Ever wondered how a hand dyed yarn is created. Read all about the creation of BareFaced Smudge, a truly British collaboration with the very talented Sunshine of MyMama knits. This blog has been written especially for us by Sunshine herself ( don't you just love that name!).
Jo and I met at WoolNEss 2019 where we had neighbouring booths. Our displays could not be any more different in colour and style and yet they complimented each other beautifully. Over the weekend we got to know each other a little bit and very early on the idea of a collaboration seemed impossible to resist.
Jo had some ideas already for a hand dyed collection and had been looking for a dyer previously and I was game to see what we could accomplish by meshing or different skills and aesthetics together. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about working with Jo is the easy going nature of the collaboration. Borne out of mutual admiration, we are both interested to see where it takes us as an experience that has varying measures beyond just the success of the Smudge colourway collection. Once we had agreed to go for it, Jo came round one day with a big bag of yarn and some colour/mood boards and we talked about her desire to have some hand dyed colourways that fit into her already gorgeous range of natural cream, light and charcoal grey yarns. She shared some of the basics of her design process and I my dye process, so that we could get an idea of what we would need to consider and the expectations on what the final yarn was to do. I then got to play with yummy yarn, sending periodic photos and skeins her way to get things just right. I’m really happy with the results so far with Tarmachan and Burnel and wholeheartedly hope to continue getting to play with more BareFaced Yarn!
I also can’t wait to see how Jo uses the yarn in her pattern design as well. This was a big consideration when planning my dye process. Would I need to dye in a way that avoided striping or pooling over garments or were the yarns going to be used mainly for small contrasts along with her natural colours as the main body, etc.? It’s all exciting stuff with the feeling that we are both working with the aim of ending up with something that is just that bit more than what we would have created separately in our own spheres of experience.
Jo’s special blend of Blue Faced Leicester Baby Alpaca is all born, bred and processed in Britain, which appeals to me greatly. My own yarns are primarily superwash merino, which is what my customer base seems to prefer, and I don’t get much opportunity to play with new bases. Hers being a base mix I don’t normally dye was one of the strong pulls for me to want to get my hands on it. Part of what I love about dyeing yarn is experimenting with different animal fibres and how they take up dyes in their own unique way. Even a yarn of the same content will take colour in different ways depending on the weight and twist of the skein. Superwash treated wool also takes dyes differently to non superwash and it was exciting to experiment with achieving colourways that marry with Jo’s ideas and expectations, colour and design wise, while still feeling like the resulting yarns were in my own colouring and dye style as well.
I dye on the stovetop, in small batches of 2-5 skeins of a colourway in a pan at a time, with multiple pans on the go throughout a session. I use a host of acid dyes from Jacquard, Dharma, Colourcraft and other suppliers, usually mixing them together to get just the colour I want. Since I dye in the kitchen and have a young family to look after, it is sometimes tricky organising work and keeping what is also the family hub free. I’m extremely lucky to have a craft room of my own, where all of my supplies and finished yarn is kept. This room is basically my dream habitat! For the dyeing process though, there is a lot of cleaning the space (kitchen) before and after dyeing and lugging supplies to and fro between rooms, within timeframes dictated by the kids’ school day. As far as dyeing a typical session, spread over a few days goes something like this:
Night before dye day – Add extra ties to skeins to prevent tangling. I use cotton or acrylic yarn to do this as they will not take up my dye and are easy to spot in the pan. This makes it easier for me to identify and pick up individual skeins for turning during the dye process. I soak my skeins overnight to ensure even colour absorption.
Dye day – marathon run at working lots of magic on as many skeins as I can, leaving the skeins to cool down overnight
Next day – rinse skeins and hang to dry. When the sun is out I like to hang the skeins outside, but since it is Scotland, they normally get hung on racks inside with a dehumidifier in the craft room. Even with that going it can sometimes take a couple days to get everything dry and throughout the process, I turn and adjust them to try and keep the yarn looking tidy.
Once dry, the skeins are twisted and ready for photos and labeling.
This process repeats itself, the days and stages overlapping, with me dreaming of new colours every day in between. We hope you like them!
Check out our pattern section for inspiration on what to make in these yarns.