Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tedious fun

I've attended several dyeing workshops (dyeing with acid dyes, natural dyeing, natural dyeing including indigo, shibori dyeing with indigo) and dyed with KoolAid a couple of times, but I had yet to try natural dyeing on my own. I've been accumulating equipment and ingredients and yarn and books, but had not yet pulled the trigger. Part of the problem has been my reluctance to mordant the yarn. But then I noticed that some natural dyes do not require mordanting, so I decided what the hell, go for it.

Many dye books present the topic as experiments in color, and no matter what you do, that is what hand dyeing is, as reproducing the same results consistently is a challenge, more so when using natural dyeing materials and techniques. This led me to a really tedious step in the preparation for yarn dyeing: winding single ounce mini-skeins from larger skeins. I'm glad I did this because I really was just experimenting, but OMG, was it ever boring. After a while, I decided I had enough 1oz mini-skeins and started making larger (and LARGER) ones.

For yarn, I chose naked Cascade 220 and Lambs Pride. Both are worsted weight, but Cascade 220 is 100% wool from Peru while Lambs Pride is 85% wool and 15% mohair and made in the USA. They produced different results, which is good to know in case one is mixing fibers for dyeing. The Cascade 220 comes in 3.5oz skeins while the Lambs Pride is in 4oz skeins. Behind my yarn choice is the idea that I will take all my naturally dyed yarns and knit something like an adult-sized baby surprise jacket.

Relying on the book Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, I started with the idea of dyeing with tumeric because tumeric root is now available in the produce section of some of my favorite stores. But then I read that tumeric is frequently combined with pomegranate, and hey, this is pomegranate season, so I bought some of those, too. Tumeric is not very colorfast, regardless of mordenting, but pomegranate rind naturally mordants the yarn. So no pre-mordanting. BUT. I did decide to apply color modifiers afterwards, ammonia for the tumeric and iron for the pomegranate and pomegranate/tumeric blend.

Cooking minced tumeric roots

I initially chopped the tumeric root by hand, but then threw it all into a mini-grinder. For the pomegranate, I just rough chopped it. If I were to do it over, I would not chop the tumeric as fine, as it was difficult to strain all the bits out, and I would maybe mince the pomegranate rind more so, as that is where the tannin is.

Cooking chopped pomegranate

I worked in the kitchen, even using one of my kitchen pots for a dye bath. This is usually a big NO-NO in hand dyeing - you are supposed to keep dye equipment separate from kitchen equipment AND work in a well-ventilated place like a garage and not the kitchen. BUT. I was dyeing with FOOD, so come on. Even the iron for the postdye bath was food grade.

Tumeric dye bath (before straining)

I think I simmered both the tumeric and the pomegranate for about an hour, then let them cool to room temperature before straining. I created a dyebath with just tumeric, one with just pomegranate, and one with a mixture of the two, maybe 2-to-1 in favor the the pomegranate. The plain tumeric became a cool-dye bath - I added the yarn but no heat. The other two were hot-dye baths - I added the yarn and brought the baths up to simmer (and I think simmered them for half an hour). Then all three sat overnight.

Pomegranate bath (before straining)

The next day, I rinsed each skein in running water since they were small and this was easy to do. By now, I had abandoned the kitchen in favor of the laundry room where there is a utility sink. Some of the plain tumeric skeins received an after treatment in an ammonia bath. This is supposed to pink up the color, but I didn't see much of that. It wasn't clear how much ammonia to use or how long to let the yarn soak, so I tried again the next day with not much change.

Iron afterdye

Some of the plain pomegranate and pomegranate/tumeric skeins received a post treatment in an iron bath. This "saddens" the colors. It doesn't take much iron and the yarn doesn't need to be in the bath very long. Everything was well rinsed after the after treatment.

Identification system

You may be wondering how I kept track of which skein had which treatment. I tried planning things out ahead of time, with minimal success, primarily because I was not sure about what I was doing. But I did label the skeins as I wound them into minis, then replaced those labels with plastic ones for the dye process, matching numbers/letters between labels and skeins. This worked okay, as long as I remembered to write down which skein got which treatment.

Note taking mess

This whole process was quite tedious, but then came the big reveal - colors! These photos don't capture the more subtle differences between the different treatments, especially the "pinking" of the ammonia, but the results were very interesting. One thing I learned is, if I am going to go through all this trouble to hand dye yarn, I should pick colors I actually like (yellows and greens are NOT in this group).

Tumeric, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Tumeric, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), ammonia afterdye (R)

Tumeric, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), ammonia afterdye (R)

Pomegranate, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Pomegranate, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Pomegranate, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Cascade 220, pomegranate (L), pomegranate and tumeric (R)

Lambs Pride, pomegranate (L), pomegranate and tumeric (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

There are hashtags on Instagram for #helpfulknittingcats and #helpfulweavingcats. Here is a pic for #helpfuldyeingcats.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Pigs will fly

When the Cubs won the World Series, I had a premonition about the election. Sadly, my fears came true. I don't remember ever bursting into tears over election results before. My one consolation is voter turnout was low, so we are not so much a nation full of hate but one of apathy and/or frustration. Let's hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

To distract ourselves last Tuesday, my SO and I took a road trip to the Toledo area. At the recommendation of a friend, we stopped at Grand Rapids OH along the way. Despite the Trump signs, we enjoyed our visit there. We ate pie at Miss Lily's Restaurant, strolled along the Maumee River, and made some fiber and decor purchases at the Natural Fiber and Yarn Co.

