Thursday, March 31, 2016

How To - Gradient/Ombre - Ball Method

This one was a lot of fun, but you have to be willing to work with wet yarn to accomplish this look.  The idea for this came from a thread on the What A Kool Way to Dye forum, that was inspired by another post, that was inspired by a video someone had posted of this method.  So, like a lot of the other techniques, I didn't come up with this one... I am just giving you my notes on how to replicate what I did with it.

This method will result in a ball of yarn that fades from one colour to another, and when finished, will give you something that may look sort of like this:

High Level Details
Basically, you are going to wind a loose ball of yarn, dye it one colour, rewind it, and dye it a second colour. I have actually done it where I also rewound the ball into two balls and dyed a third colour in the middle.

What you will need

  • 100g fingering weight yarn - because I am knitting a pair of socks, I divided this into two 50g balls, so I would have matching yarn for each sock
  • A pot tall enough that you can put enough dye stock to cover the balls of yarn
  • A cooling rack that fits in the pot (optional but will help the dye penetrate more evenly)
  • Dye - Wilton Color Right was my dye of choice
  • Acid - I use citric acid powder, but you can use vinegar. For my citric acid, I mix one tablespoon of the powder in one cup of water, and then use that mixture.
  • A stove
  • Tongs long enough to reach into the pot and get your ball of yarn
  • A plate
  • Paper towels
  • Mild dish soap or baby shampoo
  • Towel
  • Niddy Noddy/Swift - Optional but will help the yarn dry faster

Step 1 - Wind your yarn into loose balls
This can be tricky, because too loose and they fall apart, but too tight and your dye does not penetrate.  What I did was wrap the first 1/4 of the ball as I normally would, then for the rest of the ball, I placed three fingers on the ball and wrapped over them 10 times. I then pulled my fingers out, move them and wrapped over them 10 time in a different direction. Repeat until the ball is about one repeat of this from being finished.   With the last section of yarn, wrap it loosely around the ball in all different directions, basically creating a little cage, then tuck the ends in. This will stop the layers of yarn from falling off the ball as it is being dyed. 

Step 2 - Soak the balls of yarn
Soak the yarn in plain water for at least half an hour, but longer may be better. Because the yarn is wound in a ball, it may take longer for the water to penetrate all the way through the ball.
2 50g balls of Bare Opal Sock yarn, soaking in a bowl of warm water

Step 3 - Prepare the dye stock
Put lots of warm water in your pot and add your dye. For this purple in this one, I used 15 drops of pink and one drop of blue.  Mix thoroughly and add the cooling rack, if you are using one.  

Note: Do not add the citric acid at this point

Step 4 - Add your yarn, bring your dye stock up to temperature, and hold it there for what seems like forever....
I am going to say this part at the very beginning, so you are not prepared. In all the times I have done this method, I rarely get the colour to exhaust completely from the dye stock.  If you have loads of time and patience, and want to heat it, let it cool, let it sit overnight, heat it again, etc., you may be able to get all the dye to exhaust. I don't have that kind of patience, so I make a "close enough" call when dyeing this way.

Add your yarn to the pot of dye stock, adding more water if necessary to cover the yarn, then bring the dye stock up to temperature.
Going for a bath in the purple
Once the dye stock has been brought up to temperature, you can start slowly adding your acid. I add one tablespoon at a time, and usually wind up with about 3-4 tablespoons in total.  For this particular yarn, I actually added a full tablespoon of the powdered citric acid to the dye stock before adding the yarn.  That was WAY too much acid... 

Want to see what happens if you add too much to a dyestock that has red# 3 in it?  The colour decides to turn into a sort of a mist, that sticks to the sides of the pots, and hovers at the top of the dyestock, even though you can't see it.... and when you put your hands in the water to retrieve the yarn after it has cooled, you will get a manicure you didn't intend..... 
I guess I should have put all fingers in at the same time to get a more even colour on my unintentional manicure.  It actually took about three days for this to finally wear off

Make sure to move your balls of yarn around fairly often, so there is no one spot sitting on the bottom of the pot or on the same section of the cooling rack for very long. If they are sitting in one spot, that spot will not take up the dye as well. 

I found that this type of dyeing takes quite a long time. This picture is from the yarn being in the dye stock for about 30 to 45 minutes.  You can see by the dye stock in the background that there is still dye that needs to strike. Blue always takes the longest to bond to the yarn. 

