Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Throughout the week, we tackled a colorway a day. My original plan was to set up a temporary dye studio in the garage with a borrowed Coleman camp stove as my heat source. But that was me worrying unnecessarily about Kool-Aid spills and stains on the parquet floor. Dyeing in the garage required far too much extra work to move cars, assemble a work surface, and collect tools and supplies each day since the Audi Q5 and VW GTI would need to be parked back under cover at night. Our final production line was in the kitchen with water, heat, and tools all close at hand.
During Knit Camp at the Coast, Heather Best from sew happy jane promised to “turn some pretty skeins into some Pretty Amazing skeins.” While we carefully mixed our Kool-Aid combos and watched the pot (to make sure it didn’t boil) our skeins of bare merino DK yarn artfully shifted from au naturel to subtle hues. As a readily available foodstuff, in a multitude of flavors (which translated into colors) the Kool-Aid packets provided easy to mix, manageable quantities that already contained citric acid, thus they eliminated the need to add chemicals possibly less friendly to the environment. One by one, each skein went through a multi-step immersion process:
- (Speckle & steam – just sometimes.)
Two days into our routine, with Kool-Aid Sage twisted into a loose hank and Speckled Peach Melba steeping, I made a discovery – dyeing would not become my new passion. As the work continued, we had fun creating the lovely semi-solid fibers, as well as sprinkling contrasting specks. By skein five, I even concocted my own colorway – Tutti Teal (a variation of Heather’s Tutti Fruiti). But I am comfortable knowing my excitement comes from the craft of knitting – finding the perfect yarn, pairing it with the ideal pattern, and creating just the right gift while, hopefully, learning a new technique rather than playing with pigments.
When I first started buying yarn, facing a wall of color in different weights and textures was a bit overwhelming. Now, I can easily spend an hour or more immersed in tactile and visual sensations enjoying whatever my local yarn store (LYS) has on display. While, possessing only the most rudimentary understanding of yarn production, I already recognized that a lot of work went into each skein in my hand. That appreciation has grown exponentially with this micro-dyeing project. But hand dyeing, to paraphrase the witches in Macbeth, at least for me, is akin to “double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Although, in the interest of full disclosure, my fire and cauldron consisted of a white LG glass top stove and a Marshall Field Marketplace stainless steel stock pot. Then again, one does have to wonder what colors might emerge if, instead of Kool-Aid, the pot contained any of the natural ingredients from my high school drama role as Second Witch.
Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1