Entries tagged with “surprise gifts”.

Before I go into the dye studio or sit down to plan a colorway, I usually set some broad goals about what I want to accomplish. Sometimes, I’m trying to pull out colors from a particular photo. Sometimes, there’s a color combination that I think is interesting and want to play with. And sometimes, I want to dye for a specific person.

The last one can be tricky, because it’s hard to know exactly what a persons’ signature colors are, unless you know them very well. But every once in a while I run across a color that just absolutely belongs to someone I know.

I don’t think that everybody does this, but for some reason my brain stores colors for all the people I meet. It’s just one of those details that is part of knowing someone for me – like recognizing their face, their style, their favorite foods or the  smell of their go-to perfume. I stash away details like what color lights up their eyes, or highlights their skin tone, or matches their favorite piece of jewelry.

Sometime last year, I was sampling away in the dye studio, and that gold emerged. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a color for Anne Hanson. (You can see why here, here, and here.)

If there is one person responsible for getting me thoroughly hooked on knitting, it is probably Anne. I stumbled across her blog sometime in 2006 or 2007, and immediately fell in love with her designs. I had been knitting for a while, but was getting bored with stockinette and the knit-purl stitches. Her blog opened up a whole new world of lace, and watching her designs develop caught my interest so deeply that I began to create my own. I haven’t been bored with my knitting since.

Now, I don’t know Anne. Not personally, anyway. I’ve lurked on her blog for years, been constantly inspired by her work, and have learned a lot about designing and about writing from following her blog. When I began selling my own products, I looked to her to figure out how to talk about things for sale without making a sales pitch, while still generating real content for the blog. I met both Jocelyn and Amanda through her blog, and Ellen and Jan through Jocelyn. Through some funny twist of fate, more than half of the people that read this blog ended up over here because of Anne. But I don’t know her.

So I set aside the color, as something to ponder for another time.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Ellen about meeting up at Rhinebeck. It occurred to me that Anne would also be there. The color popped back into my head, and refused to leave. Something said that it was time. There is nothing I love more than cooking up a surprise gift, so I set off in search of the perfect fiber.

After a little while with my sample cards, I came up with this combination:

I just love the way the gray and olive green bring out the richness in the gold. This was my colorway.

It took a couple of tries, but this is what I came up with:

The fiber stowed away in my luggage when I flew to Rhinebeck on Friday. We looked for Anne on Saturday, but didn’t find her. (If I had been caught up on my blog reading, I would have known that there was a Knitspot picnic at noon, but I was behind and didn’t know.)

On Sunday, I was wandering around the market when I saw a familiar face. Kim was standing in front of one of the show barns, and Anne was with her.  Kim took the obligatory fan girl picture, and I tried not to gush too much. Fiber changed hands, and I think she liked it.

I love when things come full circle like this. Anne inspired me to knit, taught me a lot about writing and design, and introduced me to Jocelyn, who introduced me to Ellen, who brought me to Rhinebeck, where I met Anne. Little ripples going out, and coming back again.

I hope she enjoys her fiber.

The moment has now arrived – I can tell you what I’ve been up to. (I’ve gotten confirmation that the surprise has been had, and it is now safe to post all the fun details.)

This is the third fiber in the latest series of dyeing posts. (Look back at the colors; you’ll see that they really are almost the same. Amazing how much variety you get just by applying the colors differently.) I thought that I’d share a little bit about the process of dyeing this one, to make up for the whispers and the suspense.

I got word a couple of weeks ago that Jan had fallen prey to the spinning bug at Sock Summit. And there is nothing like a little good fiber to start a spinner on her way, now is there? So I did a little research, and I enlisted an accomplice. (Sisters are a wonderful thing, especially when they know addresses for mailing things on the sly.)

After poking around on the Twinset blog for a while, I found this photo of a peacock that frequents Jan’s beautiful new house. Look at those colors!

As soon as I found it, I knew that this had to be the color. Now, it was just a matter of translating it into fiber. The blue and the dark spruce green were obvious; they’re what I think of as traditional peacock colors. The gray in his wings was unexpected, though.

And when he opens his tail, the browns and the lime green pop out.

