Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Book: Dyeing to Knit

A new book, Dyeing To Knit, has caught my eye and I like it enough to offer it on the website. Elaine Eskesen has written a book this is a good combination of inspiration and scientific method, and the pictures are thought provoking.

What attracted me to this book is a section on how to dye with a specific project in mind. Eskesen does a good job of differentiating between space dyeing and hand painting, something which I was glad to see since those two terms often seem to be used interchangeably. She talks about pooling of colors -- is it such a terrible thing, or could they be welcomed into our work and used to advantage? It makes no difference whether you dye with acid wash dyes, as does the author, natural dyes, Kool Aid, Easter Egg dyes, or food dyes. The bulk of the book is not about how to dye with acid wash dyes, but how to manipulate color, predict a color pattern in the fabric, how to combine some new techniques with your tried and true methods.

Her work features many examples of smooth and textured yarns used together to create new affects which color, alone, will not achieve. What I call 'visual texture,' or used to in my wallpaper shop when people would agonize over color choice and often leave with beige wallpaper. Visual interest is what gives the pop to a final knit piece!

Many of us have probably not taken advantage of incorporating more than one yarn in our final knitted pieces. I know that my own needles began to truly fly once I started knitting with my handdyes, and knitting socks out of my dyed yarn became so satisfying that I quickly became obsessed! Once I began to incorporate some Fair Isle work into the cuffs, my work stepped up a notch and became more interesting. Now, there are small handdyed yarn companies which are capitalizing on this very same concept of knitting with more than one of your handdyes at a time. They are reaching the people who don't do what you and I do, who do not invest the time and space and mess and creative juices into dyeing up a marvelous stockpile of colorful fibers.

One of the undyed yarn distributors once told me that they had received calls from several local yarn shops who were truly upset because their customers were beginning to buy handdyed yarns directly from the handdyers. Their market share was being eaten into and they didn't like it! It seems that handdyed yarns are beginning to find their own market -- on Etsy and eBay and through fiber artists' individual websites. And -- wonder of all wonders! -- many of my customers are begining to supply the local yarn shop with handdyes.

Actually, I have just taken on one LYS myself as a sort of experiment to see what my customers go through to get out a collection big and varied enough for a yarn shop owner to purchase. It is a lot of work, but the creative process suddenly shifts into another gear as I concentrate on the range of color and intensity and hue as the pile begins to grow.

Like Eskesen, the author of this new book, I look at color trends in clothing and home furnishing and, of course, yarn. At least one knitting magazine will have a color forecast each spring, you can count on it. In the wallpaper shop, I would tell people about color forecasting and how the home decorating fields follow the color trends of the clothing market by a year or so, and they always seemed amazed for some reason. I used to ask these customers to go home and open their closet doors and see if there was a majority of one color hanging there, or if there was a color pallette which they had not recognized before.

As long as I am rambling about color families, I did want to mention another color inspiration source which was sited in the latest Vogue Knitting magazine. It is the 3-in-1 Color Tool from C&T Publishing, a set of color cards similar to the paint store's swatches, but with 6 combinations for each color. I ordered one through the local quilt shop, another good source for color forecasting, by the way.

Dyeing to Knit by Elaine Eskesen is listed on my website for $22.

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