This is what the outside looked like after about 30 minutes

I had to take the pot off the stove so I could make supper, so it sat for about half an hour or so while I cooked. I then put it back on and let the yarn go for another 30 minutes. The dye stock was clearer, but it was not completely exhausted. 
When I decided the blue was never going to set, and also decided this was close enough

This became my "close enough" moment, and I removed the yarn, placing it on some paper towel on a plate to let it somewhat cool. 
You can see where the yarn has fallen away that the deep outside colour does not penetrate very deeply
I pushed a bit more out of the way to see how far the colour had penetrated.
It did not go very deep with the purple, but I was seeing a lot of pink and pale pink

Step 5 - Rewrap the yarn for the second colour
This is what a lot of people refer to as the yucky part, since wrapping damp wool is not exactly the most fun process, and your fingers will prune up big time! 

Once the yarn has somewhat cooled, you can do a rinse under the tap to get out any excess dye, then squeeze gently to remove excess water, and even wrap in a towel if you like and squeeze more.  Since I am using superwash wool, I squeeze the ever loving crap out of it to get out as much of the water as I can.   

Next, put the yarn in a bowl so it will have something to roll around in while you rewind it. Otherwise you are chasing a ball of wet yarn all around your countertop/floor.  

The neat thing I could see what that each section of the yarn I wrapped seemed to work as a resist for the layer below it.
About 1/4 of the way through
As with the first time, wrap the first 1/4 normally, then use the finger spacing method to wrap the rest of the yarn.  
Completely rewrapped, you can just barely see a hint of pink 
Once the yarn has been rewrapped, you will need to wash and rinse your pot out, to avoid transfer of any residual colour. Even if it doesn't look like there is any in there, look at the picture of my fingers above....that was from this purple dye bath, that looked like it only had a bit of blue left in it.  The top layer of the water and the sides of the pot were covered in a fine pink residue. 

Step 6 - Repeat Steps 3 and 4 - Prepare dye stock and dye the yarn
For the second colour, I decided to go with a teal. I used 12 blue and 3 yellow.  I added the rewound balls of yarn to the dye pot, bought everything up to temperature, and played the "add acid and wait" game. 
Time for teal
After about half an hour, the colour was still really light
Seems more green than teal - you can see that the blue is not striking nearly as fast as the yellow
After another 45 minutes or so, I had a nice deep green on the outside. Took it out of the pot to see how well it had penetrated
Fresh out of the pot, just as I was starting to rewrap it

For this colour, I decided to try something different. To get a deeper penetrations, I re-wrapped the each ball of yarn so it was divided into a 1/4 and a 3/4 ball.
About 1/4 of it wrapped into a separate ball
Once that was done, I added it back into the dye pot
The re-wrapped yarn - more water was added after the second ball was added
Step 7 - Cool, wash, rinse, reskein, wash, rinse, and dry
Once you have gotten to the dye to exhaust, or have gotten to the "close enough" stage, you can either leave the yarn in water to cool, in hopes of exhausting the dye a bit more, or you can take it out and put it on a plate, like you did before. 

For this method, I find that you really do need to take the time to reskein it. Both to make sure you are washing all the extra dye out, and to help with the drying process. Give it a quick wash in some mild dish soap  or baby shampoo, rinse it out, squeeze out as much excess water as you can, then put it in a bowl (like you were doing when rewrapping it) and let it bounce around in that bowl while you reskein it. 

For this particular yarn, I used my swift to reskein it. I don't use that anymore, because it kills my arms. I now use my niddy noddy.
Reskeining on my swift
After reskeining, wash and rinse again. The dye will have gotten trapped inside the ball of yarn, and this is the best way to make sure you have gotten rid of all of the residual dye.

Dry using your preferred method (by now you know that for me it is a shoe rack in the dryer, thanks to my superwash yarn).

Step 8 - Enjoy your yarn!
Twist up your skein, or rewind your yarn, and enjoy
You got to see the skeined yarn above, so here is the wound yarn
My purple to green gradient became these lovely entralac socks
One thing I did notice was that because I don't need a whole 50g skein to make my socks, I missed out on most of the dark green from this skein of yarn. I realized this was going to happen right around when I finished the heel and had picked up the gusset stitches. I contemplated frogging it completely, or even just back to the entrelac and adding more rows of entrelac, but realized the cuff would be too tight to go any higher on the leg, so I just went with it.  Next time I will knit the socks toe up, so I can make them as tall as I need to in order to see all the colours. Or I will dye smaller balls of yarn.  

