Tag Archives: dyeing

Yarn Works by Wendy J. Johnson

yarnworks_coverThis review is a long time coming, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write it.

It’s been difficult to write, because I love this book so much, and each time I sat down to review it I felt I couldn’t do it justice.

I finally realized that, short of reprinting entire chapters of the book here on my blog, nothing could really reflect how helpful Yarn Works is until one actually reads it.

This is a unique and incredibly useful book. It is textbook-like in it’s scholarship, it’s appendices and illustrations. But, unlike the average textbook, Yarn Works is a delight to read.

Yarn Works is broken into 4 sections; Fiber Workshop, Spin Workshop, Dye Workshop and Knit Workshop.  Each section is clearly divided into chapters which take the reader through each topic, step by step, with very clear and understandable instructions.

I don’t know what Wendy’s middle name is, but it could easily be “Clarity.”

I must confess that when I review a book, I usually don’t read it cover to cover. If it’s a pattern book I’ll peruse the garments, pick a few and read through the pattern to see if I can understand the writing style. If it’s a technique book I’ll try a few of them out, also to see if the writing style resonates with me.

In this case, I’ve been taking this book to bed with me and scanning it (heck, I took it to DC with me and read it in hotel rooms along the way…) and I’m in love with it.

2014-12-30 11.00.59My adult life has been book-ended by yarn; I learned to knit at 25, began designing hand knit garments and writing patterns in the 80’s. I took a hiatus to attend grad school and work in the theater and TV for 10 years, then returned to knit design/teaching in the early 2000’s.

Now I dye yarn, too, which takes up the lion’s share of my days, so I was most intrigued to read Wendy’s take on these aspects of my ‘life’ – dyeing and knitting.

I must admit that I didn’t spend a great deal of time on the Spin Workshop. I read the section, as I did the Fiber Workshop section, and found the information clear and concise.  I’m not a spinner; my asthma makes it difficult for me to even knit with very soft fibers (like alpaca or angora), forget about spinning fiber!

wendy_book_1My main focus, obviously, was on the dyeing section.  Wendy breaks down the dyeing process by type of dye, and by fiber, and does it so clearly and in such a non-confusing manner that just about any fiberista will walk away feeling a bit more expert in their understanding.

I’ve spent the past week doing some hard-core dying, finishing up many kilograms of yarn for various clubs and shows, and I’ve felt gratified by how words from Yarn Works come to me at various parts of the process.

Through trial and error over the past year, as ModeKnit Yarn has been moving up to speed, I’ve come to many of the same conclusions that Wendy comes to in her book. However, I didn’t understand the science or theory behind many of my discoveries, and reading about them has been incredibly helpful.

wendy_book_2For instance, I knew that citric acid increased the ability of my yarn to absorb dye and exhaust the bath, but I didn’t understand WHY. Knowing this allows me to be a more complete and effective dyer.

I love Wendy’s embracing attitude that there are MANY right and good ways to create and dye fiber — as many as there are dyers — but the science behind dyeing doesn’t change from dyer to dyer.

If you have an interest in spinning, dyeing or knitting, want to understand the basics of different fiber types and what differentiates different protein fibers (or how cellulose seed fibers differ from cellulose bast fibers) and want to learn all of this in a friendly and comfortable environment, Yarn Works is the book for you.

w-j-johnson-headshotYou probably didn’t get this book for Christmas. Treat yourself and order it now.  Then order one for a friend and change their fiber life.

Yarn Works
W. J. Johnson
ISBN: 978-1-58923-788-9
Creative Publishing Int’l

Preparing For Our First Dye Day

My basement dye 'studio'

My basement dye ‘studio’

After testing many colors and working hard to achieve a certain uniformity in color and depth, it’s time to move over to a large dye area for a day of FULL SKEIN dyeing!

My basement work area is pretty nice, it has all that we need (water, electric, microwave, a bit of space & a heater – very important in Minnesota in the Winter)

Plus it’s where my office is (in a separate room with a cat/dog/child proof locking door!)

The Yarn ARRIVES!

The Yarn ARRIVES!

