Monday, August 29, 2016

How To - Heat Setting in the Oven

A little while back, a fellow Raveler posted in the What A Kool Way To Dye group, asking about alternate heat setting methods. She does not have a microwave, and wanted to know of some different ways to heat set her yarn.

Most of the alternate methods of heat setting yarn seem to involve immersion. There were a lot of crockpot and stovetop suggestions, but they all involve getting immersing the yarn in water, which may not always give you the results you are looking for. If you hand paint your yarn, or are trying to speckle dye it, then full or even partial immersion could cause the colours to run.

There was one or two people who suggested steaming it using a double boiler, or a colander placed over a pot of hot water. I still have to try that method, but if the colander or double boiler is too small, then the yarn will get bunched together, and you may have the same blending colours issue.

So I started thinking about heat setting in the oven. I had thought about it before, and wondered how to do it. I know I could do rimmed baking sheet with water in it, but again, that would involve partially submerging the yarn, which I did not want to do. I wanted a way to keep the yarn out of the water, but still keep the yarn damp enough to not burn in the oven.

Then it struck me... a cooling rack. 
Using a cooling rack to help me dye my yarn
I use them when I am dyeing yarn to keep the yarn up off the surface to avoid colours blending too much underneath the yarn, and I have used one in the oven to cook bacon, so why not combine the two.  Yarn bacon.....mmmmmm.... 

No, just kidding... I meant the oven and dyeing the yarn on the cooling rack.  And because it is an oven, I could just set the temperature to the exact 180 degrees (F) that I needed, and 20 minutes later, out would pop the perfect yarn, right?  Well, not quite....

How not to burn your yarn...
Let's be honest here.... we are talking about putting yarn in the oven, and there is a very good chance it can burn if you do that. So how to do prevent that from happening? Wrapping it in plastic wrap keeps the steam in when microwaving, but something told me plastic wrap + oven = stinky mess.

To solve this dilemma, I do two things. First, I keep the yarn really damp...seems like common sense, if you want it to be damp, don't wring out all the water... but it is worth saying it.   Second, I put the yarn on cooling rack, that I place over a rimmed baking sheet, and then I add water to the baking sheet.  That way, when it is heat setting, the water can steam then yarn. You want to make sure you add enough that it doesn't just evaporate immediately, and you can always add more during the process.  This trick is borrowed from my baking escapades.... when I am baking cakes, I often will add a dish of water to the bottom of the stove to keep the oven moist, which helps you get a more level cake. 

MissReena gives it whirl!
My first attempt at using the oven to heat set my yarn was also my first attempt at dyeing speckled yarn with cake sprinkles.  The theory was there... put the yarn on the rack, dye parts of it, sprinkle parts of it, bake the coloury goodness into the yarn. So I set the oven to 180 degrees and started off on my great oven baked yarn adventure.

My Girly Sprinkles yarn on it's first round in the oven.
Now, for this yarn, I already knew I was going to bake it twice. I applied the dye and sprinkles to the top of the yarn, then heated it in the oven for 30 minutes (wanted to give it some extra time). When the yarn came out of the oven, I squished the sprinkles down with a fork, to really break them down and press them into the yarn. I then flipped the yarn over and dyed the other side.

Dyeing the other side of the yarn
Once the second side was dyed, I put more water in the bottom (along with the leftover dye from applying the new dye while still on the cooling rack), and popped it back in the oven for another 30 minutes.   When that was done, squish the speckles with the fork again, then let it cool. Honestly, I let it cool!  Which is super fast when it is on the cooling rack because the air can circulate much better.

Once the yarn was cool, I got my water ready in the sink, with a little bit of dish soap in it. I knew there was going to be residue from the sugary cake sprinkles, so I used the dish soap instead of the baby shampoo.  I started washing my yarn.  At first, everything was going really well... the sprinkles looked awesome, and the other colours looked pretty cool too.  

Then I noticed that the teal was start to bleed out of the yarn.  Oh well, not really a huge surprise....teal contains blue, and blue is notoriously a bugger to set. So I just kept rinsing....(Just keep rinsing, just keep rinsing..... borrowing a tune from Dory for this part).  The teal stopped bleeding, and I was just about to give the yarn it's final squeeze and get ready to dry it when the fuchsia started running.... It had not run during the whole time I was rinsing out the teal, and the water was fairly cool, so I was really surprised.  But not as surprised as I was going to be and the fuchsia just basically let loose and completely overdyed the white part of my yarn! 

When all the colour stopped bleeding, and the yarn was dried, I wound up with this very lovely yarn....
The final product....very pretty, but not quite what I was going for....

MissReena Tries Again
For the previous yarn, I had used my Americolor gel food colouring, and I used a lot for the teal, fuchsia and violet, so I thought maybe my issue was just oversaturation of the dyestock. I have been known to do that before....on more than on occasion.  This time, I was inspired by the neapolitan ice cream sandwich I was having as a treat. 

Cue the cooling rack again, and I dyed the yarn you see in the first picture in this post. Pretty sections of brown, surrounded by pink, with white spots left.  I sandwiched the brown between two bands of pink because I know that the brown will bleed, and the ends of the brown will bleed green, which I didn't not want in my ice cream colours... 

Once the dye was applied, I moved the yarn to my baking sheet/cooling rack setup, added my water, and popped it in the 180 degree oven again. This time I left it for almost an hour. Just in case my issue with the Girly Speckles was that it was not heated long enough. 

After I let the yarn cool on the rack (can you imagine? That is two skeins in a row I let cool!), I added it to the sink with baby shampoo and cool water for a rinse... and my pretty neapolitan inspired yarn tuned into what I am now calling Chocolate Cherry.... see any resemblance to the Girly Sprinkles?
Chocolate Cherry Yarn
Yup, you guessed it... the pink ran, and the white sections disappeared... 

