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Dyeing to Knit

Dye Your Own

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Dyeing to Knit

Dyeing to Knit by Elaine Eskesen.

Down East Books.

Dyeing to Knit: How to Use -- and Create Your Own -- Beautiful Hand-dyed Yarns by Elaine Eskesen aims to show knitters that it's not that difficult to use acid dyes and wool yarn to create one-of-a-kind fiber masterpieces and use them in our knitting projects.

Eskesen, owner of Pine Tree Yarns in Damarisotta, Maine, is very enthusiastic about teaching people how to create their own yarns and giving them the confidence to try new things when it comes to designing yarns and using them in knitting projects.

Learning to Dye

Eskesen provides a lot of instruction in her book before setting down to the specific techniques used to make different kinds of yarn. She starts with an exploration of why you should dye your own yarn (so you can get exactly the colors and textures that you want for your knitting projects) and delves into color theory so that you can make intelligent choices -- and break the rules but know that you're breaking them -- when you dye.

Then she covers the basics of working with acid dyes (all the projects in the book use WashFast acid dyes) and natural fibers (these dyes only work with protein fibers like wool and silk), how to set up a dyeing space, safety concerns, equipment, prepping yarn for dyeing, making up dyes and preparing the dye bath.

Instructions for dyeing solid-color, space-dyed and hand-painted yarns are given, as well as thoughts on dyeing different fibers together, overdyeing yarn and what she calls experimental techniques like tie dyeing, polka dot dyeing and sprinkle dyeing.

All of these techniques are illustrated with large photographs and the finished skeins are also shown, but it would have been even nicer if swatches of each of the different techniques were shown so you could see what a finished yarn would look like knit up.

Still another section of the book covers designing with and using hand-dyed yarns in knitting projects, touching on the importance of gauge, the necessity of experimentation and some sources of inspiration for dyeing and deciding how to use colors in knit projects.

The Patterns

If you'd rather not completely go your own way when it comes to using your hand-dyed yarn, the book also includes 20 patterns: six using solid-color yarns, five using space-dyed yarns, six worked with hand-painted yarns and three using textured yarns (often a combination of fibers dyed together and knit in stripes).

There are many patterns here for kids' sweaters, as well as a few pullovers for adults, scarves, vests, a shawl, mittens, hats and a pillow. Each pattern explains how much of which different kinds of yarns are needed to complete the project but otherwise leaves the options pretty open. More than one colorway is often pictured to help you envision your own color choices on the project.

Most of the patterns are relatively easy to best show off the yarn, but stripes and color blocks are also used in many patterns to allow for the use of more kinds and colors of yarn.

Some of my favorite patterns are the space-dyed Basic Beret, on which the color changes of the yarn form a spiral; the colorful child's Triangle Pullover, which uses stripes of triangles in six different colors; and the basic but lovely striped Maine Bounty Sweater.

In addition to these patterns and all the suggestions for inspiration scattered throughout the book, an extensive bibliography provides more potential avenues for inspiration and education about art, color, dyeing and knitting.

Bottom Line

Dyeing to Knit provides knitters with a solid education on how to dye wool and other animal fibers with acid dyes. That's a somewhat limited scope -- this book isn't for people who want to dye cotton, for instance, or use natural dyes -- but what this book delivers it does a fine job of.

The basic instructions will give you a level of confidence to try different things with your dyeing; you won't feel compelled to use the same sorts of colors or techniques used in the book because you'll understand the process and feel Eskesen's encouragement.

This book is a great choice for knitters who want to try out dyeing but haven't been sure where to start or who want to know what they can do with a particular kind of yarn before they make it. Even if you're not that interested in dyeing, the sections on color and inspiration are great lessons for all knitters about how to put colors together without fear.

Publication date: August 2005

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