The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Sandstone Shawl

Posted by Kristine Vejar on March 08, 2016 1 Comment

For the month of March, as part of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, we are focusing on the Sandstone Shawl.

When setting out the lessons I wanted to teach through The Modern Natural Dyer, I designed the Sandstone Shawl to demonstrate the four following principles:

1. Demonstrate how fibers made by different animals take dye differently.
To make the Sandstone Shawl pattern, I ask for three types of yarn: Malabrigo Rios (100% Superwash Merino), Blue Sky Alpaca Sport (100% Alpaca), and Shibui Silk Cloud (50% Mohair / 50% Silk). These are all protein-based fibers. So though they are scoured and mordanted, for all extents and purpose the same, though as you can see from the list - there is quite a range of protein-based fiber types. Each of these types of fiber, for instance if it from a goat rather than a sheep, will interface differently with the dye, and the resulting color will be affected. So, from our previous discussions, we know that protein-based fibers are different than cellulose-based fibers, and due to that fact, the scouring, mordanting, and dyeing processes are different. Though as we get to know the different types of fiber better, we get to understand how each of the types of fiber respond and react to the dye. To learn more about this, you can read the chapter in The Modern Natural Dyer titled Choosing Fiber. In the case of the Sandstone Shawl, we add the yarns made of various fibers in timed increments into the warm dyepot which does affect the dyed color, that said, even if you were to add them in all at once, you would still achieve a range of colors based upon fiber content.

2. Inspire exploration of combining 3+ dyes.
I wrote the Modern Natural Dyer so the projects would build upon themselves, hoping to build a foundation for those of you who want to really understand the natural dyeing practice. So in this respect, we've built up to this project, first, making making the Northwoods Hat using one dye and the shade card as our guide. Then, making green by combining two dyes, again using the shade card as our guide. Now, let's up the ante by using three dyes to create a color. In the Sandstone Shawl, I give a recommended recipe.

Here is another recipe, to make a deep red-purple, similar to the color of red wine:

1 tsp cutch
1/4 tsp madder
1/16 tsp logwood purple

If you would like to experiment and try creating your own recipes (I hope you do!), keep this in mind: Adding too much dye can change the texture of the yarn, especially wool yarn. The texture could feel brittle, dry, or rigid. I would advise that the amount of dye I used in the Sandstone Shawl's recipe is the maximum amount of dye to use before the hand of the wool will begin to shift. With this being said, combining two or three different dyes widens the color palette, and can be an endless study of possibility!

3. How to create three different shades of color from one pot.
So now, let's say that instead of using 3 different yarn, each made of different blends of fiber, as done in the Sandstone Shawl, you were to choose 3 yarns, each made of the same material - let's say they are all made of merino wool. You can create three slightly different shades of color, by introducing them into the pot at three different intervals. This principle goes hand in hand with #4.

4. Teach what it means to exhaust a dyebath, and how to do so.
In order to make a dark color, you have to use more dye. The yarn can only take so much dye, thus, there will be dye leftover in the pot. When one uses all of the dye in the pot, it is referred to as exhausting the dyebath or dyepot. In the Sandstone Shawl project, by adding skeins of yarn throughout the dyeing process, we are practicing this dyeing technique. When I achieve a color by dyeing this way, I find it hard to replicate the color. Though the color which can be achieved can be very beautiful and unique, so it is a practice I enjoy, and one I encourage home dyers to explore to discover new colors and to create a range of colors closely related to one another, so that when knit or woven can create an ombre. Plus! You have used all the dye in your pot, so nothing is going to waste. 

So from using this dyeing technique, there are three skeins of yarn, made of three different materials, weights, and colors. I knew I wanted to design something that would highlight these differences. Before I knew how to spin yarn, I was always looking to how I could create my own kind of yarn. I began holding two yarns together - typically a light fuzzy yarn, like mohair, with, well, really any other kind of yarn - ranging from laceweight silk yarn to a heavier worsted weight wool yarn. This is still a technique we use a lot in the shop to create unique knitted fabrics. So when faced with designing a piece for the book using the yarn I just dyed, I definitely knew I wanted to hold two types of yarn together, as I have done in the Sandstone Shawl. I also wanted to create a piece which highlighted the range of colors, from dark to light, achieved this dyeing style. I thought a triangular shaped shawl would be pretty and something I like to wear to the beach when it is windy. When I went to try on the sample, I just loved the way that the heavier yarn, the Rios, curled around my neck, more like a scarf than a shawl, and the very light-weight Silk Cloud, kind of floated softly, almost like how the white foam on the incoming tide sits just on the water. The way the orange-gold color formed in bands reminded my of Sandstone, hence the name.

If you are in the area, I am teaching a class dedicated to dyeing the materials for the Sandstone Shawl - and - we have quite a few opportunities coming up to knit together, it would be wonderful to see you and your progress on your Sandstone Shawl. And if you are not in the area, I love seeing your progress via Instagram.

Always remember, I wrote this book as much for the Armchair Dyer as those who are diving into the dyeing process, so please, if you do like the pattern, no matter if you did not dye your yarn, I hope you will join us on this KAL - and knit your own Sandstone Shawl - the possibilities of choices of yarn and color are endless!

-- Kristine

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Tomorrow night! Join us for an evening of conversation: Slow Fashion Forum, 7pm.

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