I spent much of the summer not dyeing or knitting as I was engaged in helping my mom (a.k.a. Momma Darling) find an Independent Living apartment, moving out of her home of 50 years and selling that home. It was not an entirely enjoyable experience but one that was necessary and a part of all of our lives at some point and will be for me and my children someday. Acknowledging that you need to move to a place that will help you thrive in your older years is a tough thing to do, you have substantially changed your relationship to the world. I tried to help my mom focus on the positives and to recognize the “passing of the torch” that we were doing. Then I turned and began to see my own “passing of the torch” to my young adult children that are in the nascent years of engaging with the professional world and building their own lives independent of our home and assistance. It’s all good, the circle of life, and I vow to be the best circler I can when it comes to my big moments of change. On that note I gave a lot of thought about the permanency of what I will leave behind. I want to leave less. I do not need my stuff to be here a hundred years after I am. I want to do better on Earth, to leave it better for my kids. That led me to back to my yarn. I give a lot of thought about what I am producing as a yarn dyer and what my goals for my “products” are. I am excited that I create living colors that combine to create living garments. I am reenergized to keep creating skeins of beautiful, natural dyed yarn for your enjoyment too.
Over the years I have come to realize I am a solid yarn color girl. (Ask my friends who yarn shop with me, it’s the sad bland truth about me). I do love all those amazing looking bursts of color splattered all over each other that some very talented Indy dyers (that very much deserve your attention and business) create pouring from the shelves of the yarn stores, but I am never as thrilled with the end result as I am when I am working with individual colors. That’s just how I roll. Hence my decision to focus on individual colors on the skeins I bring to you. I also decided to keep with the kettle dye process, because as bland as I can be, with my single-color choices, I do like a little variety. This is where living color comes in, my skeins have gentle variation, some more than others because some colors and materials allow for more variation. The kettle dye (which lend itself to variation) is perfect for natural plant dyed yarn because much of the beauty of these dyes come from this variation and from the living color lifespan. Natural dyes will change a little over the years, some more than others, and by years I mean many. These are not dyes that will look the exact same 50 years from now (not like our plastic bags do even after floating in the lake for a few decade- actually even those fade). All that talk about permanency above? Natural dyes have less permanency than synthetic dyes, and won’t outlast your great grandchildren. Well they will, but they will look different. How much? It depends on the dye and if there is a mordant and the dye process used. With this in mind I created the living palette (photo above) for the Pure Local shawl by Jill Sielinski, found on Ravelry. I wanted to create a long, eye catching, rectangular wrap and here it was! Jill, known as Knitterella on Ravelry, designed her pattern in honor of their local yarn store for LYS Day 2022 and she hit a home run (her pattern is available for purchase on Ravelry). So, I ran with it too. The colors I chose are “outside the box” for many but I loved getting this kit together. This was not a go to the shelf and pull colors and see what works. That is not how natural dyeing work. This was- choose a range-I chose red, yellow and browns. Choose the pots, plants, mordants and modifiers and get to work. What I came up with truly astounded me, and as with most photos, the one above does not do the colors justice. From left to right, Madder with iron; black walnut; black walnut with iron; avocado; marigold; avocado with iron. All the yarn was premordanted, dyed with heat, cured then washed to ensure the best light fastness and colorfastness. My sample shawl (below, and not yet done- did I mention I had a busy summer?) is dyed with similar dyes, but I chose some deeper colors for this kit. Also, as I mentioned, depending on the water, strength of the plant material, time of day (not really) and mood of the dye pot (also not really), colors vary in hue each time I dye. This means that each dye session will yield new and beautiful (but different) sets of colors for this shawl. I cannot exactly recreate the same color (dye lots are a big thing for natural dyes), nor do I want to, that would make hand dyed yarn boring. These unique kits are available at The Artful Yarn, there are not many. But I will dye for more kits soon if you miss a chance at getting these. The yarn is 50/50 merino wool and mulberry silk. Each skein is 240yds. Six skeins per kit. This is a pretty big project. This will be a conversation piece as well as a little warmth on cool night.
I hope this shawl inspires you. There are some neat techniques and things you probably have done before but need a refresher. Enjoy and feel free to contact me about my yarn email@example.com .
Also, I vow to stop lecturing on Natural Dyes and how they work. Now you get it, its in my website too and we can just focus on the beautiful pieces we can create. It’s sort of like a knitting circle with our mothers, including Mother Earth.
Christine Darling Weiss