There is something beautiful and soothing about the simplicity of grayscale — the gradient of non-color that lives softly between the stark realms of black and white. Different levels of gray can invoke memories or moods. A bright, almost-white reminds me of skies promising pure snow, while a dark, rolling gray creates apprehension. Grays that lay between can comfort or calm, their non-abrasive nature creating a field of restful nothingness.
It is no wonder, perhaps, that there are so many different levels of gray used in artwork. Simple graphite pencil can yield an impressive variety, simply by the pressure put upon each stroke. A painter can create a vast array of monochromatic values by adding light or dark. It’s as if playing in grayscale is almost the same as playing with light itself. Jasper Johns, an accomplished collage artist and painter, recently featured an entire body of work at the MoMA titled Regrets/Jasper Johns. His expert use of grayscale is used to convey his emotional and physical responses to things he has used, through a variety of traditional and non-traditional art media. (You can read about the show here.)
In knitting, gray is a subtle and soft color through which stitch patterns and simple shapes can shine. By choosing your weight of yarn, in a way, you also choose your line weight — the visual weight of an object. Darker and heavier yarn create a sweater that has visual and physical structure (like this Form sweater and Shibui Merino Alpaca,) while a pale gray in fingering or lace weight yarn produce an airy, light layer (as seen in this Ridge pullover and Madelinetosh Prairie yarn.)
Perhaps the best part about grayscale knits is that they fit effortlessly into almost any wardrobe — and leave plenty of space for your skills and stitches to shine. Like an artist turns a humble pencil into a tool to create something beautiful, we do the same with yarns. Our advantage? The materials themselves are already works of art.