There are several ways to get color on yarn. The most obvious is to dye the yarn after it is spun. The Spinnery does do this with several of its yarns including Cotton Comfort and Weekend Wool. Another way to develop colors is by blending different colored fibers together making what we call a “composed” color. This is how the shades in Mountain Mohair, Sylvan Spirit and Alpaca Elegance are produced.
Recently a custom spinning customer requested that we produce our Spinnery Sock Art – Forest in a custom color. She wanted a color that was reminiscent of a “wheat field”, so we set to work. First we look through some swatches to get some ideas of the range of colors to go for- this is the most intuitive part of this process and fun because it does reveal a bit about how individuals here see and respond to colors. Some people love greeny–yellows, some like a more buttery tone, some hate yellow all together.
Once a goal color is set the next step is to do some very small tests by measuring out different proportions of ingredient colors, hand carding and then spinning small test skeins. This process will get us to a base recipe for a test run of actual yarn, carded and spun on the mill machines. The test run of roving allows us to get a look at how the “real” color of the yarn will look. Now is the time to make adjustments. The roving can be cut off the spools and re-carded with added ingredients. If the color looks good we go ahead and make the yarn.
The yarns shown in these photos are very pretty but in the end the client had a slightly different color in mind. We started the process started again with more samples and test runs. In the end, the desired color was achieved and the Spinnery learned that the Forest sock yarn has a lot of potential for new colorways using the composing method.
Test run yarn is still good yarn, just a bit unusual. We often have test yarns for sale in our shop in Putney. The yarns shown here are also available on-line as the Spinnery Sock Art Forest Wheat colorway. It is a nice springtime yellow perfect for a light cardigan or a great pair of socks. We would love to hear your thoughts on color and see what our yarns inspire you to create! Please let us know in our Ravelry group or on our Facebook page!
Melissa Johnson has been working with the Spinnery since the beginning. She learned to weave at the Putney School from Libby Mills, one of the Spinney founders, and now teaches Textile and Fiber Arts as a member of the Putney School faculty.
Melissa was commissioned to weave samples from the first yarns GMS ever made to test their strength and qualities as weaving yarns. The first colors were Natural Grey, Natural White, Indigo and Garnet. Melissa has been hand weaving all of our sample cards and assisting the Spinnery in the creation of our color palette ever since.
The Spinnery has always offered limited amounts of one-of-a -kind yarns in the shop. Melissa started dying odd lots in small batches. Visitors to the shop may find baskets of painted Green Mountain Green in the Fall or Sylvan Spirit in subtle variations in spring time. Once we developed our two sock yarns Spinney Sock Art Meadow and Forest, Melissa had to start dyeing year round. She added new colors to the Sock Art line as well as Simply Fine, and Capricorn.
All of these “hand paints” are created in very small batches of 6- 8 skeins. Projects from these are truly one of a kind.
Her designs and dye work are inspired by nature and the textiles of her childhood spent in Istanbul, Turkey and Vermont. Although she likes all colors, folks here know that she is very fond of red. A prolific knitter and knitwear designer (GMS has published more than 20 of her designs) Melissa is known for her color sense and attention to detail. The “Stained Glass Sweater” on the cover of The Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book and the cover art of 99 Yarns and Counting are part of Melissa’s eye-catching work.
A sample of her designs can be found in the Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book: Stained Glass sweater (for children & adults), Stained Glass Hat, and Putney Gardens Sweater. In our 99 Yarns and Counting book Melissa designed the East Putney Aran, Istanbul Aran, and Switchback Hat. Several of her patterns are available for purchase on our website as a hard copy or PDF digital download: Melissa’s Hat and Mitten, Painted Hats, Ascutney Aran Hat (This pattern has the most “hearts” on Ravelry!), Great Meadows Cardigan, Playful sweaters for Children, and Lisa’s Hat.
Have you been inspired like we have by Melissa’s work? We love when you share with us by commenting here on our blog, a post in our Ravelry group or on our Facebook page.