Dye inspiration… a blank canvas
We are so excited to spend this month exploring the colorful world of hand-dyed yarn! Whether you’re interested in the alchemy of natural dyeing or the straightforward vibrancy of synthetic hues, we’ve got the stuff to get you started. But the biggest part of dyeing, in my opinion, is the spark of inspiration that eventually turns into a beautiful colorway (solid or variegated!). This inspiration can come from anywhere, and it’s unique to each person. Take the yarn shown above: do you just see white yarn? What about a blank canvas? Some folks might even get color ideas based on the twist of the ply, the weight of the yarn, its texture… the list goes on.
The topic of inspiration has come up a lot in preparation for this month’s dye-stravaganza. I’ve started taking pictures of the sunsets I get to see from my porch (see above), because I think those colors would go together beautifully on yarn. A quick internet search will show you that lots of people use photographs as templates for yarn colorways. Sometimes just the cover of a book (such as Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece - Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques or The Modern Natural Dyer) is enough to get you brainstorming, to say nothing of the bounty of interesting, useful information contained inside.
|Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece - Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques|
|The Modern Natural Dyer|
Speaking of books, we’ve got a ton of them. For natural dyeing, I am always intrigued by the plants you can use, where you can find them, and the sometimes surprising colors they produce. The color of the plant and the color it produces are not always the same! A Weaver's Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers is all about growing these plants yourself – dye gardens are so cool! If you’re a city dweller like me, you might find Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes more useful. I actually have this book at home, and I found it fascinating to read about the plants I could find in my area and how to use them for dyeing. Then there’s Eco Colour, which has a strong focus on dyeing things the Earth-friendly way. In this book you can read about using natural dyes for a number of different techniques, and it only uses ecologically sustainable plant-dye methods and renewable resources.
|A Weaver's Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers|
|Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes|
|Yarns to Dye For|
While we’re on the subject of natural dyes, I couldn’t possibly forget to mention indigo! A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing tells you just about everything you need to know about this age-old dye – from beautiful photos to materials, fiber prep and techniques. This book also includes detailed step by step photos and projects you can actually do. We’ve got two indigo kits for your convenience: the Earthues: Indigo Starter Natural Dye Kit and the Indigo Tie Dye Kit.
|A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing|
|Earthues: Indigo Starter Natural Dye Kit|
|Indigo Tie Dye Kit|
|Earthues: Botanical Natural Dye Kit|
|Procion Warp Painting Kit|
I spent some time reading some of these books and eating up all the how-to’s I could find online, and started trying different techniques – with varying degrees of success. The thing is, even if a yarn doesn’t come out as expected, it’s still going to be beautiful to someone. The experiment shown below is a good example of that, as a few of us here loved the color while others weren’t quite so impressed.
Just to see what it would look like, I tie-dyed some yarn with Country Classic Dyes for protein fibers - 3 oz. COC39Magenta. Here’s how it came out:
Another way I’ve come up with yarn colors using acid dyes (such as Country Classics or Wash Fast Acid Dyes) is to get a damp paper towel and smear some of the dye powder on it. I’ll usually try colors that I think might go well together, but always end up with a different combination than planned. Sometimes once you see all those shades together you can get a better visual and make less predictable matches.
Another experiment I tried was hand-winding a loose, kind of small amount of super-textured Polar Bear Yarn into a ball. Then I immersed it in a dye bath, gently pressing on it with a chopstick every now and then to encourage the dye to soak further into the ball. I was going for a gradient, with solid color softly fading to white. Here it is on my cobbled together DIY niddy noddy:
I cast on 12 or so stitches using size 15 needles and knit until I ran out of yarn, just to see if it worked. I didn’t think it had, until this happened:
Success! All these experiments with different techniques remind me of The Ashford Book of Dyeing, which is kind of a comprehensive look at what’s out there, how to use it, and how to do some less traditional techniques. And then there’s the helpful DVD Dyeing in the Kitchen, which is great for folks looking to get started at home. Be careful, though – once you get started, it’s almost impossible to stop! The last thing I’ll show you is some kettle-dyed yarns in progress:
No matter where you get your inspiration, we hope our selection of books, dyes and kits can help you make those ideas a reality! Before I ramble on for too long, I should get back to the dye pot – the best way to learn it is to do it!