How many colors are enough. . . it’s a good question. And it requires a thoughtful answer. I’ve got an answer but not enough time to do a lot of swatching to show the answer–sorry about that! Bags to design, an Ella to knit!
I think quite a bit of mileage might be gotten out of just two colors. On the one hand, this seems almost impossible, but if you think of stripes not just as colors, but as differently sized bands of color, then the options increase greatly and the power of two colors expand in kind.
You see, if you set up all your stripes as the same width the eye searches for the pattern, figures it out, and the brain finishes with your coat.
If, however, you play with width and resist the urge to map out your stripe pattern on a graph (2 pink, 3 blue, 2 pink 3 blue. . . ), instead forcing yourself to do different things all the time, the mind not only stays busy as you are working, but the mind is more interested in the results. It searches for the pattern, can’t find it, searches again, searches again. The lack of a predictable pattern keeps you interested.
I have written about stripes before in this blog and urge you to look at those old posts in the next few days. They can be mined not only for colors and ideas but also for stripe width inspiration. In one (the set-the-table-myself place mat, the perfect fit laptop bag), I used many colors. More than 11 in one of the laptop bags, I think. In another perfect laptop bag, there were fewer colors and while the pattern does eventually repeat, the repeat is so long that the eye will have to search a long time to find it.
Here are some pictures of those projects to give you ideas.
I can’t tell you how to combine your colors or graph out a stripe pattern for anyone. I can, however, tell you what I do and urge you to try it.
I put the different colors I like in a box. Then I pick out a group of colors I like together and line them up on the floor (or on the tray table of the airplane last October and November when I was traveling a lot) I work with the color I come to. When I have worked through all the colors in the line, I rearrange them in another line I like. All the while careful to vary the widths of the stripes: 3 of this, 2 of that, 7 of this, 5 of that, then 1, then 6, then 2, then 4. . . I do this over and over. If I’m tired I look at what I’ve done, pick out a combination I like and do it again, but with a difference, reorder slightly, make sure all the widths are different.
Remember, your taste rules. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.
Always Buy Knitting Insurance: Ok, a non-sequitor: if you are making an Ella coat with the tweaks I advocate on the blog, you will need more yarn than the pattern calls for. I recommend purchasing between 2 – 4 skeins extra in colors you like. At least 2 – 3 for the ruffle. Better to have more than enough and use some for flower decorations or Ella Diversions than run out and regret.