When people learn that I'm an indie dyer of yarns and fibers, they often ask me about my dyeing. Some have no concept at all, others are curious to learn new tips and ideas. There are so many things I do when I'm dyeing, it's not simple to put it into words for casual conversation. I thought I would share an overview of one of my techniques here.
Many dyers refuse to show pictures of their dye spaces or techniques or discuss their dyeing methods. They guard them like buried treasure. I can understand wanting to protect knowledge and skills that took hours, even weeks and months, to develop. It's hard work, dedication, a lot of trial and error, testing, math, science and money. Lots of people don't realize how much work goes into this craft just in the learning and planning, let alone how physically demanding it can be.
While I won't share my actual recipes, and may keep some techniques to myself (or at least only give them up to paying students), I also believe in teaching, sharing, and helping each other grow and thrive. Just because I may have struggled to find information or learn about hand dyeing and the indie dyeing business doesn't mean the next person should have to. There's room for all of us out there in the hand dyed world. My aesthetic is going to be different than others, and my business plans and practices will be largely different too. Even when several dyers offer the same or similar product, their styles and color sense will be different. And there are customers for us all. Not everyone will like my style or my colors, but I still want their hand dyed fiber needs to be met. After all, we share a love of good yarns and fibers and fabulous colors and textures.
The photo at the top shows me hand painting a dyelot, one lot each of two variegated colorways. People asked me early on for repeatable colorways, and I found that as soon as I showed a color, several people wanted it. After much frustrating research and trials, this the method I came up with to make several at a time, and have at least small dyelots. Because there can be significant variation between dyelots, I wanted to at least be able to provide several skeins or braids, enough for a larger project, that were dyed together and match.
I can fit four, 4 oz. skeins (or combed tops) in these tubs (or two, 8 oz.), for a dyelot of one lb. After dyes are applied, I pull each skein out and wrap in plastic wrap, and it goes into a steamer, and then after the steamer, is allowed to cool completely in its plastic wrap before getting a luke-warm bath and rinse. Then it gets excess water spun out, and is hung to dry.
I love the beauty and character of hand dyed yarns and fibers. I love that they're not always going to be exactly alike between batches. It's suggestive of the human touch, and the human condition. Made with love, care and creativity, there's often stories behind the colors a dyer presents. Made by people with lives to live and stories to tell, not by machines that are programmed.
I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek into my dyeing world, I'll see you at trunk shows and fiber festivals around the pacific northwest!