Third Time is the Charm?
After the second one ran, I knew there was definitely an issue, and the issue was that the yarn was not getting hot enough.  Just because you set the oven to 180 degrees, does not mean the actual yarn is going to get up to 180 degrees, which means the dye may not completely set. 

So I painted a second ice cream inspired yarn, this time with the cooling rack placed over the sink, because my towel was in the washing machine. 

Let's try this again...
And I set my oven to 350 degrees... that is my go to temperature for a lot of things, so I figured, what the heck...worst that could happen is I could burn the yarn...but I figured if I kept a close eye on it, I could make sure that did not happen. 

I moved the yarn to the baking tray with the cooling rack, popped it into the oven after it had finished preheating, set the timer for 30 minutes, and basically become obsessive compulsive for about 30 minutes. 

I kept extra water beside me, and I probably opened the oven every 5 minutes to make sure things were still steamy and not burny.... I am sure the yarn would have set faster if I had not kept opening it, but when you are experimenting, you sometimes have to do these things.   I even kept my spray bottle of citric acid mix with me, and sprayed the top of the yarn a few times, although I am sure that was probably unnecessary... just me being paranoid.

I thought about covering the whole thing in tin foil to create that same kind of steam trap that plastic warp creates in the microwave, but decided against it, because if it started to burn, I may not see it. Plus, I was not sure what citric acid + tin foil + yarn + heat was going to equal. Better not to risk it.

After 30 minutes, I took the yarn out and set it on the stove to cool.  The brown travelled quite a bit in one of the pink sections, and the pink sort of took over a few other white sections, but I was still happy with what I saw. 

Freshly Baked Yarn!
I let this one cool most of the way (I was getting impatient at this point), and then proceeded to wash the yarn. Because this is superwash, it didn't need to be completely cooled because I don't have to worry as much about felting. I just made sure the water was the same temperature as the yarn, and I added my baby shampoo.  Then I took a deep breath, added the yarn to the water, and rinsed. 

The result? Neonpolitan Yarn! (Not a typo...that is what I called it due to the neon property of the pink)
One side of the skein...look at the pretty white sections!

And the other side... Can't you just smell the vanilla?
Turn outs 180 degrees (F) is not a high enough heat to bring your yarn up to the right temperature. You need the oven to be at least 350 degrees in order for your yarn itself to get enough heat. And 30 minutes was a good time, although if I had blue in there, I might go as high as 45 minutes. But I would keep a close eye on the amount of water in the bottom, and add more if needed, to make sure that the yarn did not dry out. 

Will I use this method again? Most definitely! It was actually a lot of fun, once I got it figured out. Although I may switch to one of my older baking sheets... one thing to keep in mind is that with repeated exposure to citric acid and heat,  things like the cooling rack and the baking sheet may start to corrode over time. I had this happen with a round cooling rack I use when doing my ball-dyed yarn.

I may keep an eye out at some of the local second hand or restaurant stores. I know they make steam trays that are sort of like double boilers...water in the bottom and a tray that sits over the top with holes in it. If I can find one of those that will fit in my oven, I may snag it. I think I could do multiple skeins that way. 

If any of my readers try this, I would love to hear how it worked for you. But keep a close eye on it, and I take no responsibly for burned yarn if your oven is too hot, you don't add enough water, or you get distracted :)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How To - Speckled Dyeing with Cake Sprinkles

Yup, you read that right... Cake Sprinkles!

I have to start off by saying that this idea came from a couple of fellow Ravellers, who got it from a post on Facebook.  Although I will admit that I have often looked at my sprinkles and wondered if they could be used... the one thing that held me back from trying it is the one word of caution I am going to give you all right at the very beginning, before I give you the how-to's of how I did this...

Cake sprinkles contain sugar, and sugar can burn yarn that is heated in the microwave!

I have been lucky enough that I have not had any mishaps with my yarn that I have heat set in the microwave, even when I used dyestock that had sugar in it, but there are many stories out there of people who were not so lucky with their yarn. I do not know what all the contributing factors were (possibly yarn content, strength of microwave, level of dampness of the yarn, etc.), but I do know it can happen, so if you are going to try this, please keep that in mind! Something to think about if you are every trying to use the already sweetened drink crystals too.... they contain a LOT of sugar and most of the burn victim yarns I have seen have used those.

What I used

  • 100g Bare Felici Superwash yarn from Knit Picks
  • Dinosaur shaped cake sprinkles (they were on sale)
  • Citric Acid powder (for soaking water and for spraying water)
  • Microwave safe plate 
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Baby shampoo
My Felici yarn from Knit Pick and my sprinkles

Couldn't resist the dinosaurs! There were pink ones!
Soak the yarn
Because this is a sort of hand painting that will be set in the microwave, I soaked the yarn in water that contained one tablespoon of citric acid powder.   I will say I have tried alternate heat setting methods (more on that in a later post) and even for those, I added my acid to the soaking water. 

Apply the sprinkles
When I got the Bulk Barn, they had these dinosaur sprinkles on sale. Because they had no white in them (don't need white on bare yarn), I snatched them up right away.  I removed a bunch of the water, but did not wring it out like I normally would with hand painting. I wanted the yarn to be really damp, but not so much that I was getting puddles on the plate. 

I also spread the yarn out on the plate. At first glance it looks like it will be a tangled mess, but it was quite easy to find the ties and pick it up with any tangles or fuss.

