Learning to Dye, Part 1: Why Dye

This is the first in a series of six planned posts on the process of learning to dye.  I am just learning myself, and thought it might be helpful to share the information I’ve found along the way.

Unless you are a regular reader of this blog, you are probably reading this post because you already know that you want to learn to dye and have your own reason for doing so.  I still thought it would be helpful to begin at the beginning with the reasons to dye because the reason you want to learn affects the choices you make in terms of which methods of dyeing you learn first, the types of equipment and dyes that you purchase, and the detail of your recordkeeping as you learn.  The list I have written here is a compilation of reasons I’ve heard for learning to dye and are, in greater or lesser degree, the reasons I am personally learning.  I’m sure the list is incomplete!

1. It is fun!  We get to splash around in the kitchen making color and playing with yarn!  What’s not to love?

2. It is part of your natural learning progression.  It seems impossible to just do one fiber craft.  I was a knitter for many years before I picked up any other fiber craft.  But if you want to improve your fiber crafting skills, eventually you will find yourself doing something else.  In my case, crocheting then dyeing then spinning.  I am primarily a knitter, and expect that I will always consider myself a knitter first and foremost.  I pursued the other crafts because they help me to understand the knitting better, and to gain control and quality in my finished product.

3. Creative control.  Sometimes it seems impossible to find exactly what it is you want to create.  Whether it is a fiber content, a pattern, a tool, or a color of yarn, every crafter eventually finds herself or himself searching and failing to find exactly what s/he has in mind for a project.  If your problem is color, dyeing your own can get you exactly what you want.

4. Frugality.  Later, when you read my upcoming post with a list of equipment and learn what I personally purchased for my own dyeing experiments, you will laugh at me for listing frugality as a reason to dye.  Whether dyeing is truly frugal or not does depend on the approach you take and the frequency with which you dye.  Most people seem to start their dyeing journey with equipment they already have around the house and food safe dyes like tablets leftover from Easter egg kits, Kool Aid drink mixes, or Wilton cake decorating dyes.  This is an inexpensive way to start playing with color.  If you go to the other extreme, dyeing with professional acid dyes that require their own equipment, separate from your food making equipment, the up front costs can be high.  Still, most of the equipment needed can be purchased once and reused for a long time.  You may be able to buy some of it used.  The more skeins of yarn you dye, the less the equipment costs per skein and the more economical dyeing becomes overall.  In addition, you could, at least theoretically, reduce your yarn budget by purchasing large quantities of undyed yarn in the fibers and weights you like best, and dyeing it yourself.  I know we all love yarn too much to take this approach, but you could!

5. As a Business Opportunity.  All of us have favorite indie dyers and know it is possible to make a living by dyeing!  Wouldn’t it be awesome to make a living doing what we love?!  The realities of operating a business are different than we imagine, but that doesn’t stop us from dreaming about it and, for some of us, planning and executing on that dream.

What about you?  Why do you want to learn how to dye?  Let us know in the comments!

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