Yarn dyeing

The Wooly Unicorn of 2017

It may be the first day of February but it feels like 2017 has just started, and I have a hunch it’ll be a colour-filled crafty one! To start this year off I’ve dived enthusiastically into hand-dyeing yarn, and boy-oh-boy, this is colour at its most addictive! I was originally inspired in January by my sister-in-law A, who is a professional yarn dyer and sells her products via her own online store. She put up a two-part video series showing the DIY of how to make one of her most popular speckled yarns, and it looked so easy I immediately was compelled to try it. There’s nothing like the ecstatic creative enthusiasm that erupts when you realise you can actually do something fun without too much difficulty! Crafty endeavours are most enjoyable when they’re easy to start, but have the potential to be very challenging and complex. The more complex it can get, the more avenues there are for experimentation and I really believe this is at the heart of all truly great learning. All my greatest moments of learning have felt more like alchemy, an enthusiastic pursuit of various paths of knowledge and skill without a time limit or someone looking over your shoulder. Even seemingly structured pursuits, like learning a language, are really made up of a plethora of branches of new knowledge, dynamically applying different types of words in different ways to exact a seemingly limitless variety of expressions! That’s why I love language too, although my brain doesn’t seem very skilled at listening/speaking… reading/writing is my bag.

As I watched the videos I realised I could actually do this! Soak yarn in citric acid bath, squeeze out most of the water, sprinkle yarn with acid dye powder, and stick in the oven for a bit! Wham bam thank you ma’am! Of course I wanted to start right now but the dyes she used were Landscapes professional dyes and I’d have to order them… *snorts* I don’t think so! I trawled youtube until I caught onto the fact that you can use plain old food dye instead, and cook up yarn in the microwave in 2.5 minutes. I jumped in my car, ransacked Spotlight for a handful of food dyes and Australian merino wool (acid dyes like food dye won’t work on acrylic or plant fibres) and sped home to begin…

You know the stereotype of Dr Frankenstein standing there laughing maniacally when he realises he’s brought his monster to life? I literally did that laugh, “mwahahahaha!”, when I saw my colourful creation, speckled with rainbow colours like the sprinkles on a pink donut. It was magnificent! Unfortunately the only colour missing was purple. As soon as I’d finished I realised I’d neglected to buy my favourite colour and it just didn’t look… well, like a wooly unicorn. It was my first colourful experiment – it had to be unicorn rainbows, y’know? It’s the crayon dilemma all over again. Think back to when you were six and you opened that fresh box of crayons. The whole universe of colour sticks out at you, infinite possibilities at your fingertips! Who the hell pulls out only one crayon? Which damaged child picks out the brown, black, or (dare I even suggest it?) cream crayon? NO CHILD, that’s who. You pull out as many colours as you can hold in two hands, sometimes with a crayon in each hand and colouring in two separate bits simultaneously because you can’t wait long enough to switch it up!

So obviously a couple of days later I got time to buy purple… and teal…and “electric purple” which is basically fuchsia. After concocting a new speckled dye using just those three colours (gorgeous, IMO), I attempted to capture The Wooly Unicorn. Successfully! The picture in this post is the final product, and I’m immensely proud of it. There’s something about speckled yarn; it feels more “me”-ish, at least when I’m excited or chirpy. Solid colour is dense and definite; speckled colours dance on the yarn like giddy children in a playground, colours everywhere in a haphazard but perfect balance, much like galaxies, even the Universe itself.

It is this colourful, haphazard beauty of movement and vision that I am drawn to pursue and embrace in 2017, and I wish with all my heart that it works its way into your life too. As 2016 ended I was amazed by the consensus internationally that it had been the shittiest year for a long time and we were all only too glad to see the end of it. So I’m assuming you could use a little upbeat creative happiness this year… as could I.