Monday, October 2, 2017

Piggy Yarns is born!

Hi everyone

After 4 years of people asking me if I sell my yarns, and me always replying "Not right now, but maybe someday", that someday has arrived!

On October 1st, 2017, my 44th birthday, Piggy Yarns was born on Etsy!  My first shop update consists of 18 different colour ways. Some are one of a kind, while some of them have 2 or 3 skeins available. There are a total of 35 skeins in all available, and I am already working on more of them for the next update, currently planned for October 15th.

Some of my skeins are done with food safe dyes, while others are done with the commercial acid dyes.  I was doing a special project for someone and needed a really good black and a really good grey, so I decided to dabble a bit in the acid dyes. I bought some dedicated equipment for dyeing, and had at it.  I will be doing a post in a few days on my Adventures in Acid Dyeing.

I hope the shop is successful, and expect to be putting in a lot of time over the next few weeks/months getting it fine tuned. But for now, please stop by and have a look!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Liquid Easter Egg Dye Kits

A fellow Raveler asked a question in the What a Kool Way to Dye group about using liquid Easter Egg dye to make yarn. She had bought some kits at her local Dollar Store and didn't realize that a couple of them were the liquid dyes. So she posted the question in the group forum, and I accepted the challenge to see how well the liquid dyes would work on yarn.

I have dyed yarn in the past using the Easter Egg dye tablets. In fact, my first ever hand dyed yarn was done using an dye kit I bought at a Dollar Store, but my kit had tablets. I had not seen the liquid dyes, and was curious how they would work.  I tried our local Dollar Store, but the only one they had with liquid in it only had 3 colours and game with a "gold glaze." I did buy it, but have not tried to use it yet.  As a side note, I wont be able to make gold yarn because the glaze does not really contain any colours... it is mostly sparkly stuff, alcohol and wax by the look of it.

Off to WalMart I went in search of a kit that had the liquid dyes, and I found this one:
Roll on dye for Easter Eggs
This was the first time I have paid full price for an egg dyeing kit since the first time I used one, but I really wanted to try it out and see how it would work.  A tip for anyone who wants to try this and has a bit of patience. Places like WalMart and the grocery stores tend to put all of these kits on sale for at least half price the day after Easter. I have even found them at one of my local grocery stores for 50 cents after a couple of weeks. So if you have patience, you can score them pretty cheap. The Dollar Store, on the other hand, seems to just put them away and put them out again this year. And if they are anything like mine, they cover the $2 price tag printed on the box with a $2.50 price tag.

Now these kits contain a lot of stuff you don't need if you are dyeing yarn. I have given away lots of stickers and glitter and glue to friends with kids, and thrown out I don't know how many little metal holders, because I just don't need them.  Here are the contents of this kit - less to throw away, but not so sure that any of it could be used for other things.

Paint rollers, stands (I think) and 5 packages of dye
The only thing I really need out of this are those 5 packages of dye.  On the back of the box it talks about how you can get multiple colours, because you can mix the colours together, but these are not very big packages. They are a little bit bigger than ketchup packages you get with take out, but not much bigger.  And there is not a lot to mix. I think if you wanted to mix colours, you might need multiple packages.

So I gathered up everything I was going to need/use for this experiment

  • 1 roll it! kit
  • 1 skein of bare Opal sock yarn, 96g (due to a miscalculation when using my new yarn swift with counter)
  • 5  mason jars (500ml size)
  • 1 supersized rimmed baking sheet
  • 1 cooling rack that fits inside the rimmed baking sheet
  • Citric Acid powder
  • Medicinal syringes
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Microwave Safe place
  • Towel
  • Baby Shampoo and Moisturizing Conditioner 

First thing I did was soak my yarn. Because I am hand painting the yarn, I added one tablespoon of powdered citric acid to the warm water I soaked the yarn in. This is about equivalent to 1 cup of vinegar, if you want to use that instead. Adding the citric acid to the soaking water helps the dye strike faster.  Let the yarn soak for at least half an hour. I think this one soaked for about an hour and half, just because I got distracted with a few other things, including doing the dishes so I could rinse my yarn when I was done.