I sprinkled a whole bunch of dinosaurs on my yarn...
I spread out my yarn and let it be invaded with dinosaurs

And then, to be on the safe side, I mixed up my citric acid and water mixture (1 tablespoon citric acid powder to one cup of water) and put it in a spray bottle. I then used that spray bottle to give the top a really good spray. I wanted the yarn and the sprinkles to be really wet.
My spray bottle with the citric acid and water mix

Heat Set the Yarn
I wrapped the plate in plastic wrap and popped it into the microwave. I used my standard two minute intervals, but got distracted by laundry after I started the second interval, so that meant the yarn got to sit in the microwave for about 5 minutes before it got the 3rd two minute interval. Although I think this worked to my advantage, because the plastic wrap dropped down onto the yarn and it created a bit of a vacuum, which actually helped squish the sprinkles into the top of the yarn
Squished dinos! It may be hard to see in this picture, but there is plastic wrap on this is vacuum sealed it self to the yarn and flatted out all the former dinosaur sprinkles
Flip over and do the other side
One thing I have learned about any kind of hand painting is that the colour never goes all the way through, so you need to flip the yarn over and do the other side. I let the yarn cool until I could handle it, then flipped it over.
See? Hardly any colour on this side
I added a bunch more dinosaurs, then sprayed down with my citric acid mix, wrapped in plastic, and microwaved again.  As luck would have it, I had another load of laundry to go out, so I did the same thing... 2 of the two minute intervals, hang out laundry, then do 3 more intervals. I two more on this side than on the last because I knew I was not heating it any more after that.

Let it cool, rinse, then dry it
I removed the yarn from the microwave and set the plate on a cooling rack and removed the plastic wrap. It is really hot trying to do that, but it lets the yarn cool faster. 
See some of the leftover colour and sugar blobs? Some are on the plate, some are on the yarn...

For rinsing, I wanted to rinse while the yarn was still warm, so I could use warm water. Not all of the sprinkles completely disintegrate when heated. Some of them, and the non-colour components of the yarn, turn into these sort of sugary blobs of you want to be able to use warm water with your baby shampoo or mild dish soap to get those out of the yarn.

After it was all washed, I actually hung it up outside to dry. I had all the best intentions, because it was a nice breezy day out. But after about an hour I got impatient (who me? never!), and brought it in and put it in the dryer. 

Twist it and admire the skein!
Normally I like a lot more colour in my yarns, even in my speckles, but I was really happy with how this one came out. It is a bit more of a muted speckled yarn, but I already have plans for it.
One side of my Dino Dots colourway

And the other side of the skein
I did do another skein where I had section of solid colour and sections of sprinkles. For that one I used the longer, flatter cake sprinkles. Again, I went for a combination that had not white in it, even those do seem to be rare. 
My dyes

My Girly Sprinkles Colourway
You can't see as much of the sprinkles with the way it is twisted, but you can still see them. 

Verdict - this is a lot of fun, and I can see myself checking out the Bulk Barn for their discounted sprinkles. It does not give as much coverage as my other sprinkle method, but this is definitely good for when I want more muted sprinkles.  And I have a friend who has a cupboard with a whole bunch of old sprinkles in it that she was thinking of throwing out, since she has no idea how old they are. Now she is going to give them to me to play with. 

Cautions - As I said at the beginning, sugar can burn in the microwave, so make sure the yarn is really damp, and well covered with plastic wrap. And keep a close eye on it.  

And beware of brown sprinkles....many times these are chocolate and that is going to be a whole other mess to deal with! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

To Sell or Not To Sell....

That is the question I have been asking myself for quite some time now.  I have had a lot of people comment on my yarn over the years, and the most frequent comment  hear is "You should sell your yarn!"

I was very hesitant to even think about it at first, because I have had issues in the past with trying to do creative things for a living.  I was a cake decorator for a while, and as much as I love decorating cakes, I HATED being a commercial cake decorator. To me, it sucked all the fun out of a hobby I quite enjoy.  Same thing with photography. I want to be able to make photographs because I want to, not because someone else wants me to.

But the more I think about it, the more I have come to the realization that this could be different. I would not be dying yarn because someone asked me for something in particular.  I would be creating one of a kind skeins of yarn, in my trademark impatient, sometimes haphazard way, and then posting them to see if someone else there wants to give them a forever home.

If I wake up in the morning and feel like today I want to dye a bunch of neon yarn, I can do that.  And if tomorrow I decide that I fancy a nice brown and green combo with a shot of hunters orange, I can do that.  If I decide I don't want to dye anything for a week, or a month, then it would just mean I would not have anything new to sell.   And if I completely and totally fell in love with a yarn when it was done, then I wouldn't have to sell it, and I could keep it if I wanted to.

I don't think I would want to do this as a full time job, just because the fun might go out of it quickly... but I could set up an Etsy shop and maybe once a month add some new years and see how they sell.  If I start dyeing more yarn, then I could do more frequent updates, but I wouldn't be tied to any particular amount or timeframe.  It would make my yarns somewhat elusive... you would have to try to catch them in their natural habitat for a brief period of time if you wanted to own one :)

How many of my readers out there are doing this? Selling something they make online? And if you are doing it, do you enjoy doing it? What are the pros and cons of it?

And for those of you waiting for more How-To dyeing posts, I am hoping to have a couple more in the next week or so. I want to try an alternate way to speckle dye, and I am also playing with an alternate heat source. I tried combining both today, and while I did not quite get the outcome I was expecting, so far I love what I am seeing.  Not that I will ever be able to replicate it! Hard to make exactly the same mistakes a second time ;)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Knitting - What I Learned from Patty Lyons' Corcoran 2.0 KAL

This post started as a reply to a thread in the Patty Lyons' Fan Club Group on Ravelry, but as I was writing it, it became apparent that I had learned way more than I realized, and that this would make a great addition to my blog.

I have just finished my very first sweater thanks to Patty's Corcoran 2.0 KAL, and she asked those of us who finished to write a story about why I loved this KAL and what I learned.  So here is my contribution. (And here are the tags she asked us to put on the posts - hoping they work on my blog as well as in the Ravelry Group - #CorcoranKAL, #pattylyons, #whatIlearned )

I am predominantly a sock knitter. I love dyeing my own yarn and knitting socks to give away to other people. Occasionally I keep a pair, but mostly I give them away. Socks make me happy, and are easier than mittens because they don't have thumbs. Although my Aunt June would disagree....she likes mittens because they don't have heels.   I do knit mittens occasionally, as well as baby blankets, and the occasional hat. But what I don't do is knit sweaters. Especially for myself.  Sweaters are too intimidating.

