Process: Thai Iced Tea Gradient Packs

Hi, yarn-lovers and friends who have shown up just to be kind! I'm Jen, and this is my yarn shop. I've been meaning to start a little blog for this site for a while now, and here we finally are. (Although, do people still read blogs? I guess we'll find out!) Some of my friends who don't dye yarn have said that they like reading about dyeing yarn? So let's talk random process notes! (Yarn dyers, this might be super boring for you? I don't know!)


A cup of Thai iced tea and five small skeins of yarn, in a gradient of colors matching the tea.
Thai iced tea gradient packs!

I'm so excited about the release of Thai Iced Tea gradient packs, and so glad that you all like them! As of today, we've raised $270 for Red Canary Song, a grassroots organization of Asian and migrant sex workers offering mutual aid, community, and advocacy. I'm so grateful to my friend Aimee Sher for letting me be part of the #knitdiverseKAL, and to her and my friend Bettina Sferrino for all their kind support with this project & 626 Yarns so far in general. They've been so generous with helping me figure out the ropes with Instagram, and brainstorming project ideas, and everything else. I get a little emotional about it, AAAGH, just <3 <3 <3.


I've been wanting to make these since I started dyeing yarn, but it took some time to figure out the right colors. There were a couple batches of Thai-iced-tea-ish gradient skeins, where I was messing around with different oranges and browns and seeing what worked, figuring out that the weird trick (spoiler alert!) is a surprising amount of red. And then there were the color tests, once I found the *right* oranges and brown and red.


A set of ten half-pint Mason jars in a large steamer. Each jar has a small yarn sample being dyed a shade of orange or brown.
Samples in the steamer

Triangle tests are the usual way to try out color combinations; each point on the triangle is a dye you're checking out, and you incrementally change how much of each color you're using. For instance, the top point in the triangle might be 100% of a certain color, the second row could be 75%, and so on until the bottom row is 0%. Same thing radiating out from the other two points. With four colors to investigate, though, I ended up making a color...tetrahedron. The first three levels are in the picture above, but there was also a triangle with ten colors, and a triangle with fifteen colors. (In the end, after sober contemplation of a photo of Thai iced tea, I figured out I needn't have bothered; one of the oranges was too vivid and I could've just done a triangle! But don't tell that to all the yarn samples I used up!)


Small yarn samples in shades of orange and brown, arranged as a single sample, a triangle made of three samples, and a triangle made of six samples.
The first three levels of the color tetrahedron.

The triangle tests yielded the colors for the two darkest colors in the gradient pack (let's call them colors #4 & #5), as well as a nice orange that, when rendered as a pastel, gave me the colors for the two lightest colors (#1 & #2). I did a simple line test for that; using the same orange shade in different amounts for each sample. Finding the right balance for #3 was the trickiest part; it has touches of every color, but still isn't very dark. After all that measuring, the best thing ended up mixing it by eye, carefully recording what I did as I did it, using the stocks for colors #1/2 and #4 and some more red for good measure. (The red was the surprising part; it's really a lot of red!) And here it is!


The way I got to these colors really surprised me at a couple turns, but it made sense the more I thought about it. I think of Thai iced tea as orange/brown, and was surprised by how much red it took to get these colors right. But red food coloring is how you get the distinctive color of Thai iced tea, along with a dark brown brewed tea and milk. So, even though I don't perceive them as such, these colors have strong pink/red undertones to them, especially as they get darker. (After all, the top of an unmixed tea is going to be mostly milk.)


I have more thoughts about these packs and about Thai Iced Tea and about Asian American identity (LOL but also yeeeeah). That'll be for another post.

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