I was able to use the leftover green for the contrasting colour on a pair of ankle socks, and still have enough left over to do the same thing for at least one more pair of socks.  As you can see, I still have not made it to the dark green. 
Using some of the leftovers for toes and heels

I have since done a couple more gradients this way...
Christmas Ombre

Pink to Blue
And even did one where I dyed three colours. I did the brown first, rewrapped and did the blue, then rewrapped again so each ball was divided in half and did a black in the centre. Once again, I overestimated how much yarn I needed (it was easy to's size 12 and he wanted super tall legs), so I had enough to make his wife a pair of ankle socks.
The wound yarn and the beginning of the sock

The finished socks
Complimentary ankle socks

On the next instalment of The Impatient Dyer...
For my next How-To, I will most likely do immersion dyeing. I don't do this very often, and when I do, I tend to only do it with one colour, but I know a lot people like to do multiple colours and retwist the skeins in between, so I may have to do multiple parts for that one.  I am not sure if I have the images for any of the posts I want to do for that one, so it may be a few days. 

Till then, happy dyeing!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How To - Skillet Cake Dyeing

I know the title makes this sound like you are going to wind up with yummy pink pancakes, but, sadly, there are no breakfast goods involved with this method.  Although you may wind up with yummy pink and yellow socks like these:
My Pink Lemonade Socks with funky wood grain pooling

This was one of those cases of me looking at a cake of yarn and thinking "I wonder what would happen if I dyed my yarn in a cake, but rather than rewinding the cake, I just dyed one half of it in one colour, the flipped it over and dyed the other half in another colour?"  For some of you, that is probably all the info you will need, and you may not even bother to read the rest of the post.  I will say there are some tips in here, so it is worth reading, but if you are the adventurous type and want to just go for it, have at it!

Now this How-To is a bit out of order, because normally I would put the baseline immersion dyeing technique first, then the gradient cake dyeing technique, and then this variant of the gradient cake dyeing technique, but I love this method so much, I am going to skip over the other ones for now.  I will write those up later, and they will appear on the handy little "How To" box on the right hand side of your screen, but for now, let's play with skillet dyeing!

What you will need
  • 100g bare yarn, wound into two 50g cakes (see Step 1)
  • A skillet that is tall enough to put enough dyestock to cover half the cake
    • can be done in a pot, but I find it easier in a skillet, since it is easier to see
  • Dye 
    • I used Wilton Color Right for this one
  • Non-iodized salt
    • I use sea salt, because that is what I happen to have on hand
  • Acid - I used my citric acid and water solution
    • 1 Tbsp citric acid powder in 1 cup of water
  • A stove
  • Tongs big enough to let you pick up the a cake of yarn
  • Mild dish soap/baby shampoo/wool wash
  • Towel
  • Niddy Noddy (Optional)
    • You can let your yarn dry in the cake, but it will take much longer. Being able to reskein it helps it dry faster
Step 1 - Cake your yarn
So the theory behind this is that I am using this yarn to make socks, and I want both socks to match, so I need to dye two matching cakes of yarn. 

You will want to wind the cakes loose, but not too loose. If they are too loose, they may somewhat fall apart, and you may also get way too much dye penetration, which can result in the two colours mixing and you getting something completely different than what you were going for in the first place.   If you wind them too tight, the colour won't penetrate all the way through.  That can give you some really cool designs, but can also give you lots of bare yarn.  

Step 2 - Determine how much dye stock you will need
Place the dry cakes of yarn in the dry skillet. Determine where your dye stock needs to come up to in order to cover half of the cake.  Remove the dry cakes and put them aside. 

Step 3 - Prepare your first dye stock
The first couple of times I did this, I went from dark to light, thinking that if I did the light first, then the whole cake would be wet and the darker colour would wick up into the already dyed yarn.  For some colours this will work (this pink and yellow combination), but for other (brown and pink), this does not work so well.  So I would say it is probably better, as with most times you are working with multiple shades, to work from light to dark. 

Add enough water to the pan to reach the half way mark of the cake, and add the dye. 

Step 4 - Bring your dye stock up to temperature 
You are aiming for 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you reach that temperature, reduce the heat to a simmer. You want to keep the temperature but lose the bubbles. By doing this, you can avoid the dye bubbling up in the middle of the cake (see next picture). You also give the dye less time to wick up into the other half of the cake.  At this time, you can also add about 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodize salt. The salt should help slow the absorption of the dye and help you get a more even colour.  

