Yesterday Mel and I had the pleasure of taking a dyeing workshop with Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt Yarns. Lilith’s studio is in West Kilbride, also known as Craft Town Scotland, because of its fantastic local initiative to house and support talented craftspeople in the town’s once-empty shops. Lilith’s studio is one of several great crafty locales in West Kilbride that we discovered yesterday (of which more later).
Lilith’s studio is an incredibly inspirational space. Everywhere you look you see her beautiful yarn
. . . and beautiful things to make with her yarn.
I was very excited. Lilith encouraged us to experiment with the dyes.
Several techniques were attempted, and some mess was made (by me). We then got down to business hand-painting and immersion dyeing a number of mini-skeins. We tested many different colour combinations and yarns composed of a wide range of fibres (merino, alpaca, cashmere, bamboo, silk). While I conservatively stuck to one method, trying (and, it has to be said, largely failing) to get a feel for what different colours might do when mixed together, Mel tried many different techniques and also impressively dyed up some roving (which seemed quite a scary process). We then settled on our yarn / colour combination, and dyed up our finished product. This was thrilling: it felt so irrevocable! Lilith is just fantastic — encouraging, engaging — and I would really recommend her workshop as a great introduction to different practices and processes of dyeing.
I returned to Edinburgh high on dyeing, and very happy indeed with my lovely bag full of damp yarn. The mini-skeins dried out quickly, and I spent much of yesterday evening petting and gazing at them in foolish admiration. Want to see?
Lilith suggested that we come up with names for the colourways we’d invented. I was quite interested in this process, since I completely share Heather’s view of certain yarn-companies’ choice of colourway-names. I am repelled by anything saccharine or prissy, and some of that Jane-Austen associated nonsense almost makes me angry. So I enlisted Tom’s help, and we spent an amusing hour or two naming the colourways of my tester skeins. Tom’s best contributions were “squid”, “council trousers” and “David Icke’s shell suit.” For those of you unfamiliar with his idiosyncratic frame of colour reference (that’s most of you, then) council trousers are bright orange, and you can experience the terrifying wonder of Icke’s shell suit here.
Moving swiftly on, here are my maxi-skeins — three-hundred grams of merino-alpaca 4 ply — which I left overnight to dry. They are a kettle dyed, semi-solid, never to be repeated shade of blue, and I absolutely love them! I have something in mind to do with them, but their colourway is as yet un-named. Do you think I should ask Tom?
While I feel I learned a lot yesterday, and am actually rather pleased with my (completely unpredictable) end results, I know I would need an awful lot more practice to cut any mustard at the colour business that Lilith is so good at. I must also admit that I think dyeing could never be my metier — it seemed to bear some similarities to brewing (or indeed cooking), and I fear my constitutional messiness would act as an impediment to success . . . But I had a wonderful time at Lilith’s and look! I dyed yarn!