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More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

The last time I wrote, I talked about dyeing yarn. As an indie dyer, my job is to create colourful yarn that someone else will turn into something beautiful. That’s pretty much the norm.

Now, what if I turned that regular idea around and dyed the finished item instead? What would happen? Let’s find out!

I had some very lovely 4-ply yarn at hand, plus some mohair lace that was just coarse enough to be uncomfortable if used alone. Paired together they would make the perfect DK weight yarn for a cardigan I wanted to knit.

 

Fast forward 2 or 3 days, and here’s the finished cardigan, minus the buttons.

Let the experiment begin! I wanted a red base. I had to add that to the dye bath first. It looks very much like a murder scene, so let me tone it down by inserting a cute photo of my cat Marshmallow next to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I wanted the red to be soaked up slowly and evenly, I started with cool water and no acid for binding. This will ensure the colour is seeped up gradually and has time to get to the whole garment. I then added the wet cardigan, turned on the heat to medium-low and kept an eye on it.

After 15 minutes, the water was warm and I could see that the red was all over the cardigan. Time to add citric acid gradually. Then turn up the heat, simmer for 10 more minutes, turn it off and wait for the water to clear up and cool completely.

A good sign that you’ve used the right amount of dye and acid is that the water clears up completely once cooled. This is also a great sign of minimal bleeding in future washes, the bane of any dyer.
(If your water isn’t clear, try adding more acid and simmering for another 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely and see if things aren’t better.)

I really liked this colour, but a rule of thumb is, if it looks perfect under water, it’s too light when dry. I also wanted a bit more dimension to the red, so some dark grey was needed.
I didn’t want this new colour to soak up evenly, so I didn’t remove the cardigan from the bath water as I added the new dye, and I kept the same acidic, fast-absorption water from before.

And here she is afterwards in all her glory!

I know the “scruffy look” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like a long-worn cardi, something my nan might have passed on to me. The vintage buttons complete the look.

Now, the important question: is the end result the same as dyeing the yarn in the skein? The answer is a resounding No. Depending on how tight you knit, you might end up with a lot of areas that the dye won’t get to because the stitches act as a resist. You can see lighter areas in the photo below, something I fully expected, even though I’m a fairly lose knitter. I actually like this feature because it’s very different from what you normally see.

I had never done anything like this before, and you might be horrified to know that after this, I’ve knit a shawl and now have a second cardigan on the needles, and both will receive the same after-completion dye treatment…

I wore it for the first time yesterday (at the time of writing) and it kept me warm all afternoon indoors.

I hope you enjoyed this experiment. Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this before, and what the outcome was! If not, what dyeing shenanigans have you been up to or would like to try?

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your day.

 

What goes into hand dyed yarn?

What goes into hand dyed yarn?

A few days ago, Ruth had the courtesy of sending me an email reminder about my upcoming blog post (this one). I mentioned I was sparse on ideas, so she suggested I talk about my dyeing process.

This ended up being serendipitous, as yesterday I received a custom order request for a new colourway I launched as part of my new collection. Voilá, I’ve got a blog post!

Now, this isn’t meant as a How To on yarn dyeing, so I shan’t go into too much detail (although, if you’re interested, I’d be happy to write a more in-depth post in the future – let me know in the comments). I will, however, mention a few basic things you definitely need to dye yarn/fibre safely if, like me, you’re using acid dyes:

  • The hardware you use shall be for dyeing only. So don’t use that fancy pot if you’re even thinking of making Sunday roast in it ever again.
  • Always, always wear a respirator mask when handling dyes, especially when in powder form. Dye particles travel far – I’m all for fluorescent green wool but not in one’s lungs.
  • Gloves are a must. You don’t want bright pink fingers for a week (ask me how I know), and you also want to avoid absorbing pigment through your skin.
  • No food or drink near the dyeing station, and you’ll need to clean everything before and after if dyeing in the kitchen.

Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff.

This is the yarn I need to reproduce. It’s called Mossy Moggy (moggies being what we call non-breed specific cats in the UK, do you call them the same in the US?). I needed 3 skeins.

