We knitters tend to like to try out new hand-dyed yarns “for science.” Michelle Berry’s science background came in handy when she decided to launch Berry Colorful Yarnings.
Michelle spent several years as a dental assistant, and also helped out with her husband’s California construction company. While homeschooling the couple’s two daughters, she discovered knitting. Then, in 2011, she decided to try her hand at dyeing and, luckily for us, never looked back.
In late 2012, Michelle and her family moved back to southern New Mexico, where she grew up. The landscape serves as further inspiration for her experiments in color.
Tell me about how you got started dying yarn.
I have a love of indie-dyed yarns and found it very difficult to order from some of my favorite dyers overseas. I was chatting with a fellow yarn lover friend of mind and stated that “I wish I could dye yarn,” and she said, “You can do. Go for it.” So I went for it. I have a more science background and love the process of dying yarn. I have since learned the art to it as well.
Can you explain the differences between the science and the art of dyeing?
I never appreciated shades of color prior to becoming a knitter and never really understood it until I started dyeing yarn. I love mixing compounds and watching the reaction. I love how you need acid to help the color bond and how the temperature of the water needs to be so hot for it to be washfast, and how silk and Cashmere and BFL react so differently to color than Merino — all the components that make the chemical part of dyeing so fun. I have learned the laws of color, but that process was a learning curve for me, as the science part came easier. I think a lot of that was because science is factual and art is in the eye of the beholder, and I had yet to open my eyes.
What did you find most challenging when you first started to dye?
I think the most challenging thing for me was figuring out what color to dye. I love pictures as inspiration, but if I were to walk out and pick up a dye without an idea to guide me, then I would only dye the colors I was drawn to so, in turn, dyeing the colors I find least attractive was challenging. I liken it to someone who loves to bake but doesn’t care for chocolate and therefore doesn’t care for the taste of the chocolate desserts they bake. If that makes sense? But I love all colors now and find that they each have a personality of their own.
Do you have a favorite color or colors? What about bases?
I love, love the color blue! All shades. And my current favorite bases are Merino/Cashmere/Nylon on a light fingering/heavy lace base and Merino/Cashmere/Silk on a sport base. Both are just so divine to work with. Butter on the needles.
Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?
True reds are probably the hardest for me to dye. I love to work at it.
Do you dye yarn with finish objects (FOs) in mind?
No. I dye yarn the same as I buy yarn, for the love of the color or the base. I then let the yarn tell me what it wants to become.
What kinds of items do you like to knit yourself?
I love to knit hats but I mostly wear cowls. I hope to start making myself socks this year.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dyeing or knitting?
I love to find new recipes for gluten-free meals and baked goods. And, about a year ago, I started making fitness a big priority in my life, so if I am not playing with yarn or fiber or teaching the girls I am most likely in the home gym or running down the road.
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned while running Berry Colorful Yarnings?
The most valuable lesson I have learned is, to truly dye with love… If you love what you do it shows in your work.
Michelle generously dyed up and donated a few skeins and a roving in a special “Indie” blue colorway for a giveaway. I’ll post the details next week, after Memorial Day, but here’s a sneak peak: