Experiments in yarn dyeing

Over the weekend, I decided to have some not-quite-knitting, but very colorful fun.

First up were my yarn dyeing experiments. I got a skein of Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool and two skeins of Patons Classic Wool at the store, split the Fishermen’s Wool into two hanks, and prepared to dye.

My main goal was to get a nice semi-solid purple to make a bag using the Endpaper Mitts design, paired with black. I wanted some blue undertones, so I decided to try a couple different methods of dyeing to see what I could get.

Blue and Purple Yarn

If I was going for pastel blue and purple, this would’ve been perfect!

For my first experiment, a skein of Classic Wool, I tried putting purple dye (I always use food coloring, in this case it was a mix of Wiltons gel dyes and concentrated liquid dyes) in the entire pot, putting some blue in one side of the pot and quickly dumping my yarn in. I’d pre-soaked the yarn in warm water and vinegar, and brought the water in the pot up to a gently boil before adding the dye, in order to get the yarn to soak up as much dye as possible as soon as it was put in.

It sort of worked, in that I could see the difference in where the blue dye was, but it turned out to be purple in some spots, and baby blue in others. Not exactly what I was going for.

I ended up *taking out the yarn, adding a bunch of purple dye to the pot, putting the yarn back in, letting it soak up the dye,* repeat between ** ad infinitum.

I was going for a semisolid bright purple, with lighter and darker shades throughout. I had Wiltons violet gel dye and liquid neon purple dye, and alternated between the two. I ended up taking the yarn out after maybe 5 rounds of just-purple dye, and let it cool. After it cooled a bit, I decided it was too slate-colored, and gave it a few more dunks. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about it while it was drying, but after it dried and I twisted it into a hank, I decided it was *perfect* for the bag I want to make. 🙂

purple hank

You can see some of the tonality here, it should make a pretty bag.

My second hank was the other Classic Wool skein. I wanted to try making a blue and purple hank with the color placed so that I could make one of the deliberate pooling scarves on Ravelry. I planned to dye the middle purple, the ends blue, and the in-between a blue-purple.

Dyeing in increments

It all started so well…

purple and blue oops

…until it went oops.

It started off well enough. I folded my skein in half and dipped the center into the purple dye, keeping the water hot but not so hot that I got burned. I figured I’d pull it out, then dip in the blue ends. I realized, though, that it would be difficult to dip the in-between parts, so I dipped more into the purple, thinking I’d dip the ends into blue up into part of the purple, turning it blue-purple.

All was going well, until I dropped half the yarn I was holding. I ended up dunking the entire hank in the blue dye, then in purple to try to even it out. It turned out okay, if a little pastel (but I ran out of blue so couldn’t really change that). I’m still not sure exactly where I stand on it.

bluepurple hank

I don’t know, what do you think?

I decided to try the whole half-and-half pot again for my third skein, which was half the Fisherman’s Wool.

bluegreen hank

You can see some of the tonal right in the pot.

I filled the pot with blue dye, then put green in half, gave the pot a small stir, and dropped in the yarn. This one didn’t work as well as the first attempt; the entire skein turned a blue-green color. I did like the color, though, so I decided to try making it tonal a different way.

Using my tongs, I separated out parts of the yarn and put a single drop of blue or green food coloring into the little “hole” I’d made. The dye soaked right into that section of the yarn, giving it a pretty nice tonality with small areas of slightly darker blue or green. I was pleasantly surprised with the overall result.

bluegreen hank

I like it!

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my fourth skein, as I’d run out of blue dye, and didn’t want another purple. I thought about trying for a dark green yarn, but the last time I tried that I ended up with bright fluorescent neon green.

red and yellow yarn

I used the tongs to keep the yellow out of the dye.

Thinking about turning my dye jobs in for HPKCHC classes, I decided to show some House pride and do a Gryffindor skein. I put about 20 drops of yellow and one drop of red food coloring into the pot, and dipped a little bit of the skein in. The one drop of red was enough to give me a nice, non-Big-Bird yellow.

For the rest of the hank, I put just red dye in the pot, and dipped the bare yarn in. It turned pink. I added more red, it soaked it up, but still wasn’t the red I was going for. I tried adding a tiny bit of black to the red dye in the pot, and the yarn soaked up the red, but left the black in the pot! I just kept adding red dye as it got soaked up.

The yarn ended up more fire-engine-red than scarlet, but it’s not too bad. I may try looking for a dark red food dye and re-dyeing it, but I think I may be okay with it. I’ll have to see how it knits up.

gryff yarn

Gryffindor pride!


