August 30, 2006

The Color of Today is....Red

Orange, orange, orange. All orange does a dull blog make.


I dyed six skeins of Artfibers Kyoto a bright screaming red. The shiny bits in the picture are the silk ply of this yarn, and the matte bits are the wool and mohair. The yarn just glows in the sunlight.

I love this color of red...not too orange, not too blue. Observant readers of this blog will recall having seen this color before, both on a certain pair of dye-your-own Opal socks, and on a summer sweater. With a cold-weather sweater of the same shade, I'd say I'm pretty well done with this color now. At least for items that I intend to wear.


300 g. of yarn
600 ml of dyestock (my dyestock is 1 g. of dye to 100 ml water) divided up into 300 ml of Sabracron Scarlet and 300 ml of Sabracron Fuchsia
330 ml of vinegar -- then I added a few glugs more to the pot

This formula produces a 2% depth of shade, which I consider a deep red color. Had I used only 300 ml of dyestock and dyed to a 1% depth of shade, I think I would have gotten more of a pink than a deep red.

I tossed the dyestock and the vinegar into the dyepot, filled it up to a reasonable level with water, added the fiber and slowly heated the whole she-bang to a simmer. It always surprises me how long the dyepot will take to heat up...almost an hour before I felt that the appropriate temperature had been reached. Then I kept the simmer temperature for the better part of an hour, until most of the dye had been taken up by the yarn. At this point, the dyepot water was still a light-ish pink.

Like a good little student of Sara Lamb -- who taught me that the dye will continue to take up as much as 20% or so during the cool-down -- I covered the pot with its lid and let it sit unmolested overnight. Sure enough, the next morning the water in the dyepot was clear. YEAH!

I drained the dyepot and plopped the newly-red skeins into a washer full of warm water with a little shampoo added to soak. After a soak, a spin-out and another rinse only in warm water and a spin-out, the skeins were ready to hang to dry. I did notice that the skeins dripped a bit of red water, but this didn't concern me. Red dye, in my opinion, will never be totally immune from crocking. A little pink in one's sweater wash-water is a small price to pay for the delights of wearing this color.

Because this yarn is so.....diva-esque, this may be a good candidate for me to actually use my new software to "design" a very simple sweater. Anything fancy in the design department would compete with the beauty of the yarn, and really. We can't have that.

April 10, 2006

A Slight Change In Plans

I spent my free time this weekend (such as it was) engaged in two activities: plying and dyeing. If spinning talk isn't your bag, and you want to skip down to the pretty colors, go to the DYEING part.

Still here? Alrighty then:

The plying concerned those two bobbins of lace-weight singles that I showed you on Friday. The good part? Despite the relative fineness of the singles, I had only one break during the entire plying process. I attribute this not only to decently spun singles, but to the fact that Icelandic fleece has both very long fibers (the tog) and very short, soft, downy fibers (the thel). You can read more about Icelandic fleece here. The roving that I'm spinning from was prepared with both the long fibers and the short fibers together. I think this made it easier for me to spin very fine because the long fibers would anchor the shorter fibers to make a nice strong (but thin) strand.

The not-so-good part? Plying is a very repetitive motion, which for me involves holding my right arm significantly out behind my back to get an arms' length of singles plyed at a time. My right shoulder says ouch. I have a double treadle castle-type wheel. Because the flyer is sitting directly above the wheel and the wheel only treadles smoothly using both feet, this means that I must sit straight on to the wheel, holding the fiber out to my right-hand side and back. Usually this isn't a problem for me, and I prefer this position for my customary short spinning bouts. But for long periods of spinning or plying, it would be really nice to draw out the singles in front and across my body while treadling at an angle to the wheel. Like, say, would happen if I ever could get this wheel which I ordered in 2002. Sigh.

Regardless, I plyed the massive amount of laceweight singles and it took me most of Saturday to do it. I'm happy with the resulting yarn. The reason that I spun my own Icelandic laceweight for the Hyrna project was because I felt that this product as sold by the vendors at the sheep and wool festivals just wasn't soft or light enough. The yarn I ended up with (spun via supported long draw from exquisitely prepared fiber) is light and airy and as soft as Icelandic gets. On occasion I'm asked (actually, I'm asked alot) why I would go through the trouble of spinning my own yarn when I could just go to the store and buy some. This yarn is Exhibit A for the reason why: sometimes you simply cannot buy the yarn that you really, really want.


