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Untangling: Pigeonroof Studios and the GLOW colorways

Krista in her Herbivore in High Twist Sock in the Lavendula GLOW colorway.
Krista in her Herbivore in High Twist Sock in the Lavendula GLOW colorway.

When Krista McCurdy of Pigeonroof Studios first posted photos of her GLOW colorways I was kind of in awe. I knew she dyed up some gorgeous colors, but I could tell even from the images on my laptop screen that these were special.

A while back, Krista came out with her “Luminosity” series of one-of-a-kind colorways. The GLOW yarns have similarly radiant hues, but they’re repeatable. I was curious about this special dyeing technique, which adds so much depth to the skeins, so I thought I would ask her to explain the process a bit. (You might also want to check out a great interview that Krista did a couple of years ago with Kate Ray over at Hello Knitty.)

Can you explain a little bit how dyeing for The Luminosity Project, and the subsequent GLOW colorways, is different from regular dyeing? Since you’re layering colors, do the skeins go through multiple “baths?”

So, in the repeatable colourways, for the semi-solids, I do mix solutions for them every time, but they are dyed in I guess you would call it an immersion technique — basically kettle dyed. Some of the colours just have one go in the dye-pot, others sometimes two and occasionally three (but that’s rare.) It’s a pretty streamlined process, not necessarily quick, but once the yarn is in the pot I can pop the lid on and do other things until it’s done. For the multi-colours, both fibre and yarn, I use the dye powders straight, and I have a pattern that I use for applying the colours. Those are still kettle dyed, but I guess you would call it low-immersion dyeing. I never know what to call it, since I just came up with it on my own—I never took any classes or tutorials.

Those are the repeatable colourways. Now, for the Luminosity colours, when I started doing those, it was a way for me to really play with colour and go where my visual sense took me. Low immersion kettle dyeing as well, but I would (and still do) combine mixed solutions and dry powder application. It is a layering process, and I don’t measure anything.

The Glow colourways came out of me feeling bored with my normal colourways. I really like coming up with new colours — the production aspect is my least favourite part of dyeing. The Luminosity colours always came out really well, so I started thinking about how I could combine my processes but be able to document the process so I could repeat them. With the GLOW colourways, the yarn does first get dyed a base colour, which differs from colourway to colourway, then the dye gets layered on. I have a set of very tiny measuring spoons which makes the documentation possible — those changed my life! I’m terrible at math, so I don’t weigh anything. This way I can write down how much dye to how many cups of water for the solutions. The powder application is just by my own touch — I’m pretty consistent after doing that technique for seven years. Again, it’s a layering process, and every layer is documented. Like with the multi-colours, I have a surface pattern that I use to know where to put the dyes.

How long does the dyeing process take?

Too long! Seriously, though, it’s an incredibly time consuming process. First the yarn gets dyed the base colour, which is probably the shortest part of the process. Once I start layering the colours, that can take up to an hour and a half, give or take some. Some colours are quicker than others. Each layer of dye has to strike before I can apply the next one, and since the yarns are dyed in batches of four (two pots, two skeins to each pot), it’s not a quick production process. I think it’s worth it though!

Railroad Stake Luxury Sock

Which of the colorways are you most proud of? Were there any that were particularly challenging to create?

I’ve ended up being very fond of Railroad Stake, Meteorite, Ocean Waves, and Peacock. I’ve liked Peacock since the beginning, but for some reason it’s one of those colours that doesn’t sell as well as others. I’m probably the most proud of Meteorite.

Since I don’t start out with a clear vision of what the colourway will look like when it’s done, none of them were particularly challenging to create, it was more a matter of “how many more layers until this is done!” I’ll start with a general colour idea, like, Oh, I want to do something with blues, or greens, and then it goes from there, and as the colours are layered on, they tell me what the next one should be. It can be surprising — Railroad Stake and Meteorite (and Copper Mine, too, that was the launchpoint colourway for those two) are colourways that I still look at and think, “Really? I came up with those?” I don’t know exactly why they surprise me, but they feel very sophisticated to me….and I don’t usually feel like a very sophisticated dyer!

Creating new colourways is one of those things than comes in waves. I’ll have a whole period of time where new colourways seem to just spill out of me…then long periods of time where I have zero inspiration. It’s a very visceral thing to me.

Have you completed any projects with the GLOW yarns?

So far I’ve knit a pair of mitts, an Herbivore in Lavendula and I’m in the process of making a Colonnade shawl in Bacchus Aran in Railroad Stake.

Probably the next project will be a garment, although there are a couple of shawl/scarves that are calling my name too.

Gradient Mitts Krista McCurdy

You recently published a pattern for your miniskein gradient sets. Do you plan to design more patterns?

I would like to! The main stumbling block for me pattern writing wise is that I don’t think in 3-D. Like, at all. When knitting something, it will usually take me halfway through (or even longer!) to understand what is going on. Until then, I’m knitting blind. Writing the pattern for a very simple pair of mitts took forever.

So yes, I do plan on it… but it’s going to be a very slow process! Finding time to swatch and make endless mistakes is tough as well—besides the dyeing, there’s so much admin work to do, including the photographing of the yarns, the processing of said photographs, the listing, the shipping… If only I didn’t need sleep!

