Book Review – Dyeing to Spin and Knit: Techniques and Tips to Make Custom Hand-Dyed Yarns

Dyeing is not something I have much experience in. I have done very little, and most of it has been with Kool-Aid and food coloring. A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of dyeing with my friend Rob in his kitchen using the Greener Shades dye kit that he got from the Woolery. We had a great time, and the skeins I brought to dye came out beautiful, and I’m grateful to have gained a little more experience with dyes other than drink mixes. I don’t see myself doing very much dyeing in the future. More of the Romney that I dyed last weekend will fall into a dyepot because I’m just amazed at how beautiful that yarn came out, and I’m looking forward to how other colors look on more of that yarn. So much so that I ordered the same dye kit earlier this week.

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This brings us the subject of today’s blog post; Dyeing to Spin and Knit: Techniques and Tips to Make Custom Hand-Dyed Yarns by Felicia Lo. It begins with a brief chapter on color basics including color theory, the color wheel, terminology, harmonies, and designing with color. This is pretty standard stuff in this first chapter, but always worth reading because I always seem to manage to pick up a little extra something from every author who covers these basics.

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The second chapter in Dyeing to Spin and Knit is the largest chapter, and probably rightfully so because it’s all about the dyeing. Felicia introduces the reader to different types of dyes (natural and synthetic) the properties and pros and cons of each, as well as the dyes used in the book. This chapter also covers setting up your dye studio, the equipment you’ll need, as well as safety (remember, acid dyes and mordants can be toxic). The rest of the chapter deals with the actual dyeing of yarn and fiber, including preparing your yarn or fiber, techniques, how to create certain effects, and troubleshooting.

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If the chapter on dyeing seems a little light to you, you’re not alone. It’s fairly thorough in regard to the specific dyeing techniques for yarn and fiber that is does cover, but there is so much more to this craft and there are other resources that cover it in more depth should you be interested.
Since the title of the book is Dyeing to Spin and Knit , it is the next two chapters that are the real standouts (at least for me) in that they provide the reader tips and techniques for spinning hand dyed fiber and knitting with hand dyed yarns. Basically, now that you have beautiful hand dyed yarn or fiber, what do you do with it?

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A multitude of things can affect what happens to colors in the spinning process, from pre-drafting (it’s NOT a dirty word!), fiber preparation, drafting techniques, grist, and plying. Each step along the way from fiber to final yarn offers an opportunity for the spinner to change or maintain the colors they worked so hard to put on that fiber. Similarly, the chapter on knitting with color covers how things like yarn weight, gauge, stitch pattern, and color sequences affect how the colors appear in knitted fabric, Readers will also learn how to manage colors in their hand dyed yarns including how to maximize or minimize pooling. Again, these are light chapters and don’t cover all of the possibilities available to the spinner or knitter, but what they do cover is pretty essential, and good to know.

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The last chapter in Dyeing to Spin and Knit contains a selection of knitting projects to showcase the dyeing techniques covered in chapter two, as well as some of the spinning and knitting techniques in chapters three and four. These projects include very basic stockinette socks to complex lace shawls and scarves.

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Dyeing to Spin and Knit: Techniques and Tips to Make Custom Hand-Dyed Yarns by Felicia Lo is a great introduction to the fascinating craft of dyeing yarn and fiber and working with hand dyed yarn and fiber, and is a fantastic resource to get you started. The author also provides a comprehensive list of additional resources so the reader can further explore dyeing, spinning, and knitting with color.

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