We drove down to Dingwall on one of those bright crystalline days of spring, with the promise of a very interesting and informative day ahead.
As the last to arrive we entered a room buzzing with anticipation, on the desks neatly laid out were pencils, wool, and a large polystyrene board with nails standing out in a star shape. It must have taken Stephanie and Fiona quite some time to prepare ten of these, one for each of us. At the front of the class a slightly nervous Stephanie explained she was on her own as Fiona was laid low with a bug, but I hope our eagerness and enthusiasm encouraged her as we gathered round to listen to her explain about the necessity of health and safety when mixing the kaleidoscope of colours available before us.
We then returned to our desks to draw out a simple, or in many cases not so simple, coloured pattern on grid paper each tiny square to represent a coloured stitch. I think most of us worked on a three colour pattern and although I thought I was keeping my pattern very simple I was to discover it wasn’t quite as simple as I had hoped. We then knitted a swatch to work out the length of yarn needed for each repeat of our pattern. This was to be wound around the star shaped nails, again some of us struggled a little with this. The distance from one star point to the next represented a row of the pattern knitted.
Then the fun began as we chose our dyes and mixed them. The choice of colours was endless as it was possible to mix several colours together to get the exact shade wanted. Stephanie had previously explained mixing quantities for the required amount earlier. Now we had to paint onto the wool on the star following our pattern on the grid paper. This was when I discovered that my pattern was a little bit too complicated as some of the colours bled towards each other but in spite of this the overall effect looked quite good. When our pattern had been repeated all around the star we next set the colours by placing the dyed wool in cling film and cooking
it in a microwave before giving it a final rinse and allowing the coloured skeins to dry. The effect of the varied coloured skeins hung like a rainbow over the airer.
Whilst our patterned skeins dried, we were allowed to experiment with any wool or fleece we had brought along with us, for myself I dabbed some fleece with some of my left over coral dye to hopefully give variegated coral wool. At the end of a very enjoyable day I had two small hanks of my repeat pattern yarn in coral, yellow, and brown of which I am extremely proud, and a general knowledge of chemical dyeing which was a completely new venture for me; and I will definitely try dyeing at home with my own hand spun wool ONE DAY!