Step 5 - Add your cakes of yarn to the dye stock
I like to add my caked of yarn when they are dry. If they are wet, there is more of a chance of the first colour wicking up into the yarn. It will still wick into the dry yarn, but it won't wick as fast. This may give you more a heathered look to your yarn, but I kind of like that. 
I have a Rachael Ray Oval Skillet (much like my Oval Pasta Pot)
I also like to use my stainless steel skillet so I can see the colour of the dyestock better
Make sure you add them both at the same time, and hold your hands over the tops of them so they don't flip over. The goal is to get them to slowly submerge in the dye stock, so the colour gets evenly distributed.

Because the cakes are going to be sitting on the bottom of the skillet, you will not get as much colour if you just let them sit there. Using your tongs, carefully lift them just high enough for the dye stock to circulate under them. Repeat this a few times throughout the process, being careful when you put the yarn back in that you do not splash.  

The other option is, if you have a round cooling rack that will fit inside your skillet, you can use that as well, just remember to move your cakes around a little bit so it is not always the same spot sitting on the cooling rack. I have one, but it is too tall for use in the skillet I have, and I didn't want to break out my pot.  I might, however, have a friend break out their grinder and cut the legs off the cooling rack so I can use it.   Other people have suggested trying to put skewers or long knitting needles through the cake and rest them on the top of the skillet, but I have not tried this yet, and am worried it may distort the shape of the cake, thus giving me a completely different effect.  There was also one neat suggestion in one of the forums in the What A Kool Way to Dye forum about crocheting a sort of mesh basket type thingie to hang the yarn in.  I can't remember what thread it was in...if I remember, I will try to come back and update this part of the post. 

Step 6 - Add citric acid, wait for dye to absorb
I used to do this based on the colour (yellow and green, add right away; anything with a lot of blue or red, add gradually later), but now I just add it later for all colours, so I don't have to remember which ones get acid later.  Let the yarn sit in the dye stock for about 10 minutes, then slowly add your citric acid/water combination. I tend to add 1 tablespoon at a time, but you can see by the picture above that it can be too much for pinks/reds, so you may want to start with a teaspoon at a time. I typically wind up using about 2 tablespoons in total.

I have found that with some colours, like blues and purples, if I leave the yarn in long enough for all of the colour to absorb, it also means there is more time for the dye to wick up into the other half of the cake, so there are time that I will just say the colour has absorbed enough, and move on to the next stage.

You will need your yarn to remain in the dye stock, at temperature, for at least 20 minutes. 

Step 7 - Remove the cakes from the dye stock, prepare new dyestock
I keep a plate beside my skillet, and when the first colour is done, I gently remove the cakes (usually by putting one end of the tongs inside the middle of the cake and the other on the outside of it), let as much extra water drain as I can, then put them on a plate. 
After the pink bath
If you are going from dark to light, it may be a good idea to carefully rinse the cakes at this point, to get some of the excess dye out. That way, it doesn't bleed into the next dyestock. If you are going from light to dark, this does not seem to be as much of an issue, but you can still do it if like.  Just remember to fluff up your cake a bit when you are done, as you will have squished it pretty flat rinsing it.

Pour out your excess water from the first colour and let your skillet cool a little, then give it a quick wash. Some colours will leave residue, and you don't want that in your second colour.   Mix up the second colour the same way you did the first, but use a little less water. Because the cakes are now wet, they will slump a bit, so you don't need as much dye.

Again, bring your dye stock up to temperature before adding the yarn.. 

Step 8 - Add your yarn to the second colour, adding acid later, as you did in Step 6
Flip your cakes over and add them to the second dye bath. 
Tum to add the lemon to my pink lemonade yarn
At this time, you may find that stray strands of the other colour get into the second dye bath. Especially if you have rinsed and squeezed the cake to get rid of the excess water after the first dye. That tends to make the cake a bit looser.  I don't worry about these fiddly bits. They just add character. 

After 10 minutes, slowly add your acid while waiting for the dye to absorb. Again, you want to make sure it is in the heat for at least 20 minutes. 

Step 9 - Remove your yarn, cool, wash and rinse
I never seem to think to take pictures of the washing and rinsing part, for some reason. But here is picture of the yarn after it has been removed, washed and rinsed.

Because it is in a cake, the centre of the yarn will retain a lot of the hot water, so be careful when washing and rinsing. It may seem like the yarn is cool, but in reality, there may still be some hot left inside of it. 