As some of you may know from a previous post, I have recently discovered what style of a knitter I am. I had always thought that I "knit backwards", because I always wrapped my yarn "wrong", according to some other knitters I have met. I recently learned that I don't actually knit backwards, and that there is nothing wrong with how I wrap my yarn. I am simply and English Eastern Crossed knitter. Which translate to a thrower, who wraps her yarn so the leading leg is at the back, and up until recently, always knit into the front of the stitch, thus crossing my stitches. (Incidentally, I have since learned how to actually knit backwards, which is a lifesaver when working on entrelac stuff).

After learning all of this, I decided to try a few different things to see how I could adapt patterns or adapt my knitting. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Combination Knitters Ravelry group when Patty asked if people thought it would be helpful to have videos that were recorded for Eastern Knitters and Combination Knitters as part of an upcoming KAL she had planned.  I was blown away that she would ask that, and vowed to take part in her upcoming KAL, even though a sweater is a far cry from a sock!  I knew that I liked her teaching style thanks to her Improve Your Knitting; Alternative Methods and Styles class, so I figured if anyone could help me figure out the enigma of a sweater, it would be her.

I bought the pattern, debated over the yarn for a while before finally deciding to go with the recommended yarn (figured it was best to use what she was using for the first one, then figure out yarn substitutions if it turned out), and then re-watched a couple of classes I had downloaded. I even worked on a couple of baby blankets  to get me comfortable with knitting through the back look of my Eastern seated stitches, since Patty had said I would not be happy with the look of the lace if I twisted the stitches.   I think I watched too many videos and classes though, because as one thing went in one side of my brain, something else was pushed out the other side.

Throughout the KAL, I asked a lot of questions. Some of them felt silly or stupid, and for a few of them, had I not been so eager and watching the videos too fast, I would have figured out the answers for myself, but Patty was awesome and never treated me like my questions were silly or stupid. And I have to say, I was extremely grateful for that!

So here is what I learned from this KAL (in no particular order).

I learned how to swatch for gauge. - I can quite honestly say I have never done this before in my life. I am usually the type to grab the yarn, grab the needle and hope for the best.   And more importantly, I learned WHY you should swatch for gauge.

I learned how to convert my pattern from inches to rows/stitches - I find this incredibly helpful. I am a numbers person, and "knitting until the piece measures X number of inches" always freaked me out. Knowing my gauge allowed me to convert into a finite number of rows. I also learned that some days, math is not my strong suit... a couple of hiccups, but nothing that I couldn't recover from.

I learned how to stay in pattern while shaping - this was really cool, and somewhat empowering. When you figure out how to do that, you feel like you can rule the world.

I learned how to frog back and fix something while resisting the urge to throw the whole darned thing in the campfire. Some of the mistakes I made were not readily visible until you got 4 more rows into the pattern.

I learned how to read my stitches - This was really cool. It quickly got to the point that I didn't have to look at the lace chart, and where I could put down my work then pick it up later and be able to keep going.  Patty's How to Read Your Stitches and Master The Pattern was quite helpful with that.

I learned how to modify the pattern to suit me - All of my sweaters were longer than this one, so I had to make this one longer too, to be comfortable wearing it.

I learned that you should not block your ribbing if you want it to stay elastic - but also learned that it is not the end of the world if you do.  My sweater still fits just fine, but now I know for next time.

I learned that blocked pieces take FOREVER to dry - especially if you are waiting to seam them!

I learned that if you are going to modify the pattern, you better order more yarn - luckily the people at FiberWild are amazing....they found me the yarn I needed in my dyelot and had it to me within a week. I also learned that if you order more than $75 worth of yarn from them, the shipping is free to Canada. Most Canadian retailers don't offer that!!!

I learned how to do a bunch of seams - I can now do a mattress stitch, and can do head to head seaming. I can even do mattress stitch on my ribbing and you can't see the seam!

I learned that I have a lot more to learn - but I am okay with that. The ribbing on the back collar was picked up one row too far down, so there is a little ridge of stitches, but you can't see it, and I don't feel it.  My shoulder seams are not perfect, but they will hold together. And as long as nobody decides to inspect my underarms, no one will know that I had to do some creative seaming because I had more stitches on one side than the other, and hadn't started early enough in advance to compensate for that.

And most importantly, I learned that I can knit anything I put my mind to.  It just take some patience and the help of an amazing teacher.

Here is my finished sweater:
Corcoran 2.0 in Ballerina, modified to have a slightly longer body
There is another KAL coming up this winter, and I can't wait.

Oh, and I learned that I can turn anything into socks!  While waiting for one of the clues to drop, I adapted the stitch pattern for a pair of sock, which Patty liked so much she posted the image to Facebook and called me a brilliant knitter!!!
My Raindrop Lace socks, inspired by the lace pattern from the sweater

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Knitting - Summer Sweater KAL

Over the past few months, I have been learning more about knitting, and the anatomy of the stitches, than I have up until this point.  As I mentioned before, I always though I knit "wrong", but I have since learned that I just knit in a different style.

My typical knitting style is Eastern Crossed, but I have been trying to get into the habit of being just an Eastern knitter. As much as I love the look of my twisted stitches, they are not always my friend. For my mosaic socks, they caused a couple of pairs of too small socks, and for certain stitch patterns, the twisted stitches can cause an unwanted look with the pattern.

So I started with a couple of baby blankets. One was a simple corner to corner seed stitch blanket, which I have finished and given away. The second one is an entrelac baby blanket, and is still in progress, but got put aside as soon as I was able to get started on a summer knitting project.

I decided to do something different, to stray from my comfort zone of socks, and knit myself a summer sweater. A while back I talked about a class by Patty Lyons that really helped me understand my knitting. I started following her on Ravelry, and this summer she has decided to do a Knit-A-Long of a really nice lacy sweater.

