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the beauty of handmade

February 11, 2017 0 Comments

The photographs above show exactly the same shawl, even though the color of the yarn used at the top edge seems to shift between a dark brown-leaning raisin to a more rosy-purple. To my eye, all of these color variations are beautiful and unique; and they are clearly not the same.

This is the beauty of handmade and why I love to knit with hand-dyed yarn. Handmade is not uniform; it's ephemeral and individual.

Color on yarn

The Hundred Acre Wood gradient set is a perfect case study in hand-dyed yarn. There was a lot of variation between the dye lots, and also sometimes within the same dye lot. The colors were designed to shift from a dark raisin into a dark forest green, going from raisin to lavender-raisin, to sage green, to mid-tone green and finally to a forest green. Here are our original color chips:


These color chips were expertly translated into yarn and hand-dyed by Anne Podlesak of Wooly Wonka Fibers.

With hand-dyed yarn, even when the dyer follows the exact same recipe, each dye lot can come out of the pot looking quite different based on humidity, ambient temperature, and at least a dozen other factors. I believe this is part of the intrinsic beauty and value of hand-dyed yarn.

Here is the second dye lot of our Hundred Acre Wood gradient, which was what I photographed for the kit listings:

And, here is a selection of gradient colors A and B (the dark raisin and lavender-leaning raisin) from multiple, later dye lots:

The raisin color has been some of the most interesting in the set, with specs of red and purple and rose within it, sometimes from one stitch to another. My colleague knit a Hundred Acre Wood shawl from one of the brownest-leaning batches and there is such depth and variation to it.

Color in photographs

The pictured shawls at the top of this post are of the exact same shawl. You can see how the same shawl and yarn can appear different in different lights. In some photos, the rose undertones of the yarn is more apparent, and in other light, it appears more brown.

I take a lot of care with photographs to try and show all the different variations. My photos (the three on the left of the grid) were taken by a professional in natural light and with minimal photo processing to be as true to life as we could make it.

What to appreciate about handmade

Whether you are new to purchasing hand-dyed yarn, or a long-time aficionado of the beautiful and variable nature of hand-dyeing, I believe it's useful to reflect, from time to time, on what it means to create something handmade with handmade luxury supplies.

Handmade has depth and richness. Yarn colors are layered, with pops of color, small variations, tiny bits where the dye perhaps "broke" and separated into its component parts, and where humidity and temperature, and the swish of fresh water impacts the final result.

Handmade is unique. No two skeins are the same, which can admittedly be frustrating when you need to alternate skeins in a single project, but which contributes to the depth of the whole.

Handmade contains a spark of humanity. Handmade yarn and a handmade tool has a spark of life in it. It's been touched and created by human hands -- hands that have touched hundreds of previous skeins of yarn or fabric and that infuse it with a sensitivity of experience and expertise. It's different than the mass-produced t-shirt that was sewn by someone in a large factory, or commercial fabric that's printed in batches of hundreds of thousands of yards. It's slow, deliberate, careful, and unique.

Handmade infuses creativity into everyday life. Handmade supplies are my preferred, and increasingly my only, way of making handmade items. I love knowing that my hands are creating with something that's been created just for me. It slows me down and adds an extra layer of creativity to whatever I'm knitting, even if what I'm knitting is just a simple hat.

I'd love to know what handmade means to you. Why do you "make" with handmade supplies? What is your beauty of handmade?