Maryland Sheep & Wool special colorway: "a shot in the dark"

by Gretchen Frederick April 24, 2021

Maryland Sheep & Wool special colorway: "a shot in the dark"

Do you ever wonder how dyers come up with colorways? I imagine that every dyer has a different process, and it might change all the time. This is how this special colorway for Maryland Sheep & Wool came about. 

First, all the Solitude Woolies (as we frequently refer to ourselves) decided to do the special colorway on the same yarn as we used last year: Dorset hike. This yarn you can make a pair of hiking socks with one skein, or a shawl with two or three skeins. It’s hard wearing and machine washable (because of the Down type wool and added nylon).

We all brainstormed ideas for a special colorway. Some of the ideas were "Vaccination violet," "masked mauve" and others (you get the idea) but the dyer (me 😁) really didn't want to dye violet or mauve or any single color. Then my partner Joan came up with it! "a shot in the dark" yeah...that sounded much more fun, and we are feeling so optimistic about the vaccinations.

From there, it was pretty easy. I imagined small explosions of super bright colors in a dark gray/purple field. To make it more fun, I didn't want to do a traditional handpaint where all the skeins are dyed to the same pattern and will repeat when you knit or crochet with them, I wanted to do a painting on a canvas of side by side skeins.

Here is part of my sketch:

sketch of dye plan

In my dye shed set up I have two parallel tables flanking me and can set up two "canvases" of skeins laid side by side. I mixed up a bunch of colors for this. I almost never use a straight dye, I always mix them so they are unique. I also decided long ago that I was not going to have any formulas or recipes for my dye is all by eye and whim. That keeps it fun for me. I don't (intentionally 🙃) repeat colorways.

For "a shot in the dark" I did not try to make the two canvases match. Here are shots of the finished, dyed yarn after steaming: on the right table:

dyed yarn (skeins) canvas on one table

and on the left:

They both have the same mixed dyes, but not the same pattern. The very best part of yarn dyeing is the magic that happens where the different dyes seep into each other and create the most beautiful subtle and complex colors. The grays in these yarns in particular are gorgeous! 

The end result is that every skein is a little different, but some are lighter, some a little darker. Melissa and Kim grouped them into related colors to help you can pick what you like best, but no two skeins are alike so it is definitely pot luck. You can order from hree groups: more gray, more orange and more lime.


I see explosive socks! maybe with black toes, heals and cuff? or maybe citron...or violet or what would white look like? ohhhhh, I hope you all try and let us know!


Gretchen Frederick
Gretchen Frederick


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