New Blog Location

Just a quick post to say that I’ve moved all my content from this blog to a new location

I’m closing down comments in this blog. But you can come over to the link above and it’s fully operational, although I will probably be tweaking things..

Dyeing Techniques to Try

So, there’s lots of different dyeing techniques…

Here are two that I read about on the Ravelry forums and would like to try at some point and don’t want to forget…

from Post #8 in the Stinky Wool thread (must be logged in to Ravelry.com from preceding link to work) on the Dying to Learn Dye! Restaurant group at Ravelry, Maddie writes (in regards to dyeing raw fleece):

… basically take a big canner pot and pack in your wool locks so that they are butt end up. I think you could do it either way, but that worked best so that the dirt fell down towards the tips, where most of the dirt is. You pack the locks tightly enough so that they don’t flop over and they stay intact. When you think it’s good, you take the fibers back out, and put in water the same height as the locks were. Add a healthy squirt of Dawn. This aides in wetting out the fibers, and also helps to clean them. Add a good half of a cup of vinegar. Re-insert the fibers. The water should come just up to the butt ends of the fleece, but no higher. Put on the stove, and start to gently heat the pot. DO NOT BOIL. If you boil, you can damage the wool, and it will be “crispy”. (You can guess how I know this. LOL) If it simmers you will also probably get what I call “the cone of bubbles”. It’s kind of like a volcano of bubbles. While you are heating, you take any powdered acid dye, I use Cushing, and sprinkle on the dye in a section. You can use about 4 colors, but 2 or 3 are better. Try to keep the dye in it’s own section. It will start to blend and overlap as it heats. I find that it’s really best to use colors that won’t muddy. For example, don’t use green and red; too much brown will result. It’s better to use blue and red and let the middle blend to purple. Heat to just under a simmer and keep it there for about 20-30 minutes. You can manipulate the dye a bit with the end of a wooden spoon or whatever other dye tool you use. Just try not to get a real liquidy puddle; the goal is to have the fiber packed in enough so that the water doesn’t shift a lot. When done “cooking”, take the whole pot out to the garage or outside. Leaving the lid on, put it on the cement to cool. Leave over night. In the morning the dye should be exhausted and now the whole thing is cool enough to rinse in cold water.

I asked whether she thought, instead of using powdered dyes it would be OK to use liquid base dyes instead. She replied that it would probably work, but she thinks that the powdered dye tends to stay in one place a bit more.

Here’s another interesting idea for making semi-solid kettle dyes, posted by mrslevite in Post #6 of the thread “Is it possible to make a semisolid while handpainting?” in the group “Love to Dye”.

For more solid semi-solids, kettle dye, adding color to the fiber or yarn before adding any heat or acid. Gently lift or move the the yarn or fiber to let the color reach all parts. Let it sit for a while. Then you can start adding heat.

I asked about when to add acid and she replied:

I bring it up to the temp for about 20 minutes or so – if I’m that patient – then add acid and keep it up to temp for 10-20 minutes longer – or until I remember to turn off the heat. I usually dye in the crockpot, so I don’t worry about cooking it too long.

I have resisted the whole crockpot thing for dyeing so far. Not sure if I will give in at some point…?

Washing raw fleeces

Well, in December I actually bought a raw fleece. A shetland fleece from a wether name Kalus who lives near Reno, NV.

Here’s a picture of Kalus:

Kalus a shetland

The shepherdess had cold-water washed/soaked the fleece. It arrived in kind of a jumble:

Kalus shetland fleece

Well, Shetlands don’t have much lanolin, and this fleece smells nice and sheepy. Not stinky. The fleece doesn’t seem dirty as such (probably due to the cold-water soak/wash), but there is what seems to me (with my zero experience) to be a moderate amount of VM (Vegetable Matter) in the fleece.

I bought some John Day hand carders and am trying to learn how to hand card rolags. The main problem I’m having is that even though a fair amount of VM falls out when I hand pick some fleece and then even some more falls out when I card it, there is some remaining in the carded rolags and when I spin it (I have only done a few rolags, and spun even fewer…just as a test/sample), the VM seems to stick in the fleece and I have to slow down to pick it out. Just slows down the spinning and makes it less efficient and flowing.