When I look at a photo, I look first for the dominant colors. Then I look for the unexpected ones (like that fabulous bright green). In this case, the dominant hues were strong, vibrant colors. I wanted something to ground them and balance their intensity. The gray and the brown came in here; subtle background colors to help show off the rest.

Next, I went to my sample cards, and plucked out colors that came close.

Next, I needed to decide how to lay them on the fiber. I wanted long repeats of the same color, so that they really stand out from one another. That meant that the dye needed to cover more than a staple length (and sometimes two or three, to make the long repeats really long). The proportion of fiber dyed in each color would determine  the weight of each color in the final yarn. Blue, of course, is dominant. Then the greens, and the brown and gray to balance them out.

I divided the fiber up into sections, and then decided which colors would blend the best at the joins between color repeats. I didn’t want the colors to blend too abruptly, so I chose to paint in order; dark blue to dark green. Light green to brown, brown to gray. Subtle changes that should help to keep the colors intact.

Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture of that step in the process (I was too excited about how it was coming out).

Here’s a picture of the final fiber, instead.

Within each section, I started with my base dilution, and then added in splashes of more concentrated dye to keep the colors dynamic. See all those different shades?

I must say that I am thoroughly pleased with the results. Proud as a peacock, perhaps.

Because I loved these colors so much, I dyed another 4 oz, same as the first.

Now that the first has safely arrived, the second has gone to join its siblings on Etsy.

Don’t they look beautiful together? (It’s like the litters of kittens we used to foster; I know it’s time and it’s for the best, but I hate to split them up!)

Up next, we’ll be taking the dyeing in a whole new color direction: Linda has gotten my brain churning with visions of pansy purple.

The secret weaving project has been safely delivered, so now I can show you all what I’ve been up to. (It’s a good thing, too…not blogging about this project was killing me. I’m not sure I could have held out another week!)

Sometime this spring, Becky and I were at a knitting guild meeting, and one of the vendors had a very pretty laceweight yarn. It was a handpaint, with vibrant colors and abrupt color changes. It’s Schaefer Yarn Andrea, in colorway Jane Addams.

The colors were definitely Becky’s colors, but really, what kind of lace could you knit with that and manage to avoid pooling? And what but lace would you knit with a yarn that has 1100 yards in 3.5 ounces? Becky asked me “what would you do with this?” My immediate response was that I would weave with it.

That planted a thought. During the break, a small paper bag was carefully slipped into my backpack.  I was planning to weave it up for Christmas, but then I decided that it would make a good going-away gift, too. And so, I began some deadline crafting.

I had two cones of green yarn that would go with the laceweight. One was a shade or two darker than the darkest green in the yarn, and the other was a couple of shades lighter. (Sorry for the flash…I was in a hurry to get the skein wound into bobbins and couldn’t wait for daylight.)

As you know, I decided on the lighter color, thinking that it would help the colors to “pop.” Instead, it completely overwhelmed them:

So I took the light warp off the loom, and put on a dark one instead. Can you believe the difference?

I finished weaving the scarf on Wednesday, washed it Thursday, and gave it Friday. Again, the photos are a little dark because we took them at night, but I think you get the idea.

Even in weaving, the colors did pool quite a bit, but I really like how they interacted. I’ve found that this is consistently true for me; yarns that I would normally avoid knitting with because of pooling make excellent weaving yarns. The uniform width of the piece and the alignment of the color repeats makes the color changes much more acceptable to my eye, and usually makes a beautiful fabric. In this case, I had to be extra careful to line up the color repeats when I switched from one bobbin to the next so that the pattern didn’t shift, but that wasn’t very hard because it only took two and a half bobbins to finish the scarf. Because the width doesn’t change, I was able to keep the same color repeat all the way through the scarf, giving it an interesting zigzag look.

I wove the scarf in a 3/1 twill (the weaving yarn goes over three threads, then under one), so the front and the back look a little different. The laceweight weft is dominant on the front, and the warp is dominant on the back.

The warp is tencel and the weft is silk, so the piece has beautiful shine and drape. The fabric is quite light because the laceweight is so fine, and the twill pattern gives it a little extra texture, too. See all those little diagonal lines? That’s the twill pattern. (It’s in your jeans, too…they’re a 2/2 twill, where the weaving yarn goes over two threads and then under two threads all the way across the fabric.)

