A few years ago Hugh and I decided to have a go at painting (I mean the arty sort, not DIY). I bought us a box of acrylic paints in a few basic shades. Since the basic colours were a bit dull, I thought it would be a very good warm up exercise to play with the colours a bit and try to mix some new, more complex colours . A few days later, I had not even started on anything resembling a painting, but I had a very nice notepad filled with lots and lots of little squares in all sorts of interesting shades of blue and green.
For the last few weeks I have been teaching myself how to dye wool with acid dyes. I love natural dyes, but sometimes I also want to be able recreate very specific colours so I thought the precision of synthetic dyes might come in handy in some projects.
And again, I am doing the fiber equivalent of painting small squares: dyeing very small (2 gram) skeins in lots and lots of different colours. So far I have done all the basic colours and I am now beginning to start creating mixes.
You can see the first series of mixed colours in the picture: it shows 9 blends of yellow and turquoise, at 10% intervals (at the bottom, it’s 100% turquoise, the one above it 90% turquoise/10% yellow, then 80% turquoise/20% yellow and so on).
It is a very rational and analytical approach to colour, as if the scientific part of me is imposing itself on the artistic process. I just feel that I need to understand all the dynamics of colour before I am able to launch into a bigger project. It does make sense, but it is a very long-winded and slow strategy. Given that I have 2-3 different versions of each of the primary colours, there are an awful lot of possible combinations you can create just with two colours. And then come the more complex mixtures…
But as I love the process, I am not in a hurry. And I love my little collection of colourful mini-skeins, even if I never do anything more with them.
I think it is a common trait in knitters, spinners and dyers. We like collecting colours. That’s why so many of us have such a huge stash of yarns. We get pleasure out of a beautifully coloured skein even if we have no idea of what to make with it (if anything).
And that is the reason why I decided to learn to dye my own wool – I just can’t afford or have the space for all the colours I might want/need in big skeins. Much better to play with colours in a small scale, and when I am ready for a bigger project, then I am able to create exactly the shade I want.