Experimenting with Yarn Dyeing

A few weeks ago, while enjoying the remaining days of my Christmas holidays, I spent an afternoon experimenting with yarn dyeing. I had about 95g of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in my stash – about half was white and half was grey. What would happen if I joined these balls and dyed the skein together?

Here is the yarn skeined:

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I must admit, it looks super cool like this.

In order for the dye to adhere to the fibres, an acid needs to be used, because, science. A common acid to use with dyeing is vinegar, so in prepping my yarn, I added it to my slow cooker with 8 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar, and I let it sit in that solution for about an hour.

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I decided to dye/overdye the yarn purple, and in the past have used Wilton food colours with great success.  I took 1/2 tsp food colour and mixed it with 2 cups boiled water. Mason jars worked great for colour prep.

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See the blue on that paper towel? The purple Wilton makes must use blue to achieve its purple colour. I’m not trying to get a specific colour with this, I’m simply experimenting, so after the yarn soaked for an hour or so, I turned the slow cooker to low and added the dye.

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I’ve only dyed a few times, and I’ve been amazed every time with the process of ‘exhausting the dye.’ This happens when the colour of the water, which at the beginning is a vivid shade, becomes clear, the fibres absorbing the dye that was in the water. You doubt it will happen, but inevitably, this happens:

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Water on the spoon is clear. So cool.

After this dyeing experiment, my skein looks like this:

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And this:

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Seeing it caked, it gave me some pause as to what to make with it. It would make for a very dramatic gradient.  I could unravel and separate the two colours (using a Russian Join to connect them), and make something with the two smaller colours.  There are some lovely hats or cowls with colour work easing the transition between the dramatic colours.

Unhappy with the softness of the purple shade, I redyed it this weekend, using a dye that was such a deep purple, it was like Smoke On The Water was my soundtrack. Once again, I used the crockpot and I’m a lot happier with the final colour.

Having only tried home dyeing a few times now, each skein truly is an experiment for me. I’m still learning the tricks, playing with colours and their vibrancy, and admittedly having a LOT of fun each time while making a glorious mess in my kitchen.

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In Progress

Well, here we are, the last week of November, and the crunch for holiday knitting is ON! Do you feel the pressure yet? That tiny, ticking in the back of your brain that marks the time spent (or not spent) working on those items to be gifted? No, just me?

I’ve been working away at a few different items through the past weeks. Two gifts are done, more than that are in progress. I’m struggling on one pair of socks. I can write about them because they’ll be for my grandmother, and I don’t think she’s discovered this humble blog. Writing about my frustrations won’t spoil any surprises for her.

I’m working on a pair of socks for Grandma, but I’m fresh out of inspiration. I know what I want out of the project: a pattern I haven’t made before, with an interesting texture or pattern detail. I don’t want these to be simple vanilla socks.

The yarn is lovely. That was the easy part. I bought this yarn from a local indie dyer: Lake Knit Yarns. The colourway is called Storm Across the Valley. Isn’t that fabulous?

After trying a few different simple cable/twist stitch designs and after ripping back twice (the first time, it was salvageable; the second time was a full rip back) I’ve decided on an almost vanilla sock: lots of stockinette with a very simple cable which will run along the outside of the foot. At least, that’s the plan. It lets the yarn really shine but adds a touch of interest. I’ve knit much farther than the above photo, almost done the leg, in fact, and I haven’t had the urge to rip back a third time. I think this pattern’s a winner.

Happy knitting!

Knitting the Distance Pt. II

A few weeks ago, while updating my Needles and Hooks stash on Ravelry, I went through my projects and updated the yarn used. In doing so, Ravelry can see how many metres (or yards, if you prefer) you have used in your projects, and at the very bottom of your projects page, it tells you how many metres are in all of your projects combined. The last time I looked at this number, I had used over 16,000 metres, or 16 kilometres, and I wrote a post about how far that was exactly. Feeling rather Type-A, I went through all of my projects and updated the yarn used wherever possible. If the yarn remnants was close by and not entered in Rav, I updated it.  I didn’t dig or spend hours searching for yarn deep in the bowels of my stash, but if it was handy, I updated.

This brought my grand total of ‘Metres Used’ to 25,477m (25.4 kilometres or 15.7 miles). I’ve knit more than a half marathon. Just let that sink in.