Yarn arrived just before Thanksgiving, and it’s being skeined up as I write (well, I had to stop rolling skeins to blog, but I’ll begin twirling that swift as soon as I’ve posted this!)

As I’ve worked up colors I knit them because, to my mind, I can’t really tell what a color’s going to do until I see it knit up. Yarn can look remarkable on the skein, but then go a bit dead when knitted if there isn’t the right kind of depth.

I tend to be annoyingly organized so I’ve developed a database to keep track of how much dye I’m using for each swatch and how I’m working it into the yarn. That way when I wander onto a perfect combination, I’m be able to recreate it. Well, that’s the idea.

I’ve been working on dyeing some full sized skeins with mixed results. Some are tremendous, and some have fallen a bit flat (increasing dye amounts appropriately and ‘reading’ yarns in the dyepot to get an idea of their final colors are skills I am developing…)

I really want to be able to achieve a uniformity so we can market our colors as colorways, not just as ‘one-offs.’ Here are a few of my successes – I’m happy with the distribution of the colors and the depth.

I need to take some of the sample yarns to work into design samples so we can create some nice kits, that’s my job this afternoon while I’m waiting at the dentist office (and afterward, when I know I’ll be out of commission for the evening!)

Wednesday Kathleen returns from a week visiting family in Florida, it will be great to see her again! We’ll be packing everything up and heading off to a dye studio for a day of dyeing on Thursday. I’m thinking we’ll do red tones in the morning, blue/green tones in the afternoon, and we’ll see how that pans out! I can’t lie, I’m very nervous.

Even though I’ve had my own business for 12+ years, it’s been a sole proprietorship so I didn’t have to worry about vendors, etc. Because this is a larger undertaking, we’ve moved on to Quick Books so we’ll be investigating the ins and outs of that for keeping track of our expenses, inventory and (hopefully) profits.

So while I wait for my visit to the dentist today, I’ll try inputting our receipts for yarn, dye and supply purchases. I know how to make a day fun, don’t I?

New Horizons

First Batch of Colors

First Batch of Colors

I’ve been insanely excited for the past month(s) because I’m embarking on a new endeavor with a partner, and I can’t hold it in any longer!

IMG_0203We’re starting an independent yarn dyeing business!

I know, us and 450 other folks this week…

Why? As I have come to love so many independently produced yarns (and their dyers) I felt like there were holes in the market I’d like to try to fill – colors I have been searching for, but haven’t been able to find anywhere else.

And I love yarn, and color, and I love dyeing things.

And, most important, I’m continuously looking for ways to stay at home more, yet keep our household in the black.

Dyeing was my favorite part of grad school (hours over a hot dyevat, mmmm) Recently while working on some preliminary colors for ModeKnit Yarns I found myself going to sleep with the smell of dye on my hands and a big smile on my face.

IMG_0188Rubber gloves will help diminish the former,
real life will probably take care of the latter;
but a girl can dream!

My partner is Kathleen Pascuzzi, a phenomenal person who has business expertise that I lack. We’re in the process of doing all of the legal stuff, being adult about this, but our goal is to have some skeins available for purchase by the end of the year. We intend to take it slow, with a ‘soft start’, and move on from there.

IMG_0126We’re aiming for an initial palette of 10 colorways, grouped in 5 sets of 2 and available as kits for my Morse Cowl (a yet unreleased pattern, but you’ll love it, trust me!) 

Our inspiration for our colors are gemstones and semi precious minerals. Kathleen was the manager of a retail jewelry store for 17 years (I told you she had business savvy) and her great eye is immensely helpful!

I’ll still be designing – probably more than I currently am – but I’m hopeful that along with creating patterns that sell yarn for other companies, now I’ll be creating some patterns that will sell some of OUR fine yarn!

This end of the business is new to me, so I’ll be blogging about our journey in the coming weeks as we get our initial orders ready and begin our marketing – stay tuned!

Colors, Round 2

Colors, Round 2

Book Giveaway

The winner of the book, Crochet At Play, is ShellyD.  She’s been notified, and she’ll be receiving the book from the publisher.  Thanks so much for playing along!