If you want to be able to reproduce colourways in the future, you need good note taking habits. I have a dedicated folder where I keep all my cauldron inventions. If you think you’ll remember how you created something months later, trust me, you won’t.

This is my dye sheet. I leave the space on the upper left corner blank so I can attach a photo of the finished item to jog my memory.

Now on to the dyeing itself. Since I mentioned how important it is to wear a mask, allow me to show you myself in my best Breaking Bad impersonation.

You’ve no idea how hard it was to procure this mask and filters. I needed a new one during the pandemic and everything was sold out. For the life of me, I never thought particulates masks would sell out, but I guess some people want to be extra careful.

There’s plenty of ways to hand dye fibre, and endless techniques. Each will yield different results, and it’s a lot of fun to play around. In this particular case, I’m doing low immersion dyeing: this means I’ll be using just enough water to cover the fibre, on a stovetop.

I’m using a Gastronorm pan, which might look familiar to you if you’ve ever been to a buffet in a restaurant. These are super handy, large enough for up to 6 skeins, sturdy, and fit my electric stove perfectly (over two hobs). There’s several standardised sizes to choose from, this being the largest one.

Mossy Moggy is created by dyeing part of the yarn first, without pre-soaking it first. As it sinks, the first colour gets absorbed gradually and allows for differences in depth. Then I add another colour to the top that has remained undyed, and after it’s all exhausted (meaning all the dye has been taken in by the fibre), it’s time to add sprinkles.

Sprinkling yarn is a favourite activity of mine. Wearing gloves (and donning my respirator), I scatter some dye powder over the yarn here and there. Less is more. The water here is fairly acidic (I use citric acid, you can also use vinegar to get the dye molecules to bind with the fibre) so the sprinkles stay relatively put. I love seeing those little dots of colour.

As I write this, the yarn is cooling down in the pan. I always let the water get cool before I remove the fibre, it allows for more vibrant colours. If I manage to remember to come back to this post before it’s scheduled to publish, I’ll add a photo of the drying skeins.

One interesting thing to remember if you’ve never dyed: colours always look one to two shades deeper whilst wet. If you’re trying to reproduce a certain colour and think it’s spot on in the pot, it’s probably too light.

Once these beauties are done they’ll be heading over to California. I’ll be very excited to see them reach their destination and even more if my client tags me on social media once she starts knitting with them!

Let me know if you have any questions, and if you’d like a more in-depth post on dyeing in the future (and what you’d like to read about the subject). Have a great week.

 

 

Knitting and modeling a shawl

Knitting and modeling a shawl

After a big hiatus, my knitting mojo finally woke up, and it was craving complicated stuff, not just the customary stocking stitch pattern.
I’ve a soft spot for lace shawls, particularly those by British pattern creator Boo Knits (find her by searching on Ravelry). Bev also allows knitters to sell finished shawls, as long as they credit her as the pattern author – very useful for a fibre business owner like myself.

I set out to knit a shawl named Out of Darkness. The lace pattern is beautiful, yet simple enough to not drive me mad (as long as I pay very close attention to the instructions and count my stitches frequently).

Lace looks very underwhelming when you’re knitting it. The stitches don’t look defined or “pop,” it’s as if you’ve gone through a lot of trouble for not much.

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Once you block it, however, the magic happens.

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Isn’t the transformation amazing? The pointy bits look on point (pun intended), the beads suddenly make sense and this is now a thing of beauty, luxurious even.

This was intended as the show stopper in my new online shop, so I went out of my way to create decent photos.

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Finally, I also gathered up courage to take some “lifestyle photos,” as they say. I even managed a straight face…

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You know how that classical novel ends with, “reader, I married him?” Well, my story ends with, “reader, I ended up selling this beauty before I finished setting up my shop!” Ah, well.

So here it is, my adventures in lace knitting. What have you created with your hands lately?

I’ve got rainbows on my mind

I’ve got rainbows on my mind

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading this in the US! I hope you had a nice celebration.

