Creating a Custom Colourway

Daria Rakowski of Cloud 9 Fiberworks discusses the process of creating our 2017 custom colourway yarn —

It was such a privilege to create the limited edition colourway for the 2017 Manitoba Fibre Festival. When Margaret asked me to write a little bit about the process of creating the yarn I happily agreed, not realizing how challenging it would be to describe over a month of experimentation in a clear and yet (hopefully) entertaining way.

The request was to create a custom, limited edition colourway for this year’s fibre festival based on the MBFF logo, designed by artist and sheep farmer Gerry Oliver.  

cropped-11898634_624971950977739_3527468810237243922_n.jpgThe sheep head is a very striking image with a lot of subtle colouring. The first step was to really examine the image; get to know it not in the broad strokes that we mostly associate with graphic branding but on a detailed, personal level. I printed it out (in colour, natch). Then I got my hands on a larger image and printed that. Ultimately, I had copies of it all over the house in different sizes to catch different light and moods – where your eyes can see things differently depending on all kinds of other factors. Soon I was seeing all kinds of variations within the design. A blush with some coral on the muzzle, deep burgundy and flashes of teal in the locks, greys and black throughout, and lots of beautiful colour movement. Now that I had a much better understanding of the palette and where this yarn was going, ideas were starting to come together.

Lately, I’ve been joining in with the love affair with speckles. Their popularity is very well founded – little shots of colour that add interest without hogging the spotlight so I knew they needed to be included. I also knew that it was going to be a great technique to capture some of the movement that the logo displays. This gave me some design bookends. A palette was drawn and one dye technique nailed down. Some nebulous ideas of what the finished product would look like as well as how it would knit up were noted and sketched in my notebook.

Then, I began to play. Truthfully, this is the fun part. I had made up small skeins to test out ideas, techniques, colour blends – you name it, it all went through a practical vetting process. Getting that blush tone to my satisfaction was the first hurdle. It really needed to be a compound colour, which always requires some experimentation. This part looked a bit like a mad-scientist lab with bottles of dye solutions, my trusty dye notebook and tools all over the place. Eventually this led to a colour composed of three different dyes, blended together to get that soft, earthy blush tone. With the first dye hurdle conquered, I moved on to techniques.

daria demo
Daria demonstrating dyeing techniques at our St Norbert Farmers’ Market display in 2016

As a dyer, you have a lot of options for getting colour on to fibre. This can be a blessing and a curse; sometimes you have an idea and dozens of different ways to potentially make it happen. There is a Goldilocks zone where everything is just right and the results feel perfect. This is where the test skeins really came in handy, showing me what techniques could be layered effectively and which ones just ended up looking murky. It was a really useful experimental time, both for this project and for showing me new ways to add colour and movement to my dyeing. In short, all of the (many) failures in getting the MBFF 2017 yarn just right were incredibly helpful in refining techniques for future projects. To me, this is the best part of the creative process. It helps the experimentation process a lot knowing that black will cover nearly everything if it looks absolutely terrible. I have a few black skeins.

Eventually I settled on a 2 step dye process for this yarn. Each skein starts with an immersion dye bath with several colours layered on so that the water can move it a little but not too much – Goldilocks dye moment! Then, after the immersion bath is exhausted, it moves on to sprinkle therapy. I won’t get too technical here but I planned out the sprinkle patterns throughout my test skeins and once I was contented with the sprinkles the yarn had those colours set. All in all, each skein of the 2017 colourway has 8 different colours layered on to it to capture the nuances in the MBFF sheep.

custom yarn
Manitoba Fibre Festival 2017 limited edition custom colourway by Cloud 9 Fiberworks

It certainly isn’t the fastest colourway to create, but there is, in my entirely biased opinion, great colour nuance. No one element dominates, much like the logo and indeed, the wider Manitoba fibre tribe. There are many moving parts that come together with just the right blend of contrast and compliment – the Goldilocks spot.

The 2017 Manitoba Fibre Festival Yarn is available in limited quantities in worsted weight 100% superwash merino wool (164 m/100g) and fingering weight 80% superwash merino/20% nylon (335m/100g). Each skein is $25.

 These wools will work well with most of the patterns in our Flatlands Collection which releases on August 1. Pick up your skeins at the Festival, or if you just can’t wait — we have early shopping options! 

Wolseley Farmers Market, Tuesday August 8, 3:30 – 6:30 pm, R. H. Steen Community Centre, 980 Palmerston Avenue

Proutopia, September 2 & 3, Runs With Scissors Studio, Winnipeg Beach.

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