Return of the dyer.

Spring break draws to a close tonight. Yes, I am sad it’s over, but I am oh-so-happy that I spent this week getting back in touch with my fiber mojo.

In the past few months, I’ve been knitting, crocheting, and spinning-—yarning, in general—more lately, but this week, I reconnected more fully with the fluff that I love by…

  • reclaiming my office space. Spending time in here makes me feel more like me.
  • organizing the stash. I like having a sense of what I have, embarrassing as the volume may be.
  • spinning up the last hunk of Hunk a Burning Love.

  • starting to spin something with which to ply Hunk. It’s colonial dyed in a solid sienna. I think it will strengthen the merino/tencel blend of Hunk, and the merino/tencel will soften up the colonial.

  • mixing up some fibers together on the blending board to make rolags, which I spun and knitted.
  • cleaning up my dyeing station in the garage.

(This is where this list breaks off and becomes a post of its own.)

    About four years ago, I became a dyer. I had previously quit teaching because it was making me crazy, and in my new job role, I was able to use my time off work freely and not obsess about work. I allowed myself to dream and to play, and what I came up with was a little line of hand-painted gradient spinning fiber inspired by the plants and animals that live Kentucky fencerows. It was a short-lived venture, but when I was working on it, I finally felt alive.

    It’s hard to explain how I walked away from it, but it mainly had to do with my going back to teaching. Returning to the classroom not only meant taking on all the responsibilities of being a teacher, but also getting back into graduate studies, as a master’s degree—earned in a certain dwindling amount of time—was necessary to maintain my teaching certification.

    So that was, like, three years ago.

    And when I say I walked away from the dyeing thing, I mean it literally. I left all my stuff—jugs of dye, bags of fiber, gutters (yes, gutters)—strung out in the garage and never looked back. I am thankful for Dale, who never demanded that I get out there and buckle that business up. To do so would have been to let go of a dream, to fling it into the abyss. Metaphorically speaking. Even though it was a mess, leaving it all set up helped me hold onto the hope that I might dye again.

    And this week, I did.

    The plan was to do it the day after I cleaned up my office, but that day was so chilly and blustery. Staying inside to play with the blending board and spinning wheel just felt preferable. There was a little thought niggling in the back of my mind, saying, See, you’re not going to get back out there. Your dyeing days are done.

    That voice has many names, one of which is the Inner Critic. In case you didn’t know, the IC is a lying SOB.

    I think it was three days ago that I stomped out to the garage and lassoed my dyeing tools back to me. It’s hard to remember how long ago it was because I seem to have lost track of time since then.

    First, I moved three years of accumulated things out of the way. I swept away dirt and sawdust. Then, I disassembled the remnants of my last dyeing session, which had anticipated a next dyeing session—a dyeing session that never came. The pinned out plastic wrap was covered in dust. The waste-water pan was rusted.

    And then, I found what I needed to try again.

    To my surprise, the dye stock was still good, except for one color, which I had foolishly stored in a milk jug. (For the record, dye will eat right through the bottom of a milk jug, given enough time.) I dusted off a bag of merino, tied it up, and dunked it in a fresh bucket of citric acid solution. I rolled out new plastic wrap and pinned it to the gutters.

    With each step, I rediscovered the purpose of the tools I had laid out years ago. Oh, this is why I have this pan! That’s what these fingernail clippers are for! No wonder I used turkey basters!

    It was seriously like coming out of amnesia.

    A pair of twenty-foot gutters for dyeing looong colorways.

    A dozen jars for mixing dyes.

    A sock blank—a years-old gift from my dear friend Kim—newly dyed and steaming.

    The sock blank and two lengths of merino top—all dyed in experimental colorways.

    The sock yarn all wound up into two mirror-image balls. Teal to kelly green to lime to lemon.

    The top braided.

    A third colorway drying in today’s breezy shade.

    Today’s braid.

    Pinky-purple and minty-green color studies, left to dry overnight.


    Can you tell I’m having fun?

    While I loved my former fencerow concept, which guided all my color experiments years ago, I am just letting myself play now. I am still (obviously) drawn to gradient colorways, but I’m letting myself be open to new ideas. I’m not trying to force my color play into strict rules of inspiration.

    And I am loving it.

    The deeper I let myself go down this fibery rabbit hole, the more I feel like throwing a power-fist into the air and shouting, “I’m back, y’all!”

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    2 thoughts on “Return of the dyer.

    1. I love your metaphor of lassoeing your dyeing tools back to you. I picture you wearing a cowgirl hat balancing on a shiny, galloping palamino and swinging a rope over your head all the while with a eat-shit-and-die grin.

      Liked by 1 person

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