Nancy Roberts is first and foremost a hand knitter. She learned to spin and dye in order to expand her yarn choices beyond those commercially available. With control over fiber content, yarn construction, and color, she can enhance both the hand-knitting process and her textile designs.
So what is this inveterate hand knitter doing using a knitting machine? A knitting machine is yet another tool she can use to personalize yarn creation. With a knitting machine, she can quickly machine knit stockinette fabric for multicolor dyeing. Dyeing in the fabric, unlike dyeing a skein, allows her to produce a yarn with longer repeats of color, which means in turn that a single color can circle the circumference of a sweater many times before merging into a new color or shade. This method lets her knit a Fair Isle sweater without disrupting the flow of hand knitting with frequent yarn changes. She can even adjust her method of applying dye to the knit fabric to create a Kaffee Fassett-looking array of color without having to endure the tedium of securing the ends of separately dyed skeins of yarn.She has also developed a way to use this technique to create self-striping sock yarn.
Nancy first thought about using a knitting machine for dyeing when she saw an article by Rebekah Younger (www.youngerknits.com) in Threads (No. 59, June/July 1995, pg. 68). Younger had dyed machine-knit fabric to achieve subtle color shading on knit fabric. Nancy was intrigued by her method of unraveling and reknitting previously machine-knit and dyed fabric.
This inspiration held a spot on her ever-expanding "to do" list. In 2003, she finally bought a knitting machine to experiment with new possibilities for dyeing yarn for knitting. Nancy wrote an article on dyeing that was published in the Winter 1994 edition of Spin-Off Magazine. Her machine knitting and dyeing method was featured in the Spin-Off Fall 2006 issue. Nancy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.