Step 10 - Reskein the yarn (Optional but recommended) then dry your yarn. 
You don't have to reskein your yarn, but I find it helpful for a couple of reasons.  First,  it lets you wash and rinse the yarn one more time, getting rid of any excess dye that may still be inside the cake. And second, it will help the yarn dry faster. A cake of yarn can take days to dry completely, and we all know how much patience I have for waiting for yarn to dry!

After reskeining and going for a ride on the shoe rack of my dyer

Tip : If you are going to reskein, make sure you start in the same place for both skeins (they are in a centre pull ball, so it is easier to start with the yarn in the centre), and make sure to tie whatever end you started with in a particular way. I like to use a nice big bow at the end of the my figure 8 tie, but using a different colour yarn works as well.  That way, when you go to rewind it later, you can make sure that both skeins start in the same place.  The outside is going to be much darker than the inside, so unless you want fraternal twin socks, it is good to start at the same end for both socks. 

Step 11 - Enjoy your beautiful creation!
You are now ready to knit with your new yarn. And, if you are lucky, you will wind up with some kind of funky pooling, like these socks have.
Side shot of both socks

The bottom of my socks
I use size 2.75mm needles and am working with 60 sts, plus I twist my stitches when I knit, so my gauge might be different than yours, meaning your socks may pool differently than mine.

I was able to replicate this pooling effect on a second pair of socks, this time using pink and blue. I dyed the blue first, then added the pink. It gave me this yarn, and these cool socks, which my friend immediately claimed upon seeing the picture. 

My Bejewelled 2 Yarn
Bejewelled 1 was done with a different method and will be shown in a later post

Sulley Socks!  These reminded me of Sulley from Monsters, Inc. 

One interesting colour fact I learned testing this method
If you dye with brown first, the bottom will be brown, but green will wick up into the other section of the yarn. If you try to overdye that with pink, you will just get a lighter brown... so this is one of those cases where lighter first is definitely better.
I was attempting to do a brown and pink, and wanted to dye the brown first. To my surprise, the yellow and blue in the brown decided to run away to the top of the skein. I wound up dying the other half green
I did re-do the intended colourway, dyeing the pink first, and then the brown, and got the results I was aiming for

Pink dyed first, then brown. One cake flipped so you can see both colours

My Chicken Bones colour way

This time I wrapped the cake so I started with the outside, darker yarn first. I still got one section of the pooling, but also got a really funky spiral stripe at the top. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guar Gum

I have mentioned using guar gum in a few of my previous posts with a note promising more information on it, so here is that post :)

Sometimes, when applying dye to my yarn, I need to dye to stay if a very specific spot, and I do not want it to bleed into the surrounding yarn/dyes.  In order to do this, the dye stock needs to be thickened.  Enter, guar gum
Any brand will do, this just happened to be what they carried at my local Bulk Barn
Typically used as a thickening agent in food, particularly gluten free recipes, this nifty little powder is great at thickening up your dye stock.  You can usually find it in the grocery store in the gluten free section, or at places like Bulk Barn. I always have trouble pronouncing the name, but luckily, as long as you are close, most places will know what you are looking for.

I first heard about guar gum in tomboyknits Unicorn Farts tutorial. I highly recommend you read this, as the resulting yarn is awesome, and the explanation of the technique of applying it is very detailed. I used the technique to make some Santa Farts, and Mrs. Claus Farts yarns last year.

It can be a bit fussy to work with, as it doesn't always like to blend nicely in water, and I don't have a blender, so that is where my little helper, glycerin comes in handy.
You can pick this up pretty cheap at the drug store or the pharmacy section of any other store. 

I like to mix up the desired amount of guar gum (see info below on how much) with about a teaspoon or so of glycerin, until it is nice and smooth, then add it to one of my squeeze bottles that is about 3/4 full of very warm water. (Here are my bottles, not with water in them though...sorry, only picture I have right now)
Any squeeze bottle will do - these just happen to be ones I got on sale. These are Wilton Candy Melt bottles.

I then add the drops of food colouring, make sure the top is screwed on tightly, and that either the little red cap is on, or for the one missing the cap, make sure my finger is securely over the top of the tip, and shake the crap out of the bottle until everything is mixed. Using very warm water will help mix everything together smoothly.

If you are still seeing lumps, you can do a couple of things. You can try to microwave it for about 30 seconds to heat it up a bit more and shake it again, to see if it will blend.  Sometimes this will help, unless you have a really big lump. These bottles are not supposed to be microwaved, so don't do it for very long...

