Friday, June 15, 2012

Dyeing To Get Some Colour

Dye Bottles
A couple of weeks ago I went over to the mainland to attend my second ever dye workshop - the Dyeing to Get Some Colour workshop with Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns!  Was I excited?  Oh, you bet I was!  I was so excited that I couldn't sleep the night before and got all paranoid that I was going to miss my ferry that I woke up way before my alarm even went off. Armed with my knitting and a bag full of bare yarns and sock blanks (from Knit Picks, in case you were wondering) I headed over to Coquitlam to the Place des Arts and spent a great afternoon with Felicia and a wonderful group of fellow fibre enthusiasts.

The workshop kicked off with a quick lecture from Felicia about colour theory, dyeing methods, and some dyeing mathematics before she gave us each a skein of naked Tough Love Sock that was divided up into 4 mini skeins to use in the dye methods that she had mentioned in her (beautiful) handout.  We organized ourselves into groups of 3 and went to work on a dye technique.

My group started out with immersion dyeing (solid shade dyeing).  I will admit that I had taken a colour theory class eons ago at the Kootenay School of the Arts, and that I had sadly not retained any of the information that I had learned.  I will also put it out there that I now wish I had paid more attention in Math 11 when I was in high school, instead of spending the term flirting and yapping away with my friend Trevor while eating chocolate caramels.  Had I known that math would serve me a much greater purpose later on in life (don't laugh Natalie!), rather than the boring equations that I saw on the chalkboard, I think life would be much different for me today.  Anyhoo...back to the immersion dyeing...using the "bright yellow" dye and referring to the color wheel, my group and I decided that adding a splash of "magenta" to the mix will hopefully tone down the brightness a bit.  Well, what we thought was way too much pink (if that's possible!) ended up being a gorgeous shade of yellow!

Dye Workshop - Yellow with Fuschia undertones

It was seriously magic!  Can you see it?  Can you see the magenta in there?  I tried to capture the varying shades of yellow within this mini, but trust when I say that this skein has a delicious tonal range to it.  So, so gorgeous!  

We had actually dyed up 2 mini skeins in the yellow, and with the second mini we moved onto another form of immersion dyeing - over dyeing!  Again, as the colour wheel as our guide, we decided to mix up a solution of magenta with a squirt of brown in hopes of darkening the colour but not making it murky.  That's right, I said brown.  Here's something I learned and truthfully, not given much thought to: I always thought to darken or to lighten a colour you would simply add either black or white.  You would think that after working in a photo lab and even colour correcting my own photos via Photoshop, that I would know better.  Yes, you can use black, but why not brown or grey?  The easy and common route is black, which is fine, nothing against that.  But we didn't want a muddy colour, we were looking for something bright but a little on the darker side...does that make sense?  After conversing with Felicia we opted to add the hint of brown to our magenta.

Dye Pot

Coming out of the pot

We learned how different your results can be depending on when you add your vinegar or citric acid.  We added our citric acid after the dye had exhausted, and we got a gorgeous semi-tonal shade of coral that has little bits of yellow still peeking out in some spots.

Dye Workshop - Overdye 2

Dye Workshop Yarns
So happy together

One group had added the citric acid before adding their yarn to the pot and in the end got a beautiful variegated skein of forest-y colours:

Dye Pot 1

I seriously could have spent hours and hours experimenting with immersion dyeing alone.  The possibilities of just mixing the dyes up before the bath, let alone what you can get with over dyeing?  Endless.  And completely mind-boggling!  

The Yarns
Over dye, immersion dye, and naked yarns all living happily together!

I have a whole new appreciation for dyers who do immersion dyeing, it really is an art form.  I spent the rest of the weekend thinking about the artistry behind creating different colours and the exact science, craftsmanship, and mathematics involved in trying to recreate previous colours.  I also now can understand why some companies want to dye only 2 skeins at a time and why some colourways and skeins can be slightly inconsistent.  The variables that a dyer is faced with that can mess up the equation...I can go on and on!

But next up, handpainting!  I had brought with me several skeins of bare fingering, sport, and worsted weight yarns in a variety of fibers, but the one thing I was beyond eager to try dyeing: the sock blank.  In hindsight I should have quickly handpainted one of the mini skeins and experimented some more with mixing up dyes, but I honestly had no idea just how long handpainting a sock blank would take!

I was super lucky to be in the workshop with one of my favourite (and local!) knitwear designers, Jane Richmond (hi Jane!), who also brought along a sock blank to dye up.  Neither of us had a clue just how labour intensive painting the blanks would be!  We both had the same idea to make our blanks self-striping but didn't take into consideration the dyes bleeding and kind of went into it thinking we'd get these perfectly striped blanks.  Oh well, it was definitely a fun learning process!

Felicia checking my blank and showing us what to look for in a finished dye job

Because the sock blank took up the rest of my time I didn't get the chance to do any kettle dyeing (hot pour method).  Oh well, no biggie.  I have tried this method at my first dye workshop (taught by my friend Ursa of the now discontinued yarn company, Gaia's Colours, but now the woman behind The Pagan Knitter), and if Felicia holds another workshop I'm just going to have to sign up pronto and make sure I do this method first!

Even though I knew I wanted to make my sock blank self-striping, I really didn't think about what colours I wanted to use (note to self: next time have a colour game plan).  Sadly, I chose colours that I can't for the life of me, take proper photos of.  My camera simply cannot pickup the beautiful blue of the cyan, and makes the pure magenta look eye searing.  

Sock Blank Collage

There are a few light spots between the stripes, but I think once it's knit up you won't be able to tell.  Or at least that's what I've been telling myself.  You can't tell in the photos but I had used a pure magenta and a mix of magenta with a bit of cyan.  While painting I thought I had made a ton of mix, only to discover 2 stripes in that I didn't.  Trying to recreate a colourway when all you've been doing is squirting dye into a cup?  Yeah...not so easy!  But I think I did an ok job.

Sock Blank Collage 2

The workshop ended with a little Q&A and a small discussion of how Felicia tries to dye her yarns for SweetGeorgia Yarns without using plastic wrap...cause oh my goodness...did we ever use so much of it!  And in the end, the amount of waste that is produced...and this was just a workshop!  I can only imagine how much plastic a busy full-time yarn dyeing business can use in a full work day!

Sock Blank - Side

I wish I had taken more photos of the day but really, when you're constantly clad in rubber gloves, surrounded by a lot of liquids, and caught up in the dyeing process, having your camera out is not really ideal.  

I had a fantastic time at the workshop and really wish I had the means to go to Knit Social's Yarn Camp that is being help this weekend (Felicia will be teaching dyeing!).  A whole weekend dedicated to knitting and dyeing, with a yarn shop visit thrown in?  Pure.heaven.  I can only hope and wait that Felicia will teach another workshop.

Sock Blank - Side 2

If you ever get the change to take a dye workshop, either with Felicia (she's an awesome instructor!) or through another source, I highly recommend giving it a go!  But be forewarned...the hours will literally fly by and you'll spend the next few hours/days/weeks thinking about nothing but dyeing yarn.  I can see how some fibre enthusiasts can get addicted to 
dyeing...I'm itching to do it again...and soon!


  1. Awesome recap Melissa! Your sock blank looks amazing, I love your pictures of it. I had sooo much fun partnering up with you, so many laughs, what a great day!

    1. Thanks Jane! :) I can't wait to knit with the's going to be quite interesting to see how it'll knit up!


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