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Hand-Dyed Yarns

Woolfiend Hand-Dyed Yarns


Finding Inspiration as a Dyer

Emily Swenson

I have been dyeing a lot of new colorways over the past week or so, and I can't wait to share them with the world!  I thought I would talk a little about inspiration and how I react and pull colors from inspiration photos.

I am never more technical than I need to be when I dye.  I follow proper safety precautions, I get the dye on the yarn in a method that's not very different from any other dyer.  I always make sure my yarn is rinsed properly and fully dry before photographing and sending it to its new home.  I think where all dyers differ, and what makes them unique, is where they draw their inspiration from. 

I'm not going to pretend like that is super different between dyers either.  How many dyers use "Harry Potter" or "flowers in bloom" as an inspiration?  A lot.  I usually dye my yarns and search for a name later, which means my inspiration typically doesn't come from fandoms or specific objects, unless I'm dyeing for a club.  This is weird, because I have a TON of fandom-inspired colorways.  I get my inspiration from the colors themselves.  How do you know which colors look good together?  Everyone else says use the color wheel - I say, look at photos of models from a store you like.  Look at the color palette they use to style the models.  Look at your favorite Instagram feeds' color palettes.  Pinterest is also a wonderful resource.  Skeins are canvases, yes, but when styling the skein, you have to keep the finished object in mind! 

I also find looking at stores' websites like The Gap. Old Navy, and Anthropologie to offer a lot of inspiration.  They sell products marketed towards normal, non-fashion forward folks.  If you're edgy and fashion forward, maybe look at runway models or graffiti.  Don't draw inspiration from Pantone, unless you like the color of the year.  That's the most gimmicky thing ever.  I hate gimmicks. 

Also, I like to keep in mind that other people like to wear colors that I wouldn't be caught dead wearing.  I love to dye these colors!  They make me feel like I'm stepping out of a box.


The image above is from an Anthropologie Fall 2017 photo.  You can look at this photo in two ways - as a whole, or just the girl.  If you just look at the girl's dress, she an amber-colored top on with a rusty red skirt, which is accentuated by the steel blue of her clutch.  If I were to dye just her in a colorway, it would be a variegate with the two red and amber colors and deep blue speckles on top.  However, if I were to add in the background colors of sky blue and warm tan, I'd have a larger palette to work with, and I could create a more complex colorway.  Perhaps I would make a sky blue background, or maybe use the light, warm, sandy tone as my background.  The possibilities are endless.  I could also look at this photo and create one speckled skein, and pair it with different tonals from the overlapping color elements in the photo. 

Just one last tip before I end this post - when looking at photos that you're having a hard time drawing inspiration from, it helps to purposefully blur your vision and then pick out the colors.  Write them down.  Don't think of the objects and models in the photo except as a means to extract the colors you need.

I hope this all makes sense - I've got myself all revved up to dye a few skeins based on this photo!  I think it makes a nice desert fall color combo.  These tips also work well for driving inspiration for color combinations when it comes to knitting projects.

What are your favorite ways to get color inspiration when dyeing or knitting?  I'd like to know - leave me a comment below!  Happy knitting'/spinning/dyeing, friends.