Playing with colour – the inspiration and creativity of dyeing yarn

My process for creating a new yarn colourway is driven either by an idea or an urge to use a particular colour combination – from there my imagination, as well as my dyeing supplies, work together to achieve the end result.

Many of my colours are inspired by something I have seen in nature. A flower or a sunrise are perfect examples of things that spark my creativity. I know that if I can recreate those particular colour combinations that they will be visually pleasing as nature always gets it right.

One of my very first colours was Fuchsia. I saw the pretty little purple, pink & red flowers in my garden and thought I would try to make my own version on yarn. I had to think about the tone, the order and the amount of each colour to get the right balance.

But then there are colours that are more out of a need to fill in a colour gap in my range, wanting to create with a certain dye or a custom request. In these cases often it becomes more about looking at the yarn and the colours and combining what looks good. Then using the colour to inspire a name and back story.

A colourway that stands out that started as an experiment, that then became the catalyst for a collection, is Pure Imagination. I had an idea to try a particular way to dye a skein of yarn and I wanted to use a number of colours together. So I gave it a try. I rolled the skeins into spirals in my dye pan and just poured colours over different sections of the yarn, flipped the skein and repeated. I was not sure how the colours would blend, how much of the skein would end up with colour on it and if the combinations would work. The result was one of my now best selling colours. It also led me to create an entire Wonka series of yarns, that were all much more planned out and designed to be a set.

When I first started out dyeing I had only four colours of Jacquard Acid dyes (Pumpkin Orange, Purple, Periwinkle and Russet). These were part of a gift that started me on my entire yarn dyeing adventure. While I was learning it was fun to use these colours on their own and also experiment with how I could mix these colours to create many more. As I started to blend and create my own colours I researched the best dyes to purchase for mixing and different ways to dye yarn. A really interesting article by Space Cadet Yarn discuses their use of only primary colours in their dye process, and it inspired me to broaden my creativity by limiting the number of dyes I would work with. I think it’s very powerful to create your own colours and not be limited by pre-manufactured colours.

I chose a selection of primary colours (as listed by Jacquard):

Sun Yellow (primary)
Pink (primary)
Cherry Red (primary)
Sky Blue (primary)
Turquoise (primary)

And then added a few addtional colours to round out my collection:

Emerald
Teal
Brown
Gun Metal
Jet Black

I mix each colour to my own specific depth of shade (not necessarily according to the packet recommendations) and then mix these colours to produce my own end results.

Since then I have not added any additional powered dyes to my range and I don’t have plans to add any in the future. I like the challenge of blending my own colours to create something unique, it adds to the creativity and thought process of dyeing. I also believe that by limiting the dyes I use, even though my colours are all quite different, they fit together as they are created from the same 14 colours.

Creating our new garden

The thought of creating a beautiful and productive garden has always been a dream of mine.

I have tried to grow food in the garden of every house I have lived in. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not. They were never as big or as productive as I would have liked. I didn’t have the time, resources, space or skills to create what I envisaged in my head.

Now that I’m on the farm and the shed is complete there is the opportunity to build the type of garden that I have always wanted. A combination of productive veggie and fruit patches, with cottage flowers and native plants. Drawing on principles of companion planting and using indigenous plants to attract birds, bees and butterflies. Bringing together colours, textures and fragrances to create a beautiful and inspiring garden.

Right now the area outside the shed is basically part of a paddock, which has been fenced off to create space around the shed. Some of the ground is hard and filled with rocks (remnants from when my Pa used this part of the farm for a dairy and shearing shed) some of the soil is amazingly rich and fertile (from years of manure) and then other sections are clay. This represents a challenge, but I think it will result in a very unique garden that will expand and grow based on what works in each area of the space. My philosophy has always been a weed is only a weed if it’s growing where you don’t want it and that no plant should be fussed over too much so that if it grows and does well it stays and if it struggles it should be pulled out and replaced with something else.

This garden project is quite large and a little daunting. Initially it left me a bit paralysed. I wasn’t sure exactly where to start, because I was looking at it as a whole instead of a series of small sections that will come together.

I was also waiting for water tanks to be delivered, soil to be moved by an excavator and fences to be built. But if I kept waiting for things to be perfect, then I was never going to start.

Autumn is a great time to plant, the earth is still warm, the days are fairly mild and sunny and the evenings are cool and moist without being too cold, wet or frosty. So if I missed this window of time to plant I was potentially going to have to wait until early spring or even next autumn. I can make do for now without water tanks, I can hand dig areas and accept the natural fall of the land (and leave other areas to be dug with an excavator later) and enough of the fencing has been done to define the area.

So how did I start? I just chose a spot and started to dig. I removed the weeds and created a fairly clear and level space for a garden bed. Initially I thought that I would just plant everything directly into the ground and use old bricks and logs to border each bed. But after starting to dig, researching veggie gardens and chats with the family it was decided that we would repurpose old pallets into rectangle planter boxes.

view of the paddock before the shed was built
The paddock before the shed
view of the old slab - where the dairy and shearing shed used to be
The old slab (milking & shearing shed)

They are the perfect size, to hold plenty of plants, while still being small enough to be able to reach the middle of each box. They are a simple construction of pallets cut in half and screwed together. We lined the inside with weed matting, then added a lot of hay (getting inside and stomping it down to create a firm layer), then topped it with a premium soil mix and finally covered with sugar cane mulch to keep in the moisture and stop the weeds. The final touch was to add lengths of wood across the edges of the box – this seals up the holes, secures the weed matting and provides a nice wide bench around each box for sitting and enjoying the garden and also useful for when working in the patch.

