Friday, March 25, 2016

How To - Self Striping (Part One)

Greetings fellow dyers!

I am saying part one in the title of this one, because this post is going to show one of the methods that I use to wrap my skein, and one of the methods that I use to dye my yarn. In part two, I will go over one other way I create my skein, and talk about two other ways I dye my yarn.

In my last post, we went over the math involved with making self striping yarn. So we are going to start this How To off with the math already done. I need a 60 foot skein of yarn, and I am going to use 5 different colours, so I need to mark my sections in 12 foot lengths.

Now, before I get in to how I created the skein, please raise your right hand and repeat after me.  "I promise not to judge the random stuff I see scattered around Miss Reena's basement. I understand that she may have had to move things out of the way and cram them into whatever space was available in order to take pictures."

Okay, now that we have taken care of that part, on to the yarn! In this post, this will written more from the "how I did this" than the "how you should do this" style I used for the hand painted and speckled yarn posts.

Create the 60 foot skein
This one was fun, and was limited to 60 feet due to the size of my basement.  I measured the back of the chairs I was going to use (18 inches each, so 36 inches total) and then divided the remaining length of the skein (57 feet) in half, to determine how far apart to set my chairs (28.5 feet).

If you happen to have the types of kitchen chairs that have the posts that stick up higher than the back of the chair, you are kind of in luck, because you can use them. In theory, if you had those kind of chairs, you may even be able to double the length of the skein by wrapping it back and forth on one side, then wrapping it back and forth on the other. I have not tested this theory, since I don't have those types of chairs, so if you do have them and have tried it, please let me know how it works.

My chairs are flat on the top, so I just used tape on my chairs, but I have since switched to chairs with thinner backs, and have put some of those over-the-door hooks on them to let the yarn rest on. This also helps stop the yarn from sliding down the back if the chairs move and the skein gets too loose.

The first time I did this, I tried doing it upstairs, but had to do some funky angles due to my kitchen setup, so I was lucky enough to have a long stretch of basement to work with.  Below you will see the setup I used to get this skein of yarn. My fitbit tracked A LOT of steps that day. I also never noticed until looking at the pictures that I didn't turn the light on at one end. Oh well. You get the idea.
Looking from one end of my setup

And the view from the other end
I basically taped the yarn to the back of one chair, then wrapped it around the back, walked all the way down to the other chair, wrapped it around the back of the chair and then went all the way back to the first chair. Repeat until all of your yarn is gone.

Section off your skein
What I did not take pictures of was the ties on the yarn. When I tied off my skein, I made sure that the first tie was done with a unique colour (I picked grey), so that I knew it was the beginning of the measurements. I do this because, chances are, I am going to wind up with one section that is not quite 12 feet (I think my chairs move when I am wrapping) and I like to know where that section ends... since it is usually the last section, I know it ends at that particular tie.

I measure out the 12 feet increments and add figure-8 ties, but I try to make these ties relatively tight. I know that is usually a no-no for dyeing yarn, but if you make them too loose, they will move, and you definitely won't have your 12 foot sections.

Sock your skein
In episode 7 of The Dyer's Notebook, Laura uses a warping board to create her skein of self striping yarn, and when she is done, she makes a chain out of the yarn (see around the 25 minute mark). to make it easier to work with the giant skein.  I do this about half of the time. I say half because there are some times that I forget how to get the chain apart, and then wind up spending a lot of time untangling the yarn before I dye it... so when I forget the grief this seems to cause me, I chain it. Somehow, half way through the untangling, I seem to miraculously figure out how to unravel it without grief. I really need to pay attention and maybe practice this on dry yarn.

For this one, I chained it and soaked the chain in my Rubbermaid container.  Not my greatest shot, but you get the idea. For this one I added the one tablespoon of powdered citric acid to the soak water, but I don't always do that, depending on the dyeing method. More on that in the part two post.

Prepare the dyestock
I used my Americolor Electric set for this one. I used 5 drops of colour per glass, although the purple came out more in globs, so that one was more like 3 globs of purple.

