Saturday, March 14, 2009

So much fun I could dye!

In a quest to cram in as much creativity as possible before my surgery, last weekend I headed west to Grand Rapids and my kindred spirit Ms. Gina, to learn how to dye yarn.

So, I thought I'd let you in on the fun!

The VERY first thing you do is make sure your yarn is in a skein. I was going to try a striping technique (I later didn't) and needed a longer skein, so I was doing it around chair backs.

Unfortunately, your yarn can sometimes tangle. Executive assistants are your friend.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

And don't be afraid to ask the help to leave.

Then off to GR where we set things up.

First, dress for the occasion. We were working in the garage. I put on a sweater inside out, just to make sure stray drips didn't do the worst amount of damage. (I also did an apron.)

First, put plastic bags (big ones) on your work surface (and don't do it over good linoleum or carpeting.

Then make layers of saran wrap -- two overlapping layers (one long piece, another long piece, overlapping in the center.) Press the seams to make them tight. This matters later.

Start with blank (naked) wool. I got mine through Knit Picks (over on my web sites list).

Find the center of the skein -- this help prevents tangles.

First, soak it in hot soapy water -- up to overnight, but shorter is fine. Just long enough to get fully saturated.

Rinse on the soap and put in a cool vinegar/water bath. (About 1/2 bottle vinegar to this pail).

While your yarn is soaking in the warm water, mix your dyes. We used Jacquard powder dyes...

... and VERY small amounts (you can always add more later if you want deeper color).

That would be 1/8 t. or less to start to one jug of cool water.

When done, pour your dye into smaller bottles with a squeeze nib. These came from Hobby Lobby. Restaurant ketchup containers would work except that you wouldn't be able to see the color, so these really are worth the small investment.

Put your yarn on the plastic wrap. You need separate layered plastic wrap for each skein.

Begin squiring dye on the yarn. I used turquoise, green, purple and a blue. I used these same colors for both batches. The first was more controlled; on the second and third I went sort of wild.

Make sure the yarn is fully dyed (unless you want the white coming through, which is also OK). If it's too dry and not 'taking' the dye, use a spray bottle to moisten it.

Use all your colors. In a harmonious palette like this one, you can layer the colors; be careful, though. With other palettes that may not work and you'll get brownish mud.

When your yarn is fully colored, carefully fold in the two ends of each saran wrap section, then the long pieces, making sure you press down to make a seal.

Then fold it up, long and skinny like a cinnamon roll.

Then smile, because you're two-thirds done!

Next, you nuke it for three minutes for one skein (recommended) or longer for more (less recommended, though we did it).

Let the plastic packets come to room temp. Open the yarn and discard plastic.

"Test" the colorfastness by dipping it in cold water with vinegar.

Squeeze moisture and bag till you can hang to dry.

We did this with two batches of three skeins each. Then I took home the wet yarn and hung it to dry in the basement. This took several days.

Then smile again, because now the super fun part begins -- making something cool with something you colored yourself!

So, what was the best part of this day? Was it the very fun wool dying and learning something new?

No, the best part was playing creatively with a kindred spirit and seeing all Gina's very cool stuff -- her fabulous glass making (gorgeous dichroic glass pendants, etc.), her other knit stuff, the wine glasses she made (well, she made the bottoms, which is the cool part), getting advice on finishing stuff, and just hanging out.

Super fun wool dying was the bonus!


Beth said...

Wow you really make some cool yarn. And it is so neat that you got to make it with another creative friend. I hope your shoulder is healing and that all is well with you. You have been in my thoughts!

Joanne Huffman said...

Very good instructions and lovely yarn. Have you mastered one armed knitting yet?


robin bird said...

cool jeanie! and when i first opened up the page i thought you were doing this just after surgery!! but of course not at all. i hope the pain is not too much? are you home or back to work? i bet you are back to work. darn that needing to have a job thing!

here is hoping this prepares you for gymnastics for 50 and up!!!

Linda said...

Hope you are doing okay. I thought this was done after surgery, too...glad to realize it was before. ha! Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

I hope you are doing well, Jeanie. I bet you are glad to have this surgery over with!!

What gorgeous yarn.... I can't wait to see what you make with it.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

jet1960 said...

Looks like you had a lot of fun! Like you said, a bonus that you have a usable product at the end that you can then make something else prety with. Your assistant is one handsome fellow!

paris parfait said...

Good for you for doing this yourself! I hope you're feeling better by now. xo

anno said...

This looks like so much fun! You're tempting me to consider teaching a knitting class next year, just to have an excuse for trying out/demonstrating a project like this....

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