So far we have made and filled two boxes. With plans to build at least another two the same size and then perhaps also some smaller square ones to feature small trees or shrubs.

The first crop will be experimental as it is hard to know how the plants will react to the sun, soil, water etc. But we have made a start. Our selection of plants include: peas, rocket, dill, coriander, leek, spinach, cabbage, spring onion, and thyme.

Inspired by the progress of the planter boxes I also started on the first section of the garden for flowers. I chose a small sloped section between two of the doors of the shed, partly because it was a small space to start with but also because I like the idea of having a pretty and established section of garden in view from inside the shed and as I enter.

This area I have planted directly into the dirt. I created a border from bricks and old wood salvaged from the farm. I dug up the weeds, cleared the space and then mixed in some of the good soil before planting and mulching.

So now progress has been made and I feel that it will be easier to expand and improve on what is now in place. I know where I want to make a path and where additional future planter boxes will go. I can now plan out the entry way to my workshop space and where some larger trees should be planted.

Creating Christmas Yarn

Every year, since I started Passioned Flower, I have created a Christmas colourway. There is something about the festive season that brings so much joy and inspiration and there are so many ways to express that through yarn colour choices.

Not always traditional, it’s fun to find a combination that represents Christmas in a fresh or interesting way. Even the mixing of new reds and greens can give an entirely different feeling.

This year I created HoHoHo – a new play on red, green and black. I also recorded a behind the scenes video as I created the colour.

The five colours I've created for Chrsitmas

Different Yarn Blends – Milk Fibre and Bamboo

As a hand dyer it is interesting to research and try out different blends. This can be to source new yarn bases for the shop or just to experience and experiment what is available.
I researched the origins and processes involved in bamboo & wool blends as well as yarns containing milk fibre. It was especially interesting to dye each of the blends alongside a wool nylon blend to compare the results.
First a little about these different fibres:

Milk Fibre

As the name suggests milk fibre comes from milk. It is created as a by-product of processing skim milk. A chemical process is used to extract, dry and then turn a powdered protein in to a fibre. It was first used during the 1930s and 40s to make wool and cotton go further. It is said to have anti-bacterial qualities and take colour very well (the protein in milk fibre was also known to be used in early outdoor paint).

Bamboo

Yes, the grass that Panda’s eat! The insides of the stems are processed down and made into a fibre, it has a shiny finish similar to silk. It gives strength when combined with wool, while keeping a drape and breath ability.

My Experiment

In order to test out the new blends I put all three in to the same dye bath (labelled with brightly coloured yarn that would not change colour) and did two different dyeing methods.
Batch 1
First batch I dyed up in Strawberry Shortcake (a repeatable colour that I already have in the shop). This was so that I could compare how the colour takes between my current sock yarn (Gumboot Sock) and the three new bases. Look how differently it comes out across the yarns!
LtoR: Gumboot Sock, 16% milk fibre/85% wool, 50% bamboo/50% wool, 60% bamboo /40% wool
Batch 2
Next I chose to have a play. I tried some shallow immersion dyeing and squirted some dye onto different sections of the yarn, to see how the dyes would absorb and blend on each fibre. Again, some extremely varied results.
LtoR: 16% milk fibre/85% wool, 50% bamboo/50% wool, 60% bamboo/40% wool
The milk fibre yarn took up the dye a lot more than the bamboo, it is quite vibrant and dark. Of the other two, the one with the lower bamboo content seemed to take the colour better, but the one with more bamboo is a lot shinier and has more drape (this could also be due to the spinning method of the yarn as well, the 50/50 blend is a crepe style yarn, which is a bit more dense). The sheen and drape of the bamboo yarn is really lovely.
Once my experimentation was done I kept the two milk fibre skeins as they were and overdyed the lighter bamboo skeins with a silver grey so i could use them in one large project and have them look pretty much the same.

Pop-Up at Unwind Craft Cafe

For the past 2 months I have had the pleasure of having my yarn featured as a pop-up at the Unwind Craft Cafe in Keilor East, Melbourne.

The cafe is the perfect place to sit and knit or crochet, talk about projects with like minded people and enjoy amazing scones. The staff are so friendly, welcoming and open to chat.

The opportunity to work with these lovely people came about because a friend and I decided to meet there to sit and knit for the day. We got to talking, they liked the yarn I was knitting with (which happened to be my own hand dyed yarn) and before I had left the store that day I had all the information on their pop-up program.

As a small hand dyer, getting the opportunity to feature in a brick and mortar shop is a huge and exciting opportunity. Not only does it expose new customers to my business but it also gives me insights into what colours are popular and the potential projects that purchasers are interested in making.

It has been exciting to participate in their Sit & Stitch evenings and talk to crafters who are buying my yarn. I have helped to choose colours for projects, talk about things that I have made and encourage others try a new projects.

New Website

Hi everyone! I have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work lately, updating the website. I am very excited to unveil the new look. I hope you like it. I am working on adding a shop right here on the Passioned Flower website, and hoping to have that ready shortly. There may also be some different products added to the shop, so be sure to watch out for that.