Just another one of the fun features that Ravelry boasts.

Visiting Yarns Untangled

Last week, I found myself walking about Toronto with a little spare time on my hands. It was a toss-up between visiting the ROM or AGO, or going to a yarn shop. Not overly interested in either special exhibit being offered at the museums (but I’m sure they are wonderfully curated and exciting to visit!), I walked over to Kensington Market and visited Yarns Untangled.

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Thanks to a newly created Heritage Minute, I learned earlier that week about the history of Kensington Market and how it grew and evolved to the niche neighbourhood it is today. Unfamiliar with Heritage Minutes? You must not be Canadian (“Dr. Penfield, I smell burnt toast!). Want to see the newest addition to the Heritage Minute collection? Head over to Historica Canada’s YouTube channel for new and classic parts of our heritage.

Yarns Untangled opened in 2015, in the former home of Lettuce Knit. It was a cozy shop, with a table full of lovely yarn and beautiful finished objects greeting you as you walk in.  The staff who was working that afternoon was friendly and happy to offer assistance as I asked for a specific circular needle for a project.

And, of course, I bought yarn.  They carried a wide selection with many indie dyers being profiled, including Riverside, based in Quebec, Ontario’s Blue Brick, and Lichen and Lace from Nova Scotia.

I bought a lovely skein of DK yarn from Mineville Wool Project.  As YU describes on their website: “Part of the joy of the Mineville yarns is getting to name the colourways ourselves, and this time we chose the theme of Toronto landmarks and neighbourhoods.”  The ON Science Centre colourway came home with me.

For one year, between 2010 and 2011, I worked at the Ontario Science Centre as a Host. I walked around the Science Centre wearing a white lab coat talking to visitors and sharing cool science-y facts with them. My science knowledge wasn’t huge when I started; I was hired more for my strong customer service background. The science could be taught. It really was a fantastic year where I got to meet new people, share some of my enthusiasm, and the team of Hosts were some of the smartest, kindest, most awesome people I have been fortunate to work with.

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When I saw that this skein was named after a place I will forever have wonderful memories of, there was no way I was leaving the store without it. It will make a beautiful cowl, one with a fun tie to a special place for me.

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Home-Dyed Yarn

Apparently, making things with sticks and string isn’t enough for me as I’ve had the urge for quite some time try home-dyeing.

In Fall 2015, a friend and I went to a dyeing workshop, and under the guidance and supervision of a local indie dyer, we used various chemical-based dyes to create our own hand-dyed yarn.  Here’s the post I wrote about this fun experience, and here are the yarns I dyed:

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My finished yarn.

Dyeing‘ to try this again (do you see what I did there), I took to the interwebs to read how I could do this at home. I didn’t want to delve into using the chemicals, so I looked into food-based methods. Kool-Aid powder was a common method, however, they’ve stopped selling the powder in Canada. What I did have an abundance of is Wilton Icing Colours.  I’ve been cake decorating as a hobby for years and my stash of gel icing colour is quite full. And it works quite well for dyeing yarn.

As my base yarn, I used Lions Brand Sock Ease. It’s was easily available at a big box craft store and rather affordable – a huge plus for this new experiment!

I’ve been eyeing Kate Atherley’s Bigger on the Inside Shawl as my next shawl project, but I haven’t found the right yarn. This is how I chose my dyeing colour – TARDIS blue.  The icing colour I used was Wilton’s Royal Blue.

I followed the instructions as posted by Creative Green Living for dyeing yarn in a slow cooker. I soaked my yarn in vinegar and water, the acidity in the vinegar helps the dye bond with the fibre.  I mixed the colour with water, preparing the dye base. I wish I could tell you exactly how much I used, but i just kept adding the colour until it looked like the right shade.  I didn’t need it to be precise; I just needed it to be TARDIS blue.  Yarn and dye base were placed in the slow cooker and cranked on high until the dye became exhausted – this happens when the yarn absorbs all dye, and the liquid that remains behind is clear.  Cool your yarn, rinse your yarn, dry your yarn.

