A monochrome color scheme can be defined quite simply. It is based on a single color. In fact, the name literally tells you that “mono” – one – “chromatic” – of color.
Updated August 11, 2020.
To create a monochrome scheme, like the one in Winter Stars,above, you need shades of one color and can include black, white, and/or gray. The single color can be a color from the color wheel, such as green, plus shades, tints, and tones of that color. It can also be defined more narrowly, using only one kind of green, yellow-green for example, along with shades, tints, and tones of that color.
When you use a monochromatic color scheme, you narrow down the color, so other aspects of thread become more important. The value (lightness and darkness) of the colors chosen is more apparent.
This is why monochrome color schemes are so popular for Bargello, as in the example above. The single color highlights the change in value.
The mini sock above uses shades from a single color family of Silk & Ivory. If you are using this kind of color scheme, thread manufacturers often make it easy for you to pick colors. They group their threads into color families with a range of shades, from light to dark, of the same color. Pick a thread you like and by knowing the color family, you find more threads darker and lighter than your chosen thread. They will go together with no additional work on your part.
Can it get any easier than this?
But changes in shade are not the only aspects of thread highlighted in monochromatic color schemes, texture is highlighted as well. I initially discovered this by accident when I wanted to expand the kinds of threads I used.
This was back in the early 80s when most needlepoint was Persian Wool. The adventurous might use floss, silk, and a small range of metallics. The piece I made, an eight-pointed star, used all of these, plus DMC matte cotton, pearl cotton, and flower thread. I was enchanted by the look.
Although modern needlepoint has threads in many textures, most of the time we think of texture along with color when we want to pick a thread to depict a particular thing. That tree trunk won’t look good in a shiny rayon, so we pick something duller.
But when you do a monochromatic scheme, color decisions are taken out of the process and texture comes to the fore. If, when doing a monochromatic scheme that isn’t Bargello, you ignore the texture of the threads, you might get something rather dull.
So let’s take a minute to consider the Winter Stars design, above (available here) in the light of Mary Shipp’s rule of 1-3-5.
- The entire piece is done in a single stitch — there’s our 1.
- The piece is done in different shades of blue and blue-violet — there’s our 3.
- By using scrap threads, there is lots of different texture throughout the piece — that’s the 5 and the most varied aspect of the needlepoint.
Because I paid attention to shade and texture, this piece is not dull, but fun and lively.