This store was a delightful surprise, chock full of alpaca and merino products, finished and otherwise. But what really caught my attention was the "barn loom". They estimate it to be about 200 years old, and had to disassemble it to get it out of the previous owner's basement, meticulously labeling the parts to assure correct reassembly.

Look, Ma, no nails!

The weaver sits on the bench at the right of this photo. The beater bar swings from above (like a swing!) and is worn smooth by decades of use.

The brake for the back beam looks like a ship's wheel.

Setup is not complete, as the shop owners are not sure how to get the harnesses hung correctly. (They asked me if I was a weaver, but I was not any help.) They also want to move it to a part of the store where there will be room for demos.

Our fiber day was not over. We continued our daytrip to the Toledo Museum of Art. Besides enjoying a large and diverse collection and some interesting exhibits, we were mesmerized by Plexus no. 35, a thread installation by Gabriel Dawe. These photos do not do it justice - it needs to be seen in person.

In simple terms, literally miles of thread were strung from floor to ceiling, then backlit from above. While the piece looks curved, each thread is actually straight.

The result is a rainbow of vibrant color.

This video shows how the colors appear to move, drifting up and down as one moves around the piece. It is as static as can be, though. What a wonderful visual display!

(The man in the background holding a purse is my SO. And it is *my* purse, although he is manly enough to carry a "man bag".)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Only 55 days until xmas

Another hat completed. While I have knit this pattern before, I didn't remember it being quite so long, but I guess I was wrong.

Pattern: Graham, by Jennifer Adams
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in 'Blaze' (1952)
Needles: US6 and US8
Modifications: none

The pattern is well written and easy to follow, with the exception of the needle sizes: the pair of sizes for the circular needles is different than the pair for DPNs. Not sure what that is all about. I used a ribbed cast on.

More hats are in the queue, most of them in 'Blaze'. The idea is to provide bright headwear for family members who like to hike in the woods during hunting season. A much better idea than wearing a raccoon skin cap (TRUE STORY!)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Only 62 days until xmas

Another hat, same yarn, same pattern as the previous one but the k2p2 ribbing version.

Pattern: Ribbed Cap, by Judy Gibson, k2p2 ribbing option
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in Navy and Desert Sun
Needles: US7
Modifications: none.

Even though I tried to follow the pattern exactly this time, I still think the crown is wonky. Anyway, having a warm head is what is most important.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Only 66 days until xmas

Usually I knit socks for xmas, but this year that seemed like a bit much. I don't want to work that hard! So it will be hats all around instead.

Pattern: Ribbed Cap, by Judy Gibson, as a beanie with garter rib stitch option
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in Navy and Desert Sun
Needles: US7
Modifications: After the 1x1 band, I was supposed to switch to 2x2 but didn't (brain fart)

I don't know why I had so much trouble getting this simple project underway, but I started it at least three times, switched needles twice, and still goofed it up (see modifications above). Since I didn't realize my ribbing mistake until I reached the crown (and was NOT about to start over at that point), the crown is a bit wonky. Sometimes good enough is perfect.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dishcloth resurrected

Handknit cotton dishcloths last forever, or so it seems. Unless, of course, one is careless with a knife or there is a weak spot in the yarn. I'm not sure which happened, but the dishcloth in current rotation incurred a serious injury. My first instinct was to toss it, but decided to try to fix it instead.

Thanks to the miracle of blogging, the original post regarding this dishcloth may be found here. This one is the "ridge and rib" pattern. Even though the cotton yarn had nearly felted from long use, I was able to tink back one pattern repeat. The only Sugar 'n Cream yarn I have is this stinky one, but it worked fine.

The old green yarn feels somewhat fragile, so we'll see how long this poor dishcloth lasts. Executing the repair was a good exercise, though, something that would not be possible with a store-bought dishcloth. Next I would like to learn to darn socks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Vintage Kitchen socks are DONE

Socks are my go-to portable project, although sometimes I work on them at home, too. Especially toes and heels and bind offs. Still, it took me a while to finish these. Almost three months, in fact.

Pattern: Short-row toe and heel basic socks, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Knitterly Things Vesper Sock with Nylon, in 'Vintage Kitchen', and Simply Sock Yarn, in 'Natural'
Needles: US1
Modifications: None but for the contrasting toe, heel, and cuff

The Vintage Kitchen colorway came in one of the anniversary kits offered by Simply Socks Yarn Co. I don't usually purchase kits like these - my idea of a project bag is a clear ZipLoc - but I really liked the fabric pattern AND the yarn colorway.

And I am really enjoying self-striping yarn. Whether the stripes are narrow or not-so-narrow, the color combinations are very satisfying. No fancy sock pattern for these babies. The stripes say it all.