Saturday, December 01, 2007

Good color vision is a bitch.

Thanks to my articles and research on color theory and how vision works, I'm aware that the part of the spectrum the human eye is most sensitive to is the green part. That's why night-vision goggles show things in shades of green, and possibly why one of the first LED colors was green, and I suspect why green means go in most of human culture. We could get philosophical about it, because the sun puts off a disproportionate amount of its light in the green portion of the visible spectrum. Waaaay back, there were primitive plants who used different colors of light to make photosynthesis happen - particularly the red end - but when green plants developed, they outclassed and outgrew the other plants and put them out of business. They had the most light to work with, and the most efficient chloroplasts. (Yes, I am a plant freak. Why do you ask?)

Then again, it's humans who arbitrarily chopped up the spectrum into hunks and decided to call part of it green, so maybe it's all about us, after all. Some more 'primitive' human societies make do with only three or four words for colors, and function quite well. They can SEE all the colors, they just use three or four words to sum them up. Even as recently as five hundred years ago, orange as a color word was unknown in most Europen languages. "Stuart Red" in those old Scottish tartans is, in fact, a nice happy orange color. (Why yes, I am a history and anthropology freak. Why do you ask? Color vision and definition is actually a favorite topic in anthropology, and there are lots of articles on it if you're curious.)

What does this mean in practical terms? I'll tell you what it means. IT MEANS IT'S FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE TO MATCH GREEN EMBROIDERY FLOSS TO THE GREEN YARN IN THE BLOODY DAMNED RUSSIAN PRIME. That's what it means.

I went out last night to the craft store to get the floss. Whose bright idea it was to put flourescent light in a craft store, I don't know, but they need to be dragged into the street, tarred, feathered, and flogged. (Flourescent light reflects colors weirdly, in particular - ha - reds and greens.) Eventually I narrowed it down to three floss choices, and after at least five minutes' dithering around (that's a lot of time for me, in a store, shopping) mentally flipped a coin and bought one.

This was the best I could do.

Probably 95% of you are looking at that photo going "Uh... that looks fine."

The other 5%, like me, are looking at it and shrieking "AAAAH! THAT LOOKS LIKE SHIT!"

According to my optometrist, some people are more sensitive to color than others and apparently really do see more colors. It's not a large portion of the population, and unfortunately I seem to be one. The subject came up with my optometrist when I told him I could tell the difference between glass and plastic lenses by how colors look through them. Yes, I can tell a difference. Glass is better. Apparently we're talking an infantesimal difference in the light going through, between glass and plastic lenses. The eyeglass researchers claim it's impossible to tell the difference, though my doc said he knew one or two other patients who also complained about color vision with their glasses. I suspect the super-sensitive color vision thing is much like having perfect pitch is for hearing people; more trouble than it's worth, the majority of the time.

At any rate, I got the stuff, and now I need to go finish the nipple warmers. And then use the not-matching floss to sew up the neck of the Russian Prime.


Roz said...

I can tell the difference -- I think. The floss looks a bit yellow-y, compared to the yarn.

Well, if you seam carefully, no one will be the wiser, right?


That's what I thought.

Julie said...

Oh, sure, I could probably seam it with flourescent orange and it wouldn't show, but I KNOW IT DOESN'T MATCH.

Have we discussed my perfectionist streak, lately?

Sarah said...

the floss looked olivey to me.

Just a quick question why didn't you buy all three, it would have been like a buck??

Good luck.

Alwen said...

Some of it is going to depend on the monitor, but I'll bet my mom can tell the difference. She has always sewed a lot, and she can look at a color and say, "Oh, that's one is Coats & Clark 1234 green" or whatever, and be bang on.

And isn't it weird that places that sell Ott-lights expect you to match colors under fluorescents?

Bells said...

ah yes, I'm in the group that would say yeah, looks fine to me!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sarah, you should have bought all three, you cheapie. I can see a difference, and though _I_ wouldn't care, I know you're an anal, perfectionist bitch (said lovingly) and you do care. So HUGS.


Amy Lane said...

Okay--all that shit was totally cool to know. I don't know if you read sci/fi, but there is this character named Chiana...she's a villainous red-head, and she decorates her home in nothing but green, under the delusion that ALL greens go together, and they ALL flatter her complexion. Ever since I read those books (The Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn) I have recognized that green and green and green can look like shit in ways that white and white and white can not. I see the difference--and I imagine that in the sunlight, it will make you crazier than a shithouse rat. I'm sorry. I wish I could gift you with my 'I don't give a shit' sense--you know, that thing that lets me knit in a crap house? But I'm cleaning house now, so it seems that I've broken it!!!!

neek said...

Thought you might be interested in reading this article about tetrachromats:

It's one possible explanation why you're so sensitive to color. Cool!

neek said...

Er oops that didn't link properly did it. Anyway if you google "tetrachromat" it's the first article that pops up, interesting stuff!

Leanne said...

I don't think I'm particularly colour-sensitive, but I do see the mismatch of those greens, and I have noticed that green is particularly hard to match (although I had never thought to wonder why that is!). Thanks for the interesting explanation. I learned something new today (and it's only 6:30am. I guess I can go back to bed for the rest of the day now!).

Christibale said...

Regarding Color. I am a photographer, and color matters a lot to me. The most visable part of the light spectrum is actually yellow orange--the same color as the sun. It is also the color used in the darkroom for photographer and the color that silver will not pick up. We can see more. If that makes sense. We may not be able to see it as the brightest color, just see with it when used in a light.

roz said...

Actually, we haven't had enough news about your perfectionist streak -- I need some inspiration to get off my lazy ass and deal with my Xmas knitting, so fire away! :-D

gemma said...

Fully acknowledging your brilliance at knitting and all things fibre, I usually just split the knitting yarn and sew up with the resultant thread. I have no idea if your yarn is so fine this would not hold under pressure, so sorry if this is a silly comment. Your work is always inspiring, cheers,

Lola said...

Yep . . . there definitely is a difference - these won't match at all. I'd be interested in finding out if there's a test one can take to verify this extra color cone.

Brewgal said...

They look different to me. The yarn looks brighter, like it has a bit of yellow in it.