You’ve worked as a letterpress printer. Are there any similarities between printing and dyeing?

They’re both very visual, requiring a good eye for both colour and detail. I also think they’re a skilled trade, and the only way to be any good at either of those are to do them a LOT. Even then, there is always more to learn, always more ways to improve.

I have to say, though, the dyeing is quite similar to the painting I used to do and the fine art printing I used to do — I have a BFA in printmaking. I went through a whole period of making monotypes (using many runs through the press) that looked like rust. (I unfortunately can’t find the best one of those.) My work utilized a lot of layers, just like my dyeing does. I’ve always had a good and unique sense of colour, though, which has been the biggest help to me.

Peacock Silky High Twist Sock

Krista has generously offered up a skein of her Silky High Twist Sock in the Peacock colorway to a lucky reader. To enter, comment and tell us what you would make with this beautiful skein. Pattern links are definitely welcome! You have until the end of the day my time on Sunday, Aug. 10, to comment. Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed


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45 Responses

  1. Love this yarn! I would probably make a lacy shawl so I could look at the lovely depth of color–my favorite color!

  2. I would like to try Nennir, a celtic knot cowl, in Peacock. Me being me, there’s probably too much going on between the knots and the color changes, so my backup plan would be a simple shawl, like Antarktis or Pretty Basic, where the color changes would be the primary interest. Peacock is such a beautiful colorway!

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  4. That yarn is gorgeous! I think I’d want to make a hat and mitts, so I could show off the color all the time.

  5. Oh, I love the Peacock colorway! I haven’t seen it before, and I’m very surprised it’s not popular! It reminds me of a deeper version of Mimsy, which is one of my favorites that Krista has produced. I would want the Peacock close to my face in either a shawlette like this one:
    Or as a cowl in a feather and fan variation…

  6. I would make a hat, something with an uncomplicated stitch pattern that would let that gorgeous colorway do all of the singing!

  7. Oh, what a gorgeous yarn for socks! I would make a nice cozy pair for myself, but my daughter would ask for them and I would relent.

  8. Wow, that color is so lovely and earthy! I would make a shawl with a stockinette body and lace edging to showcase all the different tones.

  9. Oh I LOVE this Peacock colourway! so many options to show off its beauty, I think my hubby would love a pair of socks in it.

  10. Krista is a magician with color! Thanks so much for the glimpse behind her processes.

    What would I make with that gorgeous skein? Maybe pair it with a lighter colorway and do something in fair isle….?

  11. Krista has such a great eye for color. I’m always amazed what she comes up with and her luminosity colors have depth that cannot be matched. Peacock will make a lovely shawl, I think!

  12. I’d like to make a simple shawlette like Simple Things, Abyssal, or Hitchhiker.

    Or maybe just a nice pair of lacy socks!

  13. i think shawl, though maybe some fingerless mitts. maybe the Palouse pattern off ravelry. or maybe a mitten pattern combined with a solid light grey like the Doris pattern. Too many options!

  14. Krista’s dyeing is fantastic. Consistently beautiful. One of my all time favorites. So glad she is still going strong and her work is just getting more and more interesting.

  15. Thank you for the interview with Krista. It was interesting to learn about the the dyeing process. I am a fan of Pigeonroof Studious and have tried few of Krista’s yarns before. I am knitting now with Pigeonroof Studios BACCHUS in Glow colorway Clover. Love the colorway. It has so much depth. I would use Silky High Twist Sock for a new lacy shawl design 🙂

  16. The Glow colours are gorgeous. I’d knit the Peacock into a striped shawl or cowl. Something on a bias to highlight the complexity of the colours.

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  18. those colors! beauty! a lacey scarf would be nice, but then a new pair of socks sounds just just so awesome for fall.

  19. I would make a shawl so that I could see the yarn while wearing it. I’d go for a simpler pattern that would show off the colors.

  20. Why what a beautiful colorway. Begging to be a cowl, scrunched up on my neck to keep me wonderful, and to keep beautiful yarn within eye’s reach!

  21. I love hearing about Krista’s insights and dying techniques!

    Pigeonroof colorways are so rich and deep, now I can appreciate a bit more of the process behind the beauty 😀

  22. Oh my goodness, what an absolutely beautiful color! I can’t believe that it is not a colorway that just flies off the rack…I am not sure which exact pattern I would choose, but definitely a shawl that I could wrap around and hug to my neck and face!

  23. Wow, the colors are GORGEOUS! I would enjoy making a pair of Carol J. Sulcoski’s “Little Purls of Wisdom”, I think Krista’s yarns would be an ideal match for that pattern. Thanks for the giveaway and for bringing Pigeonroof Studios to my attention.

  24. I’d love to make a shawl out of it, maybe something like Magrathea, to use every last bit of that beautiful colorway.

  25. Wow!! The peacock color is gorgeous! I’d make socks or a shawl with simple pattern to showcase the color.

  26. Krista’s color ways are just beautiful. I purchased three different colors when the Glow Series came out. One of them was in Peacock. It is now the Setzer Cowl from Brooklyn Tweed, and I can’t wait for the weather to get cold so that I can wear it.

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