Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hot and Cold Pour Dyeing

Jacquard Acid Dyes
Today I had a wonderful time experimenting with different dye techniques and colors.  I've finally graduated to using Jacquard acid dyes, rather than food coloring and Kool-aid.  The acid dyes provide me with a far greater spectrum of color and blending possibilities.

I tried two different techniques: Hot and Cold Pour Dyeing.

With Cold Pour (sorry, I should have taken more pictures) you can quite literally paint the yarn, as it is all laid out before you on plastic.  I had "autumn" in mind as a colorway and used chartreuse, russet, pumpkin orange, sun yellow and teal.  I panicked briefly once I got the colors all applied that it looked more like an exploded Rastafarian than autumn leaves, but have learned from past dyeing experiments that colors blend more in the final stages and panic is not a worthy expenditure of energy.

Once the yarn was all painted, I wrapped it up in its plastic and steamed it in my dye kettle.  Briefly I found myself wondering what the temperature tolerance of plastic wrap is and had visions of pulling out shrink wrapped yuck.  Amazingly, plastic held its form and the colors did blend more.  I got an amazing spectrum of tones from browns to purples mixed in with varying hues of my dominate choice colors.  I have 245 yards of gorgeous worsted weight in "Autumn" just waiting to become a... not sure yet, but I'd venture to guess a hat.
Total Yarn Porn!  Tell me that doesn't make you want to break out the face mask and rubber gloves and dye your own!

In Kettle - I took this photo just after adding the dyes.
Isn't it beautiful!
Hot Pour is a totally different beast.  With this method you add dye to the kettle that your soaked yarn is "hot tubbing" in, then simmer.  How you've twisted the yarn into the kettle, where you place and how much of any color you use, and dye bleeding all affect the outcome.  Being not a huge fan of stripping yarns, I find I prefer kettle dyed yarns; colors are more mottled and less likely to flash or pool.

For this batch I used chartreuse, periwinkle, sapphire blue and teal - sea glass tones.  I got a little nervous while the yarn/dye mixture simmered, idly wondering if yarn could burn onto the pan.  Low and behold, it didn't, the dye exhausted just as it would have in my microwave and out came a glorious 930 yards of fingering weight in "Sea Glass".  Now I just need to find the PERFECT shawl pattern to highlight the colors of this yarn. Suggestions welcome.
Sorry this picture isn't better.  Honestly, the colors are far more vibrant like the "In Kettle" photo above... the sun is just too bright here.
 So bright in fact, I can't read the camera manual and learn to take better photos ;)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dyer Moments: Jonathan Perks

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color.  I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with.  If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape.  But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate?  I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design. 

Join me today in getting to know Jonathan Perks!

Describe the first time you dyed.
~Alchemy. Pure alchemy. It’s a surprise and a delight every time. I had some old Rowan yarn and a half finished jumper and a small guilt complex about it. Can’t remember why I decided to start dyeing and how I even got the dyes but the Rowan was transformed into something wholely new and a light bulb went on in my head….

How did you begin your business?
~I’ve always wanted to do something to pursue my own creativity and create a business from it. So I discovered some yarn and dye powder suppliers, approached some retail business and off it went. Ironically, most people don’t do it this way around. They sell at events and online and then move to retail shops..I have some very supportive businesses (Spins and Neddles in Lincoln) who are enthusiastic about my product and are prepared to negotiate on price.

What inspired the name of your company?
~Colour - of course. I work creatively with colour and don’t do repeatables. That’s the focus - colour. I’ve come to realise how important it is and how it can influence the way you feel. I often pull out a bright and vibrant skein on a dull day and you can’t help smiling.

What inspires your colorways and how do you name them?
~Weird and wacky. That’s what I go for. Some names come fully born. Others are quite random. Sometimes my partner names them. Sometimes names might be related to something I’ve seen on TV - my Nigella’s Plums was very popular - deep berry reds and purples.

Do you also knit? Crochet?
~I knit and crochet throughout the year. I don’t tend to use patterns and have taught myself top down and seamless percentage methods. The maths appeals to my scientific part of my brain. I tend to crochet in summer and the knitting mojo returns in Autumn. I attend about three knitting groups on and off and this keeps the enthusiaism going. Knitters are a great bunch of people - friendly and ready to share. I set up a knitting group at the National Centre of Craft and Design in Lincolnshire and have run workshops there on toe up sock knitting and yarn dyeing.

What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn?
~I love blues and I like mixing turquoise and royal blue in my yarn dyeing to give a bright vibrant blue. My favourite pattern is the one I’m knitting or crochetting at the moment - a bit like if you ask me who my favourite singer is - Alana Del Rey is playing in my car every day and I can feel some ginger and red combinations happening in my yarn dyeing.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye?
~Don’t have a favourite really. The colour is first and foremost important althought I have acquired some angora merino mix that produces the most saintly colour haze just like Scandinavian Lett Lopi’s.
Is there anything especially cool about your yarns we should know?
~I’m a mad scientist. If I want to achieve an effect I play around and build equipment to help me achieve what I want.

Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company?
~I went to University and did a Degree in Geography in the late eighties/early nineties. I suppose it doesn’t directly influence what I do, but you learn skills and gain life experience too.

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~Dive in and play.

Tell us about your biggest dye fail.
~No such thing. Something is always salvageable. Even if the hank is the most ugliest thing in the world you can overdye it all black and suddenly its the most beautiful thing in the world to Goths and witches.

Most importantly, whats the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club?
~I have started a shop on Big Cartel: and am learning about improving yarn photos. I’m not there yet. I am launching some long colour run yarns. I want to launch a season-based yarn club in the next few months with patterns to take advantage of this new product.

To get a better idea of the people behind the product... I ask our dying interviewees these insight questions developed by Bernard Pivot.

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?
~It’s unprintable.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
~Music, film and computer games - games are getting so sophisticated that they can really draw you in emotionally into storylines and play.

What turns you off?
~Snobbery and cliques and jealous bad mouthers.

What is your favorite curse word?
~I’m a gentleman and shouldn’t really say and you couldn’t possibly print it either.

What sound or noise do you love?
~Benjamin Britten’s Second String Quartet. Anything by Debussy but especially L’isle Joyeuse.

What sound or noise do you hate?
~Anything by Mozart - sorry Mozartians.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
~Professional musician. Maybe a Pianist. I am tempted to take up the alto sax but have to watch the pennies at the moment.

What profession would you not like to do?
~Sales in a call centre - unless it was selling my own yarn of course.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
~Well, you were wrong but it doesn’t matter. Come on in.

Be sure to visit Jonathan's online store at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Congratulations Harbor House Baskets!

Harbor House Baskets is celebrating their GRAND OPENING!

You can purchase these beautiful fabric baskets on her Etsy site HERE - and right now during the Grand Opening you can save 10% using the coupon code "grandopening"!

We have three of her bowls.  I use one in the kitchen and two in my design studio.  I simply LOVE them for my knitting projects.

Be sure to visit the their Blog and  Facebook page too!