Dye, Cut, Knit
Like peanut butter and chocolate, the combination of yarn and silk fabric strips creates a yummy sensory treat that is eye and hand candy for knitters. The colors and textures we wrap around our needles are what makes knitting so inviting, and expressing our creativity with our knitting is what makes it so satisfying. I teach workshops on Creative Knitting to encourage knitters to use alternative materials and methods to create one of a kind knit work. Being able to dye your own knitting materials in colors you love is especially exciting.
As the founder and director of a fiber arts education program in the Santa Barbara schools I spent 10 years teaching fiber arts to children. I loved the way that kids could easily create with everything from recycled cardboard to abandoned cassette tapes. When I began refocusing on my own artwork, I supplemented my love for alternative materials with daily doses of silk. Once I developed a taste for working with silk, I was consumed with ideas for playing with this amazing fiber. I ordered bolts of chiffon, habatoi and gauze fabric in different weights from Dharma Trading Company. I began exploring Shibori dying techniques and developed a line of hand dyed silk garments and scarves. Always having beautiful, dyed silk laying around, it wasn’t long before I was tearing it up and knitting with it. My first design idea was a tank top knit with about 5 yards of dyed silk habatoi. I repeated the process about a dozen times, each time coming up with new ideas for the neckline, shape and size. Next, I began incorporating lengths of my hand dyed silk fabric strips into my creative knitting projects including garments and bags
I had been dyeing fabric and yarn for years using a cold water fiber reactive dye process. Then, at a Surface Design Conference in 2005 I discovered Colorhue Dyes. Maggie Backman of “Things Japanese” was standing at a table demonstrating this amazing dye and how it sets instantly on silk. I was so intrigued that I bought a sample pack. After playing with the Colorhue back in my studio, I realized that this dying method was perfect for knitting workshops. Talk about instant gratification. This method is right up there with chocolate. Once your fabric dries you can begin tearing and knitting.
Here are 5 simple steps to creating your own beautifully dyed knitting materials :
- Place silk yardage into a large zip lock bag. I like to work with one yard of silk at a time.
- Mix dyes in plastic cups. Colorhue comes as a concentrate so you will want to mix it in water. All color mixing must be done before you apply the dye to the silk.
- Pour dyes over the fabric in the bag, zip it shut and scrunch the fabric until it is thoroughly dyed. Repeat with as many different colors as desired. Simply splashing colors onto the silk will create a beautiful variegated look when knit.
- Rinse in warm water and hang to dry. No need to set the dye as it is now permanent and colorfast.
- Tear or cut the fabric into strips for knitting.
I love the textured effect of tearing my dyed fabric and I purposely tear the strips in uneven widths. However, if you’d like a clean edge you can use a rotary cutter and a cutting board. If you want a strip that doesn’t fray you can cut the fabric diagonally on the bias, which also gives it a little bit of stretch. To create a continuous strip, cut a slice at one edge of the fabric (A) and tear until you are close to the other edge (B) then cut a slice at edge B and tear back to almost the edge of A and repeat for the rest of the fabric. The edges give the knitting an added bit of texture.
As I continued to explore the possibilities of combining silk fabric and yarn I discovered that using the wrap stitch was a great way to accentuate the colors and textures of the silk. I knit a stitch, wrapped the strip around the needles and repeat across the row. On the next row you knit the stitches and drop the wraps. The silk fabric is light-weight and the elongated stitches give the knit fabric a delicious drape. I like to play with the number of wraps to create interest. I like to knit on large size needles, playing with size 10’s through 15’s(US). I freely combine yarns from a smorgasbord of fiber content in my garments.
Enjoy knitting with your own hand dyed silk fabric then remember to treat your creations with care; it’s best to take the time to hand wash gently in warm water and dry flat.
Create your own creative knitting with Brecia’s Dye, Cut, Knit DVD available at breciacreative.com