Monday, March 26, 2012

I Need a New Hobby Like...

You'll see that statement again soon...apparently I need a couple holes in the head.

Alternative title for this blog post is: The Generosity of Friends Part III

This one should have been posted ages ago bu
t I'm of the firm mind that it's better late than never. Over the past couple years I've been interested in learning to dye yarn. Not as a business venture (I have no time or desire for that!), but just to explore another way of working with fiber. When I started to think more seriously about it, I decided to ask for some tips/pointers from an independent dyer (and good friend)...Jessi of Alabama Fiber Dreams. I had bought several skeins of her yarn in the past and loved how she manipulated the color. When I emailed her, she was not only very generous with giving me some information, but she also went a step further. She had recently decided to stop dyeing yarn and had a box of supplies taking up space. And then asked if I would be interested in taking the box off her hands?

Um, yes please!!

I don't have a picture of the box but Jessi wasn't completely forthcoming about what she was sending...I was just expecting a couple skeins of bare yarn and a few jars of dye. Not only was there a 2-gallon bag full of dyes in every color imaginable, but there were 3 bags of bare yarn...1 each of fingering, lace, and DK weight. AND a book, some measuring spoons and cups, some storage containers, and a few other dyeing supplies. Outside of the pot and thermometer, everything I would need and then some to get started. I was overwhelmed by her generosity. And still am.

However, there the box sat because it came just before I headed out to the field last spring. When I got back this past fall, I started thinking about it but was a little afraid to try. And now comes the generosity of my La Grande friends. I've always been in awe of Sue's yarns (she sells at the Farmers Market and online at her etsy shop) and decided to see if she could help me or give me pointers. This request culminated in a dye party about a month ago. Sue shared her secrets with myself, Anne, and Meg so that we could all give it a go. Both Anne and Meg had done some dyeing before so were ready to just jump right in. Me? I took notes and just tried to absorb all the information laid before me. A couple weeks later I went out and bought a pot and a thermometer. And then proceeded to be paralyzed to take that first step. Luckily I have the inspiration and support (and push!) of Anne who is fearless in all fiber endeavors (well, really anything in life) and as she showed us skein after beautiful skein that she had dyed, I finally decided to get over myself and just try.

I wanted something very simple to start so chose one color (no mixing) and tried for a slightly variegated look. And with this skein, I learned a lot. I had it tied too tight so dye didn't get under the ties (which didn't actually matter due to the variegation) and I didn't have quite enough dye in the pot so the 'light' side is lighter than I intended. But I love it. And decided that to make the process complete, I had to immediately knit it up to see just how the variegation would work. It'll be awhile before this is done but I'm pleased with it.

After that, I started to get a bit more bold. I wanted to dye a skein for Rue as a thank you (reasons why coming next week) and knew, of course, that it should be green. So again, with a suggestion from Sue, I mixed some colors (eek!) and ended up with this slightly variegated laceweight (the dark green). Which I totally adore. This time, I had the opposite problem of my first dye attempt and had more dye than necessary in the pot. And so did some experimenting to use up all the dye and came up with the lighter shade...which was almost exactly what I had in my mind. I have plans for this skein as soon as I have time to cast on! I'll share that later.

Being the scientist that I am, I'm taking detailed notes as I go along. Both to see if I can repeat colorways and just to learn what to do next. I'll continue to learn the techniques, I'll continue to play with color, and I really want to experiment with natural dyes. Don't be surprised if some of you end up with a skein in your mailbox...this is too much fun not to share. I've got a lot to learn but I'm overjoyed with what I've done so far and can't wait to dye more yarn!

As for Jessi...I knew that one way to thank her would be to send her a few skeins that I had dyed. So I asked for color suggestions. Instead, Jessi has to be difficult (er...challenging) replying she would rather I dyed a few skeins that had been inspired from my photography. So she'll get those...but it'll be a while longer while I continue the learning process!

_ _ _ _ _

Now playing: Muleskinner Blues by Rhonda Vincent & The Rage (some mighty fine pickin' happening here)

.

17 comments:

Adrienne said...

ZOMG, those GREENS!

Dyeing is such a hit or miss venture for me. I can have brilliant results w/ easter egg dyes and total crap w/ pro acid dyes! :P

Ann said...

I love the colors especially the blue. I think dyeing is in your blood as you have done a great job. I tried dyeing before but it did not turn out well.

Bubblesknits said...

who me? difficult? ;) I thought I was just giving you inspiration. lol Your first attempts look awesome, btw. :)

Linda said...

What lovely colours you dyed. I am scared of dyeing yarn, it feels too out of control for me as in I am not sure how the colours would turn out!

elizabeth said...

Beautiful! It's nice to have the supplies on hand, for when the dyeing bug bites. And the surprise is part of the fun!

Jacey said...

Your dyeing so far is beautiful! The green skeins are gorgeous, and I know Rue will adore them!

I've been thinking more about dyeing, also. I've only done it once, and with kool-aid. It was so generous of Jessi to send you her remaining supplies!

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

This is really interesting. I no nothing of this process and it is great to see your first efforts turn out so beautifully. I just saw something about dying with black beans that intrigued me. It was with fabric versus yarn, but here it is. If nothing else, for your research into the topic, and maybe a little inspiration as you move forward. http://lilfishstudios.blogspot.com/2011/08/dyeing-with-tansy-and.html

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

oops...obviously, i meant "know" nothing.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

sheesh -- i spelled dyeing wrong too! eek.

cauchy09 said...

oh, those are some gorgeous colors! dyeing is fun, but i'm really bad at being precise with it.

good luck!

kate said...

You lost me with the pretty yarn pictures .....

Jane said...

Wow Rachel, I would never know that you are a beginner! Those colors are beautiful and I LOVE the greens! Congrats on undertaking this new endeavor!

lauren said...

WOW what an amazing score! And I'm not at all surprised your hand dyed turned out so wonderfully. :) Dyeing does seem like the perfect combination of crafts and science for you!

melissa said...

oh yay!! what a fun adventure you've embarked upon! the yarns you've dyed already is gorgeous! can't wait to see what else you come up with!!

Sarah said...

All your preparation stood you in good stead by the looks of those pretties

Kathy said...

Oh. Wow. Love the greens!

I've been thinking about dyeing this year... we shall see!

Phoe said...

Oh my word, that blue! So awesome.