A bright Monday morning in September 2017 saw us bundle into a car (with our knitting, of course) and head up to Chester. Why were we heading to Chester instead of into the office to work on your next issues of Simply Knitting and The Knitter? We were off for a day of dyeing yarn with the wonderful Jeni Hewlett of Fyberspates!
We arrived at Jeni’s home and studio to be greeted by copious cups of tea. We also met two adorable kitty cats, who (rightly) demanded quite a lot of our attention. After settling in and getting our fill of cat cuddles, Jeni talked us through what we would be doing for the day. Then she took us out to her workshop – where Lottie and Hannah (who help Jeni out) had begun setting things up.
Once inside, Jeni went over the basics of dyeing yarn. She covered some of the science behind it, but made it clear that it was better to have fun with the process. There was no need to worry about how many milliliters of vinegar or citric acid we poured in compared to hot water.
“There is a science to it,” said Jeni. “But you really don’t need to worry about that here. Just have fun and don’t be afraid to play with the colours – you really can’t go wrong!”
After a quick demonstration, which involved mixing a teaspoon of dye into a jar of hot water before adding a splash of vinegar, we were each given skeins of undyed yarn and set about choosing our dyes.
“While everyone else got stuck into painting their yarn,” says our own Editor-in-Chief, Debora Bradley, “Jeni showed me how to dye speckled yarn.”
“Never really having thought about how the effect is achieved, it was fascinating to see how the length of time the yarn is in the water affects the end result, and how the yarn took the dye.”
While Debora was watching her speckled skein turn from a plain cream to a vibrant mix of pinks and purples, the rest of us were making a mess with paintbrushes…
“I’m sure I got a little bit carried away,” says our Production Assistant, Louise Smith. “I started with a strong yellow (my favourite colour) and after coating a few sections of my skein in that, I added a bright blue and pink – with added splatters of the blue dye across the skein for good measure.”
“It was so much fun to watch the dyes blend together where they met on the yarn. After we’d finished painting our skeins, the lovely ladies wrapped them in clingfilm and placed them in a steamer to help set the dyes.”
It was fascinating to see how each of us, eight in total, dyed our yarns in completely different ways. Some of us went for blocks of colour that blended into one another; others chose a base colour and then worked complimentary dyes on top.
“If you asked me what I learned at the yarn dyeing day with the Fyberspates team, I’d say one thing – I LOVE yarn dyeing,” says Simply Knitting’s Production Editor, Sophie Jordan. “It turned out to be huge amounts of fun and what’s best, I got to take self-dyed yummy yarn home with me too!”
“The fact that my nine-year-old daughter scooped up my new yarn baby and squealed, ‘I love this, can I have it?!’ is by the by. Nothing could wipe that yarn-dyeing smile off my face.”
“We were spoilt for choice with the array of colours available to use,” says our Digital Assistant, Michelle Smith. “I painted a skein of 4ply yarn in blue, followed by yellow, which gave it a green hue. The finished effect was a sea of blues and greens.”
“I then painted a skein of aran weight Bluefaced Leicester in shades of reds and pinks.”
Each of us thoroughly enjoyed painting our skeins and were overjoyed when Jeni told us that we could have another go with a new skein! Some of us took turns trying our hand at dyeing the speckled yarn, while others gave it another go with the painting.
“I painted a skein too,” says Debora. “I’m always teased about how much I love blues and greens, but since I do love them (SO MUCH), I had a high old time attempting to blend turquoise and green to get the colour I was after.”
“Using all Jeni’s equipment, and with lots of help, it was an easy (and highly addictive!) process to paint a skein or two,” adds Debora. “But it’s clear that doing it on a bigger scale is not for the faint-hearted. Wet yarn in bulk is jolly heavy.”
Since returning to the office, we’ve all been ooo-ing and aww-ing over our skeins of yarn – parading them around the office like woolly ‘I can dye yarn!’ trophies. Some of us have been a little hesitant to get our needles stuck into our precious skeins, but our knitting-pro Editor, Kirstie McLeod, has already cast on a pair of socks with one of her beautiful skeins.
“How long did I wait before casting on? Oh, about five minutes,” says Sophie. “My daughter is getting a new woolly hat – and I’m (hopefully) getting a workshop of my own in the garage!”
Michelle says: “Guided by Jeni, we all had a fabulous day dyeing various yarns. Her studio, set in the countryside, is so light and airy.”
“It was really interesting to see how differently everyone’s yarn turned out, and how easy it was to pick out who had dyed what,” says Debora. “It’s great to have my own exclusive yarn to knit or crochet into something – now I just have to decide what it will be!”
We can’t thank Jeni and her team enough for such a wonderful day! Each of us have learned so much, even those of us who had tried dyeing yarns before. We’ve even started planning team yarn dyeing days for the future…