And then it was time to mix up the dye stock.  To make this a fair comparison to how I dye with food colouring, I used the same amount of water. Now, for the most part, the amount of water does not impact the strength of the dye. It is just the medium used to get the dye on to the yarn. However, with hand painting, I do find that you can impact the intensity of the colour by having more water in the dye stock. I think this has more to do with the fact that if you have more dye stock and are hand painting, there is a greater possibility that you are going to have dye stock left over, which means you didn't use all the dye, so the colour is lighter.

I started by just putting the dye in the mason jars, so I could see how much dye I had to work with.
The contents of the dye packets, added to the mason jars
It actually looks like close to the amount of food colouring I would be using when I used my standard 6-10 drops of Wilton Colour Right food colouring, although this is a bit more watery.  I then added 1.5 cups of water to each jar, and here was my dye stock.
Yellow and pink look a little light, but let's see how it goes
Some of the Easter Egg dye kits talk about adding vinegar to the individual colours. I personally find you don't need to worry about mixing it into the individual colours as per the instructions, because you will be adding acid to either your soaking water or dye bath, depending on the technique you are using.

I set up my cooling rack inside my rimmed baking sheet, and prepared to apply the colours.  This is a really great tip that I got from someone on Ravelry a while back and I rarely every hand paint yarn without using this method. The baking sheet catches the excess water, and it also prevents the dye from pooling under the skein, which can cause the colours to run together and result in a muddle mess. Plus, you can squeeze out the excess water as you go, which also helps to stop the colours from running together.  Colour travels really fast on wet yarn.
Ready to add the colour! I like to section in a squarish type shape
Now usually when working with colours like this, I tend to use more of the pink, because it is my favourite colour, but for this one, I didn't make as many pink stripes... sometimes I just get distracted when I am hand painting and any plans I have for placing specific colours in specific places just go right out the window.

As I was applying the colours, it seemed like the yellow and the pink were both very pale.  I knew the blue was going to be somewhat pastel, just based on the dye stock, and the pink and yellow did look a lot more pastel than what I am used to working with.  And sure enough, as I was applying it, they were both looking very light. The yellow was particularly light, and I wasn't even sure it was going to look yellow... it only looked about half a shade or so darker than the bare yarn.  I did find, however, that as I added more dye to the individual sections, those colours were getting brighter. So the more I layered them, the more intense they got.
The top of the skein, after I applied the colours
After I used a little more than half of most of the dye stocks, I flipped the skein over. I have done this enough times to know that the back of the skein would be a paler version of the top, and that some of the colours would have blended into each other and run a bit. But you still need to flip it over and add more dye to the bottom. Especially when using superwash yarn that has acid in the soaking water, because it strikes so fast.
After the skein was flipped over
You can see in the picture that there are a lot of spots where the colour barely made it through.  If I had wanted more defined sections, I could have thickened the dye with guar gum, but I really was just winging it with this skein.  As a side note, if you really want to have fun with colours, when you flip it you can apply different colours to the sections to get more blended colours. For example, if I had added yellow to the pink section, I could have gotten some yarn that was light orange. You do have to be careful doing that though, because if you add too dark of a colour, you could completely change the whole section of colour, not just this back piece.

I kept applying the dye to the various sections of yarn until it was all used up.  I normally have dye stock left over when I mix up this much, but I wanted this to be a really good test of the liquid dye, so I made sure to use it all. I did have to empty the extra water out of the baking tray twice during this process.
After the dye was all applied
I wrapped my skein in plastic wrap, put it on a microwave safe plate, and heat set it in 2 minute intervals. I usually zap it for two minutes, let it sit for about 10 seconds and then zap it again. Some people leave it longer in between, but we all know I don't call myself the Impatient Dyer for nothing. I heat set it for a total of 10 minutes (5 of the 2 minute sessions), and then I pulled it out, flipped it on to the cooling rack, and carefully removed the plastic wrap.  I have discovered that if I do this, it cools way faster.
After being heat set, before washing
Once it was cool enough to handle, I filled the sink with warm water and added some baby shampoo and some moisturizing conditioner. I have recently started adding the conditioner to make the yarn a bit softer. Not sure if it is working or not, but it smells and feels nice when rinsing.   Once it was washed and rinses (no dye came out at all in the washing or rinsing cycle), I wrapped it in a towel, wrung out as much water as I could, and then put the yarn on the shoe rack in my dryer.  1.5 hours later and I my yarn was done.