Everybody with me now? Let's talk color. There was a slight change in the color plans for this skein of laceweight. First, I had originally planned to spin up a second skein of this before dyeing it -- just to make sure I had enough for the planned shawl. But after all the time it took me to spin the first skein, I was kinda fried on the idea of more laceweight. After the skein was done, I pulled out the McMorran yarn balance in order to figure out how many yards I had. This skein weighs 6.195 ounces (love me dat drug dealer scale) and my yarn balance calculation yielded 1900 yards/pound. Rounding all the numbers down and being as conservative as possible, I figure this skein is about 700 yards of yarn. Since Hyrna is a relatively small shawl taking approximately 500 yards of yarn, I'm hoping that I am safe. Onwards to the dye pot.

My original vision of this project was to dye the yarn with indigo, and I bought some at the last Rhinebeck. I don't know squat about dyeing with indigo. Problem number one. Problem number two is that I don't actually like blue. I know! Shocking! A big problem number three came to light after chatting up Booga J Julie (go and listen to her first two podcasts!) who recently took an indigo dyeing class. There apparently is a smell issue with indigo, and its not quite warm enough here to dye outside yet. Those of you who know my fastidious spousal unit can IMAGINE how well this would go over. For the rest of you: not well.

So all of this led me back to my trusty Sabracron chemical dyes. I looked through my sample cards for a likely color. I wanted something relatively subtle for this project, because the design is already fancy and striking enough to stand on its own. I finally settled on a caramel brown color, which I mixed up thusly using my Sara Lamb formulas:

6.1 oz of fiber equals 172 grams (people, it is WAY easier to calculate dyeing using the metric system)

172 grams of fiber dyed to a 1% depth of shade (a medium color) needs 172 ml of dyestock.

My caramel brown color uses: 1 part (Red Mix), 7 parts (Gold), 2 parts (Violet)

Red Mix = 50/50 Scarlet and Fuchsia.

So, I threw into the dyepot, 9 ml of Scarlet, 9 ml of Fuchsia, 120 ml of Gold and 34 ml of Violet.

For some reason, the dye did not takeup very much within the first 20 minutes of simmering. When this happens, I add more vinegar and simmer longer. All told, I added more vinegar twice and simmered for about an hour before most of the dye exited the water and bonded to the fiber. After allowing the pot to cool down for about six hours, the dye pot had exhausted, meaning the water was clear and all the dye bonded with the yarn. YEAH! This means you (the dyer) have Done It Right!

After all of this verbiage here is the picture of a big laceweight skein now a lovely caramel brown:


The knitting will soon begin. Finally.

March 29, 2006

Socks: The Color Episode

Awhile back, Emma sent me the most delightful gift: A stunningly handpainted vision of loveliness, you ask? No. It was the plain, cream yarn you see laying here. An undyed skein of Opal sock yarn. Which is probably my all-around favorite sock yarn for knitting fun, wearability and ultimate durability.

For a long while, I contemplated this skein and wondered what color it should be. With the advent of the Fancy Sock Era on this here blog, I've discovered that solid sock yarns -- which in many cases display the fanciness the best -- were in woefully short supply in my sock stash. So, a solid color it was. But which one?

Well, instead of telling you, I'll show you.

I am fortunate enough to have a dye kitchen -- a place to store my dyeing supplies and to crockpot dye -- that is NOT where we keep the family food.** Underneath the sink of the dye kitchen is my dye collection. I will stop right here and say that the dye method I'm about to talk about was taught to me by the beautiful and talented Sara Lamb, who blogs here. If you ever have a chance to take a class from Sara, jump right on that people. Failing that, get yourselves a copy of the Spring 2002 Spin-Off magazine for Sara's article on crock-pot dyeing that contains the detailed formulas that I use.

