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Developing Gradient Sets - Part 1

by Debbie Sullivan April 24, 2018

Developing Gradient Sets - Part 1

I've been spending some time this spring working on developing new gradient sets in our Crescendo yarn for a couple of different projects, and I thought it would be fun (and hopefully interesting!) to document the process here. 

The sets that I created last year when we first launched this yarn more or less fall into two different categories. There are some where the change from skein to skein is a shift in the intensity of one colour, from pale to deep, such as this Pretty in Pink set.

Pretty in Pink Crescendo set

Dyers refer to this intensity as "Depth of Shade" and it's usually calculated as a percentage of dry dye powder to the amount of fibre dyed, measured by weight. So, for this type of gradient my development technique is to create the base dye mix for the deepest colour, and then dilute it carefully to acheive the paler shades, aiming to have as smooth a transition as possible between each skein. 

The second category that I often work with is sets where the change from skein to skein is in the hue rather than the intensity of colour, such as this Gaia set which shifts from blue to brown. 

Gaia Crescendo set

These tend to be a bit more complex to create, as some dye colours are stronger than others, so getting the right dye proportions can be trickier. I start with two different base dye colours (in this case blue and brown), and then vary the percentage of each used in each skein. You may notice that the intensity of the colour (the depth of shade) is actually almost exactly the same for each of the skeins in this set. The amount of dye used is consistent, I've just changed the proportions of the two colours. 

During the development process I tend to make very scribbly notes in my dyeing notebook, trying to keep track of any adjustments to my plans that I make as I see what the dye actually looks like on the yarn. I find it's helpful to start out by making a theoretical plan according to what I think will work, but it always needs tweaking as I go to get exactly the right shades and proportions. 

Dye notebook scribbles

Then, once my tweaking is done, I translate all those scribbly notes into a recipe! I try to keep things as clear and consistent as possible so that our recipes can be followed by anyone in the studio with consistent results. 

Gaia Recipe

One of my gradient projects this spring has been to develop a new Crescendo set to bring with us to the Toronto Knitter's Frolic (which is coming up soon on April 28th). I knew that I wanted to do one of the second type of gradient, and that I wanted to work with reds and blues. I was inspired by these tests that I did as part of a Dyer's Notebook workshop last year, showing the range of colours created by mixing sapphire and crimson in different proportions. 

Notebook with dye swatches

So I scribbled some new notes into my trusty notebook...

Notebook showing dye notes

Mixed up my dyes...

Dye measured out for gradient sets

And voila!

New crescendo gradient set in colander

Because I was working with two dye colours that I use very frequently I was able to predict how they would behave enough that this recipe needed only a little bit of nudging as I worked. 

I've now dyed up a little stock of these kits to bring with us to the Frolic in Toronto - this will be a limited edition set, and only available at the show, so come by our booth early if you want to snag one for yourself!

Crescendo gradient set limited edition





Debbie Sullivan
Debbie Sullivan

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