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