Over this weekend I have had to offer two sorts of sock yarn. (I think people must be starting to knit socks for Christmas, though it could be for summer shawls instead!) My first instinct is always to grab the dye pots and have some fun experimenting – but I peeped into my stocks and decided to get realistic. I fished out the first 20 skeins (probably about a third of the sock yarn ready to go) and spread it around.
The first choice was not too tricky – ‘luxury, soft and feminine’. So I went for some silk and alpaca in more pastel colours, and will probably end up with this top one, which is more subtle than it looks, especially when knitted up. It was a very successful batch, though I say it myself.
But choice number two is harder. It is for ‘something different’. Hmm. I assume that EVERYONE who orders Indie hand dyed yarn is looking for ‘something different’ – otherwise there are dozens of perfectly good commercial yarns out there….
Does it mean in-your-face, saturated colours, like these?
Or just unusual combinations – maybe these?
I’m really not sure. Any ideas?
The spinning bit! My favourite. Carding can be tedious, fighting the drum carder to make the art batts is usually interesting, dyeing the silk threads is always exciting – but nothing beats the actual spinning process on the wheel. Once you have decided on the effect you want, and how you are going to get there, you can sink into a sort of rhythmic trance, watching the magic spool out from under your fingers…
Then you have to decide whether to use it, stash it (!) – or toss it into the Etsy shop and hope for the best!
Maybe I’ve just spent too long contemplating my yarns. But as anyone with a serious Stash Beyond Life Expectancy will understand, I can be overcome by the idea that THIS is what I will leave behind – my ‘final blazon’.
So I’ll move on quickly – and the yarns had better be good!
I have finally finished three new batts and have just begun spinning them up. They were inspired by a recent visit to the Picasso 1932 exhibition currently at Tate Modern – but not by the actual Picassos, which I found only mildly interesting. For me, the smaller colour collections did the trick – Matisse, Gerhard Richter and Bridget Riley. The red and black batt (top left) is loosely based on the Mark Rothko Seagram murals – huge, and splendidly displayed in dim light. I eventually produced three versions of this one and with any luck they will all mix and match. When I’ve finished the spinning I will have to decide whether to make the yarn up myself, or put the skeins (‘slow suspended’ or not ) into my Etsy shop. Or I could just add them to my memorial….
With apologies to Philip Larkin.
The original blueprints. One of the fun things I get up to in France. It’s more of a photographic process than actual dyeing. You need some scary-sounding chemicals (Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Ferric Citrate) which turn out to be harmless if you are sensible (i.e. you don’t start inhaling or eating the stuff). I treat the fabric then add whatever plant material I have collected – oak and bracken seem to work well. I make a sandwich with an old window pane we had lying around (I’m sure some people would get glass specially cut to size) The fun part is, all this has to be done in the dark. My dining room in France has no proper windows, so it is perfect if you have the place to yourself. If there are children around, though, it’s not so great – the dining room is also a sort of corridor with doors each end and a certain amount of yelling might be necessary to prevent disaster. The last stage is simply to get the glass sandwich outside and leave it to develop in the light – this can be very quick – the French sun has real power! The plant material must be firmly kept in place – it acts as a resist. Then everything is washed and dried.
I used to be concerned that the cushions would fade – they don’t! The examples in the picture were my first attempts (hence the photographs) over five years ago. I wondered about adding cyanoprints to my Etsy shop because they are a bit different, but I’ve decided I’d rather be free to keep experimenting and not have to worry about a professional finish!
Got to start with the blossom: blackthorn, plum, peach, rosemary – and the tiniest glimpse of the stunning pink quince we won’t actually get to see:
Wild orchids, violets and cowslips:
Plenty of these little fellows scuttling around:
The best wood burner ever (came from the Far East!):
Bitter black coffee in my favourite china…
And finally can’t resist this picture:Because it is so crazy – it’s the reflection of a tree in a muddy puddle. (Yes, there was a LOT of water around). I am working out how to get those colours together…I feel another dyeing session coming on as soon as I get home – maybe silk and alpaca for that one?
The rather magnificent piece of furniture (see other picture below) is a cope chest – obviously, you don’t want to get your copes in a twist! I was told that it is certainly medieval, probably as early as the 13th century and, apparently, one of only seven surviving. I have seen a similar chest in Wells and another in York Minster but I think this Salisbury one is my favourite. Anyone know where the other four are lurking?
Yes, the colour that I need to include in every dyeing session is BLUE – all shades from aquas to violet purples and real indigo – someone will buy it!
Because it doesn’t sell!
It seems that few people (apart from me) are impressed by yellow socks…. or cowls, or mittens. But that doesn’t stop me gazing at my daffodils every Spring and thinking why not…?
This yarn above was achieved by a combination of dip dyeing and hand painting .
This plum and lime one has more intense colour sections and was done by injecting the dye in several stages.
The yarn below (a rather subtle colourway called crocus – note the sneaky touch of yellow…) was almost entirely painted by hand, using a small brush.
If you are curious, take a peek at my Etsy shop (button top right) to see some other techniques.
PS. If yellow is the least popular colour, which set of shades do you think regularly flies off the shelf – and not just off Etsy? Please comment with your guess.
Answer next time!