When I started out as a dyer, my plan was to dye to match photos I’ve taken. I enjoy photography so the idea of using my pictures as inspiration for the yarn seemed like a great way to give my hobby a new layer of meaning.

Despite those best intentions, if I can be honest for a moment, I feel a little strangled. My shop has been open for almost eight months and I’m frustrated with how I’ve lagged behind where I thought I would be in terms of the variety of colorways I’m offering. Color matching dye to photos has turned out to be pretty challenging! Having the challenge is just fine, but at the same time… It’s been a slow process, much slower than I anticipated. Still getting established means I have to be careful about wasting supplies with failed experiments.

There are color combinations I want to do that don’t easily occur in nature—at least, not the nature I have convenient access to. I don’t have the means right now to travel to places where I could get photos featuring more exotically-colored subjects. Flowers are one obvious source of color but I’d like to avoid relying on them too much if I can. I’ve considered creating acrylic pours and using those as the inspiration (and selling the resulting pours too) but it’s not really feasible to pick that up right now. I don’t have a lot of space to work with and acrylic pouring is pretty messy, never mind that I’d need additional storage space for the canvases and paint.

Being up against this wall really started to bother me this past weekend, to the point that I’m up at one o’clock in the morning writing about it instead of sleeping. One of my color matching experiments ended up as a very lovely result that I think people would like. Alas, this result was not what I was after so technically it’s a failure. I don’t have a photo to match to it.

But does every official colorway I offer have to match a photo…?

I would very much prefer this weekend’s result to be a happy accident instead of a failure. It’s disheartening to see something so nice come out of the pot and think that I can’t use it because I positioned my business as photography-inspired. On the other hand, if I started offering colorways that don’t match a photo (and aren’t NDLB skeins), will my customers feel let down? Am I locked in? Does it matter? Can I just up and change my approach and nobody will care?

They say that variety is the spice of life. I want to get more into the shop more quickly. Am I sacrificing something if I make things a bit easier for myself here when I’m still relatively at the beginning of this business journey? I don’t mean to suggest that I’d give up on matching to photos—I honestly do have a ridiculous amount of photos I really want to use, so that would still be a goal—but if I end up with more happy accidents, wouldn’t it be amazing to share them, and keep making them, instead of relegating them to the reject pile? If I create a photoless colorway and then end up with a suitable picture later, couldn’t I update the colorway to include it?

Eventually, I would like to offer prints of some of my better shots in the shop, too. I haven’t been sure how or when that might happen. I always sort of assumed I’d phase it in once I already had a good selection of colorways matched to those photos. Possibly, it might be worth doing it the other way around: offer prints of photos even if they have no colorway yet, as a way to generate revenue that can be reinvested into the yarn. Maybe?

What are your thoughts on all of this? Please let me know in the comments!