Saturday 1 March 2014

Randomising Colours

I often have trouble choosing colours for a crochet project. I don't trust myself much with "out there" colour combinations, and the safe stuff just gets oh so boring after a while.  Usually my clever, colour-talented sister helps me choose colours for my orders (if the client hasn't chosen the colours themselves) and they always, always come out beautifully! Even (and sometimes particularly) the ones that I think surely will not work well together...

I did a multicoloured Happypotamus for an order back in December, and tore my hair out trying to get the colour combinations adequately random.  I eventually got my brother to do it for me mathematically, which gave me an idea!


An order came in a few weeks ago for another multicoloured hippo, using the amazing Heidi Bears Happypotamus pattern (which I talked about in this post).  I needed to figure out how to randomise the colours in a way that 

(a) didn't end up with the same colours together by accident (which is of course how random happens sometimes!)
(b) didn't look too "planned"

I had a look around the internet and found some great sites with methods for randomising colour patterns for stripes and granny square afghans. Wonderful systems, but I was looking for something that didn't rely on my colour perception and expectations!

First was to choose the colours. I didn't want to use my whole supply, but I did want a good variety of colours.  As the Happypotamus has 44 pieces, I thought that 9 colours would end up with a relatively even distribution.  These are the 9 that I ended up choosing (with the grey to join the african flower pieces together):

I then completely ignored the colours and came up with a randomising system using numbers in Excel.  I wrote (or rather copied) out the list of pieces for the Happypotamus and then set up columns for Colour A and Colour B.  My aim was to end up with no two pieces the same. This I achieved by inserting 1-9 over and over again in the Colour A column, and then offsetting the numbers by 1 for each iteration of 1-9 in the Colour B column.  It came out something like this:

You'll notice that there are two hexagons the same - that was on purpose as I wanted the ears to be the same, as well as the two squares (not on that picture).  

I then did a find/replace and made myself a printed list of what pieces I needed to do, using the colours chosen above. I did end up manually changing one of the heptagons to make sure those two pieces were completely different. Excuse the coffee stains!

I'm sure there is a fancy Excel way to do this, but I am not very Excel-savvy, plus in doing it manually I was sure that each colour was used approximately the same amount of times and each piece was different. I think this method could be useful for other crocheters and knitters who are not confident with colours!

Overall I am thrilled with how the pieces came out.  This Happypotamus will definitely be one of a kind, and I can use the randomising spreadsheet to create a unique colour combination every time just by allocating each number to a different colour!

I'll make sure to post a photo here of the finished beast :)