Glorious Montano ColorwaysAugust 11, 2023

3.5mm silk ribbons in 74 Montano colorways

above: a bouquet of 3.5mm ribbons in all 74 Montano colorways

Judith Baker Montano, renowned author, artist, colorist and international teacher, began her colorful collaboration with Treenway Silks in 2005.  This was while Treenway Silks' founders, Terry and Karen, owned Treenway Silks in Canada. 

The story of their meeting, which I will recount, is part of the Treenway Silks "oral tradition." 

You can read Judith's version of our collaboration in the upcoming January 2024 issue of American Quilter magazine.  There will be yummy photos of Judith's amazing stitched art pieces, too.

Judith stumbled upon Treenway Silks' colorful booth at a show, probably Quilt Market.  Judith was enamored with the 100 colors, spanning the rainbow, plus a nice selection of neutrals to round out the palette.  The mutual Canadian origins added an additional "bond." 

From that initial meeting, our collaboration was formed. 

Judith is purported to have exclaimed "You know silk, I know color!  Let's play together!" 

This may or may not be true, but it makes a great story.  It also shows the energy and creativity that has been the foundation of our collaboration.

The collaboration was an intense undertaking, creating 74 colorways in about 2 years. Each colorway has between 2 and 8 individual colors. 

Judith is a world traveler, so several of the colorways are named for places she has visited or lived.

As a stitching artist, Judith wanted "quick" color changes--just a couple inches until it blends into the next color. Judith's artistic vision of color make each colorway unique--no "cookie cutter" color change every 5 inches.  The color and "flow" is unique for each colorway.  Sometimes to create the right effect, it's just 1/2 inch of one color and then it changes to the next color. 

Judith provided her vision/colors for each colorway--which colors to be included and a "feel" for how much of each. 

Next the dyers began their work.

First was the mental work:  The color order and proportion of each color was planned.  Each colorway needs its own "map" (which color and how many inches it is applied).  Some maps have as many as 22 color changes along the length of the skein, with many 1/2 inch color lengths.

Then dye formula for each color and amount needed was calculated.

Next was the hands-on work: The dye for each color was mixed and tested for value (lightness or darkness), adjusting formulas for the findings.

After testing each color, then the silk was dyed, steamed, rinsed and dried. Several trial colorways were bundled together and mailed to Judith for feedback.  Then revisions were made and the entire process was repeated, as needed.

Some of the first colorways developed are Cottage Garden, Fuchsia, Lichen, Red Hot Poker and Ulladulla (a town in Australia).

If you've ever given feedback to a dyer, such as "needs to be lighter" then you know her first response will always be "how much?" 

Describing color, how much to shift the color along the color wheel, how much lighter or darker you want it to be, etc., is much harder than you might think.  Easy to say the words, but a challenge to interpret that into the dye formulas.  This step was the most difficult for both Judith and the dyers. 

Perseverance paid off--the colorways are some of the most beautiful you'll find anywhere!

The 3.5mm ribbon and Tranquility (fine cord) were the first silks dyed.  Harmony (6-strand silk floss), Serenity and 7mm ribbons were added later
[see photos in gallery below].

All Montano colorways are perpetual--we dye over and over.  None are ever retired.

Treenway Silks had three dyers work on the development of the colorways: Cheryl, Mary and Bean. Each dyer had their own "style" and approach to creating and documenting the formulas for "their" colors, about 25 for each dyer. 

Bean retired in 2012 when Richard and I purchased Treenway Silks and moved the business to Colorado.  Mary and Cheryl picked up Bean's 30 colorways and added those to their dye lists.  Mary retired in April 2014. 

Cheryl picked up most of the colorways.  In 2018, to give Cheryl some relief, Richard began dyeing nine of the colorways.

Cheryl gave me a year's advance notice before retiring just before her 70th birthday in October 2022.  Cheryl was dyeing for Treenway Silks before the Montano colorways were developed.  Cheryl couldn't remember when she started, but she thinks she dyed for Treenway Silks about 22-23 years.  That's a lot of skeins of silk!

Richard and I (we're a team when we dye) are now the custodians of the Montano colorways.  Seeing each colorway drying in the Colorado sunshine is such a lovely sight.  Always a pleasure to behold.