Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Accidents & Dyeing

Not all projects come out as planned.  Sometimes there are disasters and sometimes happy accidents.  Today I visited the whole spectrum.

Today I set out to dye yarn for my upcoming "My first Shawl" class.  I wanted something unique and special to work with while I knit along with the students.  Generally I request that students select a light colored yarn to work with as it makes it much easier to see the stitches, and thus, I aimed to comply with my own request.

I chose to play with vermilion, purple and periwinkle (all roughly next to each other on the color wheel) in pale shades.  My goal was to hand paint these colors onto the white base, then hot bath dye the whole load in  pale olive (opposite from the previous colors on the color wheel) to add a warming effect.

I tested all my colors.  I was pleased with what I was seeing.  I hand painted.  I knew immediately that these colors were not "my colors" - colors that would look good on my complexion - but knew that over-dyeing in the olive would warm the colors back into my personal palette, or would make a lovely combination that, although not perfect for me, might be perfect as a gift for someone else.

Into the pot went the hand painted skeins.  Into the pot went the olive dye.  On went the lid, and back I stood waiting for magic to happen.

It happened alright.

I would have taken pictures if I hadn't been in a panic.

Olive dye didn't make olive yarn.  Not at all.  Instead I had ORANGE yarn with vermilion, purple and periwinkle undertones.  NOT good.  NOT attractive on anyone. And most certainly NOT something I wanted to show off to my students.  A qualified FAIL.

Panic took over.  $20 worth of YUCK yarn.  There had to be a save.

I threw in the rest of my olive dye, threw on the lid and pretended this would solve the problem.

No.  When I checked again, it was just more orange.  I'm not in any way sure why.  My test is definitively olive, not orange.  Perhaps the dye was "breaking" into its base components and only the orange was being absorbed by the wool.

The panic got worse.

How do you fix orange?

My mind whorled.  Add red - I guessed I'd get kind of a cotton-candy vomit.  Add green - NO guess as the those results.  Add blue... well, I've been told blue and orange make brown.  Brown is good. Otherwise I could get anything from green to purple depending on how the dye reacted with the red/yellow of the current orange.  If not perhaps the blue would just override and I'd get blue.  Blue is good too.  Heck, at this point I'd take anything over the vermilion, purple, periwinkle and orange mess I had at that point.  Yuck.

"Comfortable Old Jeans"
I dumped in a healthy dose of dark sapphire blue.  I put on the lid.  I prayed to the magical dye gods.  I knew the yarn would come out far darker than I intended, but at that point it wasn't about fulfilling the original purpose, it was only about saving it from disaster.  I didn't want to have to dye it black to make it usable.

When I finally dared to peek into the dye pot again, I was pleasantly surprised. The blue had in fact prevailed over all and combined with all the previous layers to create a glorious range of tones... including, oddly enough... an olive.  I don't understand.  I don't even care that I don't understand.  I'm just relieved and grateful the dye gods heard my desperate prayers.  It occurs to me that I either need to take a class or need to spend a day doing nothing but color experiments on yarn NOT designated for a project.  Then I realized, no, I simply need to let go.  I need to approach dyeing with an openness, not a rigid plan.  Every single dye project I've done ended up delightful.  Very, very few of them came out exactly as planned.  All required trust in the magic of the dye.  Dyeing today? Loosen up and let it happen.