Sunday, April 28, 2013

A glimpse into the life of a dyer

A quick note.  I wrote this post back in March, before life threw us a curve ball, and I was unable to attend Carolina Fiber Fest.  However, I think it's an interesting post, and I did want to share it.

I have two shows coming up in April on back to back weekends.  Carolina Fiber Fest is the first weekend in April, and Stitches South is the on the second.

When I did my first ever show, Hubs insisted I take an inventory before we went.  While that is actually a great idea, I was in the process of freaking out, and logical thought was pretty much impossible.  However, we took that inventory, and I've done it for every show since, as well as a couple of random ones throughout the year when I wonder if what I have on etsy is really correct.

All these inventories have helped tremendously as I've worked to get ready for these shows.  While what I've sold in the past isn't always a predictor of what may sell in the future, the inventories do show trends that I would be a fool to ignore.

Thus, I've been restocking so far this year when I've had time to dye.  Dye time has been more difficult to find than I thought it would be.  I'd gotten sick with a bug that was enervating, but with practically no fever or sore throat.  I'd thought I'd gotten mono I was so tired.  That was 2 weeks with no dyeing, then another week before I could get through the day without napping.

Yesterday I finally got one of those days I really needed.  I had a dye schedule ready to go, and I hit it.  I was able to handpaint 17 skeins, which is a normal dye day, but I also had new ideas, and the dye pot going to have kettle dyed yarns going all day.  That made a huge difference as I was able to double my output.  I tried some new dyes and custom color combinations in the dye bath, and even if I wasn't happy with every result, I've learned that someone will love it.  If it's too unloved, it can always be overdyed.

It's here that I want to mention that even though I have recipes for the colors I kettledyed, they might always be just a little different between batches.  I re-use the dye bath all day long.  There are times when the dye doesn't fully exhaust, and I just toss in an undyed skein to use as a "dye sponge" between batches.  I mention this because I sometimes see where a dyer talks about what they do to be environmentally conscious, and I find it interesting to see this.

I grew up in the 1970's, and my first W-2 job was working at a recycling center.  I was 15 and had to get my parents' permission to work there.  (16 was the age at which you could get a job without your parents' permission back in those days.  I have no idea what it is now, but there I was, at 15, earning a bit of cash on weekends.)

Before I'd gotten that job, I'd been the reason we recycled the little that we did.  It is a habit for me.  I've been recycling for years, and curbside pickup was the most wonderful thing in that I didn't have to store and haul recyclables anymore!

I apologize for the tangent, but I wanted to give a little background about the kettle dyes.  As with most handpainted and hand dyed yarns, if you see one that you don't think you can live without, I encourage you to go on and buy it then.  I was (and still am) a knitter and a shopper, and I buy a lot of yarns from other indie dyers.  We all use the same color palette as we use the same few companies who sell the dyes, but we each have our own unique way of expressing those colors.  I can look at yarn from another indie and sometimes tell which exact dyes she used in creating it, and I'll buy it because I love it, and I'd never thought of using those dyes in that way.

Speaking of dye techniques

I've been experimenting with new dye techniques ever since Gale told me about a young dyer, Gynx, who has a blog called The Dyer's Notebook.

When I first started dyeing, I did a teeny tiny bit of experimentation with leaving the yarn twisted when I was kettle dyeing it, but I soon stopped doing that in favor of handpainting skeins.

When you buy a skein of Beach Glass, I've very carefully applied each of the 6 colors one at a time with a sponge brush.  I turn the skein over, blot up excess liquid and apply the colors to the back.  I do this with all the multicolors like Steam Punk, Rainbow, and so on.

I look at yarns that say they're dyed with layers of colors, and I'd wondered just how had they done it.  After watching Gynx's videos, now I know.  You can learn how too, if you're so inclined.

What I like most about it is that I can get wonderful, interesting colors and it expands my dye techniques.  I can mix and match techniques to get truly amazing results.

For example, I've chosen my sea creature for my TriDye installment due to ship out on May 15, 2013, and I've been experimenting.  Once my colorway is worked out to my satisfaction, I can day all the yarn and fiber in just a few days.  I'd originally thought it would take me only 2 days, but now I'm wondering if I may have to double process them, combining hand application along with layers of resist dyeing to get the results I want.  I've got more experimenting on the agenda for tomorrow, during which time I'll try my newest idea and see if that gives me the looked-for results.

I plan to update the shop much earlier today.  I'm getting fueled on caffeine as I write this, so look for updates way before midnight tonight.  Life has been full of the unexpected lately, making it difficult to stay on task as I'd prefer.

I hope you get to enjoy your Sunday and have a lazy afternoon.