Today I’m sharing some rainbow-y fibre I created, plus a “throwback” item that I hope you’ll like.

Being an indie dyer means I get to play with dyes fairly regularly, but it had been some time since I adventured into the world of saturated rainbows. I think it was the grey London Autumn that got me inspired, I just needed to get a colour fix. Off to the dye pot I went.

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One of the things I’ve been a little obsessed with lately is how yarns look when they’re in skein format – I love it when colours look cohesive and have a certain progression to them when displayed, so I went for a red “bottom” that would change as the eyes look up. Hopefully you’ll see that this was done consciously.

I knit this into a hat (complete with a pompom) that I think looks very cheery. It’s going to be a Christmas present so I hope the recipient likes it.

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I hope you’re not fed up with bright colours yet…

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Although not technically a rainbow, this wool top came out super bright and happy (to my eyes at least). If you’ve ever dyed wool top or roving you’ll know it can be an adventure to control where the colours go. This is superwash wool (it doesn’t felt) so it wasn’t as difficult to get “right” as non-superwash fibres, but I’m still perfecting my methods. Suggestions are welcome!

This being the Felting and Fiber Studio, there should be some felting, so here is a little Piglet I made a couple of years ago and gifted to a friend. I really loved creating this little guy and think he came out really well. I got to see the sculpture again a few days ago at a friend’s house.

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Have you done any hand dyeing or needle felting lately? Share your experiences with me in the comment sections.

The magic of blocking your hand knits

The magic of blocking your hand knits

Hello, Leonor here guest-writing for this week’s post.

After reading the title, if you’re not a knitter, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. What on earth is blocking and why am I writing about it?

Simply put, blocking refers to the act of stretching a knitted item with the aid of specialised wires and pins, with the intention of making it look a certain way. Think of all those airy, lacy shawls you’ve seen people wear – those have been carefully and mercilessly blocked into submission.

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Above is my latest project, the Banana Leaf Shawl. It looks nice-ish, but it lacks that finesse that one usually finds in store-bought shawls. The stitches look limp and you can see the differences in my gauge. Let’s make it right.

Firstly, soak the item in room-temperature water (add a nice wool wash if you want; I used Eucalan, a no-rinse Grapefruit-scented one). Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then carefully extract the excess water. Your knit needs to be damp but not dripping.

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Now comes the fiddly part. Using blocking wires, you’ll need to catch the edges of your project so it’ll keep the shape you want (in my case, everything’s a straight line, but it can be crescent-shaped, for example).
I decided to do this just before going to bed, thinking it wouldn’t take me long – how wrong I was. After one hour, I was losing the will to live. I’d need another hour to finish getting the wire through all the edges.

Next, you’ll need to pin the wires to a surface. There are special fancy mats you can buy for that, but I got some for home gyms that are a fraction of the price and do the job nicely.

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Because I have cats, I couldn’t risk them getting hurt on the blocking pins, so I had to move my blocks vertically for the night. I then used my desk chair to keep everything upright.

Once your finished object is dry, you can take the pins out and because fibre has memory (like the mohair and silk of this shawl), it’ll keep its shape… until you wash it again. Yes, blocking needs redoing every time a knit gets wet! Don’t you have a newfound respect for all the people who knit delicate lacy shawls?

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And here’s the finished product. I hope you can see how different my Banana Leaf now looks, comparing it to the first photo – from a slightly misshapen piece to one with sharp, well-defined edges. It’s grown quite a bit, too.

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The stitches look so much better, too, neater. They’re suddenly really well defined. This shawl now looks like something one would see in a shop front, if I do say so myself.

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Even if you’re not a knitter, I hope you’ve marvelled, like I do every time, over the magic of blocking knitwear. If you fancy reading the technical bits about this particular project, head on over to my Ravelry page.

Have you ever done blocking? Can you think of any ways this technique could be used for other fibre endeavours? I’d love to read (and steal) your good ideas.

Making Socks from Start to Finish

Making Socks from Start to Finish

Our guest artist is Leonor  from Felt Buddies who is sharing a special sock story and process.