For anyone who is thinking of trying a sweater, I highly recommend this KAL! During the KAL, it is $7 for the pattern, and she includes loads of instructional videos as each clue is revealed.  After the KAL is over, she is offering it at a ridiculously low price of $7 of the pattern or $10 for the pattern, videos and modification note.  Corcoran Pattern on Ravelry - I also very highly  recommend joining her Ravelry Group as well for the KAL, since she has been amazing at answering questions in the group forum.

She has suggested a yarn (Classic EliteYarns - Song DK weight) and even has a supplier who is giving a discount on the cost of the yarn right now. Check out the Song yarn at FiberWild.

One of the other things that is really new to me is gauging and blocking. Normally I grab the yarn and needles suggested in the pattern and just start knitting. But for this one, I am actually following the instructions and knit up a test swatch, then blocked it to check the gauge.
My swatch! I used the Ballerina colorway of the Song yarn

I am starting to wonder if I blocked it properly.  When I look at some of the other pictures I see, it looks like other people have opened the lace pattern up a bit more than I have.  But I like the way it looks, and at this point, I have started the back of the sweater already, and am going to just go with it.  When I blocked it how I like it, I got the right gauge, so we will see what happens.

I keep needing to remind myself that when I block it, the sizing will change, because right now, I have my doubts about picking the right size to fit around the midsection. But I am only one and a half repeats into the pattern, so I need to be patient and trust the process.  Although you all know my history of patience LOL

So if you have ever thought of knitting a sweater, or have done them before and want something really pretty, give this KAL a try! As I said, Patty is wonderful at answering questions, and is very helpful!

I will give updates as the pattern progresses, and am hoping to be done by the end of the KAL on August 15th.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trying to dye Black... (part two and three quarters - Americolor)

So I did this last month, but things have been really hectic around here, so I was not able to get the post up until today.  Thanks to racinggirl on Ravelry for messaging me today... it reminded me that I had not posted this yet.

After my Trying to dye Black... (part two and a half - Americolor), I wanted to give it one more go with the Americolor black to see if I could get closer to an actual black.  One thing I noticed was that my previous attempts seemed to lean more towards the red side of things, so I had an idea that if I dyed the yarn blue first, then put the black over the top, I might get a less reddish colour.

I used 100g of my superwash Opal sock yarn, soaked in plain water.  For the first dye bath, I used 6 drops of Wilton Color Right blue dye (since the drops are easier to control) and let it go until it absorbed all of the dye.  I am noticing that no matter how loose I tie my figure eight ties, the dye really does not want to strike under them. I am going to have to start putting those sections in the dye first and making sure they are dyed before I put the rest of the yarn in.

I brought the water up to temperature and then added the citric acid mix one tablespoon at a time, at about 10 minute intervals. There were a total of 3 tablespoons to this one.
Step One - Dye blue first
I have to say, I almost stopped right there because the blue was so pretty. Even my husband thought it was really nice and that I should stop, but I had a plan, so I kept going. For this one, I let it cool completely before I went on to the next step. Again, was doing other things at the time or I would not have had the patience to do that.

I took the yarn out of the water and put it on a plate, dumped the water and mixed up another dye bath. This time I used 10 drops of Americolor black and 1/4 tsp of salt, dissolved in hot water.  I slowly added the yarn back to the dye pot, and let it come up to temperature. Once it was at temperature, I added my citric acid mixture one tablespoon at a time, adding each tablespoon at 10 minute intervals. I added a total of 4 to this pot.

I kept the yarn at temperature for about another 20 minutes or so, and then turned off the heat and let it cool while I dealt with a bunch of other things.  After about 2 hours, I made it back to the yarn. The water was pretty much clear, so I rinsed the yarn, washed with baby shampoo, wrung out in a towel, and then put it in the dryer on a shoe rack.

When it was done, it had more of a purple tint to it, but it is still definitely not black.
Much less of a brown than the last one. Picture did not pick up the tone as well as I had hoped, but you get the idea

Wrapped up, with the white twine as a contrast to try to show the colour better.

I do really like it, and already have plans for it, but I think this may be the end of my attempts at a full skein of black.  The only other thing I MIGHT try is doing with all WCR colours. I find the WCR black seems to be a bit more green based, so it would be interesting to see what happens if I dye it blue first,  like I did here, then overdye it with the black WCR colour.

For now, I am confident in saying that while dyeing stripes of black in a variegated skein is possible, trying to dye a whole skein black with food safe colour is not just worth the hassle. I get a feeling you would have to overdye the skein multiple times, and even then, am not confident you would ever get a true black.

Would love to hear if any of you have had any luck with a full skein of black using only food safe colours! Post in the comments below if you have tried it.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Trying to dye Black... (part two and a half - Americolor)

After the yarn dried from the first post, I knew I was going to want to try overdyeing it, since there were a lot of uneven spots.

I soaked the yarn in plain warm water, and prepared my dyestock. This time I used 10 drops of the Americolor Super Black food colouring, and added my 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to the water.  I let it sit and come up to temperature slowly, then added my citric acid mix. In total there were about 3 tablespoons, added one at a time, in probably 15-20 minute intervals. I really did not take good notes on this overdye because I was doing a few other things at the time. Will pay more attention next time.

The yarn and dye probably stayed on the stove for about 3 or 4 hours total.  At one point, I had to leave to run an errand, so I turned the stove off, and then turned it back on when I got back, added the last of the tablespoons of acid mix, let it go for about another hour, and then turned it off

I let the water cool and exhaust completely, noticing that the blue took quite a long time to strike this time. But the water did come our fairly clear.  In my defence, when you have a very pale blue in the water, and are using a grey pot, it can be hard to tell if it is completely clear. It was only when I was dumping it down the sink that I noticed a hint of blue.

I washed and dried the  yarn as usual. I lost a little bit of colour when washing, but not much. Not nearly as much as with my Dark Chocolate yarn, where I think I rinsed out at least half of what I put in. Which is why I only used half the amount of colour in the overdye.