The other thing you can do, which will also make your life easier when you get to the application stage, is to strain the mixture into another bottle, although this can be tricky. I like to put the second bottle inside of a large cup or mug, to hold it in place, put a funnel in the bottle, put a fine wire strainer over top of the funnel, and pour the dyestock through the strainer, and the funnel, into the new bottle.  This sometimes requires more hands that I have, so this is sort of a last resort. I usually find if you mix the powder really well with the glycerin first, you wont have as much of an issue with the lumps.

Another thing to watch out for with the lumps is them getting caught in the tip of the bottle. If this happens, stop, take the top off the bottle and try to rinse out the lump. Don't try to just squeeze past it.... think dye stock explosion when the lump finally gets through, or the top pops off (been there, done least twice). You should also do some test squeezes on a paper towel or something, so you know what to expect when you start applying it to you yarn, and to make sure you don't have leaky bottle.  You could also use a medical syringe for this, but due to the thickness of the dye, it may be a bit more work trying to squeeze it through the smaller opening in the syringe. I prefer the bottles, since I can mix it in the bottle, and then apply it from the bottle.

So how much do you use?
There are some great stories out there on Ravelry from people who use a little (or maybe a lot) too much guar gum and the adventures they had rinsing it out. If you are on Ravelry, check out the notes on this stash page by VintageNettles. So it is good to have a starting point to work from.  It is one of those thing that you will fine tune with time and practice.

According to the tomboyknits tutorial, for most colours you can use 1/4 of a teaspoon per 8 oz of dyestock. For red and purple, which tend to bleed a lot faster, 1/2 a teaspoon is recommended.  My bottles are 8 oz, and I don't fill them all the way, but I still use either 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon per bottle. I tend to use the 1/2 more than the 1/4, because I like to have really thick dye to work with.

Once you have the dye stock the consistency you are looking for, you can start applying it to your yarn. Here is one yarn I was working on where I wanted some thin black stripes in between my coloured sections. I made up a black dyestock using 50 drops of Wilton Color Right food colouring and 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum.

As you can see, the stripes are behaving quite nicely, and the lines are relatively crisp. Any unevenness is due to the yarn moving more than anything else. If you look at the full size picture, you will actually see that the black is staying quite nicely in place while the purple is bleeding under the black and through to the other side of the black stripe.

 Using the method from tomboyknits' tutorial (which I highly recommend you read if you have not done so yet), I squeezed the dye onto the yarn close to where I wanted the stripes to send, the gently pushed the dye to where I wanted it to go. Gloves are definitely a must when doing this part, as is extra paper towel!

I also like to separate the yarn and make sure the dye is getting as deep into is as I can, usually pushing the tip of the bottle into the yarn and squirting a little, then carefully squishing it around.  I then flipped the yarn over and did the same on the other side.

One thing I have noticed working with guar gum and superwash yarn is that sometimes, by the time you turn the yarn over, the other side is coated in the leftover guar gum from the dyestock you used on the front of the skein. Much like water will soak through when using regular dye stock, but in this case, you have thickened the water.  I have sometimes had to wipe that off to get the dye to penetrate properly on the other side of the yarn.  I have talked to other dyers about this, and they don't seem to have the same issue. I know that a few of them are not using superwash, so that could be a factor. They may also not be making their dyestock as thick as I am.

When all your dye is applied, heat set as you would normally do. For me, that is wrapping in plastic wrap and using the microwave.

Caution - Guar gum will get, and stay, insanely hot from the microwave! If you used a lot of it, don't try to take the plastic wrap off early, and don't try to wash it too soon. Give it the time it needs to cool.  The guar gum is thick, and not only is it crazy hot, it will also stick to your skin a lot more than regular hot water does!

Once your yarn has cooled, you are ready to wash and rinse. It may take a bit more effort washing the yarn to get the guar gum out, so be prepared to give it a couple of washes to get it all out.

The final yarn I made with the black stripes looked like this after washing and rinsing:

And the test swatch knit up like this, with my black stripes giving me about 3 stitches per stripe:

Monday, March 28, 2016

How To - Self Striping (Part Two)

As promised, a part two to my How To - Self Striping post.

In my first post, I showed you how to wrap a ridiculously long skein of yarn, and dye it in plastic food storage bags in the microwave. In this post, I will show you an alternate to the gigantic skein of yarn, as well as show you one alternate way to dye the yarn, and talk about a second alternate way that I have used but not photographed yet.