Dyes come in powders (the small jars to the right), but powders are messy and difficult to measure accurately in that form. I happen to use Sabracron dyes, but there are many other excellent products out there. The liquid that you see in the tubs is simply a 1% solution (take 10 g. of dye and mix it with 990 ml. of water). Now that the dye is in liquid form, it is ready and convenient for me to use anytime without getting dye powder all over the place.

The first thing I did was to soak the skein in warm water with a little dish detergent and little vinegar added (the detergent to get the skein nice and wet and the vinegar to start acidifying the skein a bit). After a 30 minute soak, it was time to choose some dyes.

Having just recently knit a pair of orange socks, that color was out. I also love red, so I defaulted to one of my favorite blends: 50% scarlet and 50% fuschia. This gives a nice balanced red: not too orange and not too blue. I measured out the dyes using a veterinary syringe, sucking up 50 ml each of the fuschia and scarlet dyes. The skein weighed about 100 grams and I used 100 ml of dye to get a....wait for it...1% Depth of Shade (a medium color, not too pastel, not too deep). Then I squirted the dyes in the crockpot filled up partway with water.

You know what comes next:


Boring white skein, begone! Once the skein is in the pot, turn it on low and walk away for three hours. No peeking! Then turn off the crockpot and let the whole she-bang cool down overnight or until its pretty darn cold. As Sara is fond of saying, the dye will continue to take-up during the cool-down, so don't be all in a rush.

The goal of dyeing is for the dye bath (the water) to exhaust (get completely clear). That means all the dye you put in has bonded with the yarn. This is a function of (1) not putting in too much dye, (2) putting in enough vinegar, and (3) cooking the darn thing long enough. When I opened up the lid hours later, I was DELIGHTED to see that my dye bath was clear. YEAH!

After a rinse or two to get the vinegar smell off, the skein dried overnight and I now have this:


A lovely, subtly variegated skein of bright red HAND-DYED sock yarn. Seriously, what is more cheerful on an almost-spring day than a freshly red skein. The skein has a charming imperfection: guess what happens when one of the ties is too tight. Character, I say. The yarn has character.

I guess it's time to choose a sock pattern, hmmm?

**Those of you with first-hand knowledge of how often my real kitchen actually contains groceries, stop laughing. I can hear you.

September 21, 2005

Mint Begone

When we last left the hapless bamboo skein, there was an overabundance of minty freshness. Not being a fan of minty green, our intrepid skein was poised for a final date with the dyepot.

The skein, new and improved.

After failing to get good results with an immersion dye process and heeding the good advice left in the comments, I decided to try direct application of the dyestock to the skein. First I soaked the skein in a soda ash solution with a bit of Synthrapol added to aid in the wetting out of the fiber. I probably let it soak for at least an hour. Then I lined the ceramic bowl of my crockpot in plastic wrap, dropped the skein in and used a big syringe to apply a 1% solution of Sabracron F turquoise dye directly to all parts of the skein. I wasn't shy about using up dye and really tried to saturate the entire skein.

Then I wrapped the plastic wrap around the skein, put on the lid of the crockpot and let the whole thing sit for 48 hours. (OK, I did peek and poke at it once or twice.) When I rinsed it, there indeed was a great deal of dye coming off the skein. It took numerous rinses and one wash in Synthrapol to get to where only a light blue color invaded the last rinse water.* However, this time the loss of the extra dye did not result in only a pastel color adhering to the skein. The skein is a fairly intense color of blue-green, which took a fair amount of Photoshopping to be reflected in the above picture.

The variations of color in the skein range from a quite-turquoise blue to a slightly lighter blue-green. I would anticipate that the knit fabric would reflect at least a subtle variegation, and perhaps a bit more than that. The process of handpainting a skein, wherein some parts of the skein are bound to be squirted with more dye than others insures an "artisan" look to the yarn.

After all of this abuse, the hand of the yarn isn't quite as silky as it was before I started messing with it. Its still quite inviting to touch, and I'm now thinking a summer tank top sort of thing might be the best use of it. Overall I'm happy with how this turned out, and perhaps next time my dyeing of the bamboo won't be such a drawn-out ordeal.

*Usually I will rinse and rinse to get a clear rinse water. Honestly, I just got tired of rinsing. And I know that turquoise is one of the hardest colors to get completely stable. Here's hoping that when I knit with this stuff, my hands don't turn turquoise.

