On 8th July Mummy and I went down to Basingstoke for a workshop on rainbow acid dyeing on wool with Jan Blight (unfortunately I don’t think she has a website). It was a lot of fun and I am really looking forward to doing more at home now I have an idea what I am up to.
There were four of us students at the workshop which was a nice number. Enough that we could gain a lot by seeing a great variety of different combinations of the same colours, and how different people approach dyeing in different ways. Yet few enough that there was comfortably enough space for everyone and we could all chat together. We all brought along our own yarns and Jan supplied Kemtex acid dyes and ammonium sulphate fixative. The yarn we took was aran weight, 100% blue faced leicester, from H W Hammand. A lovely yarn, it took the dye well and was a pleasure to knit with. We bought 1kg between us and dyed 100g each at the workshop so there is still 800g left. Mummy has earmarked some of it for a capelet from Nicky Epstein’s Knitting on the Edge: The Essential Collection of Decorative Borders. At the same time as buying the aran weight we also bought 1kg each of the same yarn in DK weight which I am really looking forward to experimenting with.
Jan had mixed up a selection of stock solutions of different colours of dye before our arrival, and after soaking our yarn well, we laid it out on cling film and set to with the colour mixing and painting. I got very carried away mixing different kinds of greens 🙂
Once we had finished dyeing, we wrapped up our little cling film parcels and let them sit for half an hour. Then unwrapped the parcels, sprinkled fixative over the yarn, and re-wrapped them to go in the steamer for half an hour. Once the parcels were cool enough we could rinse out the yarn in cool water and hang them up to dry.
For me part of the delight of going along to a workshop rather than just reading things from books is that you can see what a wonderful variety of different yarns everyone produces, starting with the same basic ingredients, and using broadly the same methods. The different combinations that people used, combined with different proportions of colour made all the yarns dyed look completely different. A real feast.
We all brought along pictures for our inspiration, but I’m afraid mine are really only very loosely inspired by them. After the first couple of skeins I just got carried away playing with all the lovely colours 🙂 The others were a lot more dedicated and it was lovely to see the beautiful and sometimes unexpected colours you can produce when inspired by a picture.
Jan also provided some fine yarn which she had put into very long circumference skeins, like you would do for socks, and some roving for us to play with too. I found the roving quite different to dyeing yarn, the dye didn’t seem to want to absorb as easily and I seemed to have more trouble controlling the colours.
When we got home we were so impatient to be knitting with the yarns that we had to put them in the airing cupboard over night to gee them along a bit.
Probably better than knitting with wet yarn though 🙂
When it came to the knitting I was interested to experiment with how the colours would look knitted up in different textures. To give a basic idea I knitted a section of garter stitch, a section of moss stitch (seed stitch to those over the pond) and a section of stocking stitch. Some of our skeins were slightly longer than others so I had enough yarn to knit a little ribbing as well. As you can see I was a bit obsessed with the green.
The palest sample (middle of the top row) shows the effect created when the steamer goes off the boil and you don’t notice until you come to rinse the yarn and all the dye rinses out, by which time it is a bit late. I like the effect of subtle shades of the same colour though and will be having an attempt at replicating this in a more controlled fashion.
On the right is the long skein, with a bit of ribbing at the top, then stocking stitch and then moss stitch, using the same number of stitches that I usually use for socks. I would like to try this again although the big skein was a bit unwieldy. The fibre was supposed to be shades of purple, rather than frighteningly pink. I think I am going to make some felted beads out of it, and make them into a necklace, possibly with a few other bits and pieces to tone it down a bit. That is the plan for now at any rate.
There are loads more photos of the workshop and the yarns here.