I am lucky to live in an area of the country where it seems to be over-run with creative types of people. I landed here because The Farmer, my husband, was lucky to be born here and I married him. Although we spent the first 15 years of our marriage in eastern Massachusetts, we both yearned to move to “The Happy Valley” where our sheep have always lived. It’s been almost eleven years since we have lived here full-time and I can’t imagine living anywhere else now. The funny thing about living here though is that because so many creative types work by themselves and for themselves, they tend to hide amongst the hills and valleys of all the little tiny towns in this incredibly naturally beautiful area. I know. I’m one of them, hiding out in my own little world doing my own thing in my little cocoon. It makes for decent productivity but can also be stifling. It’s one reason I write this blog – so that I can feel a part of some kind of world since I no longer frequent a watercooler.
So where do I find and meet new friends, you wonder? First off, I have a daughter named Julia and through her I have met many parents, doctors, nurses, librarians, and all those other people who work at the places we frequent. And then there are the many independently owned places of business we shop at, like Foster’s Supermarket. Oh, how I love this store. It is little gem in the land of overly big, buy everything you don’t need, world of giant supermarkets. I can pretty much find whatever I need there at a fair price. It was at Foster’s that I first met Gail Callahan. I was at the deli and I saw a woman looking at me kind of funny. I thought to myself, “Must be a knitter,” because once in a great while a knitter will recognize me. The tell-tale clue is usually a handknit scarf or hat and that tips me off right away. So there was this attractive woman and her husband shopping and she stopped me and asked me if I was “Kristin Nicholas.” I answered “Yes, I was” and we then went into the normal knitterly chat. She was very nice and I found out she worked part-time at Webs and she also did some hand dyeing. What I didn’t realize is that this woman was “The Kangaroo Dyer” and that she was a bit of a cult icon in the world of hand dyed knitting yarns.
Fast forward a couple years and Gail and I have become friends through knitting and color. Gail has been working on a book on hand dyeing edited by Gwen Steege at Storey who was also my editor for Colorful Stitchery and Kristin Knits. We now meet up for coffee with a mutual friend Lisa Newman and try to support each other in our various creative pursuits. And so that leads me, finally, to the purpose of this post. I want to tell you all about Gail’s just released fabulous new book Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece.
Storey Publishing kindly sent me Gail’s new book and I have spent the past couple days reading through it. First off, I want to say, if you have ever wanted to learn to dye yarn or fleece, BUY THIS BOOK. I learned to dye fabrics and yarn in college from my different art professors and so I have never been fearful of taking some old yarn and turning it another shade. It is very easy, believe me. One thing I do knowh though is that most people have the fear of the unknown and even though a project may be easy, it is just the fear of not knowing how to do something that stops them from trying it. If that is your personality, just know that it is human to fear the unknown and try to work your way through it. A good how-to book always helps!
So, here’s my question? Are you just crazy nutty over the beautifully seductive hand dyed yarn you see in your local yarnstore but you just can’t afford to purchase any? Do you have a large stash of yarn in colors that you just can’t fathom knitting anymore? Then you need Gail’s book. In Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece, she breaks down hand dyeing into small, easy to manage steps. She tells you how to set up a safe, temporary dye studio in your own kitchen, and she teaches you how to dye yarn and fiber in a very easy to understand way. She even teaches you how to use a microwave and a crock pot to set the color.
Besides all the fabulous technical how-to, Gail also includes a very useful chapter on learning about Color Theory. She teaches several whimsical methods of easy dyeing including hand painting, dip dyeing, dyeing fleece and roving, dyeing cones of yarn and balls of yarn, immersion dyeing, tie-dyeing, and many more creative methods of dyeing yarn (including one she calls Mozzarella Dyeing and another she calls Parking Meter Yarn).
Gail discusses the different kinds of acid dyes you can purchase (sources given in the appendix too) and how to use them safely. She starts it off simple with dyeing paper towels with food coloring and then leads you through all the other more technical but not too difficult stuff. At the back of the book, there are several knitting and crochet patterns which use the hand dyed yarns in projects including socks, scarves, mittens, and a baby sweater.
You can purchase a signed copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn And Fleece directly from Gail on her website here. It's always good to support a hard-working author. Or look for it at your local yarn or bookstore. You can see more photos from her book on Gail's blog here.
For all you yarnstores reading, I have an idea for you. Teach a class on hand dyeing using Gail’s book. You can turn some of those odd skeins of light and medium colors of wool and other protein fibers you can’t get rid of into something fun and fanciful and stimulate your customer’s desire for creativity.
And if you did finally get to the end of this long winded post today, I have a reward for you. Storey Publishing has kindly donated a copy of Gail’s book as a Giveaway on my blog. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite color or your experience dyeing in my comments section with an easy way to get a hold of you. PLEASE, make this easy for me! The giveaway ends Thursday March 4th at 3 p.m. I will announce the winner here on my blog Friday morning and you’ll have until Tuesday March 9th to get a hold of me.
Reminder - R.J. Julia Booksellers - This coming Friday evening at 7 p.m. in Madison, CT, I'm giving a talk called "The Joy of Color." Please spread the word! I tried to contact knitting guilds in CT but 6 or the 8 e-mails bounced back!