Resembling ripe lemons and egg yolks

Let’s talk about yellow.  The most noticable color on the spectrum, it’s been largely mistreated for years, misused, and under appreciated.  Until recently, when I thought of yellow clothing, I thought of that hideous pastel yellow that comes out in spring, often paired with pastel pinks or blues, or a set of primaries, often used in stripes.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with these yellows, but I’ve never found them appealing.  Yellow is a color that I can wear, but usually don’t.

But lately, I’ve been drawn to yellow.  It seems like yellow’s finally getting its due – it’s been used lately by designers in such interesting and attractive ways that I can’t help seeing its virtues.

I was trying to figure out why yellow’s been so mistreated for so long.  It is a difficult color for many people to wear.  A little goes such a long way.  But that can’t be the only reason.  A trip to the dictionary indicated that our discomfort with yellow goes back a long way.  Yellow is cowardly, yellow is morbidly sensationalist, yellow is envious, yellow is sallow, yellow is an offensive racial slur.  Yellow is the color of jaundice, poisonous beasties, gall, quaratine, disease, stinging insects, old age.

But yellow is also the color of filling foods, first light, hair browded in a tress, precious metals, fluttering songbirds, chattering monkeys, taxi cabs, Spring.  It’s not a color that is willing to be passive.  Yellow is loud and boistrous, even in its more muted shades.  There’s something a little bit uncomfortable about a color that is so indecently itself at all times, but there’s also something enticing about yellow.

When I was a small child, yellow was the only color I couldn’t pronounce.  I called it reh-roh, which probably made me sound like Scooby Doo.

The word yellow comes from a line of words leading back to the Indo-European gelwa, which meant to shine or glisten.  Yellow was not much distinguished from green in its early etymological stages.  It’s funny to think that so much of how we see color derives from how we say color.  The distinctions we make between, say, blue and purple, are fairly arbitrary, and need not have existed.  The etymological course of gelwa shows that it developed into words meaning white or green in some languages.

I’ve been craving something yellow lately, but I’m not sure what.  It’s not actually a color that I have a lot of.  I’m going to think on this a bit more, but I think there’s a lot of yellow in my future.

9 Responses to “Resembling ripe lemons and egg yolks”

  1. Emma in France Says:

    A very interesting post. I’m not a huge fan of yellow for clothing for myself mainly because it’s not flattering for me. I’m also not generally drawn to it in other situations.

    Being Welsh, I love a large bunch of yellow daffodils of course. I also like using a warm yellow in a hallway or bedroom, particularly if they get a lot of sun.

    What I did notice recently is that while I usually veer away from yellow when dyeing yarn or fibre, it can be a very important balancing colour. It was knitting some socks using the Sunshine Yarns Horcrux colourway that really brought it home to me. All the other colours in the yarn are colours that I love but it’s the use of yellow that really makes the colourway work.

    You can see some in progress photos here but I’ve actually finished the socks now:

  2. Amanda Says:

    I can’t wait to see the yellow in your future. It is my absolute favorite color and I am so glad to see its rise in popularity.

  3. orata Says:

    I have some daffodils on my dining room table ($1.50 a bunch at Trader Joe’s! such a great way to bring some cheer into the house)–alongside a yellow Diana Kennedy cookbook, a big golden pomelo, a grapefruit–and it’s all very cheery and very very yellow. I used to hate yellow but I’ve really grown to like it.

  4. merete Says:

    that is fun. i have been thinking so much of yellow lately. one of my poroms is ochre and i am knitting a lime yellow cardi right now.i think i have loved some shades of yellow all my life.

  5. Sarah Says:

    Give a shout if you decide you need any yellow sock yarn, okay? I have an abundance – STR, SweetGeorgia, Koigu… I’d be happy to send some your way.

  6. the Lady Says:

    Hey, great history lesson! Yellow can be so fugly, but it can be so nice. Daffodils always lift my spirits… I think yellow is like red, but brighter. It gets you noticed.

  7. Emily Says:

    Lovely post! I used to hate yellow, too – it was my best friend’s favorite color growing up, and I always thought she was nuts. But over the last few years it’s been growing on me, gradually, and now I really love it. Last winter I spent the darkest month making a lace shawl in a silk yarn the color of gilded buttercups. It felt like I was knitting with spun sunshine; it really lifted my spirits. Ever since then, I’ve been more attracted to yellow. I think its time has come.

  8. CanarySanctuary Says:

    I love this post – and I love yellow! It’s me fave colour. As the lightest/brightest colour on the spectrum, yellow is scientifically and physically more “assaulting” on your eyes – it reflects the most light rays of any colour 🙂

  9. Marcy Says:

    I was once given a stack of yellow socks from a boss who loved me. She said that even in winter one needed a bit of sun. I became known for wearing yellow socks all the time.

    I have some yellow cotton that has been waiting to turn into a summer cardigan for some years now. Maybe it’s time to bring it out.

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