So, after reading a bit in the Ravelry forums, someone gave me the idea that washing the lanolin completely out (i.e. a hot washing/scouring) might help the VM come out more easily. Maybe it’s staying in because it’s sticking to the lanolin.

So I have come to the idea to wash up a bit of this fleece, and hand card and spin that and see if it works out better for me. Here are some good articles on hand scouring/washing fleece that I am saving for my reference:

Washing &  Spinning Cormo Locks and Other Fine Wools by Beth Smith at KnittySpin

unicorn fiber power scour versus dawn in raw fleece washing from sock prØn’s blog

Washing Fleeces: How Not to Felt Your Fleeces by Gwen Powell

In the meantime, I’ve also bought a small cormo lambs fleece that is also waiting to be washed and processed. I keep seeing more fleeces I want to buy, but until I get these two done, I’m telling myself, “No!” Although I have reserved 2 fleeces for March 2010 by sponsoring 2 of the sheep at Little Meadows Farm: Kira (a Jacob) and Geode (a Corriedale/Jacob cross).

So, I’m blocking my first lace scarf right now. I knit this from the handspun BFL that I described dyeing in Mathmom Dyes Again. Here is a nice photo of how the yarn finally came out:


So I knit up the Cream of Spinach Scarf (but I call mine the Turquoise and Teal scarf). It was a quick knit, the first lace scarf I’ve completed and the first time I’ve pinned out lace for blocking. This is a gift for my mom’s birthday.

College daughter is away at school, so her bed is the perfect place for blocking the scarf. I’m using the Yarn Harlot‘s blocking method (Walk around the Block) since I don’t have blocking wires or a blocking board.

Turquoise Scarf Blocking 4

Turquoise Scarf Blocking 2

So I’m a member of the Spinner’s Study group on Ravelry, and for the month of January, one of the fibers is angora. So I had bought some hand carded angora rolags from a lady down near San Diego, and I spun it myself. Just 22 grams (3/4 of an ounce), and a bit under 40 yards. Here is the undyed skein:

Angora Handspun Undyed

I have to say it is just the SOFTEST stuff, and my dog sure loves to sniff it. It makes him very happy and he wags his tail a lot.

So I was thinking what I would do with just a little bit of angora like this, and I decided I’d make myself a headband to keep my ears warm when I run. So I wanted to dye it in the colors of my running club. Here’s the finished, dyed yarn along with my inspiration:

Angora Dye Inspiration

I know that my red is a cooler/bluer red than the one in the logo, but it’s the type of red I would wear (I wear cool colors, not warm ones). Overall, I’m quite pleased with how it came out.

So here’s my dye day experience documented…

This is my third time trying to dye. This time and the previous two times I am going by instructions from the The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook. So I’d tried the cold pour method once, the hot pour method once. This time back to the cold pour.

So I started by laying out my skein of yarn (about a 2-yard circumference…) on some saran wrap.
Undyed Angora Arranged on Plastic Wrap

Oh, before I did this I mixed up the Cherry Red dye. It was the only dye I had to mix this time. The Navy, Violet and Sky Blue were all colors I’d used before and had already mixed. It will be great when I finally get to do one of these sessions without mixing the dyes first. That part is a PITA. The powders do not dissolve all that easily, and I don’t like wearing the dust mask or being really careful with all the dye-powder product and the careful cleanup.

Oh yeah, and with angora you have to really soak the yarn for a very long time. It is very hard to get it wet all the way through. I soaked mine for nearly 24 hours. Maybe 22.

OK, so now I’m ready to dye. I was going to apply the dye directly onto the yarn. You can do this by dribbling it or painting/swabbing it… however you like. Someone on the Ravelry forums said she likes to use a spoon, so I tried that with the sky blue.

First Color - painted with spoon

Of the few different dribbling methods I’ve tried, this is the one I like best so far.

Now I got some really delux, expensive new bottles for dyeing. Here they are:
Cheapo Plastic Bottles for Dyeing

Yes, the Crystal Gyeser water bottles. I bought water at the grocery store and drank it just so I could use the empty bottles for dyeing. This was another idea suggested on Ravelry. I like this, too. I think I will keep getting dye bottles this way. They don’t leak, the squirt caps are a reasonable size. I used this type of squirt bottle to apply the Navy Blue dye next.

