this book is that every color concept is described in a two-page spread. One page explains the concept in words while the other includes nine crafty swatches illustrating the concept in different media: spun yarn, knitting, weaving, hand embroidery, bead embroidery, surface design, machine embroidery, quilting and paper collage.
This is great for people who work in more than one media and also helps you see how different color "rules" look on fabric versus paper or thread, for example.
Seeing lots of different ways of interpreting the same rule makes it clearer and helps reinforce your learning.
The text explains what the pictures are showing you and provides tips for using colors correctly in your own designs.
As mentioned above this is not a book that you can just read and suddenly you know everything you need to know about color. It needs to be worked with, studied and explored as you make color choices. The book has a spiral, lay-flat binding which makes it easier to use the book as a textbook, keeping it open to the page with the concept you're thinking about as you craft, whether with yarn, fabric or paper.
In the back of the book there are the ColorWorks tools, which also help you understand and work with the concepts explained in the book. There's a shaded color wheel and a gray scale, which the author suggests you punch holes in so you can look at a fiber or fabric through the hole to help you determine the value (which is one part of color picking that has always confused me).
There are perforated swatches with a range of each color family printed on them and a set of punch-out cards that mask other colors on the color wheel when you're picking out a set of complementary colors or, say, a double triad of colors.
These tools help make choosing the right range of colors easier, but it's still up to you to find the right choices on the shelves to suit your project.
There are a lot of color books out there and I think they all add something to your knowledge of working with color. ColorWorks is probably the most comprehensive, though I also like ColorSense, particularly for the tools that come with that book (bigger swatches, a more interactive color wheel).
These books, together with some good old fashioned yarn playing, will help you become a more confident dabbler in the art of combining colors, no matter what craft you choose.
Publication date: May 2004.