The Journey to ColorStorms

Time for a guest post from my mom, Linda! It’s been a long time, y’all… but here’s an update on what my mom has been doing, as her natural dyeing interests have blossomed and bloomed into her very own company, ColorStorms! ~Rebecca

It was the summer of 2010 while wandering about outside 6 times a day walking the puppy, and gazing at the pokeweeds and walnuts….wondering if I could dye yarn like Rebecca did.  Her pictures were pretty, and her explanations clear.  A couple months went by.  I thought, we have a lot of pokeberries and red is my favorite color!  So I took the plunge: picked the messy berries and gleefully squished them through a sieve.

Processing pokeberries

This is a picture from last summer, and believe me, I still enjoy getting my hands INTO it!!

During these past five years, I slowly pulled together tools to dye in large quantities…..with a lot of help from my husband, Cliff.  He installed this pulley for me, so I could haul up the buckets of dyed yarn into the sink without damaging my back.

partial blue dyeing

Working with the pulley

getting ready to rinse the yarn

This helps a great deal when I have 4-6 buckets of yarn to rinse.  This particular partially dyed blue turned into this:

Babyboy Peter Blue

Baby Boy Peter Blue woolpaca multicolored.  This is a color that Rebecca came up with and I happily learned to make myself.  After the blue soaks for 4 days, you simply dye the brown with black walnuts.  I still love the process, the smell, the mess….

…and coming up with some of my own colors!  Like Cool Pansies for instance.  Here is a recent Cool Pansie gradient set I dyed.

Cool Pansies color set

When I first started dyeing, I began by learning from the wonderful tutorials Rebecca put up on her website.  And then I read about it….on-line, and from books.  Gradually I collected about a dozen books, my favorite being Wild Color by Karen Diadick Casselman Jenny Dean.  However, while the books are wonderful guides, it seems that in the end one just has to DO IT.   Often my results were different than the book described.  Plus some things are just not in the books.

For example, peach bark was supposed to turn into a lovely peachy orange color, but in the end I could not get anything else except a soft yellow.  Yellow is the easiest of all the colors.  And when I experimented, I often got wonderful results that I could reproduce. Like the henbit herb that comes up in the spring makes a lovely olive green, without having to overdye.  This is the light green you see in this version of the Cool Pansies:

Cool Pansies 6-set

Having batches turn out differently is part of the challenge and thrill of natural dying.

I also learned how to re-skein, wrap a skein, untangle, post orders, and label hundreds of skeins of yarn to get ready for a show.

Again Cliff helped.  He made an electric re-skeiner from K’nex and an a record player donated by my dear friend Gigi Lynn.  Don’t laugh- it works incredibly well!!

electric re-skeiner

He also made these drying racks in the basement.

full drying rack

Along the way, I learned that I enjoyed giving seminars, and so far have taught 4 of them.  The recent one I did for my knitting guild (Maryland Central Knitting Guild) was a 4-hour session in which we actually dyed several colors together!!  I demonstrated how to make blue, brown, yellow, pink, orange, purple, and red, then we went into the kitchen and made hanks to take home.  It was great fun and we hope to follow that up with another seminar this coming fall.

yarns and fleece for demonstrations

I learned to dye and spin fleece.

grey fleece dyed with black beans

This fleece turned into this yarn:

single ply worsted yarn

I learned to help at a booth, and eventually run my own booth.  I made many stupid mistakes, but happily, the yarn is beautiful and people keep coming….

A corner in Clover Hill booth at MD Sheep and Wool

I learned that you can re-dye pokeberries!  You can’t just put them in more processed berries.  First you have to re-mordant the piece in white vinegar.  But after that, it dyes again very nicely.  This Advent hat that Rebecca designed and I knit, turned out very pretty after having been knit in an ugly purple-red, and re-dyed in plain purply red…..a color Rebecca came up with called Fantasia:

pokeberry color, Fantasia

Rebecca is a gifted designer, but I also have created some designs, and with her help learned to make a sweater for several sizes, and create a pattern for sale.  This is a slip stitch sweater, knit sideways and made with Redwood Woolpaca multi-colored.

SAM_0513

So for 3 years, I happily dyed, wrote a few patterns, help her ship yarn, help her sell yarn in a booth, and dyed more yarn.  I focused on worsted weight yarn, since she was doing the fingering weight, and I loved knitting sweaters and vests, knitting with size 6-9 needles.  Together we developed Woolpaca, an alpaca-wool mix, and Meritime, a tensil-merino mix.  They both came in about a dozen colors of solids, semi-solids, multi-colored, and gradient sets.

Then the bomb hit:

Naomi wearing a knitted romper and bonnet

What, you have a newborn baby and have no more time to run a business???!!!  You want to focus on your family, get a graduate degree and have a ministry???!!!  You mean, if I want to continue having fun with dyeing I’m going to have to handle all the yeuky [read: administrative] stuff too???!!!

Sigh.

Well, I thought about it a lot and simply wasn’t ready to give up.  I was 55 and not too old to try one more thing that was hard.  And the kids promised to help.  Hunter, my son and CPA, agreed to help me with my taxes.  Leah, a graphic artist, agreed to help design and set up the website.  Plus design business cards, ad graphics, and teach me how to use the website.  Rebecca helped me set up the store on Ravelry.  I did all the paper work poop to get a business license.  On November 1st, 2014 ColorStorms was born.

The web site, as you can imagine, was the most work.  I took and edited hundreds of pictures, and wrote all the descriptions.  And the work continues.  It is a labor of love, commitment, discipline, and sometimes it IS fun.

I was driven by all I had learned making gradient sets.  I expanded the solids from 12 to 25….in both yarn bases.  I wanted folks to be able to make their own gradient sets, and not have to settle on what I offered.  To that end, I designed blanket to show off the solids.  “Crystal Patterns” uses 3 colors in both Meritime and Woolpaca, and you end up with 6 colors since each base takes the dye differently.  I was careful to make sure you could make 2 blocks with each hank, so as to maximize your purchase.  Happily, my sister-in-law just sent me the blue/green version yesterday!

Crystal Patterns in purple/pink

blanket in blue/green

Thank you, Kathy, for your gift of time and skill to make this pretty version of “Crystal Patterns.”

Rebecca is also working on a pattern for me, and I’m excited to see her new slip stitch shawl.

ColorStorms had its first show at the Alpaca Festival in MD this past November 15, 16.

alpaca festival

Hard things have also been learning how to buy ads on Ravelry, edit patterns, update inventory, send in tax reports, and an endless learning curve for techie stuff related to communication.  For example, when someone asks me to post a picture for them on a Ravelry forum, or wants to try my yarn and write about it, each request requires me to learn new things.  And it all takes time.  I am only one person, and even though I’ve had lots of help, it’s mostly me now who has to buy the ads, set up the ads, fulfill requests, dye the yarn, re-skein and label it, make the packing slip, package it, drive to the post office and get it out the door!!  But honestly, I DO LOVE it!!  And THANK you for taking the time to check out my web site and giving me a reason to “do my thing.”  I hope we are both enriched by it.

Visit Colorstorms Natural Dyed Yarn at http://www.colorstorms.com/.

ColorStorms Print Banner 2 med

 

2 thoughts on “The Journey to ColorStorms

  1. Kathy H. says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Linda. Your web site is so beautiful, and your yarns are so enjoyable to work with. My next big project (after a few little things) will be the fair isle coat done all in Meritime colors. Who knows? You might see it when we meet in August.

    Like

  2. Gigi Lynn Frentz says:

    I’m so proud of you *all*! 🙂

    Like

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