As it turned out, Becky wasn’t the only one getting surprised on Friday. She gave me this beautiful project bag:

…filled with Pygora fiber! I’ve never spun Pygora, but it is wonderfully soft, and very warm. I’m looking forward to spinning this one; it’s staple length is so short that it will be very different to spin than the longwools that I’ve been using. It will probably become a laceweight, just enough for a small and special project. Another experiment awaits!

Riots and rainbows notwithstanding, I often feel that the appropriate name for a group of colors is a celebration. There is really nothing else I feel like doing when confronted with beautiful shades of color.

I began yesterday’s dyeing as I always do; I sat down with my color sampler cards and matched colors. Since I was dyeing for friends, I pulled colors that fit one person, and then colors that fit the other. Then I threw in a few more that I wanted to play with for a project that’s percolating in the back of my mind.

That might seem like a lot of colors, but since many of them are shades of the same dye (gotten by using different dilutions) or mixtures of a set of base dyes, I ended up with only 5 main colors, plus black to work from. I think I did end up throwing in two other accent colors, but I usually try to stick to 3-5 dyes per session. It keeps things manageable, and it allows me to fully explore the possibilities contained in those little jars of magic.

I began with the roving, since it’s a little more finicky and it was the star of the day. Despite my worries about that silly scarlet dye, the roving turned out to be the perfect pink, somewhere between salmon and sunset.

To my surprise, the greens gave me a little more trouble. I’ve gotten used to adding extra dye, or increasing the concentration to match the colors on my sample cards, but apparently yesterday I had no need of extra. I was aiming for something lighter, with a stronger presence of gray, but if I put my expectations aside I am deeply in love with the greens that came out.

The blues were also much darker than I was aiming for, but darker blue is hardly ever something you’ll hear me complain about. Next time I will cut down on the saturation for both of these colors, but today I am glorying in their depth.

My absolute favorite of the day was a long shot (it often is). I took a bunch of strong colors in heavy saturations, and I laid them in stripes of varying width all along a skein of yarn. It has a little of everything, from reds and orange to blues and even a little yellow.

And I absolutely love it. Do you see that fire?

The next skein was much closer to what I’d expected for the roving. A paler, more subdued blue shot through with gray.

My favorite reason for working with a small number of similar colors is that it often creates unexpected synergies between the yarns. I wouldn’t have thought to pair those first two skeins with one another, but look how perfectly they flow into one another:

It’s like they were made to go together, when really that was the farthest thing from my mind when dyeing.

The same thing happened with the last two skeins.

The one on the right is dyed very much like the first roving; a combination of different saturations of scarlet and fire red, this time mixed with just a little gray to tone it down.

The skein on the left is my “serendipity” skein. At the end of the day, when the dye jars are getting close to empty and my wash jar (where I rinse the spoons as I measure) is getting to be a deep, saturated color, I mix whatever is left over and not enough to be worth saving and use that to dye the last skein. It’s funny: every time I encourage people to mix colors on their yarn, they say they’re afraid of creating mud. Every time I dye, I mix everything randomly, and usually get something beautiful.

This particular serendipity skein is a mixture of two reds, a teal, an orange, and a yellow dye, plus liberal sprinklings of black. There may also be some brown and a little pure blue thrown in. To me, it looks like the sunset.

And again, all of these very different skeins fall into harmony with one another in unexpected ways.

Yes, I think color should be called a celebration.

The more I dye, the more I realize how much pleasure it brings me to put color on fiber. I love to see how it develops, how it takes these strange and often unexpected turns to become so much more than I could have expected from looking at my samples alone.

The problem is, I don’t need any more yarn. I have enough, and though I love each and every one of these skeins, it’s the creation that I enjoy, and not the possession.

And so, today, we began another project. One that Branden has been suggesting for a long, long time, and one that I am finally becoming ready to embrace.

We took photos.

Well, really Branden took photos and I mostly kept myself occupied elsewhere so I wouldn’t interfere. (There are different ways to enable, and sometimes the best way is to simply get out of the way…)

We printed ball bands. (!)

And we’re beginning the process of setting up a small shop over on Etsy. It’s not ready yet, but it’s coming. We’re busy creating a place for all these colors, so that I have room to make more.