How to get self striping without a 60+ foot skein of yarn
All of the credit for this one goes to shilo on Ravelry. When she showed me this, I was intrigued, and now I am obsessed!  For the record, I know there are other ways (warping boards, for example) but since I have not worked with them yet, I don't really want to comment on them. I might touch on them later on, but for now, we are going to focus on this absolutely brilliant idea.

Ready? It's crazy but it works.... Knit your skein of yarn into an i-cord first! Based on my calculations, one foot of i-cord was equal to about 17 feet of yarn! This measurement will probably vary based on the yarn you use, so you may want to test it out yourself before you do your math to determine the size of your stripes. But regardless of the exact calculations, it means you can get nice super wide stripes by dying smaller sections of the i-cord.
100g of Bare Opal Sock Yarn, in an i-cord, with ties every 2 feet

Now, before you say "Are you nuts, lady? I am not knitting a giant i-cord just to pull it apart later!!!", there is a handy dandy little helper that you can get for this.  If you go online, or to one one your local craft stores, you can find an Embellish Knit Machine.
Embellish Knit machine - be sure to read the instructions!

This thing is awesome. Using a little crank on the side, you can crank out an i-cord in much less time than it would take to knit or crochet one. And if you really want to do it really fast, with the addition of a cordless drill, you can zoom through it....just check out this video to see how!

So I learned a very important lesson when I was first using my little i-cord maker. As you knit a few feet/yards of the i-cord, wrap it in a ball, secure with a nice wide elastic (or scrunchie) and then move on to the next few feet/yards.  Don't let the stuff hit the floor, and make sure you keep wrapping as you go. If you don't, you are going to wind up with a gigantic twisted i-cord that takes longer to untwist than it did to make.

For my first attempt at i-cord dyeing, I put ties every two feet, which would give me stripes that were about 34 feet long. One of the benefits of tying off sections of the i-cord is that you can weave the yarn through the stitches, so your ties don't slip! The stripes were nice and wide, and I loved them! Because the yarn was knit before it was dyed, I got a sort of a heathered look where the stitches acted as resists, which I thought gave the yarn some great character. Here is a look at the final yarn, and at the socks it made.
i-corda been a contender
My nice, wide stripes!
I plan on repeating this quite often, and will try it with varying widths of the stripes. My next ones will be three feet long sections of the i-cord (mostly to see if I can get the whole heel done in one colour), and then I am going to try alternating some wider and thinner stripes. The possibilities are endless, and all you really need is the patience to make the i-cord and then to tie off the sections.

The added bonus of dyeing in an i-cord? As long as you have marked which end was the end of the icord, you can wind it (or even knit it) right from the i-cord. It unravels quite nicely. You may get the odd section where some of the fibre has shed a bit and wrapped around itself, and may have to carefully be pulled apart. Just be patient and try to avoid scissors.

Alternate Dyeing Technique - Mason Jars
I promised you alternate ideas to dyeing the yarn in the plastic food storage bags, and it just so happens I used one of those ideas in the i-cord yarn shown above. I have this amazing pot from Rachael Ray that is meant for pasta, but also just happens to hold 6 mason jars quite nicely. In case you missed it in the post about my dyeing equipment, here is a shot of it
Rachael Ray Oval Pasta Pot
This is my go-to pot for pasta and for self striping yarn.  You may have already guessed by the picture above, but just for the sake of complete details, we are going to use the mason jars instead of the plastic bags, and these will be heated on the stove.

First, soak your i-cord. When I first did this, I added the citric acid to the water, but I have since changed that method, and I now add the citric acid to the jars later in the process. Mostly because I know that some of my dyes have the dreaded Red #3 in them, and also because I was told that adding the acid later will help get a more even colour on the yarn. The dye wont strike so fast.
Crappy shot of my i-cord soaking, but you get the idea
Next, set up your jars in the pot. I have been going back and forth between adding the dyestock first or adding the yarn first. I tend to add the dyestock to the jars first, filling them about 2/3 of the way up, and then adding water to the pot. I then add the yarn and any extra water required to bring the dye stock up high enough in the jars.

The plus side of this is that you are not trying to pour the dye stock in over top of the yarn, you are adding the wet yarn to the dye stock, and it seems like the yarn takes up the dye a little better that way. The down side is that I find the colour can wick faster between the sections, but more on that in a moment.  Whichever way you do it, add about 1/8th of a tsp of non-iodized salt to the dye stock, making sure it is dissolved. The salt should slow down the absorption of the dye and give a more even colour. You can dissolve it in just a little bit of hot water before you add it.