2nd color added - Navy

Yes, that strange, dark purply color on the right is navy blue. I know it doesn’t look like it. But after you heat the dye it somehow changes and really is navy. Same thing happened to me with the cherry red. I was expecting to get a cool red, but when it was in liquid form, it looked like a warm orange-red, as you may be able to see in the picture below where I’d finished painting the whole yarn:

Finished Painting Angora

But after heating/setting the dye, it cooled right down to the cherry red I’d expected. Overall, I liked using the spoon for painting the best. The squirt bottles gave just a bit too much, too fast for real control. So what we have here is a diluted sky blue on the center top; a more intense sky blue to the right of that; navy on the right-hand turn; intense sky blue on the bottom right, a white spot, lots of cherry red on the bottom left, a white spot on the left turn. And then some diluted violet on the upper left.

Strangely enough (or maybe not so strangely) no white spots appeared in the finished product. There was enough dye to seep into those parts and they were sort of lighter/blended areas as a result. I don’t know if you can see the flecks or spots/drops of stray dye in the picture above, but those, or something, got onto other parts of the yarn eventually and did cause a bit of “color contamination.” You will see in a couple of photos below.

OK, so now it’s time to wrap the yarn up in Saran Wrap and steam it. I get so excited when I’m done with the painting, I just wrap it right up, but you’re supposed to spray it with vinegar first. I made this mistake back at the November Dye Day, and that time I didn’t realize until after I’d already been steaming my roving for a bit (which I believe is what caused felting when I removed it and sprayed it with vinegar later). Anyhow this time I actually remembered that I’d forgotten to spray with vinegar before I put the yarn into the pot. So I opened it back up, sprayed it and then re-wrapped it. This is kind of messy. You have to have enough dye to saturate the yarn, but you don’t want too much that it’s dripping and leaking. Ugg. Messy.

Here’s the yarn ready to steam in the pot:
Angora Plastic Wrapped to Steam

So I steamed it for about 20 minutes and then let it set in the pot uncovered and cool for about 2 hours. Since it wasn’t much yarn, it did cool pretty quickly. When it felt completely cool, I rinsed it with cold water in the sink:

Angora Rinse

So you can see, no white spots. Also notice the difference between the orangey-red in the steamer photo and the nice cool, blue-red in the sink-rinsing photo. The only difference is the heat setting.

Then I washed/soaked the yarn in hot water and Eucalan. Then in plain hot water. Then in cold water with vinegar. Then in cold water. Then I spun it in a salad spinner and hung it up to dry in the bathroom.

Angora Hang Drying

Now remember I said there was some color contamination? Like here in the red part, you see some blue spots:
Angora spots
And here in the blue part you see some red spots:
Angora spots 2

It’s not terrible, but I would have rather not had that. So part of it is just that this whole saran-wrap, steaming method is messy. I can’t help but recall what one local dyer suggested to me, where she said she would paint her roving with the dyes, and let it sit for a bit (15 or 20 minutes?) and then put it in a pot of vinegar water and simmer it to set the dyes. No saran wrap. That is really appealing to me. I think next time I’m going to try that.

OK, so here are some additional shots of the finished yarn, in different skeins/cakes:
Angora Twist
Angora Reskeined
Angora Yarn Cake

Mathmom Dyes Again

So, I had purchased 3 ounces of undyed BFL roving back in November, just for practice sake. And when I got my new spinning wheel (a Jensen Tina II), I spun it up as a 2-ply. Came out about DK weight. I liked it a lot and eventually hit upon the idea of dyeing it and knitting it into a scarf for my mom for her birthday. With about 232 yards, I thought the Cream of Spinach Scarf would work well.

So the last (and only) time I dyed fiber, I used what the The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook
refers to as the “Cold Pour” method. Which is basically pouring the dye onto the fiber (or yarn), wrapping it in Saranwrap and steaming it to set the dye. I found it messy, awkward. I thought I’d try something else. The Hot Pour method, of course.

With the Hot Pour method, you put your (pre-soaked) fiber into a cold vinegar/water solution and slowly bring it up to about 190 degrees F.