Once the yarn was dried, I noticed a few things.  First off, it was pretty much the spitting image of my Dark Chocolate yarn.
This is my Dark Chocolate yarn

And this is the Americolor Black.  
 Other than the lighter spot on the Dark Chocolate yarn, they are almost identical.  Looks like I forgot to colour balance the top one, so it is a little more yellow, which makes it look a little lighter, but they are the same. I held what was left of the Dark Chocolate up to this yarn, and sure enough, you couldn't tell them apart.

And second, those little red fuzzy bits are determined to stay little red fuzzy bits. Even after two sessions in the dye bath, they stayed red fuzzies.

One of the red fuzzy bits. There is on that is about 4 or 5 inches long and was wound into the yarn.I had to pull it out once the yarn was dry. This red fuzzy will be pulled out too
So the reds seems to strike quite well, but the blue is almost no where to be found. Which makes this yarn look brown in some lights, almost purple in others, and, if you look closely, you can actually pick out the sections of the twists that took the reds more than other colours.

I am wondering if trying to overdye it a third time with a dark blue would help any, though I am hesitant to try it, because I really like this shade, and have already picked out a few colours to use with it to make more mosaic socks.  

Maybe if the next black does not work, I will try it on that one.  For my next attempt, I am going to try the Wilton No Break Black.  I don't use the pots very often though, so I need to do some research on how much to use.  So stay tuned for that post later this week.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trying to dye Black... (part two - Amiericolor)

For my first attempt at dying a whole skein black, I am going to try the Americolor Super Black food colouring. I have heard from a few people that this has given them a better black, and that the black did not break.

What I used

  • 100g Bare Opal Superwash Fingering Weight Yarn
  • Americolor Super Black Food Colouring
  • Citric Acid and Water Mix (1 Tbsp citric acid dissolved in 1 cup of water)
  • Rachael Ray Oval Pasta Pot
  • Stove
  • Baby Shampoo
  • Towel
I started off by soaking my yarn in plain, warm water. As I have mentioned in at least one of my previous posts, I have been told that soaking in plain water will help give a more even colour. 

After the water had soaked for about 45 minutes, I removed the yarn and added the dye to the pot. I used 20 drops of the Americolor Super Black. They are not easy drops to work with, kind of thick and gloopy... but I managed to get 20 of them in the pot. I mixed well with my wire whisk and then slowly added the pre-soaked yarn. 

I realized this morning that I did not add any salt to the water. Not sure if that would have made much of a difference, but I did notice that, so I wanted to point it out.  Salt it supposed to slow down the bonding of the colour to the yarn, to make it a more even colour.

After the yarn was added, I turned the stove on to medium and slowly brought up to temperature. My husband came in after the yarn had been in the pot for about 10 minutes and said "Oh, you are dying a dark purple...nice".  In retrospect, I almost wish I had taken the yarn out at that point, because I did like the shade I got, but I was trying for black.  I might try it again later and stop at that purple stage, although I don't like to waste dye. 

I did take picture during the process, but some of them may be hard to see. Trying to photograph dark yarn in a pot of dark dye with a fluorescent light above you is a little tricky....
After about 10 minutes in the dye as it was heating. A nice dark purple shade at this point. 
I let the yarn go for another 20 minutes or so before I added any acid. I didn't want the black to break, so I wanted to add the acid slowly.  I added 1 tablespoon of my mixture and then let the yarn for for another 10 minutes before adding the second. I did this one more time, until I had three tablespoons in, then decided to leave the yarn for a while. 

After another half hour or so, I came back to check on it, and it had gotten darker, but was still very much purple. 

This would have been after about an hour in the dye
I also took a picture of how the black dye "breaks" on paper towel. I had wiped off the whisk and the thermometer, and almost instantly the colours broke apart. 
You can see very distinct reds/purples/blues in the dye after it touches the paper towel
I added one or two more tablespoons of the acid mix (at that point I think it was whatever was left in the mason jar) and then turned the heat down even lower and left it for another hour or two. 
How it looked before I added the last bit of acid
I wanted to give it as much of a chance as I could to get as dark as I could, so I actually had a bit of patience this time! At some point, my husband walked by and said "That looks black now!"

It was now time to wash dry the yarn. The water had cooled completely, and all but the smallest amount of blue had struck
Almost clear dye (keep in mind, the pot is grey)
I washed in baby shampoo, and very little colour came out.  I then wrung it out on a towel and tried to take a picture.  I am still getting used to my new camera, and it kept changing the exposure, but you get the idea... the "stripes" are from the curtain, they are not on the yarn.
After washing, before drying
I could tell at this point that I had something somewhat close to the Dark Chocolate I did in my How To - Immersion Dyeing (Part One - Single Colour) post, but the colour was not as even. Which is actually how the yarn looked after the first pass of the dye with that immersion dyeing. 

After drying the yarn, I could see a lot of different tones, a lot of lighter spots (even though I added the yarn to the water very carefully and slowly), and I could see hints of purple, of light grey, of a blueish tone, and in sone spot, you can even see where one fuzzy part decided to stay red. 
Full skein, not quite the dark black I was going for

You can see some of the lighter spots, and the one fuzzy the decided it only wanted to be red

Some darker shades on the other end

Close-up of the fuzzy....weird little guy

When I flipped it over, this was what I saw on the back. A much lighter spot than I expected

So this first attempt at black gave me an interesting multi-tonal shade, but did not result in black at all. It is more of a super dark purple mixed with a super dark brown. 

It was not quite as brown as the other skein I did, but I think a lot of that has to do with the Ghoul Aid. When I mixed that up, there was a very distinct brown tinge to it, and I did not use that in this dye stock.

I am going to overdye it with 10 more drops of black, just to see if I can even out and maybe darken the colour. I don't expect to get black... just a bit of a more even, maybe darker colour. And I want to see what that one red fuzzy is going to do!  I thought about trying another 20 drops, but the last time I overdyed the dark skein,  I would up rinsing out a lot of the dye, so rather than waste dye, I am going to soak it and try a little less dye. 

