Color Your World!

I was very excited to learn that the theme of this year’s spin-along is colorwork. Take a look at my collection of handknits and you’ll see that colorwork is so obviously my true fiber love!

Stefanie Johnson Feb 19, 2024 - 5 min read

Color Your World! Primary Image

A match made in Heaven: The author dyed a bit of Cheviot using fresh avocado skins and pits and is planning to pair it with purchased Merino top hand-dyed in an ‘avocado’ colorway. Photos courtesy of Stefanie Johnson unless otherwise noted

I have a special embroidery project planned for this year, but I’m not sure yet what fiber to use or if I’ll have time to complete it during the spin-along. So, as is my tradition, I am leafing through Spin Off publications for some vintage inspiration. For last year’s spin-along, I went back to the first issue I received of Spin Off magazine, the Fall 2007 issue. This year, I decided to go back to the 1990s (thank you, Spin Off digital library!), which was when I first learned to knit.

Two very different projects: Stefanie is considering making the Turkish Stockings, shown in the bottom left corner of her copy of Socks: A Spin-Off Special Publication for Knitters and Spinners (left) or the Zigzag Hat (right).

The two colorwork patterns that I am most interested in knitting at the moment are Lauri Mraz’s Zigzag Hat from the Summer 1998 issue and, because I’m a little crazy about socks, I’d like to try Ellen Dolson’s Turkish Stockings from Socks: A Spin-Off Special Publication for Knitters and Spinners. They incorporate a new-to-me heel style, and I love learning something new! I spun a sample skein of my first color (below), and I’m still considering contrasting color options.

Stefanie has already spun one skein for the spin-along. Now, what to make?

I happened to have bought some avocados last weekend and remembered that I saved a bunch of skins and pits last year to use as dyestuff. One of the articles I read on using avocado skins and pits as a dye source was in the Spring 2020 issue of Spin Off, “Avocado Ikat: A Spinner Explores Resist Dyeing & Botanical Color” by Rachel Simmons. I have started experimenting using different ratios of dyestuff to water, pits alone, pits and skins, and skins alone, as well as different water sources.

The results of Stefanie’s dyeing experiments

The deepest color I have achieved thus far was wool dyed with fresh avocado skins and pits in my well water (above, right). The crown of the Zigzag Hat resembles a flower, and so my plan is to reverse the light and dark colors in the pattern, using the pinkish handspun wool for the ‘flower’ and some green handspun wool to represent the surrounding ‘grass.’ Last spring, at the Western Illinois Fiber Fest, I purchased some locally dyed Merino wool in the colorway ‘avocado.’ I unearthed it while tidying up my stash earlier this year and took the label as a sign that I should incorporate it into my colorwork spin-along plans.

I hope to finish off the spin-along with a Striated Handspun Hat from the Spring 2023 issue. While not colorwork in the traditional sense of the word, it incorporates the manipulation of color in the spinning process and is another new technique I am eager to try.

I am excited to see how spinners interpret this year’s theme. Won’t you join us?

When Stefanie Johnson is not protecting public health through environmental inspections and communicable disease investigations, she enjoys teaching others to spin, knit, and weave. The Johnsons raise French Angora rabbits, honeybees, and a variety of chickens and ducks on their hobby farm, Settlers Grove, in Illinois. More of Stefanie’s work can be found in Taproot, Knitty, Knotions, and on Etsy and Ravelry.

For more details on this year’s spin-along, click here.

And remember, if you’re a subscriber to Spin Off, you have access to back issues in the Spin Off Library. Find them here.