Today I’m sharing with you some sock making, from the dye pot to the finished product.

A few months ago, I got a new tattoo from my husband’s co-worker Jim (if you’re guessing my other half tattoos for a living, you’re guessing right). In exchange for his work, Jim asked me to knit him a pair of socks – he’d seen me knit whilst in the studio and was fascinated by the concept of having a garment made especially for someone. I happily obliged!

Because I own my own fibre business, I have a lot of sock yarn available to dye at my pleasure. After talking to Jim about his colour preferences, I got to work. I loved that he asked me for three of my favourite things in socks:

  • Mismatched colours with contrasting heels and toes;
  • Bright colours (you can’t get brighter than magenta and purple!)
  • Socks that glow under UV light.

I had some yarn I was keeping for a special occasion and this was the perfect time to use it. It’s a very soft alpaca/merino/nylon blend.

For some reason, at the time I thought it was a good idea to break down the yarn into four pieces – two for the main body, two for the heels and toes. I’ve no idea why I did this, since I was only using two colours, but hey. I simply weighed the skein and took out 15 grams for each foot to make the smaller parts.

I then soaked the fibre in some water and synthrapol in preparation for dyeing. Synthrapol is a wetting agent and helps the wool absorb more dye. It’s also excellent to rinse out fibres.

After the yarn was thoroughly wet, I made my dye stock using professional-grade acid dyes and to the pots I went.

After adding the colour to the water, I placed one little skein and one big one in the pot and let the fibre sit for a few minutes without any heat. Because this yarn isn’t treated to be superwash (non-felting), the dye takes longer to penetrate the fibre, so I wanted to give it some time to get to every bit of wool.

I then turned the heat on and once the water started simmering, let it be for about 10 minutes, turned it off and let the wool cool completely in the pot. This allows for the remaining dye to be soaked up, and also makes for a brighter finished colour work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to turn my skein of yarn into a ball, I used an umbrella swift (pictured above, on the left) to hold the fibre whilst I pulled it onto a skein winder (above right) to make a neat ball. I have all the cool gadgets!

Once the yarn was dyed, washed, rinsed and dry, it was time for knitting. I had made an impression of Jim’s foot beforehand and used it as my template to make sure they’d fit. If you’re curious, this is a technique taught in a pattern called Fish Lips Kiss Heel that makes for fail-safe sock fitting (and heel-making). It’s available on Ravelry at a very low price and I highly recommend it.

And here’s the finished socks! I still had to weave in the ends in this picture, but I’m happy to report that’s been done since and I have presented this squishy pair to a very enthusiastic Jim.

Now, for a fun little extra: I asked for a photo of him wearing the socks for my social media. Be careful what you wish for! Jim took the picture, alright – he got down to his underwear and struck a hilarious sexy pose for me. If a bit of skin doesn’t offend you and you like a good laugh, hop on to my Instagram @feltbuddies and look for yourself. There’s a black and white photo with a disclaimer about the partial nudity, and after you swipe there’s Jim happily wearing my socks… J

 

Thanks Leonor!  If you’d like to follow more of her fiber adventures,  you can see her work here:  https://www.feltbuddies.co.uk/

 

Cords and Knitting

Cords and Knitting

I haven’t had chance to do much felting lately, apart from making a few ‘spare’ cords for future use.

I just used some colours I had out from when I’d made some felted soap:

I did start on a couple of knitting projects though. I just wanted something to do, so haven’t decided definitely what this first one might be, but a headband was one idea. It’s made with the pencil roving waste from World of Wool:

I also started some other knitting, this is with ‘proper’ pencil roving, I thought I might make it long enough to make a simple bag out of:

I have a nice green version of the wool too:

One thing which has stopped me doing many knitting projects is my first attempt at sewing up. I don’t know if you remember some pieces I made a while ago:

I made them with the intention of sewing them into arm warmers. I don’t think I ever showed them sewn up. I watched lots of videos and could not work it out, so in the end someone at a knitting group did one for me and I copied. Well, they look pretty horrible:

I’d planned to use the same pencil roving waste to sew up, but was told it’d be better to use something thinner. I was even talked out of using pencil roving, like the variegated one, and used Arran or something similar. I have a couple of other pieces I’d made for arm warmers, but they’ve stayed knitted rectangles because I don’t want to ruin them!