I will try to repeat this experiment with my new Wilton black in the pots, which is not supposed to break. I may try it with the WCR a well, although I know that one breaks, and expect it would be fairly close to the one I did with the Ghoul Aid.

Have you tried dyeing a full skein of black with food colouring? If so, how did it work out for you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trying to dye Black... (part one)

So you may have noticed that this is not one of my "How To" posts, and that the title has the word "Trying" in it...

To quote, "...if you want a hank of solid black wool - just go ahead and buy one. It is very difficult to dye large amounts of yarn a true black."

And there is a very good reason for this, if you are dyeing with food safe colours.  It is because there is no such thing as a true black food colouring. Black food colouring is actually a blend of a lot of other colours, and has a tendency to lean more towards one colour or the other.  In the blacks I have worked with, the colours tend to be either more green or more red than I had anticipated.

Part of this has to do with the way the dyes strike on the yarn.  As I think I have mentioned in a previous post, reds will strike faster than blues, which can mean you get more of a reddish tinge to the yarn.  And black has a tendency to "break" when you use it to dye yarn, meaning the various colours not only strike a different times, but tend to actually separate on the yarn.  This is a great effect if that is what you are going for, but can be a pain in the butt if you are trying for a solid colour.

I have used black a few times in the past as an accent colour.  The first time I used it was in combination with some pink.  It did give me a dark colour, which looks nice next to the pink, but it is a bit lighter than a black in person, and in one or two spots, looks a bit closer to an extremely dark brown. I don't remember what I used for this one, as this was back when I was not taking very good notes. I THINK this was the new "non-breaking" black from Wilton's.   Their old formula broke really easily, while the new one seems to hold together a bit better.
Pretty in Punk
This yarn went on to become a pair of socks and a pair of mittens.
Pinky Socks

Punky Mittens
I have also dyed black using the Wilton Color Right system black.  Both times it was done on sections of the yarn, not the full skein
Bigger section of the yarn dyed black. You can see that it has a reddish tinge to it, and can see a few spots where the dye did not really strike, and there are light almost blue sections

That yarn above resulted in this sock.  Looks like black stripes to me.  As long as you don't look too close
For this one, I just painted black sections. The black was thickened with guar gum to keep it in place, but you can still see where it bled into the other colours once they were added. Mostly because they were just water, and I was not doing it over a cooling rack, so the water pooled up and caused the black to run
A swatch of the yarn above. I have not knit up socks with it yet. 
Today I am going to try to dye a whole skein, and see how close to black I can get it.  I am using 100g of my bare Opal sock yarn, and am going to try the Americolor Super Black. Even though I know this colour contains Red #3, which can be problematic, I have read that some people have had more luck with that one that with any of the Wilton colours.

I will post again either later today or tomorrow with the results from my full skein of black!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Have I missed anything?

I have been looking through the dyeing projects that I have done, and at the posts I have written so far, and I think I am currently out of "How To" posts to write... pretty much everything I do with dyeing is here.

I have covered hand painting, speckled, immersion dyeing, self striping and my few favourite, the skillet cake method. Which means I am running out of ideas for posts....

So is there anything that you guys can think of that might be missing? Is there a technique you are curious about? If I know how to do it, I will write about it, and if I don't, then I will research it and give it a try.

I haven't gotten into any kind of commercial dyes, and at this point, I don't really plan on it anytime soon. As mentioned before, I like that I can use the same equipment for dyeing as I use for cooking.  So I can't really answer questions about that, but I do know some people who use them, and could either pass questions on to them, or tell you how to get in contact with them.

For now, I am going to finish my next pair of mosaic socks (I may have finally gotten the right combination to get the fit I want), and then I will jump back into some more dyeing.  I can at least post the results of the stuff that I dye. And I may do a post or two that shows off the stuff I have dyed already, and maybe even the socks I have made.

Don't take my silence as a sign that I have forgotten about my blog... just a sign that I have exhausted some of my brain power :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Knitting: Mosaic Madness

Ah, they joys of learning something new...

I have looked at a lot of colour work socks and have wanted to try them, but stranded colour work is a bit intimidating to me, so I decided to try a mosaic pattern instead.  Enter the Ugly Duckling Sock pattern.  Designed by Karn Aida to "...make use of variegated yarns that are too busy, too vibrant, or just plain ugly."  Rather than carrying a bunch of yarn at the back of the work, this pattern works by alternating two rows of each colour of yarn, and slipping stitches to achieve the pattern.

I looked at this pattern and saw that she was already using a 2.75mm needle, so I figured I was good because that is what I use anyway for my socks. And I was confident that since my Eastern Crossed Knitting was never a problem in any other sock pattern, it wouldn't be a problem in this one either. A sock is a sock, right?

So I dyed some nice dark brown yarn to use with my Fiery Sunset yarn that I had skillet dyed a while back.  
Chocolate Brown
Fiery Sunset
I cast on my stitches and got to work knitting the sock. The colours looked great together, and picking up the stitch pattern was quite easy. It was just a case of remembering when to slip and when to knit.
The first two rows of the mosaic pattern
I kept happily knitting the sock, adding in my standard heel flap and gusset (she says you can use whatever heel and toe you like, and I like this heel). On the first sock I realized after about one and half pattern repeats past the gusset join that I had to treat the first stitch on the needle after the patterned top of the foot as part of the pattern, and had to slip it for two row, knit it on the alternating two rows. Otherwise, the pattern on the left (in the picture above) would not have it's nice brown stripe up the side.   No problem....just a little tweak, nothing major. 

I was determined to get this sock done in time to count it as that week's sock in a challenge I was doing, so I cast on Good Friday, and was done Saturday night. My first mosaic sock!
Yay! It's a mosaic sock!
Then I tried the sock on... or should I say I attempted to try the sock on.  It would not go over my heel. And I don't mean the heel didn't fit... I mean that nice, pretty patterned leg, between the cuff and the heel, decided it did not want to go over my heel. It took a lot of work to finally get it on, and I think I may have cut off my circulation while I was trying, but I was determined to get it on. 

