When I started dyeing yarn I wanted to have a line-up of regular colorways — colorways people could order on demand. And by making those colorways available on request, I had to have fairly specific recipes.
This meant that for a given dye session on an afternoon, I would have to mix the dyes for each order, coming as close to the original recipe as I could. And then dye 1 or 2 or 3 skeins for a particular customer. And then move on to the next order for the next person, mixing up all new dyes. Sometimes it was an all day affair to get a dozen or two skeins dyed. And sometimes they wouldn’t come out to my satisfaction and I’d have to do some over the next day for the customer, which meant the first batch was ‘leftover’. Or one or another color would bleed in the wash and thus ruin a whole day’s work if I wasn’t careful. And sometimes, there was a run on a particular color (like “Aunt Gail” — a set of seven different dyes in a particular sequence) and I’d make extras, some of which would not sell after the initial run.
So, instead of pitching the ‘bad’ ones, I’d offer them for sale on the blog — people who were reading the blog regularly could snatch up a deal. Plus, there were times I wanted to experiment with new colorways, to play “What If?” while combining this or that dye with another. If I hadn’t picked a colorway name, I had to call them something in order to sell them. So, they all became “Blog Reader Specials.”
Because of where I live, sometimes the water from the water treatment plant would have a negative effect on the dyes. Or sometimes the dyes themselves would be wonky — especially if I got a new jar of this or that dye, it would not be *exactly* the same as the previous jar. Or some other mishap would happen so I could no longer duplicate a colorway. Bummer.
And then when I had to change suppliers, I discovered not all yarn bases are created the same — even when the fiber content was the same, it wasn’t really the same. Different mills treat yarns differently, so what one mill creates may or may not be truly the same.
So I was having more Blog Reader Specials, and not so many custom orders. I felt I was failing at what I’d set out to do.
For my own sanity, I had to stop trying to make perfect copies of a colorway, and give myself permission to use the quirkiness of my situation to my advantage. I DO still dye on request, but I eventually stopped showing a line-up of available colorways to order on demand, and just focus on dyeing and selling whatever the yarns and dyes dictate, becoming more of a one-of-a-kind artist instead of an on-demand production machine.
Since I was no longer aiming for perfection, and learning to ‘go with the flow’, I wasn’t sure the name Blog Reader Specials was appropriate, so I asked my customer base if I should change it to something more fitting. The resounding respond was “Keep the name. We know what Blog Reader Specials mean and we like it just as it is.”
“But other dyers have all these great names for their colorways.” So? Let them. Yes, I used to name colorways, too, and even now I might name some of the Blog Reader Special results, if those results strike a particular chord with me — reminiscent of a place, or event, or some such thing. Or I might include a name in the description of the yarn when I’m selling it. But having a specific name for a specific colorway is limiting. Plus, since I dye nearly a thousand yarns each year, it is beyond my ability to come up with a new name for each color combination.
Instead of names, Blog Reader Specials are numbered sequentially through the year, without regard for yarn base or dye colors. When possible, I do try to have a variety of yarn bases and rotate them around week by week.
The fact that nearly all my Blog Reader Specials eventually do sell tells me that somewhere out there there is a knitter for each of my yarns. I don’t have to appeal to mass-marketing the currently popular colors.
I have two or three dozen assorted dyes available to me, but when I start a dye session, I will pick a palette of maybe 6 or 8 dye jars, and use as many different combinations as I can with the number of yarns I have prepared for dyeing. And I have several different techniques for applying dye to the yarn. So, even with a limited palette on any given day, I can be fairly certain that the day’s 2-3 dozen yarns will not all look alike.
I have discovered dyeing two at a time is nearly as easy as doing one at a time, and it is much nicer to my body with its various aches and limitations (it comes with aging, kids!). Plus, many projects call for more than a single skein, so having two skeins virtually identical allows for color compatibility across the project. And if someone needs more than two, I can do a custom order for as many as they need — but always with the precaution that I cannot exactly duplicate a color combination, but I can come fairly close and all of theirs made on special request will work within the set even if they don’t match a previous yarn.
So…. the name Blog Reader Specials is going to stick around, and it will continue to mean what it has become: one-of-a-kind dye jobs from an independent art yarn dyer listening to the dictates of whatever colors are in front of him on a given day… an artist. 🙂
O’course, if someone else has a better way to describe it, feel free to use the comment box. 🙂