The world is full of color. Everything has so many shades and hues that work together, taking something that could be dull and flat and instead bring it to life. I see all of that, the subtle nuances of every color and the way they blend together. Artists of all kinds seek to express life in different ways, and being a yarn-dyer is no different. I pull from things I love to create colorways that speak to people. Whether it’s food, places, or nature, it all screams color to me.
I didn’t always know how to translate the colors all around me into lovely colorways that knitters would relate to and love working with. It was a big leap and took a lot of time and trial and error. When an idea floats into my head, a colorway begging to be created from whatever inspired it, I have to be careful not to jump ahead of myself. I have to think about it from the desired end result and reverse engineer it back to the beginning. I carefully unravel every facet of the picture in my head, study each one, and come up with a plan for turning it into a skein of yarn that not only represents the original inspiration adequately, but will be a beautiful canvas for knitters to make their own through knitting it into whatever speaks to them.
It’s a process that I have grown to love dearly, as it pulls from parts of who I am as an artist that really don’t get tapped into much otherwise. It’s inspiring because I am inspiring others, and that never gets old.
So if the end is a finished skein of yarn, how do I find the beginning and take that first step? I start by studying the image or object, finding the essence of the colors that made it speak to me in the first place. Then I write formulas for each color and start testing, perfecting those formulas until they’re what I want. I put them together in the dye pot and see what happens when I use various techniques like dip-dyeing, speckle-dyeing, etc.
When it comes out of the dye pot, it might be lovely, but I’m not satisfied yet. There’s something wonderful that happens when the yarn is dry and I put it on the swift to be re-skeined. There are two reasons I take the extra time to re-skein each one before I send it off to its new home.
First, I do it because as you may know, my signature touch is the braided skein. I have to make the loop large enough to braid. And second, even if I didn’t braid my skeins, I would still do it because by making the loop larger, it redistributes the colors in the skein and gives a more accurate representation of how the yarn will look knitted up. It’s truly a magical thing to me, putting a skein on the swift and seeing the colors all blobbed together and then taking it off the re-skeining machine and feeling like it’s a different skein of yarn. It’s gone through a transformation, become something new that I feel will speak to someone and inspire something beautiful.
Even kettle dyes that are one semi-solid color go through that magical change. The light and dark places where the dye absorbed at different rates are mixed together and turned into a much more three-dimensional color.
After that, then braiding and labeling, my part is truly finished. And I am ready to send the skeins off to be enjoyed by someone else. Sometimes it’s hard to part with particular skeins, but the desire to keep them ALL is far outweighed by the curiosity I have to see what they become. Seeing finished projects that knitters took hours to work up with the yarn I dyed myself, knowing that they enjoyed it, is what refuels my inspiration. So the cycle begins anew, each time an adventure down a new path that leads to more color and more inspiration.