Fifty Shades of Red

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and so the indie dyer in me cannot stop thinking about the colour red: red roses for love, chocolates in a red heart-shaped box, or a gift, wrapped in red paper and tied with a red ribbon. Red is considered to be sexy and seductive.  But red has other effects.

Red is a high-energy colour that is both exciting and stimulating. Red is provocative.  Ladies in red, red sports cars, red lipstick and red light districts all come to mind.

Red cannot be ignored. It is often used in advertising, print material, branding and logos. It commands our attention.  It is the colour of stoplights, stop signs and warning flags.

Red can literally turn you on.  It’s reported physiological effects on your body include the release of epinephrine, which changes your body chemistry causin you to breathe faster.  Your blood pressure rises, along with your pulse rate, heartbeat, and adrenaline level.  Often painted on restaurant walls, red is also known to increase one’s appetite.

The dyer in me admires this intense, mid-value colour, as it has an extensive range of variations. When darkened by adding brown or black, red holds its own well. When deepened to a burgundy the inherent characteristic reactions that we have towards red are more subdued.  Wine shades are thought of as mature, lush, elegant, opulent, refined, and authoritative.  When lightened by adding white, red becomes pink, which is the colour of innocence.  However, a vivid, shocking or hot pink will share the same high energy and spirit of red, although perhaps not as provocative.

But as bright and attractive as it is, in my opinion, red can outstay its welcome. One Easter, many years ago, my sister and I tried our hand at dyeing eggs.  She had a package of red dye that we were excited to use.  Our eyes were fixed on our dye pots as we magically transformed white eggs into various shades of red.  When it was time to clean up, we were amazed at all of the scrubbing and cleaning that we had to do to get the red out of our pots, and off the stove and utensils.  It wasn’t until the end of the day, after my sister had left, that I finally looked above the level of my cook top.  My white exhaust fan with all its working parts was now a breathtaking shade of pink.

To this day, I am amazed at how fugitive red can be.  I hesitate to put new red clothing into the laundry.  The colour may bleed and leave my complete load of clothes permanently blushed. One is well advised to wash red items separately for the first couple of washes.

If you have red wool yarn that tends to bleed, consider setting the colour. Wet your yarn skein thoroughly in a vinegar and water mixture and allow it to soak for at least half an hour.  Place your soaked yarn (100g) and some extra liquid in a vented plastic bag and place it in the microwave (one used for dyeing only) on high for about 2 minutes. Let it sit for a couple minutes.  Put the bag back in the microwave, set the power level to medium and turn it on for a couple more minutes.  Repeat if necessary.  Be careful not to burn your yarn.  Alternatively, if you do not have a dedicated microwave, place the vented bag of yarn in the top of a double boiler and steam it for half an hour.  Allow it to cool completely.  This should help to keep red in its place.


Happy Valentine’s Day to all,


Rhonda Kellett


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