Monday, August 3, 2009

The early years

Thought I'd share today a bit about the first few attempts I made at dyeing. The very first was at a workshop at Kenyon College, my alma mater. A lovely woman who ran a local yarn store brought lots of her unsold white wool of various sorts and her dyes and, for $5, we each got a skein of yarn and a quick tutorial on acid dyeing. I got gorgeous mohair, almost 300 yards of it, and then we dyed it. It turned out rather beautifully, for a first attempt, and I made fingerless gloves of it, which I still wear. After that, I didn't really do much dyeing for a while, until my adviser and I decided it would be fun (and educational, of course) to do an independent study on Roman clothing (did I mention I was a classics major?) and I decided to make a few historically accurate outfits. After a bit of research, I realized that if I wanted to get a fine, thin wool in Tyrian purple, the purple of the Roman empire, I was going to have to dye it myself. Armed with scarlet, blue, and purple Ashford acid dyes, I set about dyeing scraps in my microwave until I found a color and temperature that worked.

Making that toga praetexta was probably one of the most time-consuming things I've ever done in my life, and most of the work was stitchery, not dyeing, so I won't bore you with the details. It turned out beautifully, though, and I had time to make a Roman bride's costume too, with the hallmark yellow veil or flammeum, which I also dyed.

The best part? I got to dress up my classmates and professors in the clothing I had made and show it off at a presentation. (My toga draping skills could use some work...)

Since then, I've been dyeing only for myself, until now. Dyeing yarn is such a fun, creative process, it seems like a waste to let all the products just sit in a box for all time. I'd never have a chance to knit them all myself, after all; not only do I have other yarns to knit, but I have fiber to spin, and sewing to do (you didn't think I had dropped that entirely!), not to mention new techniques to learn! Somebody has to use all this pretty hand-dyed yarn.

In the future, I'm hoping that we'll have a steady supply of base yarns to display our colorways on. For now, as we just begin, base yarns are going to be a little varied, but feel free to request something, or describe a colorway you'd like to see, in the comments or by email (

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