Here is the yarn right out of the dryer, before it was re-skeined
The skein laid out flat

One side of the twisted skein

And the other side of the twisted skein
And then here is where the real magic happens... I re-skeined it, and here are three shots of the final result.

So my answer to the question of "can you use the liquid Easter Egg dyes to dye yarn" is a very enthusiastic yes! I did find that the colours are a little more muted than I normally work with, but I am the queen of saturated colours.  Most people who have seen it so far love it, and have said the colours are very bright and vivid as it is. Even if they are not the neons I am used to.

I am very happy with how it turned out, and think it will make some very pretty socks. I almost think that having the smaller sections of pink make the pink stand out more, so I am looking forward to knitting this us in the near future. Although I have to finish one sock that is in progress, and dye up and knit for another pair of socks that is part of a KAL due by the end of the month. But hopefully I will have Easter socks knit in time for Easter.

So if you are in the stores after Easter and you see these kits on sale, grab a bunch of them! Or, if you just love how this looks and want to try it right now, $2.48 is really not a lot of money, so splurge on one or two kits at full price.   Although when these go on sale for half price, I might pick up two more  of them and double the dye in the dye stock to see how deep I can get the colours ;)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Three times the yarn does not always mean three times the dye stock

Ask me how I know...

It is not like I just increased 6 drops of yellow to 18 drops of yellow because I was doing three times the amount of yarn... and then watched as the yellow took over all 6 cakes of yarn... and watched as I poured some very yellow water down the drain... and watched as the remaining yellow still in the cake decided that it was going to leech into the pink and give me more of an orange lemonade than a pink lemonade colourway... (FYI - I am using the Wilton Color Right food colouring system for these yarns)

I thought I was approaching it logically, but some days you have to realize that logic and yarn dyeing don't always go hand in hand.  And I also forgot one other key thing about dyeing with food colouring. For some reason, it takes a LOT less yellow to get a good colour than it does with something like pink or blue.  And the kicker is, I know this... any time I mix up my dye stocks the yellow strikes the fastest, and is the one I usually have the most of left over after I finish hand painting in multi colour... 

I bought myself a new roasting pan with a rack in it the other day and was super excited to dye some yarn in it. I wanted to try to replicate some of my skillet dyed colour ways (Pink Lemonade, Chicken Bones and Mint Chocolate were on the menu).  I was super excited to see that the roasting pan had a rack in it, so the cakes won't sit on the bottom, and that it would hold 6 of my 50g skeins.

When I got home, I wound off 6 50g cakes of Opal Sock Yarn, then mixed up the yellow dye stock using the "three times as much yarn should take three times as much dye" mentality, put the dyestock in the roasting pan, put it on the stove, and added the yarn...

My new roasting pan with 6 cakes of yarn

...and watched as the yellow seeped through the entire cakes and pretty much dyed the whole thing yellow.  I still flipped it over and dyed the other half pink, and came out with something that somewhat resembled my Pink Lemonade colourway, but not quite.

Sort of gives you an idea...better pictures to come, hopefully...

I repeated this process with the two other colourways (Mint Chocolate was green and brown, Chicken Bones was pink and brown), and realized that in the world of food colouring dyes, you can't always predict what you are going to get.

For my Mint Chocolate, using just 8 drops of brown and 2 drops of black gave me more than enough brown to get the colourway I was going for.

Pretty minty and pretty chocolatey as well
But for my Chicken Bones colourway, I dyed the brown twice (8 drops of brown, 2 black the first time, and 8 drops of brown the second time), and still did not get as dark of a brown as I wanted.
Chicken Bones, but more caramel filling than chocolate
I would have liked the browns to have been a bit darker in Chicken Bones, but I was not about to do the dye bath on the brown for the 3rd time.

So the yellow in Pink Lemonade might have worked just as well with just 6 or maybe 10 drops of yellow, while the brown in Chicken Bones might have done better if I had gone with 18 drops of brown, although 16 total drops of brown plus 2 black still did not make it as dark as I wanted.

