I love getting packages in the mail. Who doesn’t? When I was in elementary school there was a song we learned in music class called the “Wells Fargo Wagon”. The first line was: Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a’comin’ down the street. Oh, please let it be for meeeee….”.
It was the UPS or FedEx of its day. Whenever I see the trucks for either of these companies, that song pops into my head. True story.
It’s been a good week for me. Because packages. I have decided to start exploring the wilds of dyeing my own yarns. I’ve spent enough time drooling over the yarn porn of the various Indie yarn dyers and decided it is time for me to join the fun.
This past week I ordered a variety of supplies to get me started. I had already ordered a copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan and begun reading it. I’ve been scavenging my cupboards and garage and thrift stores for tools that can be dedicated to this process. THIS week I finally started ordering the fun stuff. In the mail I received 3 undyed skeins of wool of various type and weight, a sampler pack of 6 dyes, citric acid, a yarn swift, and ok, so I threw in a new set of really pretty straight knitting needles.
Naturally these things all arrived the day before Father’s Day weekend. This is a big event at our house and almost all of Saturday was spent cooking, with occasional spurts of cleaning. We definitely had a great time with our family get together, but this also kept me from getting on with the fun!!!!
I am not a patient person.
After I had ordered the supplies (but before they could arrive) I decided to do a bit of experimenting while I waited. I happened to have on hand the remnants of a skein of undyed Tibetan Yak wool that had been given to me as a gift. I had knit up a really nice cowl in the natural color but I still had a small ball left.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching knitting and dyeing podcasts. As a result I had seen various ways of dyeing with food coloring. I had undyed wool. I had food coloring. I had materials on the way. I did not have patience. Time to start.
I wasn’t really worried about perfection this time, I just wanted to begin learning the process. So after watching some tutorials, I just jumped right in.
Without really measuring I pulled out several yards of the yak wool, pulled the white vinegar and food coloring from my pantry and got rolling.
For my first attempt I wanted a good purple that was more on the red side rather than blue. So after my yarn had soaked and the water and been brought up to heat I started adding in the red and the blue. I stirred the colors together and dipped a white piece of paper towel in to get a sense of the shade I had created until I was ready to try. When I was done I had a very respectable reddish purple that I dubbed “Untrod Grape”.
This picture is not the greatest, it definitely shows as more brown, but in real life this is a nice shade of red-purple. Take my word for it.
I’m working on my lighting. I promise.
This, of course, only spurred me on.
Time for another tutorial on a different technique. So:
I wound off another few yards of yak wool and went for phase 2. From what I’ve read and heard I know you have to be careful when using multiple colors or you are just going to wind up with muddy water. Which sounds like a funky colorway name, but not really what I was aiming for.
I only had the basic four set food color pack and I was curious to see how the colors would interact together. After the prerequisite soaking in vinegar water, I carefully arranged my wool in the warm water. I did careful drips of alternating color repeating each color twice. I let this simmer together just long enough to start to have some blend but still retain each color.
I was a little surprised at the end product:
I think if the simmer time would have been slightly shorter the original colors would have been more obvious. Still, I’m not displeased with the result. Since it has very Autumnal colors and tones to it, I decided it should be called October Hike. I think this would look very nice as a cowl with a denim jacket.
I find it rather amazing the wide range of colors and tones you can create with just 4 very basic colors. With my new stock of colors waiting for me and far more to choose from when I’m ready, it makes me feel like the possibilities are endless. I like that feeling.
In both attempts I was just going by instinct and playing in my choosing, mixing, and blending. But when I truly get started I plan to keep careful notes and compile all the techniques and color recipes I like best into a notebook.
When fiber enthusiasts shop for yarns and wools, some shop for just the right materials for an already planned project. Others find inspiration as they browse and select yarns and colors for an as yet to be determined item. I do a little of both. Some skeins I just cannot walk away from even if I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with it.
I suspect my experiments with dyeing will be much the same. I’ve now taken one yarn dyeing class and done these two attempts at home. Each time I really liked what I wound up with but each time it was a little different than the picture I had started with in my head. I think that is true of almost any creative pursuit though. I am certain, with time and practice, I will be able to produce and repeat the colors that I want. I also think that the creative Muse is a whimsical mistress and always has a glint of mischief in her eye when you think you’ve got it all figured out.
To the discoveries ahead,