After a few hours in the crock pot, here is my finished yarn:

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It isn’t a solid colour, instead it’s rather tonal, but I like it.  As well, the colour ‘broke’ in a few places. What does that mean? Some icing dyes are made with different colours to achieve their hue. Royal Blue, for instance, is comprised of both blue and red colours. When the colours ‘break,’ it means that one has separated out.  There are more serious instances of colour breaking, but here’s what it looks like on my skein:

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That pinkish splotch is where the colour broke. With this yarn, I wasn’t aiming for perfection, I was aiming for TARDIS blue. I’m beyond thrilled with my yarn.

As for home dyeing? I am hooked. Completely hooked. It was so much fun playing with colour, preparing the yarn, and watching something that is white become something brilliant. In my mind, I’m already planning out other skeins I can dye, different colour combinations, and am just generally excited by the potential of it all.

Finding the Right Pattern

Sometimes, you just want a big, cozy, wooly sweater.


This Briggs and Little Yarn has been in my stash for well over two years, gifted to me by a friend who knows I’m a knitter. It sat in my stash because even though four skeins is a lot of yardage, it isn’t quite enough to make a sweater. A little over a year later, I bought this yarn from a craft fair, the fleece from a local farm.


The natural brown would compliment the natural grey of the Briggs and Little quite well. But still the yarns sat, unsure of how to take these two yarns and make a sweater. I could have alternated the colours of the sleeves and edging, but I wasn’t so keen on that. However, I had a stroke of inspiration.

If you’re in the ‘knitting world,’ you’ve of course heard all about Andrea Mowry’s Find Your Fade, a beautiful shawl made from five different colours of yarn.  It’s stunning for its size, construction, and originality.   Well, why couldn’t I find my fade with these complimentary yarns?  The basic idea is that you knit continuously with one colour, and when you’re ready to introduce the next, you knit a few rows of stripes, helping the colours ‘fade’ into each other. Find the right sweater pattern and fade the colours into each other.  Simple enough in theory.

Enter Fezziwig: a warm, cozy sweater designed by Melissa Schaschwary.  I have the yarn, I have the pattern, I have the general idea for how I’ll fade the two colours into each other.  And if it doesn’t work, I can always rip back, re-wind and it can keep my other stashed yarn company awaiting new inspiration.


Stay tuned.

Knitter’s Frolic 2017

It’s that wonderful time of the year: the grass is getting greener, the flowers are starting to bloom, the temperature is rising, and in Toronto, the knitters are frolicking.  The end of April means the Knitter’s Frolic, an annual event hosted by the Toronto Knitter’s Guild.

This is not my first time frolicking. I’ve attended this event in 2015 and in 2016, but this is the first time where I’ve debated attending. In an effort to be ‘financially responsible’ and making ‘adult decisions,’ I actually thought hard about not attending, but I’m glad my irresponsible (or should I say fun-loving) side won out, not for the things I bought, but for the chance to hang out with friends.

The Frolic is a wonderful event for those who are addicted to all things woolen. Walking around the Japanese Cultural Centre, you know you’re among your people. Overheard phrases include ‘stashes’ and ‘skeins,’ and I giggle to myself every time I hear an ‘knitting-ism.’

I met up with two friends at the Frolic (one of them is the delightful Knitter Nerd) and we had fun looking at all the different offerings from suppliers, and Amy pointed out every time we got ‘Atherley-ed’ (meaning we walked past Kate Atherley, one of the workshop instructors, knitwear designer, and all around cool knitter).  We all left with a little less in our wallets, but I was proud that I stuck to the budget I allowed for myself, as finances were the big reason I was hesitant to attend.

So, the good stuff! What did I purchase? Two skeins came home with me that day, this amazing skein from Dragon Strings – I immediately had to untwist the skein to see the colours and how it was dyed. I also bought myself a skein from Dye-Version, something which is now becoming a Frolic tradition as I have bought from them every year.


What didn’t make it home with me immediately was the skein I bought from Indigodragonfly.  Every year they make a special Frolic colourway and I fell in love. Really, how could I not. But, I was able to order a skein which will arrive right at to my door.

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Image ©Indigodragonfly, from their Facebook Page
All three skeins were from indie dyers, which I love and makes me love my purchases even more. I don’t know yet what they will grow up to be, but in the meantime, I can admire them, waiting for the perfect pattern to come along.