Frustration yields creativity

How difficult is it to find one simple little knitting tool?

Apparently, if that tool is a yarn stranding guide, the answer is nearly impossible.

I’m currently knitting a pair of Endpaper Mitts, and have to switch colors every 1 to 3 stitches. Normally, when I’m knitting colorwork, I’ll just drop one color, pick up the next and knit, drop that one, pick up the next and knit, etc. When you’ve got 4 or 5 stitches before you pick up the other color again, that’s not so bad. However, picking up a new yarn every other stitch gets tedious quickly.

I know one method of stranded knitting is to hold one color in your left hand and knit it continental style, and hold the other color in your right hand and knit it English style. However, try as I might, I have a lot of difficulty knitting English style. I just can’t seem to get my tension to match that of my usual continental knitting, which is a problem when you’re using both styles in one object.

Having seen stranding guides in the store before, I figured purchasing one would be the perfect solution to my problem. I’d seen them in stores constantly, even laughed at why someone would need that (before I knew how annoying the drop-and-pick-up) can really be.

Do you think I could find one when I actually needed it? Of course not! I tried both big box craft stores and specialty yarn stores, and just could not find one. The only place I could find one was on KnitPicks.com, which didn’t help much considering I’m not planning on spending a full $50 at the moment to get free shipping, and the shipping alone on just the stranding guide would have been more than three times the price of the item.

Frustrated, I finally had the epiphany that I (hopefully) could make my own! I bought some 18 gauge aluminum craft wire at Michaels, with a coupon of course, and brought it home. I figured the aluminum wire would be best because it’s softer and easier to cut than copper, even at the thicker gauge, and it wouldn’t turn my finger green.

I bent the end of the wire around a size 8 (5.0 mm) dpn I just happened to have in my purse, of course, wrapped the rest of the wire around my finger a few times, cut the wire leaving some length on the end, and wrapped the loose end around the same dpn. Happily, I tried it out and it’s working perfectly! Hopefully this mini-tutorial can help someone else as frustrated as I was 🙂

Swallowtail Shawl, finally!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on a Swallowtail Shawl (click here for PDF of pattern) on and off for the past several months, using Knit Picks Shadow Tonal yarn in the Deep Waters colorway. It kept getting put aside in favor of more pressing projects, or out of boredom with the repeating lace.

Finally, I’ve had the drive to finish it, and last night I did!I have to admit, despite my trepidation after reading accounts from people on Ravelry, I didn’t find the nupps difficult at all, and they came out very pretty.

I’m extra excited about this project because it’s the first full lace I’ve done, and my first large-scale blocking.

It took me about an hour to get the pinning done right, but part of that was probably because I’d never pinned anything out to block before. Oh, and my room smelled like wet sheep all night, because I forgot to put any sort of wool wash in the water. Oops. That was definitely a lesson learned.

One thing I did learn was that, when pinning out lace, you can’t just stick the pins in straight up and down, because the lace will pull up and bend the pin forward. I figured out that if I stuck the pins into the mat at an angle, so that the pin was almost flat and was stuck through the mat for most of the pin length, it held much better. I used a 48″ x 96″ x 0.5″ portable foam fitness floor as my blocking mat.

Unfortunately, I forgot to measure it pre-blocking, but while blocking it’s about 53 inches by about 31 inches. I used up just under a full 50-gram skein of the Shadow Tonal.

Without further ado, here she is – my Swallowtail!

Before blocking:

During blocking:

After blocking!

Just in time mittens

I made this mittens just in time for the snow!

I recently finished a pair of mittens just in time for the snow, using the Celtic Moonrise pattern from Ravelry.


Instead of using the thumb in the pattern, I began a thumb gusset at row 15 of my second cable chart repeat, so that it ended at row 9 of my third chart repeat, putting the thumb opening at the same spot as in the pattern. I started the thumb gusset in the second chart repeat so that I’d have a longer mitten.

I wanted to have my cables continue and meet for an end, so I began decreasing on a row 1 of the chart repeat, using the following odd-numbered rows:

1) k1, ssk, sl2 to cable needle and hold in front, p2, k2 from cable needle, p4, sl2 to cable needle and hold in back, k2, k2 from cable needle, p4, sl2 to cable needle and hold in back, k2, p2 from cable needle, k2tog, k1

3) k1, ssk, sl2 to cable needle and hold in front, p2, k2 from cable needle, sl2 to cable needle and hold in back, k2, p2 from cable needle, sl2 to cable needle and hold in front, p2, k2 from cable needle, sl2 to cable needle and hold in back, k2, p2 from cable needle, k2tog, k1

5) k1, ssk, sl2 to cable needle and hold in front, p2, k2 from cable needle, p4, sl2 to cable needle and hold in back, k2, p2 from cable needle, k2tog, k1

7) k1, ssk, sl2 to cable needle and hold in front, p2, k2 from cable needle, sl2 to cable needle and hold in back, k2, p2 from cable needle, k2tog, k1

It’s the little fainting orange texting monster!

