More on Custom Dyeing

I have been doing some more custom dyeing for New Era Fiber Mill this week. This week’s order was a good example of a few ways the customer communicates their color request to me. It seemed like an interesting idea for sharing here. I have been dyeing animal fibers professionally for about 16 years now. I am self taught and began my education by reading everything I could find on color theory. I found that color mixing principles for artists like painters and such were useful to a point. Working with pigments is similar, but the medium of watercolors is a closer match than say for oils or pastels. This is because dyes are translucent rather than opaque. They allow the fiber color to show through and effect the final color. Like mixing watercolors, you use less dye rather than adding white, to create light colors on the fiber.

After studying color mixing I wanted to learn more about different fibers and how they react to dyes. In my search for information I came across a book or two on spinning which also helped me further understand the way a yarn is spun and how that effects the dyeing too. It was slim pickings finding materials.

So next I began researching dyes and picked Sabraset dyes because of their unique qualities. They are highly rated for light fastness and color fastness. They also have very nice range of mixing primaries, both warm and cool, plus a few other colors that are handy for mixing vibrant colors like violet, turquoise, and a wonderful true black. Then I was ready to start hands on exploration.

I knew I wanted to know how to accurately reproduce colors so I learned how to use formulas and create colors that I wanted. I invented spreadsheets in excel to keep records and do the math for me when I was ready to work on mixing batches of colors. I have found hex color tools handy for exploring proportions of hues and depths of shade and saturation. These are really helpful for pale muted colors to give a starting point for mixing. Then you can tweak it to get what you are going for.

Anyway, so here’s what I mean. Sometimes I am given a swatch of yarn, fabric, paint chip, etc. and I find this the most helpful. It’s easier to discern from a physical object what color they are aiming for. Digital images and even prints can be off. I was given a yarn sample for this one.

See the little clip of yarn on the work order?

For this batch of fiber the customer just requested “sea foam green” without a color sample included. That means it’s up to dyer interpretation. So here’s what I think sea foam green looks like. :-)

The actual color is a bit greener than this picture; that’s what I mean about digital images.

This is a batch of hand painted yarn that I was given a printed out digital image of the colors they wanted. So not only do I have to interpret from a printout, as you can see the yarn in the picture has been re-skeined which rearranges the colors. Sometimes it can be hard to discern what is actually in there. I saw mainly a dark peacock type blue, a brighter turquoise blue, and some medium jade/tealish greens as the main colors. So here is what I did and I hope they will like it.

I guess I’ve gone on long enough about that for now. I have a knitting update too. I may have cast on something new despite my pledge for project monogamy to my afghan. I have made some more pieces for it but to be fair there are extenuating circumstances for the new project. I will elaborate a bit.

More years ago than I can remember I knit a scarf in a lovely dark green hand dyed skein of Manos Del’ Uraguay in the above stitch pattern. I ended up giving it to my oldest son one winter night when he was leaving my house to drive his motorcycle home. It was pretty cold and I insisted that wool was definitely needed. ;-) Well, recently his girlfriend messaged me very upset that it had inadvertently been clobbered in the wash. She felt terrible and asked if I could make a new one. What can a knitter/mother do in such a situation? Stash diving commenced immediately and I found the PERFECT yarn marinating in there and waiting for such a special knit as this. The yarn is some hand spun created by my second daughter and gifted to me, from some hand dyed fiber I bought for her at a festival I was vending at probably back in 2007 or so. I believe it’s a wool/alpaca/silk blend. I am quite charmed by it. :-)

Close up of the texture

5 thoughts on “More on Custom Dyeing

  1. That is a great stitch. Does it lay flat like before blocking? I just want to bury my face in it. I would love to know the name of the stitch.
    Thank you for sharing your dyeing processes with us. I am in awe of all the different influences that dyers draw from. Your final colorway is a-MAZ-ing!

    1. Thanks for the compliments 😊. The stitch I am using is from Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Vol. 1 and it is stitch pattern 222 called tiny scales. I will wash and block this lightly but it doesn’t look drasticly different after blocking. Maybe it depends on the yarn you use, but with an irregular thick and thin like this which also has a bit of a halo, it won’t change it much. It does lay pretty flat. Oh I will also be adding some fringe to the ends which will help with the slight roll on the ends.

      1. That is going to look super with the fringe.

  2. Lovely scarf knitting! And wow, the yarn you dyed is gorgeous!

    1. Oh, thank you so much for both compliments!

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