Friday, August 12, 2011

Dyed in the Wool, Part Two

Here's how my yarn came out. The first skein I dyed, all Slate-colored, is in the center. The second skein, mostly Mahogany, is on the right, and the third skein, where I got really ambitious and used two colors, is on the left.  I'm not sure if I have enough yarn here for a pair of mittens, but if I do, that's what the skeins are destined for.

Neuroknitter sent me these two snaps of her lovely lace yarn. It's so interesting to see how the coloration of the skein translates into knitting.

What I learned from this experiment:
  • Hand-dyeing yarn isn't as daunting as I'd expected. (Of course, the process was completely streamlined because Neuroknitter had placed all the materials at hand.)
  • It's one of those pursuits that could become as addictive as knitting. As with knitting, the variables offer infinite variety and unlimited depth.
  • Like knitting, it's absorbing, surprising, and fun. And pets can get involved, too.
  • Of course, I could expand my definition of knitting to include hand-dyeing...
  • I must seriously consider:  do I want to become thrall to yet another obsession?
I queried Neuroknitter about her involvement with hand-dyeing. Her responses only confirmed my suspicions about the addictive nature of this pursuit.  "I started about ten years ago," she confessed. A professional weaver showed her how to use dye baths and how to hand-paint skeins.  Later, Neuroknitter set up her own basement studio, and "that's when things got serious. I hope to someday have a real space that is permanently devoted to dyeing...."

"What do you like about the process?" I wondered.

"First," she replied,  "I like to experiment with color combinations.  Second, I like the way the yarn looks when it's wrapped up and ready to cook.  The colors at that stage are so intense!  Probably my favorite part of the process is seeing how the yarn or roving comes out.  An important element of the process is that the risk is low.  Undyed yarn is not especially expensive, nor are the dye or other materials.  I see hand-painted yarn in the store for $20 a skein and know that I can do the same for much less.  I guess I like a bargain!  Of course, when you factor in the time it takes, the $20 price seems more of a bargain."

[On this last point I wonder how many of us knitters are compelled to do what we do--knit, buy yarn in quantity and/or on sale, spin, dye, etc. etc.--by delusions of thrift? Readers, I welcome your input here.]

"What does a successful dyeing project look like?" I inquired. 

Neuroknitter:  "It keeps the color that was applied and the color has penetrated the whole skein/roving.  I've done several projects in which the color combination was not appealing, but usually I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I like the combination.  One of the most successful projects so far was when I took a Georgia O'Keeffe post card and replicated the colors in some roving.  I was quite proud of that.  (see"

What Neuroknitter neglected to mention was the obvious, major benefit of pet participation that hand-dyeing, like hand-knitting, offers. Those of us who work entirely or partly at home are so accustomed to this life-enhancement, that we tend to overlook it. But where would we be without the helpful company of our furry friends?
Brownie: Ready, Willing, and Able!

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