That night, as I was trying to fall asleep, something was bothering me, so I got up and took a really close look at the sock. Had I missed something?  Turns out I did... I counted 8 full repeats on the top of the foot, but then part of my brain starting poking me, saying "but you worked your heel over 32 does that work?" I always work my heel over half the stitches on my needle... if I cast on 68 sts like I was supposed to, shouldn't the foot have been 34 sts? And wouldn't that mean a partial pattern on the top of the foot?  

Sure enough, after counting, I confirmed that I had only cast on 62 sts... I meant to cast on 24/20/24, but I am so used to casting on 20/20/20, that on my last needle, I only cast on 20 sts. And because mosaic work does not stretch as much, this 4 sts could make a big difference. 

So I begrudgingly finished the second sock. 
My first ever pair of mosaic socks

I don't mind giving socks away, so that wasn't the problem. The problem was my first attempt had not worked out the way I had hoped.  But I finished the second sock, and when I posted that it was going to have to be given away to someone with smaller feet than me, one of my Ravelry friends raised her digital hand, and the socks jumped on a plane.

For the next pair, I had a plan. I was going to use more of my brown yarn, and use the leftovers from my Pink Lemonade yarn, and these were going to be for me! 

I had been doing some online research and talking to some awesome Ravelry members about my style of knitting, and how twisting the stitches can impact the stretchiness of the sock, so I decided that not only was I going to cast on the right number of stitches this time, but I was going to make a very concerted effort not to twist my stitches. I was going to be an Eastern Knitter, but was going to drop the Crossed part for this pair of sock. 

Trying to change your knitting style takes a lot of concentration, and I felt like I was just learning to knit. I had to really think about every stitch I was making, and it was taking quite a lot of time. I was happy that I was picking it up, but when working the heel and the toe, something didn't feel quite right. It felt like they were too big, but I wasn't sure.  I decided to keep knitting.  The first sock took me 4 days to complete.  

Excited that the sock was finished, and knowing that it definitely was stretchier, at least in some spots, I tried it on. This was going to be my very own pair of Pink Lemonade Mosaic Socks!
My first Pink Lemonade Mosaic Sock!
The good news was I could get the patterned part over my heel, even if it was a little snug, it still went over.  The bad news... the heel flap was too long, you can see that the cuff come up over the top of the foot form, and the toe was not as snug as it usually is.  So I had the right number of stitches, I had not twisted my stitches, and I still had a sock that didn't fit.  It took me three days to finish the second sock.

Then it was time for pair #3.  This time I was going to use the right number of stitches, and I was going to go back to knitting the way I always did, with my pretty twisted stitches.  I really do like the way they look, and prefer them over the look of the untwisted stitch. Plus, I find that when I twist my stitches, the dot in the middle of the squares looks more centred.

I figured if 68 sts untwisted was too big, and 64 stitches twisted was too small, then 68 stitches twisted should be just right.  This time I used the pink and grey yarn from my How To - Immersion Dyeing (Part Two - Multiple Colours, Twisted Skein) post, and the green from my It's not easy being green... post. The combination reminded of some of the flowers from my back yard, so I called these my "Impatiens Garden Mosaic Socks.

I cast on the right number of stitches, decided to stick with 32 sts for the heel to keep full patterns across the top of the foot, and happily knit away, working on what was sure to be MY mosaic socks.  As I got close to the heel, I tested the stretch in the pattern, but I have had so much trouble gauging it before that I couldn't quite tell.  As the sock got close to the toe, I tried it on... it didn't want to go over my heel.  Same issue as the first pair... I couldn't believe it! I had cast on the correct number of stitches, but it still wasn't fitting???  I finished the sock anyway.

My pretty garden inspired socks
It took a lot of tugging, pulling, swearing, praying and crying, but I managed to get the sock on my foot. Other than the fact that the patterning on the leg did not want to go over my damn heel, the sock seemed to fit fine.   I wore it for about 10 minutes, and then struggled to take it off.

And then I turned to a couple of groups in Ravelry for some suggestions that didn't involve setting the sock on fire and vowing never to knit mosaic again. I am determined that I am going to make this work eventually. At which point I will either never knit mosaic again, or I will have conquered the pattern and will be able to make them for anyone I want.

One of the suggestions was to increase the needle size, and another to add more stitches. It occurs to me after reading those that any other time I had read about colour work, they said to go up a needle size.   I was a bit concerned about the sole of the foot, because I like the way it feels on the 2.75mm needles. After taking to a few people, it seems that knitting just the pattern on bigger needles and the stockinette stitch on my regular needles may be the way to go, if I decide to go the "bigger needle" route.

The other option is to add more stitches. Maybe one more column of the pattern will be enough for them to go over my heel? Or would I need two?  My worry with that is I don't want the heel flap and turned heel to be too big. Working them over 32 sts is almost too much, but I could work it so the heel is done on 32 sts and the top of the foot on 40.

I did notice this morning, when I went to put it on again to test exactly where it was not fitting, that it was a little easier to get it on. Still a bit of a struggle, but not as much as last night, so I am hopeful that maybe washing and blocking it might help.

I am sure I will change my mind at least a dozen times before I actually cast on the next pair. I wanted to start the new pair last night, but hubby said I should finish the other sock, just to get it over with. And that is probably a good idea, because I could really wind up with Second Sock Syndrome on this one. Or, I could decide to just tear the first one apart and start over, if I was able to figure out the sizing for the next one. And while I don't mind frogging something, I am sure there is someone out there that these ones are meant for. I think my cousin has skinnier feet than me, so maybe they will fit her.

It will take me a few more days to finish the second sock of this pair. It is hard to knit quickly when I know the sock meant for me is no longer going to fit, but I am going to try to hold on to the notion that the quick I finish it, the quicker I can start my next pair.