Frustrating? A little bit... because I would like to have a magical formula that would just let me say "I used XX for one skein, so I can just double for two skeins, or triple for three." But it doesn't always work that way.  You really do have to get used to your dyes, and how they react.  Learn that colours with yellow take less, while colours with red or blue may take more.  And be prepared to overdye things if needed to get the saturation you are looking for.

I share this not to discourage anyone, but because I think it is important to share information like this. Does it mean if you have a magic number that works, you can't just double or triple it? Nope! Not at all. You might use the exact same dye in the exact same ratio and have it work just perfect for you.  I share this because I want any of my readers who embark in the world of dyeing to know that sometimes you just have to go with what the yarn/dye gives you :)  And even if you don't get exactly what you were looking for, you, or someone you know, may just love the final result.

Oh, and to share one more tip with you. Don't buy the same roasting pan I did. I got mine at Canadian Tire and it has non-stick coating. Back away from roasting pans with non-stick coating. After only three colour ways, the coating is peeling off the bottom of the pan and off the rack.  I think it is a combination of the amount of acid being used over the course of using the pan, and maybe having the roasting pan sitting on the burner of the stove. Although it is a roasting pan... you make gravy in a roasting pan on the stove so you would think it would work on a burner, but, again, here I am trying to use logic. Silly Reena...

I just bought some of that high temperature BBQ spray paint today, and am going to try to coat both the rack and the pan with that, to see if it will make them last longer.  I also just ordered two stainless steel pans, and am waiting for Paderno to do another blow out sale (or open their factory store) so I can buy some really good quality ones.  It was worth it to be able to test it out, and to be able to dye 18 cakes of yarn in a much shorter period of time. But in the long run, it was a bit of a waste of money.  At least if you are reading this and considering it, I might be able to save you some money when I tell you not to buy the pan. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hello to my fellow OSAATers

Since Nathan was so sweet in talking about me in his most recent podcast, and in linking to my blog, I wanted to post a special hello and welcome to anyone who finds my blog thanks to his podcast.

For those of you who are not quite sure what I am talking about, a few months ago I discovered the delightful world of sockmatician on YouTube while looking for some hints on brioche knitting. He had a tutorial video that I watched, and I loved his accent and his style of speaking.  In looking at his channel, I discovered that he was a podcaster, so I started watching. I quite quickly became enamoured with him, and watched all of his podcasts, his reviews, and some of his tutorials.  I was actually quite sad when I finally caught up, because now I have to wait for the new episodes to come out. Or I have to rematch the old ones, which I may actually do.

I have enjoyed him so much (hmmm...that sounds filthier than I had intended, but I am going to leave it) that I have added an "All Things sockmatician!" gadget to my blog layout. It is over there, under the Helpful /Favourite Links ----->

If you have not yet discovered him, I urge you to take a few minutes and check out one of his podcasts. I recently dyed some yarn for him, and he talks about me in his most recent episode (he also uses my yarn as the screen shot for the episode... I may have geeked out a bit at that), so of course I would recommend starting with that one, out of pure vanity, but you could just jump in and start at Episode 1.

Here is a picture of the yarns that I dyed especially for him and sent across the pond. I was delighted to see how happy he was with them.  I could not decide if I wanted to do a self-striping, a speckled, or a variegated yarn for him, so I did all three.

Labour of Love, Cake Sprinkles, and Rainbow Bright
I have had people say very nice things about these skeins, and have received some very nice compliments, as well as a few questions of "where can I buy your yarn" since the episode went live.  I am not yet at the point where I am ready to open any kind of Etsy store, but as some of my existing readers may remember, I had been pondering this for a while now.  I had hoped to build up enough stock to possible open a store in the first month or two of the year, but have unfortunately been dealing with some health issues that have slowed me down a bit.

That being said, if anyone absolutely MUST have some of my yarn, you can always message me on Ravelry (I am MissReena) and we can see if we can work something out. I make no promises, as my health is currently making more of my decisions for me than I would like, but it never hurts to ask :)

And now I sign off by quoted my favourite bearded knitter... "Just remember, life is a work in progress. Just take it one stitch at a time"