September 14, 2005

Minty and Refreshing, Or Not.

One of the main reasons I purchased the bamboo skein at Habu was to satisfy an intense curiousity as to how one might dye it. I mean, BAMBOO. Not your garden variety cotton or wool, now is it?

Indeed, the bamboo is fighting back:

Mint green. Right.

Needless to say (with apologies to the lovers of the minty green) insipid mint green was NOT what I was going for. I was actually (and shockingly to many of you) trying for a deep blue-green. Because I NEVER dye this color and wanted to bust out from the mold.

But despite adding a bunch of soda ash to the dyebath (after pre-mordanting at 2% soda ash solution didn't really work) I got mega-wash-off in the rinsing. The color coming out of the dyepot was great, but the dye didn't bond very well and most got rinsed off.

Leaving me with a delightful (not) pastel shade.

Now, I have three choices:

1. Give this to my my lovely sister who, being a redhead, might look smashing in mint green;

2. Learn to love mint green; or

3. Try one last time to dye this, pre-mordanting in a mega-akaline solution, handpainting the dye directly on the yarn, then batching for at least 48 hours.

I'm tempted to try number 3, really as an experiment. There must be a way to get a deep color to bond with bamboo, since you can buy lovely dyed bamboo yarns.

Stay tuned....

August 12, 2005

Option 4 - Dye Your Troubles Away

A woman of action I am. No moping and wailing 'round these parts over the case of the pooling ribbon yarn. If I don't like the colors, but love the yarn there is really only one option:

Dye, baby, dye.

Red! Now red I can wear.

Although I suffered a brief pang of regret that the lovely multi-colored skeins were to be sacrificed, it was quickly overcome by the glee inherent in flinging an errant project into the dye pot. For those interested in the technicalities:

300 g. of yarn to a 2% depth of shade needed 600 ml of dye stock. I used a 50-50 combination of Sabracron Fuschia and Scarlet, 300 ml each. I decided on this mixture because it makes a lovely balanced red -- not too blue, but not too orange. I presoaked in a vinegar water mixture (just a glug or two of the vinegar in a small bucket of warm water) and then threw the skeins into the dyepot with the dye and a bunch of water to cover.

I heated the dyepot up slowly to a low simmer, added 330 ml of vinegar and left it there for an hour. Then I left the skeins in the dyepot for a six hour cool down. The dye did not even begin to exhaust, so I'm thinking that the 2% DOS was overkill...I probably would have gotten the same shade with half the dye. Then I filled the washer halfway up with hot water, stirred in a capful of Synthrapol and hand agitated the skeins (nylon doesn't felt...YEAH!) for about 5-10 minutes. Spun out the skeins, then warm-rinsed the skeins one time to a clear rinse water. Personally, I believe there is a moral victory in dyeing something bright red and having clear rinse water on the first go-around.

Want to see a close-up? Deliciously red, if I do say so myself.

The skeins are mostly dry now, and this evening I plan to wind a skein and cast on again for a Hopeful-like garment. Although I doubt I'll have enough yarn to make up the sweater as written, I am hoping for enough for a cap-sleeve, v-neck close-fitting sort of arrangement.

Now, the proof of the non-pooling pudding is in the knitting. Although I can't detect any remnants of variegation in the skeins, there very well could be some subtle patterning coming out as I knit. Oh the suspense.

October 01, 2004

Dyeing Like a Fool

Coming to you live from an EconoLodge near you, its pictures of....

Dye Day with Sara Lamb!

Ever wonder whether you, the home dyer, can achieve a rainbow of color choices by mixing up a few primary colors? Well, here and here and here and here are just a sampling of the work I and an intrepid crew of seven other folks did today. The goal is for each person to leave this two-day workshop with a huge sample book of recipes to mix up a dazzling assortment of colors using Sabracron F dyes. Most of the wool and silk dyeing we did today isn't even unwrapped yet, and tomorrow we are making a separate sample book of how these colors look on cotton/rayon.

Color Freedom. Dye your own.....

Gotta go. Can't be late for the apres-dye party.