If anyone has any suggestions or can point me in the right direction for tutorials (think ‘explain like I’m 5’ kind of thing!!) I’d be very grateful 🙂

Scarves For Nuno and Knitting

Scarves For Nuno and Knitting

I bought some gorgeous scarves yesterday for nuno felting. The first two are different coloured versions of a blue peacock one I bought and sampled not so long ago:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe others are from a stall which sells 3 scarves for £5. It does make me feel a bit uneasy because it probably means they were made in some sweat shop in Bangladesh or China, but then a lot of the people who’ve turned their noses up at my extremely reasonable prices think I only deserve sweat shop wages anyway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently finished knitting some pieces I want to make into arm warmers. They’re just rectangles made with pencil roving waste and very similar to a piece I made a while ago when I first tried the roving out:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe reason I haven’t joined the seams together yet is because I don’t know how to. I did ask on a group on Facebook, but I couldn’t really follow the suggestions. So, if you know of a tutorial or video which shows how to join knit stitch seams together so clearly that a cack handed 5 year old could follow it and do it neatly, I’d be really grateful! (no offence intended to left handers!) This is a ‘cuff’ I made by attempting to join seams together. I knitted 5 strands of plotulopi together to make a sample, then used the left over to join it up. This is the front:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this is the dog’s dinner I made of joining it together:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAny help greatly appreciated!

Knitting

Knitting

I know you’ve been dying to know how my handspun yarn knitted, so here’s the little rectangle I made:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the other side:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here’s a close up:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI still can’t do the cast off so it doesn’t pull and seem tight compared to the rest of it. I plan to felt this piece when I get the chance, by hand, not in the washer. This is another piece I’ve made specifically for felting, I promised Nada I’d make a piece with the pencil roving to see how it felted:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s quite chunky:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother piece I made recently turned out really nice, the colours and shine are gorgeous:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis has a really nice texture:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you open the yarn out, it’s actually a kind of netting, I bought it with felting in mind before I could knit:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll show the photos when the top pieces have been felted.

 

Knitting

Knitting

I haven’t had chance to do any felting at all recently. With working on the Wet Felting workshop and trying to work out all the details for outside tutors, not to mention having to move the entire contents of my kitchen into the living room, I’ve barely had time to sit down with a cup of tea! Last week during a well deserved tea break (Russian Caravan) I thought I’d look up some How to Knit videos. I’ve been wanting to learn how to knit for ages. I have tried in the past, but always found it hard to keep the stitches loose enough to force the needles through 🙂 I don’t even know how many videos I watched about casting on, but none of them made sense, it was like watching close-up magic or something ‘so you get this, you do this, and … shazam!’ I almost gave up, but then I found Kristen ‘GoodKnitKisses’ and her How to knit videos. This is the Beginner’s Cast on Video:

I did it first time. I couldn’t believe it! So then I watched the ‘How to Knit’ video. That took a few tries for me to feel like I’d got the hang of it, maybe if I hadn’t used some synthetic version of thick and thin pencil riving, I might have been better 🙂 So, being a ‘master knitter’ now, I thought I’d make myself some needles out of dowelling:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I went hunting for something to use, and found a bag of raw Jacob I carded not so long ago. I made it into rolags and spun it on my drop spindle. The next day, I knitted it up straight from the spindle. Luckily GoodKnitKisses has a casting off video too. I’m not sure I did the last stitch right, but it isn’t coming undone, so I must have. I was really pleased with my knitting:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had an electrician in the other morning, so while all the electric was off, I found some spare ends of white wools and mixed fibre batts and started some thick, nobbly yarn for my next knitting attempt:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you want to start learning how to knit, I would definitely recommend those videos!

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