Sunday, May 10, 2009


Farmers are working their fields. The raw brown earth looks rich against the faded gray of the soil still unturned. A goldfinch in the red leaved crabapple is suddenly bright yellow. The willow buds are a light spring green, feathery against the unbudded trees behind them. The blue scilla have multiplied and I have found three more hepatica blooming in the woods. In the small pond in our backyard, the buds on the marsh marigold are rimmed in bright yellow gold. In the pasture, a droplet of dew reflects the morning sun like a jewel.

I am in awe of the colors of the world.

My favorite fiber activity is dyeing. I love the way colors blend with each other to create new colors. Red dye on gray wool yields a beautiful deep gray with a hint of red, or red with a hint of gray, nicely variegated because my yarns are variegated.

At the end of every season, I look at the fleeces left over from the last years shearing and decide what to do with them. Do I need carded roving, carded batts or yarn? Do I have fifty pounds? Blackberry Ridge Spinning Mill requires a minimum of 50 pounds of clean wool to spin a beautiful 2 ply yarn. If I combine light gray fleeces and dark gray fleeces and a brown fleece or two and send them off to the mill, I get back a beautiful subtly variegated yarn – sometimes light, sometimes dark, sometimes in between.

When I dye those variegated yarns, the color spectrum that results is surprising and beguiling. Blue and light gray, oh, nice. Lets try it again with a little green in there too. What about madder orange and dark gray. Just a hint of color, of warmth. Wonderful!

Twice a year, fiber people (people who love working with wool, mohair, angora, pine needles, silk, or cotton - knitters, weavers, felters, quilters) gather at our farm to share their enthusiasms. They bring projects to work on and food to share. We build a fire and run dye pots all day long for people who want to learn how to dye, for people who don’t have the supplies at home, and for people who just enjoy playing with colors.

People experiment, try new dyeing techniques, redye past attempts and take home bags of beautiful colors. They dye raw wool, yarn, fabric, even completed projects. They always leave with something new, not always what they were expecting, not always something beautiful - but most often something stunning, and always having learned a little more about their fiber and a little more about color.

Some times we play with natural dyes, using onion skins or common mullien to dye wool various shades of gold or a beautiful khaki green. Sometimes we use commercial dyes which seem to come in all the colors of the rainbow and we combine those dyes to create new colors or add a little black for new shades. We vary intensity and add different fibers. Mohair picks us the colors more strongly than wool and its fibers are lustrous. Pull a skein of wool/mohair yarn from the indigo dye pot and watch the colors shimmer across each other as the light reflects off the mohair.

I love to play with the colors of the world.

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