Add the dyestock and heat set the yarn
I took the chain out of the soaking water, squeezed out as much as  I could, then untangled it. For this particular self striping, I used plastic food storage bags inside a large glass bowl. This is how I did my first self-striping yarn.  I arranged the 5 bags inside the bowl, then placed each section of the skein in a different bag, with the ties sort of hanging out in between the bags a little bit.

I then carefully poured the dye in the bags.  Once the dye was in, I took the pieces that are hanging out between the bags and carefully dipped it into one colour, and then into the other, then arranged it so the ties were between the two bags again.

After that I covered the whole bowl in plastic wrap. This picture below is after a couple of bursts in the microwave, but you get the idea.

Heat set the yarn
This was a bit fussier than I was used to.  I hadn't really taken into account that there was a lot more liquid in the bags than there is in my handpainted yarn, so this was a bit of trial and error to figure out how long it should be heated for.

I still used my standard 2 minute increments, checking on the yarn in between each set to make sure the plastic wrap was still covering it, and to see how the dyestock was doing. After the first two minutes, I realized I was not happy with concentration of the green or blue, so I mixed up 3 more drops of each in a little bit of water and added it to the dyestock.

I continued the 2 minute intervals until the water in all of the bags had turned clear. Blue always seems to be a challenge, as it takes the longest to set, so I may have had a slight tint left to that when I took it out.

Let the yarn cool
I then took the plastic wrap off the top and let the yarn cool.  After being heated for so long, the plastic bags are somewhat weak, so this is one of those rare times I think I actually did just walk away and let the yarn cool in the dyestock. That also gave the blue some time to soak up the last little bits of colour, and helped me avoid pouring the hot water from the dyestock over my hands (I have done that, and managed to splash some of it all over my stomach just yesterday when I was impatiently working with an immersion dyed skein).

Gently wash and rinse the yarn
I think at this point I was still using dish soap (I hadn't not bought the baby shampoo yet), so I added a couple of drops of mild Dawn dish soap to the water. I will say, I find rinsing the self striping to be a little more challenging, because you don't want to dump the whole thing in the sink at once. If there is any residual dye left, it can accidentally transfer to the other colours. I have at least three skeins that are proof of this. While it seems to happen more when I am trying to work with the yarn while it is still warm, it is something to keep in mind.

Starting with your lightest colour, I put that section in the water and washed it. I then pulled most of it out and put it on a plate beside the sink and moved on to the next colour. After it was washed, I still kept the sections apart on the plate until I rinsed them. Better safe than sorry, as sometimes there is still a bit of dyestock that may come out in the rinse.  When I rinsed, I did it in the opposite direction, rinsing the darkest one first and leaving it in the sink as I rinsed the remainder.

Dry the yarn
Time for my handy, dandy shoe rack. Remember, I use superwash yarn, so I can do this without destroying my yarn. If you do not use superwash yarn, I cannot take any responsibility for what happens to your yarn if you do this. If you don't want to use the dryer, drape over one or more plastic clothes hangers and hang somewhere to dry.

Wrap the yarn
Once the yarn was dry, I had to get out of this insanely long skein and into something workable. I put the yarn back over the chairs (moved closer together because the yarn shrinks when dyed and dried), and used my hand help ball winder to walk back and forth and wind the ball of yarn.  Because I find the yarn slips a bit when doing this, I did turn the chairs around, so that the seats were facing away from each other. This way, if the yarn slipped, it only went as far as the seat, and not all the way to the floor.

One thing I did consider was what order did I want my stripes going in. That helps determine what end to start the winding at. Because I work from a centre pull cake, whatever colour I started with when winding was the colour my socks would start with.

I have since started wrapping my self striping in a bit more of a unique way to let me take cooler pictures before wrapping it to use it.  You will see that in part two as well.

Knit the yarn!
The most fun part!  This yarn went on to become Christmas Socks for the daughter of one of my co-workers. Because it was self striping, I did the heel later, so as not to break up the striping pattern.   This picture was taken outside on an overcast day, and the pictures of the yarn were taken inside under a bright light, so they may not look like the same yarn, but they are.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will show you an alternate way to create your skein of yarn, and two alternate ways to dye your yarn.

Until then, happy self striping!


  1. nicely done. im new to working the heels separate, but need to try it.