Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Diversion

I've been sucked in by knitting. On Mrs. Mel's blog she showed some pictures of colorful mitered squares that she knitted. It's modular knitting with squares of different sizes. Given my current overlapping squares style of composition, this immediately caught my attention. But wow! the cost of yarn is amazing; even more so for hand dyed yarn. So why not dye my own? How hard can it be; I already know how to dye fabric and I've done pearl cotton threads. It's just bigger threads, right?

I ordered 4 skeins of cotton yard from Dharma. I've ordered so much from them lately that I had to tell them not to send me another catalog - I already have 3 of Fall/Winter 2006. It arrived yesterday and last night I prepared the dyebaths. I want variegated yarn, so 2 of the skeins are red/yellow/orange and 2 are blue/purple/green. Except I think one of my jars of blue dye has lost its oomph. That sort of olivey green was supposed to be teal. It sure looked like teal going onto the yarn, but it sure doesn't look like it now. I guess dye powder does have a shelf life; this blue is 6 years old. The part that does look teal is really green.

I discovered several differences between fabric dyeing and yarn dyeing. You have to be very careful not to tangle the skeins which means you can't rely on the washing machine to do the rinsing. A major inconvenience, for sure. And for the same reason, I can't throw them into the dryer to dry. The humidity here currently is 70% so this drying out could take a while. I'm going to have to put a fan on them or else they will mold before they dry.

I soaked the yarn in soda ash first and it was difficult to get it wet. It epelled the water and it took some persuasion. And since I wanted to dye each skein with 4 colors they had to be laid out so that the colors didn't migrate into each other. I spread the skeins out on a melamine board, surrounded the edge with towels, and commenced to squirt. I missed a few spots, either with the dye or with the soda ash, but I'm not going to redo it. It will just be a design decision.

Stay tuned for further progress reports on the sweater...


teri springer said...

It's a whole lot easier if you put your skeins in a pot of hot water and Synthrapol first. Let it simmer until the skein sinks....then it is well wetted and the Synthrapol acts as a surfactant. THEN dunk the skein in the soda ash solution. Use plastic wrap as a *bed* for the skein and paint on (or squirt on) your dye. Work it through with gloved hands (yeah, like gloves really keep dye off my hands...humpf). Then wrap the yarn up in the plastic and put it someplace warm for 8-12 hours (I had preheated the oven to warm, turned it off but left the light on for warmth). After it has batched, I rinsed (and rinsed and rinsed, and rinsed) in cool water then hot (well, as hot as I could stand it). Worked great...this is how I dyed the warps and wefts I used last spring for weaving.

have everything else fiber, it's addicting!!


Gerrie said...

I have too many Dharma catalogs, too! I went to the Oregon flock and Fiber show and was going to buy plain roving and dye it and my daughter talked me out of it. I think I am happy that I have stuff ready to work with.

Art at Work said...

I caught the same knitting bug you did. Modular knitting is a gorgeous way to combine colours and not boring like traditional knitting as you design as you go.
On the rinsing and drying front of dyed yarn, have you thought of using pantyhose to contain the hank?
cut and knotted at both ends - I read about that somewhare. Seems to me it should work...BTW, love your colours, even the olive green.

april said...

I've been knitting since I was 10. I also crochet, embroidery, cross-stitch, quilt, sew, candlewicking, and last year started designing hardanger. I've making the smaller items into kits and selling them. Am frustrated that my supplier of variegated threads only makes the different colors for a short period of time. That doesn't work for my kits so I want to start dyeing my own. Found your blog very interesting and informative. Also enjoy your sense of humor. You do very beautiful work.