Friday, November 6, 2009

Drop by Drop

For several months, I have been planning a warp for the Summer and Winter Kitchen Towels in the Handwoven E-Book "Top Ten Towels on Four Shafts". In fact since June, five skeins of yarn have been scoured and waiting on the cabinet in my utility room. The time has long since passed to get them off the cabinet.

The thing that has stopped me is the number of colors of yarn that are required. The towels use five different colors of 5/2 cotton plus white. I had exactly one of those colors - white.

When I started weaving, I decided I would try to dye many of the colors called for, since I do not want to add to the large supply of yarn that I have already. The problem is I have no formal art training, so my color mixing knowledge relies heavily on what I learned from finger paints in kindergarten.

For this project, my challenge came in mixing some colors that were close to the colors used in the original pattern - although I am sure other colors would be equally pretty. I really struggled over how to mix some of the colors especially the "California Gold". I had the yellow part down, but was not sure how to get the gold part. I also needed to mix a "Dark Turk" color and a coral color.

From my earlier fiber reactive dye experiments, I learned that the mixed dye solutions can be painted onto watercolor paper, and the dried samples are pretty close to what the actual dyed cloth or yarn will be. Someplace, I also saw that a coffee filter can be substituted for the paper. So, I decided to mix a gradation of the colors between two colors in 9 steps, and try out the coffee filters as a place to preserve my samples.

I used a watercolor mixing palette, and put drops of Deep Yellow in the indentations with an eyedropper. In the first indent, I put one drop, in the second two drops and so forth all around to the last one which got 10 drops. Next, I used Chocolate Brown dye solution and in the indentation with one drop of Deep Yellow, I put 9 drops of Chocolate Brown. The two drops of yellow got 8 drops of brown and so on around. I did not put any brown in the indentation that had the 10 drops of yellow. So each basin had a total of 10 drops of dye, giving a simple formula that can be used to mix larger quantities of that same color.

Next I used a paint brush to paint little samples of each color all around the coffee filter. Now I have a good idea about how to get that California Gold color, or rather my interpretation of it, for the warp for the towels. I also have samples of the colors that can be mixed from these two colors and a rough idea of how to get the color I am aiming for.

I repeated this sampling with the rest of the dye solutions I had mixed up. Now I have lots of color samples to use for a quick reference the next time I dye yarn or fabric.

I dyed the yarn which had been scoured and skeined for three months. It is now curing in my hot water heater closet. I will be rising it in a couple of days, so soon, I will be ready to wind the Summer and Winter Towels Warp. I also dyed some muslin for my She-Knits Autumn Mystery Bag which is felted and waiting for a lining.

This was a fun exercise. It made me think of the art classes I did not get to take. I really do have a lot of colors hiding in a few jars of dye powder.

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