 Taking the temperature...is it 190 yet?


Then you pour the dye onto the part of the fiber where you want it to go. Supposedly if the temp is right and the pH level is right (about pH 4), then the dye will “strike” and basically adhere to the fiber where you pour the dye on. Supposedly.

 Adding the first color - turquoise


OK, I didn’t have any pH test strips to test the acidity. And maybe my water wasn’t quite hot enough. Not sure. I had planned to use the following four colors from the Jacquard acid dyes: turquoise, sky blue, spruce and teal. (Yes, I suppose instead of ordering so many similar colors, I should try buying fewer colors and mixing them to achieve different shades. I’m working my way up to that point…not there yet…)

So I started with the lightest/brightest color first: turquoise.

I really don’t think I put too much dye in at all. But it didn’t seem to take and bond to the yarn very quickly. At all. It just dispersed throughout the pot and started going on all parts of the yarn, eventually. I added a lot more vinegar. The Twisted Sisters book cautions that too much vinegar will make the dye adhere on the surface so quickly that it will not go all the way through the fiber. So since mine wasn’t adhering at all, seemed to me there must not be enough vinegar.

Hmm. Turquoise spreading more than planned

After watching the turquoise simmer for about 10 minutes and not be completely absorbed into the fiber, and the water not become completely clear, I decided what the heck, I was just going to add other colors anyhow and sort of overdye (as the whole thing right now was a very light turquoise color…greenish and not much blue).

So first I put in some of the sky blue in one area.

 Adding a second color

That seemed to take somewhat to the fiber. And then I put in some spruce in an area adjacent to that. And finally the teal on the other end of the skein opposite the turquoise end. With each of these additions, the dye didn’t strike and adhere firmly to one spot. It did a bit, but then dispersed and in the end it turns out I have a yarn that is pretty much a blended color although there are some color-on-color variations in certain spots.

It’s not at all what I had planned, but I think it will still come out pretty. Not sure what I will do next time I dye. I have some 100% angora that I’ve spun up and want to knit a headband out of. I really think I’m going to do that one cold pour, so the colors go and stay where I want them, a definite advantage of the cold pour method…

Here is the yarn after rinsing:

Rinsing. Some color-on-color variations

You can see some color-on-color variations. It’s almost dry now (the picture above was taken several hours ago). I will re-skein it tomorrow and hopefully get some good/pretty pictures of it that show the very subtle color variations a bit…

Andean Plying

So I’ve seen some diagrams before on Andean plying. You wrap the yarn around your hand in some fashion or other and then ply from that. I never much understood the appeal of this method, and the diagrams looked confusing at a glance. So I mostly ignored it.

Now recently I had spun up 3 ounces of undyed BFL roving (from Ashland Bay, I believe… I bought the roving from Dizzy Ruth at the November meeting of GLASG). And I weighed it roughly and thought I’d spun two roughly equal bobbins. I 2-plied it and got about 208 yards of DK weight yarn that I’m going to use for a scarf for my mom. But the bobbins did not come out equal, and one bobbin had several yards of single left. I just kind of shrugged (mentally), decided not to worry about it and figured I’d use it for something some time. Maybe for tying up handspun hanks or something.

Anyhow, several days later I was reading in the forums at Ravelry.com and in the forum for the Spin Love group there is a thread topic “best way to divide for plying?” that eventually Andean plying was mentioned. And quite a few people use this for 2-plying the little bits of leftovers like I had with this BFL. So I Google searched and found some directions I could understand and did it, and you know what… it’s not that hard after all. So now I have a few more yards of this BFL handspun which is kind of nice. 🙂

So here is the article that I personally found most helpful:
 Spindle and Wheel – Andean Plying

Here’s a helpful article that gives quite a bit of background and additional information on the topic:
 Ask The Bellwether: What is the traditional Andean Ply splicing method?

Get a load of how this lady does it using a paperback book instead of her hand:
 Rosemary Knits: Andean Plying Bracelet, simplified
further details on this method are given in the Ravelry forum discussion I mentioned above).

Here are a couple more links on the topic:
 Andean Plying “How To” at Mielke’s Fiber Arts
Knittyspin: Handy plying