Friday, November 9, 2012

The Dye is Cast

It is official. I am an “indie dyer.” During the summer, the owner of my LYS, Spin, asked me if I would be interested in dyeing yarn to sell in her shop. She thought that knitters who vacation in Door County would like to take home a souvenir of their visit. The colorways would be reminiscent of the scenic splendor and sensual experiences of the area; the reds and greens of apple and cherry orchards, the silvers, yellows and oranges of Lake Michigan sunrises, the pinks, blues and lavenders of sunsets over Green Bay, the foot warming tans of the sand dunes. I liked the idea and worked on developing samples using sock yarn. Who wouldn’t like to wear a pair of socks that regularly reminded them of a vacation in Wisconsin’s version of Paradise?

You may know me enough by now to know that I love to play with fibers and color. So my first three yarns are dyed using a variety of techniques.

“Cherry Parfait” is pink and white with alternating sections of several rows of variegated pinks, and a row of pink and white faux fair isle stitches. The faux effect was accomplished by tying stripes of recycled plastic grocery bags at intervals to resist the pink dye. It has been received with comments including “delicious,” and “mouthwatering.”

“Quiet Side Sunrise” (The quiet side refers to the Lake Michigan side of the Door Peninsula.) consists of hand painted areas of sunrise color dyes with the majority of the skein dyed silvery grays. After wrapping the painted areas in plastic wrap and placing that portion in a baggie atop a section of pvc pipe sitting in my dye pot, the rest of the skein is immersed in the pot of gray dye and all is heat set. When knit in the round, this yarn produces a mostly gray fabric with occasional horizons of promising sunrise.

“Autumn Door” highlights the spectacular fall colors that lure many visitors to take a drive north for a nippy fall weekend. I dye the whole skein the color of the wheat and corn fields.  With this as a background, I continue to add color. I use a winding device, similar to a warping board, to produce lengths of yarn that I can divide into areas of different colors. The finished product is a striped yarn.

My son drilled holes in one by four boards so that I could place pegs on which to wind the yarn. Four boards are clamped together to form a frame. I calculate how long each segment of color I need, add up the segments, and wind that amount onto the pegs. I tie some areas for faux fair isle stitches, in this case, the purple of seasonal asters. I mark lengths where I will dye the colors of bright fall foliage, and other areas that will represent evergreens. After carefully placing each segment of yarn to be dyed in its own baggie, I pour in the dye and manipulate each baggie to insure that the yarn receives the dye. After resting, both myself and the yarn, for a half hour, I place the yarn in the microwave to heat set the colors. 

After the yarn cools to room temperature it is washed, resist areas are untied, and it is hung to dry. 


I replace it on the winding board.

Finally, it is wound back into a skein, labeled, and ready for Spin.

I work on one skein at a time, and although the dye formulas and preparations are consistent, it is the nature of hand dying that variations are to be expected. 

And that is the beauty of manual labor. 

Happy stitching and dyeing.