Hand-Dyeing Yarn: An Interweave Yarn Fest Teacher Q&A with Nancy Shroyer

Knitter and handspinner Nancy Shroyer teaches regularly at Interweave Yarn Fest*, and in 2018, her new classes Dyeing Self-Striping Yarns and Socks to Dye For: Blanks! were a big hit. We asked Nancy to share how she got started hand-dyeing yarn for socks and what advice she has for newcomers to the colorful world of dyeing.

SO: You’re primarily known for teaching classes on knitting and spinning, but you also teach hand-dyeing classes, too. How did you get into hand-dyeing yarn, and more specifically, dyeing yarn for socks?

NS: I was in a yarn shop looking for a particular color of yarn and couldn’t find it, and the yarn shop owner suggested that I buy some white yarn and dye it. I really like variegated yarn and how it looks in the skein, but so many are blobby and stripy when knitted up. I wanted a yarn that had all those colors but didn’t stripe. So, I began dyeing and then teaching a class on how to make a hand-painted yarn guaranteed not to stripe. From there, it was a natural progression to figure out how to make it stripe on purpose. My classes focus on dyeing for socks because in 3 hours there is only enough time to dye one 4-ounce skein, but the theories and instructions will work for any amount of yarn.

hand-dyeing yarn

Hand-dyed yarn and socks from Nancy Shroyer’s class. Photo courtesy of Nancy Shroyer

SO: What are some of the challenges students face when hand-dyeing yarn, especially self-striping sock yarn?

NS: The biggest challenge (and stress) is choosing their colors! In the self-striping sock yarn class, their pattern has a 10-row repeat, and they can use as many, or as few, colors as they like. I bring 70 colors of dye, so the options are endless. I have them plot out their plan on paper with colored pencils, and then they match the colors to the dye’s color cards. Another thing we do in my classes is work in teams of 3. One person’s skein is being dyed while the other 2 are helping. This takes a lot of the anxiety out of doing something new. Even if the whole class is filled with strangers, after about 15 minutes, the room is filled with chatter, sharing, and helping. I love that sound!

SO: What advice do you have for new dyers?

NS: Just do it! Take a class or watch some videos so you know what materials you will need. Get a couple of friends together, or get your kids involved, and then find the time and play. You’ll learn as you go.

SO: Where can interested students find your upcoming class schedule?

NS: On my website, Nancy’s Knit Knacks.

* Mark your calendars for next year’s Interweave Yarn Fest, which will once again be held at the Embassy Suites in Loveland, Colorado, just an hour north of Denver, on March 28–30, 2019.

—Elizabeth Prose

Featured Image: Nancy Shroyer teaching a Fair Isle knitting class at Interweave Yarn Fest 2017. Photo by George Boe

Give dyeing your handspun yarn a try!

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