Thursday, February 07, 2019

Spinning for projects quandry

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been spinning with projects in mind - a rug and a sweater/wrap. I have two spinning wheels, a Kiwi2 and a Joy2, both from Ashford. I am spinning the fat rug yarn on the Kiwi2, the sweater yarn on the Joy2. This way I can work on both project yarns without having to swap out bobbins.

Single, on bobbin

The sweater roving is pink and gray, feels like a mixture of breeds (hopefully, I will find something with the name of the fiber on it) and is kind of coarse. Despite a fair amount of VM (vegetable matter), it spins up nicely. It did bleed a bit when soaked to set the twist.

A little bleeding

Lately, I have become enamored with three-ply, which is good for the fat rug yarn. I'm not so sure about using three-ply for the sweater, though. The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, but my three-ply is more like aran or even bulky. Not that I couldn't adjust the gauge and knit it with a heavier yarn, I'm just not sure I want to.

7-8 wraps per inch

Three-ply yarn knits up smoother, especially in stockinette, because the yarn is round; it also pills less than 2-ply. An alternative to knitting with the aran weight yarn would be to spin finer singles and 3-ply those into a worsted weight yarn. That is an option.


When plying singles, invariably one bobbin runs out before the others. When that happened with the 3-ply, I plied the remaining singles into a 2-ply. Now I have samples of each, to knit swatches with.

9 wraps per inch

2-ply on left, 3-ply on right

The Veronika cardigan pattern has a lot of positive ease, so gauge is not critical. Since I don't really like a lot of positive ease, I plan to knit the smaller size, in which case I might care more about gauge. Also, I don't want to run out of yarn since I won't be able to buy more of this roving.

2-ply swatch, in purl ridge stitch

About 30 rows per 4", aiming for 26

After swatching the worsted weight and hitting the stitches-per-inch gauge, I thought, This is it! But I am having second thoughts, so I will knit up the aran weight, to see if I like it better. Also, I am playing around with the idea of widening the stockinette area between the garter ridges, then knitting the garter ridges in a contrasting color, like black.

16 stitches per 4"

Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Polar vortex dyeing, with dyers coreopsis

While looking forward to days of frigid temps, I decided it was a good time to dye. There were several choices available from my dye stash, but I chose dyers coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria). Per usual, it was an experiment.

Working from Jenny Dean's Wild Color, this time I tried extracting dye from the flowers by pouring boiling water over them and letting them steep, instead of simmering the blossoms. A true experimenter would try it both ways, but I had only 200g of flowers to work with. Then I mixed and matched mordants and modifiers.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how the dye bath can look one color, but the yarn turn out another. And then the yarn samples differ depending on the mordants used. Post-dyeing modifiers create even more shades of color.

I don't know what I did wrong, but some of the yarn skeins developed dark patches. This occurred during the post-dye application of an alkali modifier. But I still wound up with a nice assortment of colors and shades of colors.

From left, in pics above and below:

  • no mordant/no modifier; 
  • alum mordant/no modifier; 
  • no mordant/alkali modifier;
  • alum mordant/alkali modifier; 
  • rhubarb leaf mordant/no modifier;
  • rhubarb leaf mordant/alkali modifier; 
  • no mordant/iron added to dye bath; 
  • alum mordant/iron added to dye bath;
  • rhubarb leaf mordant/iron added to dye bath.

Below: no mordant; from left, no modifier, alkali modifier, iron in dye bath.

Below: alum mordant; from left, no modifier, alkali modifier, iron in dye bath.

Below: rhubarb leaf mordant; from left, no modifier, alkali modifier, iron in dye bath.

Below: from left, no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; no modifier.

Below: from left, no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; alkali modifier.

Below: from left no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; iron in dye bath.

How do I keep track of what is what? I create a "cheat sheet". Each skein is assigned a letter, written in Sharpie on a piece of plastic that is attached to the skein all through the process. The information is transferred to each skein's info tag, which contains fiber information on one side (in this case, Cascade 220, plus length and weight) and dye information on the other.

Another question you might have is why I added iron to the dye bath. That was half experiment, half accident. The experiment part arose from the fact that some natural dyes look different on vegetable fibers like cotton than they do on protein fibers like wool or silk. So I purchased some yardage of muslin ("natural" - unbleached - on the right, below) from Dharma Trading Co. However, I wasn't sure how to handle it. So I threw a yard into the dye bath, which produced a light tan (middle sample, below). Another yard was pretreated with an iron mordant. I neglected to rinse the iron out of the material before putting it into the dye bath, which resulted in "saddening" the dye color; that produced an olive green (left sample, below). I also discovered that rinsing muslin is much different from rinsing wool yarn. So much color came out of the unmordanted sample that I treated it to a vinegar bath in an attempt to set the color, but that didn't seem to make much of a difference. I should do more research before continuing with the cotton muslin aspect of my dye experiments.

Since the dye bath had been contaminated with iron, I decided to throw in a few more skeins of yarn. All in all, this dye experiment took three days, plus a day for clean up. A tiring but satisfying way to spend the polar vortex. What did you do?