If you’ve seen the commercials for the AT&T Windows 7 phones that involve cute, colorful little monsters (each of those links to a different commercial), then you’ll recognize one of my latest projects: my Orange Texting Guy.

Descriptive name, isn’t it? After seeing this phone commercial, I knew I had to make one of these guys for my sisters for 3 reasons: 1) he’s adorable, 2) he texts, and 3) he’s bright orange.

Orange Texting Guy

Look! He’s reaching to text!

Luckily, I actually found a pattern on Ravelry (Ravelry link) that was almost perfect: The Monsties – Amigurumi Mini Monsters (blog link). All I did was add a couple of arms, and voila! A little orange texting guy!

For the arms, I made a 10-stitch crochet chain, joined it, crocheted a tube until it was as long as the guy was tall, then make the fingers. I crocheted in 3 stitches, then broke the yarn and joined and closed the top for one finger; for the second finger I made 3 sc in each of the stitches right next to the first finger, joined and did another round, then broke the yarn and closed off; for the third finger I did the same as for the first finger.

I used regular, feltable wool (Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Full o’ Sheep) with the intent of felting him. However, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the arms on right if I felted before stuffing, and I didn’t know if I could guess the right amount of stuffing if I stuffed first then felted.

What I did instead, and I think it worked pretty well, was take a wire pet brush like this one (never used on an animal, only yarn) and vigorously brushed out the yarn to make him fuzzy. On a side note, a little PSA: be very careful when vigorously brushing out yarn with a wire brush, especially when the hand holding the object has very dry skin, as this can result in several painful little cuts that burn when you put on lotion.

Season of the scarf (plus a tip!)

Now, I like a challenge. I like knitting lace, because it captures my attention. I enjoy cables, because I have to pay attention to what I’m doing.

So how is it then, that I’ve ended up doing almost nothing but scarves this year (all one week of it)?

striped scarf

I like how the grey and black look together, don't you?

First up was the beginning of my Boyfriend Scarf.

My boyfriend needs a nice warm scarf, and I had a Michaels gift card from Christmas, so we went and picked out some yarn.

We originally planned to get some Lion Brand Amazing to do a Noro Striped Scarf, but the store was out of stock. So, we ended up with some black and some grey Patons Classic Wool, and I started going at the scarf. Not the most exciting pattern in the world, about 40 stitches of k1p1 ribbing per row, but I planned to change color every other row, and it was for my boyfriend, so it wasn’t terrible.

I got about 7 or 8 inches in before getting wrapped up in my next project…

Evan's scarf

Okay, so a 3-foot-long toddler scarf isn't bad...

My Evan’s Scarf.

A family member’s toddler was in need of a scarf, so I offered to make one. After all, no one wants to see a little kid cold. And besides, little kids are so cute when they’re all bundled up!

Of course, it also gave me an excuse to go to the yarn store during their New Year/LYS anniversary sale and get a raffle ticket for door prizes (I won a small bottle of Eucalan!).

I picked up some Plymouth Encore and started another, smaller k1p1 scarf. As it was for a toddler, it only took a couple days to finish.

Which brings me to my current project: my Prism Chroma scarf.

Prism scarf

oooooh, look at all the pretty colors!

The day after I finished my Evan’s Scarf, I got my Knit Picks order in the mail, containing some of their new Chroma yarn (which I posted a review of yesterday). I had ordered the Chroma so that I could make Noro Striped Scarves for myself and my sisters.

So far, I’ve gotten through one full repeat of the rainbow. Luckily, the colors are changing often enough to keep me interested, despite the k1p1 knitting. And the yarn is soft and nice to work with.

hair elastic tip

Hair elastics are a scarf's best friend.

At least while I’ve been working on all these scarves, I’ve developed a good tip to avoid frustration: as your scarf gets longer, fold it up and secure it with a hair elastic.

This keeps the hanging length of the scarf short, preventing it from dragging on your lap/table and getting twisted, which is something that I know has personally frustrated me when working on scarves.

What’s nice about this tip is that it keeps the scarf compact, making it perfect for working on on the go, too!


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