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Color Study - Dyeing to Felt

posted May 12, 2009, 10:08 AM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated May 12, 2009, 12:29 PM ]
Something about color really challenges me.  It seems I am constantly felting things up and then they mute down to something dull and drab.  Or worse, I use wool from an unreliable source and the dye isn't fast - leaving me with a bunch of wool to compost.  When it comes to color, I get a picture in my mind and when it comes out in felt (or paint, or quilting, or whatever) it all looks so different than I imagined.  One half of me likes the surprise.  The other half hates the lack of control.  So I invested in some dye and have been dying up wool to study.  Felting white squares with colored dots has proven their immediate fastness, though I am still investigating light fastness.  However, since spinning is easier for me to do than felting while my children are awake, I have started my true color study there.

These are the first two batches of wool I started with.  Because I like a little more depth than a straight color, each of them were rainbow dyed.  The red roving was cherry, scarlet and mulberry and I decided to spin it up.  It was pretty bright so I thought I'd tone it down by plying it with undyed dark brown romney wool.  I thought they looked beautiful together:

When plied into yarn they are hideous.  Absolutely hideous - likened to a chocolate raspberry candy cane!  Much too stark for my liking.  After a few yards I stopped and dyed a new batch of roving in the same red shades to try plying.  It came out a bit darker, but I plied them together and got a tolerable red tweed.  It was still a bit more tweedy than I would have liked, but tolerable.  

I learned two things: 1. I like more subtle combinations in yarn than strong tweeds, and 2. I surmise that when felting, the more stark contrast should make my picture stand out more, giving a more bold impression.  Determining that I like more subtle changes for yarn, I switched to purples and blues, inspired by a quilt from a color theory book.  When they dyed up they weren't completely what I was looking for, but the subtle changes in color are much more appealing to me and made a beautiful yarn.  I still have a long way to go before I figure out the whole color thing.