Handpainting Lace with Dyes!

100% Silk

What starts the creative process?  What ignites the spark that leads a person to strive and create something unique?  For me it was a book by Margaret Stove – Creating Original Hand-knitted Lace.

I first read (it was more like read some and look at lots of pictures) Creating Orignal Hand-knitted Lace about 11-12 years ago.  It was way out of my league – I had just started to play around with lace knitting – and many of the concepts, especially the design aspects of the lace stitches were far beyond what I had ever conceived.  What I took from the book was a concept from the chapter “Sea Spray and Scallop Shells”.  In this chapter Margaret took the reader from conception to completion of a handknit shawl.  The highlight of the shawl for me was the handpainting at the end of the process.  I wanted to be able to do this for myself!  I never forgot and never stopped thinking about the handpainting.

50%Merino & 50%Tussah Silk

Approximately 10 years later Piecework May/June 2008 had a feature about lace fans, knit, beaded and hand-painted.  (By this point I was also heavily into beading my knitting!)  I loved the article and the project.  It was small enough that I could knit and paint and not worry about the lost time if I ruined it – it would be easy enough to knit again!  Nightfall Fan was created by Deboroh Robinson  and I thought that it would be the perfect project for learning to handpaint with dyes.  I went back and reread Margaret Stove and then got started.

I knit up 3 versions of the fan; one in 100% lace weight silk by Handmaiden; one in in JaggerSpun Zephyr, 50%Merino and 50%Tussah Silk and the last was knit in Jamieson and Smith Cobweb Wool.  I wanted to see how the different fibers took the dyes.  I followed the pattern for the lace in each one, but played with the bead placement in the second two.  I felt that the fan could use more beads.

100% Cobweb Wool

At this point I knew nothing about dyes and how to work with them – so  I collected some dyes and asked some questions and then jumped right in and started to paint.  Each fan had something to teach me – the 100% silk took the dyes beautifully with little movement in the painting.  The dyes stayed right where I wanted them to with little draw from the fibre.  The silk allowed for very precise painting of the details.  The 50%Merino and 50%Tussah Silk was a little less precise  The colours of the dyes had more movement within the fibre, the addition of the wool really helped to draw the colours into the fibre.  This created much softer edges and less precise details.  My favorite was the 100% wool cobweb yarn.  The wool fibres really drew the colours of the dye and spread them through the fan.  This created very soft edges and incrediblely inticate colour movement.  The closeup pictures in my Pattern and Blog Headers are from this fan.  For more pictures http://www.flickr.com/photos/24365805@N06/sets/72157605491638243/

Abbey Lace Fan

To say that I was thrilled with the results was an understatment – I wanted to paint more!  I e-mailed Deborah and inquired about the availability of more patterns.  She very kindly shared a couple of patterns that she had designed and I went on to my next fan.

The Abbey Teaching Fan was based on the Torchon Lace Collar from Barbara Abbey’s Knitting Lace.  It has a couple of small differences, but not enough to make the pattern publishable.  It was a very good base for teaching a class.  So, in the summer of 2009, Mad About Ewe had a two part class on handpainting lace.  It brought about some interesting results.  I had to re-create the charts for the class, in a clearer format.  Those charts are now available as a free download from Ravelry.  I discovered that one of the knitters was also a painter and she taught me a great deal about working with the dyes in this kind of format,  Eileen had worked with watercolours, and as the dyes need to be painted onto wet fabric some of the techniques could be carried over into handpainting with dyes.  At this time, I also worked the pattern with heavier yarn and larger beads and created a capelet from the charts.

Torchon Lace Capelet II

  It is now one of my favorite peices to wear.  Pictures from the class http://www.flickr.com/photos/24365805@N06/sets/72157622005984087/

And from the painting of the Capelet http://www.flickr.com/photos/24365805@N06/sets/72157625143163254/

Gardens of Giverny - before

I have tried out several different fibres and patterns in the last couple of years, with varying rates of success.  Each time I try something new I learn.  Cotton is much harder to set than other fibres (it really helps to use the right mordant! 

Gardens of Giverny - after

Cotton requires washing soda, not vinegar to set!).  We are now into Monet’s softer period! 

This summer I painted a lace scarf with Angora and a large cashmere shawl with a silk edging.  And I am working on a mohair/silk twinset!  Every time we try something new we learn and that carries over onto our next projects!http://www.flickr.com/photos/24365805@N06/sets/72157624629074792/


Happy knitting


Another source of information on Painting with Dyes is in the Twist Collective Fall 2009 – I am not the only crazy one out there!

3 Responses to Handpainting Lace with Dyes!

  1. Lynette: Congratulations! This is wonderful news! You must be over the moon! And it is OBVIOUS why you will be published! Your work is fantastic! I love your blog too.

  2. What you are doing is absolutely stunning! I cannot believe that there is so little activity here. I immediately ordered the book about dying lace. My knitting technique is Swing knitting (Nadita on Ravelry) and dying after knitting will add natural enrichment to it.
    Maureen O’ Connor says you will be published? Has that happened? Can I get a copy?

    • Good Morning Brigitte,
      Maureen is right. I have been published. First In Vogue Early Fall 2011 and in a few Vogue Knitting Books since then. I have patterns in the next two Vogue Knitting Book, Fall (30th Anniversary and Holiday 2012). There are no books or anything like that.
      I am thrilled that you are interested in trying out the technique. I really enjoy the way that it enhances my knitting!

      Thanks for all of the positive feedback!


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