Starting with one end of your i-cord, add the yarn to the first jar until you see the tie. Leave a little bit of the yarn, and the tie, hanging over the side of the jar, and start putting the next section in the next jar. Repeat the process until all of your yarn is in the jars.

Next you want to take the sections hanging between the jars and dip them into the colours on each side. I tend to do the lightest colour first, then the darkest.  Try to leave a little space between the jars and let the sections with the tied hang down between them.  You will get some higher shades in between the stripes, but I have found when I knit with them, they worked to my advantage because the stripes sort of faded into each other, rather than having an abrupt transition.

As you can see in the picture below, I kept them up at the top of the jars, and you can also see where the colour really wicked into the other jar. Particularly the orange wicking into the yellow. It was supposed to be a bright sunny yellow, but came out a bit darker than I intended. If I had left a bit more room and let the yarn dangle, the excess dye would have dropped into the water on the outside of the jars instead.
My i-cord split into 6 different colours.
Pay attention to what colours you put beside each other, because they will wick into each other, and you wan the combination to be pleasant 

If you put the yarn in the jars first, and then add the dye stock, there seems to be less time for the colour to wick, but you run the risk of the dye striking first at the top of the yarn, and that yarn further down in the jar not getting as much colour.   This really is one of those places where you will need to experiment for yourself and see what you get.

Once you have brought your dye stock up to temperature (170F -180F ) , you can add your acid. I use the citric acid and water solution (1 tablespoon of citric acid to one cup of water), and add 1/2 a tablespoon to each colour. Hold them at the target temperature for 5 minutes and repeat.  I like to add it slowly like this to all colours in the event that any of them have Red #3 in it that I am not aware of. Too much acid to Red #3 and you can get colour that won't bond.

I try to let these simmer at the target temperature until the dye baths have run clear. I do find that for any that contain blue, I may need to add more acid, up to a tablespoon more, to help the process. And I frequently get to a point where I feel like the dye bath is "clear enough".

Turn off the heat and let them cool. This is one of those cases where I do try to have the patience to let them cool as much as possible. It helps set any dye that may still be in the water, and this stuff is really freaking hot, so it needs time to cool. Gently wash and rinse as you do with any other yarn, and you will wind up with what looks like a very pretty pile of multicoloured spaghetti.

A note when rinsing your yarn
I mentioned this in the first self striping yarn post, but it bears repeating.  When you are washing/rinsing your colours, start with the lightest colour first, and work your way through the colours. I like to put the cooled pot beside the sink and start with the yellow, pulling it right out of the jar. As the colour is washed, I pull it back out and put it on a plate, careful to keep the colours separate. This will ensure that if there is any residual dye left over, it wont transfer onto the other colour.

Dry your yarn in whatever way you usually dry it. For me, that is the shoe rack in the dryer, but for you it could be hanging it up to dry. Which could be fun with this giant cord...
The i-cord after being washed and dried
Alternate Dyeing Technique - Hand Painting/Dip Dyeing
I have done this with some skeins that I have made where I needed both speckled yarn and solid stripes. I prepared my dye stock, making sure the solid colours were in large amounts of water and in larger dishes, then dipped the larger sections directly into the dye stock, wringing them out, before placing the smaller sections on my cooling rack and hand painting them.  (This is a time when gloves come in handy....otherwise you are going to dye your me, I know).

In the examples below, I have thickened some of the dye using guar gum so I could get more solid breaks between the colours. I will try to make the post on guar gum be my next post. But this will work without thickening the dyestock if you are making solid stripes. The only reason I did it with guar gum for these was because of the speckled sections. They have a lot of white, and I didn't want the other colours bleeding into that white.

Here are two examples where I have used this technique:
The yellow, blue and purple had the edges hand painted with thickened dye, and then were dipped, while the speckled section was hand painted
The blue and purple were thickened and hand hand painted before the pink and green sections were dip dyed. The speckled sections were hand painted.
I know that shilo has done her stripes by laying out the sections of the i-cord beside each other and hand painting them, so if you don't have a large pot with mason jars, or if you just prefer hand painting, you can definitely hand paint your stripes!

There you have it!
One alternate way to wrap your skein, and two alternate ways to apply the dye.  I hope this post and the Part One post inspire you to make some self striping yarn. Chances are you will groan about or outright curse the process while you are doing it, and may even vow to never do it again, but the first time you knit something up with the self striping yarn,  you will be in love, and will be planning out your next skein.