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Diary of a Fiber Artist

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Day One: It's Always Day One*

It's always Day One because there is always something new to explore, whether it's a new yarn base, fiber or color mix. Here's a breakdown of the process of creating a handpainted warp or weft skein.

Yarn Preparation (Cellulose Fibers)

First, the yarn has to be prepared by either winding lengths onto a warping board (this is a wooden frame with regularly spaced pegs used for measuring), or making a skein using a swift. Winding a warp consisting of 200 threads, six yards long takes about 35 minutes. After the warp is measured, it will need to have a number of loose figure-8 ties placed along it every 12 to 18 inches. Putting the ties on every 12 inches is an extra step that most people don't do, but I like the way it keeps my warps neat and organized. Winding a skein is much quicker: using a motorized skein winder, I can create a 1000 yard skein in about five minutes, including adding ties to prevent tangling.

Wash the Warp Bundles

Soak the Bundles in a Soda Ash Solution

Prepare the Base Dyes

Mix the Colors

Arrange the Warp

Painting the Warp

Setting the Dyes

Rinsing (and Rinsing, and Rinsing...)

But Wait! There's More!

The short list of more is recording dye formulas, keeping a notebook with results, cards with physical samples, bins of sample skeins, photography and the inevitable photo editing for listings, writing compelling descriptions and finally, just doing all that boring "business stuff".

Sometimes I wish every day was not Day One. It might be nice to have a little routine. I'm trying to build some of that into my work-week by committing to winding at least one warp a day in preparation for dyeing. I'm gradually creating sets of dye formulas that I can replicate on a consistent basis, but there is a lot of trial and error in the process; record keeping is essential. You can, of course, be totally spontaneous in your dyeing, but it's not as much of a learning process that way, and if something great happens, you'll probably be unable to replicate it.

Thanks for reading! I hope this is useful if you are a novice yarn dyer and interesting to everyone else. I'll post more about dyeing wool soon. Please leave a comment, and check out my Etsy listings!

* re: "Day One", I work part time in an Amazon warehouse, because believe it or not, weaving isn't a viable way to make a living. That saying is an Amazon thing, somehow meant to be inspiring to us warehouse workers. It's not inspiring there, but it's absolutely true in the studio work I do, whether it's dyeing or weaving.


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