Most of you know that I earn 100% of my income these days by dyeing yarn. In fact, I suspect that’s why many of you are here. And I thank you for that.
I’ve heard phrases like “master dyer”, “super sense of color”, and several other flatteries. And I am thankful for that, as well.
In all the world of fiber craft, I am rather “small potatoes”, part of a niche market for hand-dyers. And I work almost entirely with wool, and a little bit of alpaca. I choose to work with standard yarns that remain consistent year-in and year-out. I have come to learn how they behave and how they respond when I do certain things to them. I could probably expand or diversity and start using some of the other protein fibers (rabbit, qiviut, and so many others), or even go over to the cellulose fibers like cotton or linen or something like that.
Staying with my standard base yarns and knowing pretty much how they work allows me the confidence to explore the world of color. I’m not an expert designer, I’m not one to knit for hours every day, and I’m not even all that interested in the latest trendy “what were they thinking?” types of designs.
Nobody taught me how to wind up a skein for presentation, or how to bind it for dyeing and the other way to bind it for presentation. I just learned it by doing. Virtually everything I do is self-taught or self-invented.
I have never attended a dyeing school. I’ve seen just a few videos online about the basics, like from Dharma Trading Co., but no formal how-to sessions, once I learned that wood yarn required a bit of acid to make it work in the fiber. I learned about pre-soaking to open the fiber, a few ways of putting dye on the fiber, and then how to make it stay where I put it.
Which brings me to this weekend, and a special challenge. I needed colors to stay separated, and I thought I knew how to make it happen. I was mistaken.
The red just ignored my efforts to keep it in place. (by the way, these six mistake skeins are available on the Blog Reader Specials page!) This was highly annoying for several reasons: I’d taken every precaution to keep the colors in place by wrapping and tying parts of it as I’ve done on other projects; it wasn’t a “rush-rush” job but had to get out the door this week; and I only had 12 more undyed skeins, which were already committed to someone else’s project to be done after this project, so now that other project is missing half its skeins. Selling these six will let me replace the cone to buy what I need, so that’s good.
But I was nonetheless frustrated that after 7.5 years of doing this, becoming familiar with the yarn’s behaviors and under which circumstances, and by using which techniques, I was stymied and perplexed. I ended up developing a different two-process method, and the next batch was noticeably better. More labor intensive for me, by far, but I did the best I could and made it work.
This week also brought a string of frustrations with people and situations. Annoying, frustrating, disappointing, exhilarating, happy, sad …. you name it, I got it this past week from various people.
Yarn is static. I have come to know how my yarns work, and how they behave and react when I do this or that. If my technique is consistent the results are fairly consistent within tolerable ranges. The yarns come to me, time after time, with a consistent fiber blend, steady twist, and so forth. It is that dependable consistency in the yarn that allows me to play with color on top of it.
People, on the other hand, are not consistent. They come to me after having interacted with other people, places, or situations that I have no control over. It’s like I have to learn who they are all over again, because they have been changed by whatever they went through just before they got to deal with me. Even if I’ve dealt with them successfully in the past, they have had new experiences outside my reach and they come back a little different for it.
As I learned with the dye project this week (with yarn and dye and a work environment I can control), if I can be flummoxed by dyes and yarns, what the hell emboldens me to think people won’t disappoint me? I don’t like it, but there it is. I can become a master dyer, in charge of the yarn. I will never be a master of people. Neither will you.