Sock Color Study: What is Analogous?

Sorry if you clicked on the link to this post before and it was broken! I spent an hour on this post this morning, posted it, and then the internet ate it. Here’s a new attempt.

Analogous colourways come from neighbors on the color wheel. They’re next to each other: like red, red-orange, and orange. Here’s a helpful chart:

So far, so obvious. I’ve read about color wheels in the first chapter of any number of books, including the Unbraided book we are studying. So… why am I having such trouble wrapping my mind around which colourways are analogous? And why are truly analogous colourways harder to find? I’ve been peppering the internet (ok, mostly just bugging Katrina) on this topic for some time now, so, to kick off the analogous portion of this sock- and color-study spin-along, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.

Subtle Does Not Equal Analogous

For some time, I thought I’d kick off this study with a braid like this:


I saw the dominant blue-green colourway and thought, that’s probably analogous. But a closer look reveals, stop! There is definitely purple in there, as well as bits of yellow, and some areas that look like brown. This is not an analogous colourway. Purple and yellow are definitely complements, and anytime you see brown, it’s made of complements.

I had made the mistake of assuming that, since analogous braids are usually pretty subtle, that all subtle colourways are more or less analogous.

Hobbledehoy yarn

This is handspun from a very similar colorway. On the left I stripped and chain plied, and on the right, I did a 3-ply fractal. The colorway is obviously dominated by blue-green, but the hits of yellow are almost orange, and the brown-purple is made by adding a complement. This is not at all an analogous colorway; it’s an effective use of complementary colors to add depth and interest to a colorway with a single dominant hue.

This next one is my current spin. The orange and red are definitely analogous, but technically, all the hues are present in the black. But, as Katrina advised me, with the black it will act like an analogous colourway. I’m guessing that’s because the black mostly acts to shade the other hues.

nests and bobbin

So, What Is Analogous?

By contrast, these are the colors Katrina dyed as part of the breed- and color-study this year. They are clearly sticking to one corner of the colour wheel!

study fibre

The truth is, I was thinking more in terms of primaries – that an analogous colorway should contain evidence of only two. But that’s not necessarily true – blue-green, blue, blue-purple are analogous, even though the blue-green has just a biiiit of yellow, and blue-purple has just a biiiit of red. But it really has to stop there. I also wasn’t thinking about tertiary colors, which are essential to having a number of choices with an analogous colourway.

Here’s another example: the “Into the Deep” colorway, which Katrina developed to be analogous. Here, and in the blue colorway above, you can see how she played with depth of shade as well as hue. There’s not much hue contrast, but lots of value contrast. She discussed that some in the radio episode she recorded with Rachel about this study, and I think I finally get it.


These are the socks that were my test case for this study. I spun them nearly two years ago, when I first got the idea, and knit them up this past spring. One is spun as a three-ply fractal, the other as a traditional 3-ply, with colors lined up in plying.

Now, Where to Find Them?

Now that I’ve figured out what analogous really means, it’s really not that complicated. However, it is pretty rare! That pop of complementary color from across the color wheel draws our eye in, making those colourways very attractive on the shelf, and more saleable for dyers.

You can absolutely find dyers making these lovely colourways. Most dyers that I researched had at least a couple in their wheelhouse. But I had planned to use my stash, and suddenly my search for analogous braids was a fail. Katrina’s braids for the study are coming to me in the mail, but I was hoping to extend my study beyond those. I was going to have to get creative

Mary Jo on Slack had the idea of ripping up a complementary braid and spinning it as two analogous colourways. I do have a couple things in my stash that would be good for this, though they aren’t really sock-appropriate.


This yak/silk braid is just begging to be split up that way. Obviously it is not great for socks, though. I had also been considering taking a similar approach with these braids that I’ve been hoarding for an age:

15.5 micron merino

I could easily remove 3 oz of the green-yellow analogous portion to try some socks. Spinning a durable sock yarn with fine merino, though, might be a special challenge. Or just a terrible idea.

I was puzzling over this yesterday morning when I had another idea. I reached out on Rav to see if anyone would be interested in trading qiviut for hand-dyed fiber braids, and I had a great response. One nice lady is sending me these two braids, which should divvy up nicely into two complementary colourways: both with lots of blue, one leaning green and the other leaning purple.

Photo copyright SaurianStudios

Finally, I had a piece of fabric I needed to dye with some black beans for something else, so I took the opportunity to dye this random top blue and purple. It was a hand-me-down from a former spinner; I don’t know what kind of wool it is. It will likely be very pale. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Basically, an analogous colorway is a limit. 1/4 to 1/3 of the color wheel, no more. Those pops of complementary color that draw us to a colorway? Not allowed. But limits are excellent for making us try different directions. Variables like value, tint and shade, saturation. I still have lots to learn about all those things.

What colourways are you planning on spinning for your analogous study? What variables do you see in them? How will you spin them to explore their possibilities?

One thought on “Sock Color Study: What is Analogous?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s