Experiments in yarn painting.

One of the things that initially drew me, and I’m sure most people, to knitting, was the opportunity to make my own clothing, accessories, sources of warmth and coziness. When I first taught myself to knit, from a kit bought at Michael’s with some awfully squeaky blue acrylic yarn, it was because I was very caught up in a DIY movement. The people who I came to admire in my teenage years all rejected the concept of conventional consumerism and embraced the idea of making stuff—the things we need, the superfluous things that we wear to express ourselves, the music we listened to, and the zines we read. Every day after school, I would go down to my room, blast the songs of Ian MacKaye—the ultimate grandmaster of DIY living—and sit and draw or slowly chip away at my never-ending blue scarf. And the same appeal and comfort that I found in knitting then, still persists now; I still spend hours working away at my stitches so that I can make something that is wholly my own, that has only been crafted by my own hands. Knowing the root of where your possessions come from is very satisfying.

All of that being said (I know, I tend to go on tangents—OFTEN), the next logical step for me was to actually try my hand at creating colors. I often find myself in yarn stores searching for very specific hues that only live in my mind. I thought that, instead of hoping that someone would have what I was looking for, I could just take matters into my own hands (literally) and concoct precisely what I desired—it would be an additional element of making things for myself.

Of course, it being my first time—with little knowledge of how to actually mix pigments, and of course with no knowledge at all of the precision required—my results were rather haphazard. Luckily, I’m very pleased with the outcome.


My first two skeins were hand-painted. I had immense fun mixing up the pigments and washing them onto the blank skeins—in this case, some inexpensive BFL. The camera had its way with these shades a bit; the first is a very tonal orange, which looks, in person, a lot more like candy corn. The skein on the right is primarily chartreuse with pops of very saturated sky blue and ochre.


The skein on the left was a bit magical. It was also hand-painted, but this time around, there was much more alchemy involved. When the shades of blue were initially mixed, they actually resembled a slate gray. I thought, at the time, that it was ugly, that it wasn’t the effect I hoped to achieve, and that maybe dyeing wasn’t to be my new hobby. So I went REALLY crazy with the colors that I applied to the skein, because at that point, I was no longer vested in it. Thankfully, after a long steam in the pot, the slate gray morphed into a beautiful indigo, and everything metamorphosed into a brilliantly wild, variegated mess. There’s a lot of orange and green in the skein, as well, that the camera didn’t pick up; we’ll see how everything knits up. The red skein was my first attempt at kettle dyeing, and I absolutely love it. I’ve heard that it is both intensely difficult to dye red, and even more difficult to photograph it; the dyeing was easy, in my opinion, but the photography was, indeed, very hard. I cannot capture just how deep and saturated this color is. So I’ll implore you to come visit me and look at it for yourself. It’s really quite remarkable.

Since I’ve just rambled on and on, I’ll sign off now. My dye ‘studio’ is set up at home in New York, so I’ll only be able to experiment occasionally—the next opportunity is Thanksgiving. But I’m really excited about it, and already brewing up new colorways in my mind that I can hopefully translate to the undyed, thirsty skeins waiting for me.

Does this all really just mean that, before long, I’ll be dyeing roving and begin spinning? That I’ll be buying sheep to shear? Only time will tell.

But I’d venture to say, yes.


2 thoughts on “Experiments in yarn painting.

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