Variety is the Spice of Creativity

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the late summer blooms are attracting hummingbirds!

It has been a busy year, writing-wise and lately I have been feeling a great need to keep my creative well topped up. Every once in a while I feel as though I need to turn my attention to new spheres in order to all the wheels of productivity greased. Whenever that happens I know that I need to stop whatever it is that I am trying to produce and to try my hand at something new for a while.

It could be that a day trip to somewhere interesting and new is in order. It could be taking the time to read a completely different sort of book than I usually read. But generally, the most effective way to fill myself back up is to dive into a different sort of creative process than the one used for writing.

So, yesterday I took the morning off to indulge in a favorite summer pastime, yarn dyeing. I have mentioned on more than one occasion how much I love to knit. I think I’ve even included at least one knitter in each of my novels. But like with so many things, one passion leads to another and last summer I picked up some dye and some bare sock yarn in order to try my hand at the process.

It was surprisingly fun and the process feels to me a lot like writing a novel. Like with a book, I have an idea for a project that I would like to make. It is usually nebulous at first, then more and more clear as time goes by. I do a bit of research about what it will take to create the sort of effect I have in mind. There is so much to consider. Do I want a soft, blended sort of effect? Something speckled? What about striped? What is the color palette and the saturation of color? What will the yarn be used for in the end?

The yarn has to soak at the right temperature long enough to become completely saturated. I usually need to soak up the research for long enough to feel like I can’t hold much more either at the beginning of a book. Then, the fun begins. The heat is turned up, and the color is applied. Right before my eyes the bare yarn begins to transform and the colors blend, or don’t, stay vibrant or soften. Like the first draft of a novel, it begins to show the possibilities of what it might become.

After the dye is applied it is time to let the skein simmer at just the right amount of heat until most of the color is absorbed.

Then the cooling-off period begins. I usually prefer to give my writing a chance to sit for a while between drafts too. Once it reaches room temperature the rinsing begins, removing excess dye and water. This reminds me of the second draft where the initial refining of the story takes place. After that the skein is hung to dry and then it is wound into a ball or a cake before being swatched.

Swatching, or knitting up a small sample, is where the results reveal themselves. Even though I started out with an idea, a plan, research and sound methods for execution the end result is never exactly what I had envisioned. It might appear brighter, or more blended, or even completely unlike the expectation. But like with my novels, it is never a disappointment. It is always magically fun. And it always leaves me wanting to try my hand at the process again!

Readers, have any of your interests spawned others? Writers, do any of your other passions remind you of writing?

20 Thoughts

  1. Those are lovely yarns, Jessie. Have you tried natural dyes? I remember using onion skins to dye a garment golden many years ago.

    My occasional forays into quilting feel a little like writing. Finding the right complement of colors, laying out the blocks in the best way, discovering the best binding and backing that suits its the final purpose (and recipient) are all creative, and the actual stitching is the skilled work part.

    1. I have tried natural dyes in the past, but never onion skins. Gold is not really my color! I can see how quilting would work its magic in much the same way!

  2. I’m thinking of how taking yoga classes has made me want to reach out into new areas like meditation, listening to a sound healing session, just eating better and focusing on being centered. I love the colors you created, especially the dark purple!

  3. Such pretty yarns! I would say my love of reading recently started my collection of bookmarks made by people in my life that I love. I ask my nieces (and mom) to make me a bookmark every year for my birthday then I laminate them.

  4. Most definitely! Our love of photography had me doing research on the critters I photograph in order to get better pictures. Along the way I found out many interesting facts that I now attach to my photos. During COVID, I had many folks, both home school and regular school, say they were using my photos in their classes along with the information. Photography has also taken us on many trips – often unexpected one – to capture critters in their natural environment instead of in places like zoos.

    To me, my photograph reminds me of the books I love. There’s the research, studying the critter in order to make things work in the scenario I’m handed. Polishing off the capture to make it everything I want and others expect it to bee. And the final photo is exactly as it should be for the public to see and hopefully enjoy as much as I did bringing it to them.

    How fun to dye your own yarn! Gorgeous colors too. Naturally, I’m drawn to the shades of purple – my favorite color.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. WOW! I love your creative processes…writing and yarn dyeing! I do understand about finding passions that had been hidden inside of you, or had not been explored. I have a creative side that must be fulfilled…repairing things keeps me motivated and curious about finding out “how to”…I also draw and used to paint with acrylics. Your yarn dyeing is fascinating to see the transformation from plain to fabulous! It reminds me of our vintage ladies’ hat collection…it has been fun finding each hat and then lovingly restoring it or cleaning it until it became a beloved treasure again. Keep on creating, Jesse!!! Luis at ole dot travel

    1. Thanks, Luis! I am so curious about your vintage hat collection! Like my sleuth Edwina, I adore hats and have quite a number of them which I wear regularly!

  6. What wonderful yarns! Occasionally, I’ll try tweaking or inventing a recipe for dinner. Kind of like writing. I have a vague idea of where I want to end up, and I experiment until I get there.

  7. The yarn is gorgeous! I hope it knits into gorgeous items. I was a scrapbooker before I started writing on contract and I am somewhat determined to go back. For me, it is definitely an exercise in creating a narrative out of the random walk of life.

  8. That yarn is gorgeous! Hopefully, the finished project is exactly what you are picturing when you started the project.

    1. Thanks, Mark! It may be a bit until I find out if I am satisfied with it since I have a few other projects in line ahead of it! Maybe by Christmas I will know!

  9. Wonderful yarns! It’s pottery for me. I need to get back to it. Mixing glazes and firing are much like your yarn dying. Pottery is so like writing. You begin with a formless blob and then spin it into a shape, and then the final object emerges between your hands. Before you take it off the bat decorative details are added. Then the whole thing is set aside to dry (and sometimes reveal new forms). After that, it’s on to glazing and firing.

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