November 21, 2011

back in action

After a full week of doing nothing, and I mean nothing because I was too tired to read or knit and too blah to lay and watch movies, so I really did nothing but sleep, I woke up this morning feeling almost normal. Normal enough to notice that one of the restaurants I passed on my way home from dropping off Miss Evelyn was decked out for Christmas. When I first saw it I thought "A little early isn't it?" Before realizing that, really, it wasn't. Because Thanksgiving is THURSDAY and then there is only one month until Christmas. Loosing a week has not been food for my plan to get everything ready on the early side this year. Somehow, I don't' think that is going to happen.

On the top of my to do list right now is Will's sweater. Briton's is totally done, Evie's needs some seaming and a button but is otherwise ready to go, so now I'm left with Will's, which is, I have to say, a whole lot of sweater. During the week before I went down with the crud, I spent a couple of days dying yarn for this project. Yes, Dying yarn. Will requested an Oregon Ducks Sweater and the dark green yarn I wanted for it was sold out until mid December. They did, however, have undyed yarn and acid dyes. And since I've been wanting to try out yarn dying, I figured I'd give it a go. It was exciting, let me tell you. I spent most of one day not letting anyone in the kitchen for fear they would spill the giant bowl of boiling hot green dye all over and at the same time wondering if a stainless steel bowl was really ok to use on the stove or if it was going to explode at some point (it didn't, phew)

I've come to the conclusion that dying wool is a little like canning, not a lot of physical work, but a whole lot of hovering over hot pots and pans. Although I'm not expert, having only done this once (well, three times since I had to do it in batches and did a test run on some of the yarn I spun - but it was all in one day) I'll give you the run down on what I did and how it turned out.

You'll need:

1 large heat proof container - after reading several tutorials that suggested various things, I went with a large stainless steel bowl, but next time I'll just buy a cheap pot
1 big spoon that you don't mind turning a deep shade of whatever color you use
Acid Dyes - I used Jaquard - a mixture of kelly and spruce green
White Vinegar
Undyed Wool - I went with KnitPicks Wool of the Andes because it's good and cheap. Can't beat it.
Measuring spoons or scale

Whatever tools you use for dying cannot be used in food prep, so keep that in mind and don't stir with your favorite spoon. Unless you have two and don't mine one being green forever that is.
The yarn needs to be tied in several spots so that it doesn't unravel. Knit picks helpfully does this for you but if you are going with another yarn, make sure it's secure. For the yarn I spun, I wound it onto my swift and tied it in three places so that I had one large loop of yarn. You don't want it too thickly wound (too many layers I mean) unless you want white patches, so a bigger loop is better.

Soak the yarn well in clear, cool water. I pressed mine under water in a full sink and gently squeezed out all the air. Be gentle, because you don't want to felt the wool before you begin (this will be a recurring phrase here)
In the large bowl, heat enough water to fill it two thirds of the way, maybe a bit less. Remember you'll be adding all that yarn so you don't want it too full (trust me, speckles of green on my stove from a too full bowl on round one!)

Once the water is simmering, add 1 tsp of dye for every 100 grams of wool you started with (dry wool, that is) and 3 Tbs of vinegar. Stir well and then add the wet wool to the mix.

Here you have some options. If you want a really solid color throughout the yarn, you have to stir the yarn pretty well. But not too much agitation because, again, you don't want to felt it. If you want it variegated, just let it sit there, submerged in the dye. I wanted something in between, we'll call it light variegation, so I stirred a little. Let the yarn cook away for about 30 minutes. Most instructions say that the water will become clear and with other types of dying projects I've done, this did happen, but I found that the darker color did not clear totally, it got much clearer, but not totally clear.

Let the mixture cool down for a while and then drain, rinsing with cool water (again, gently so you don't felt it!) until the water runs clear when you squeeze it out. I recommend wearing rubber gloves here, but it's up to you, you might want green hands.

Hang the yarn over a protected surface and allow it to dry until it no longer feels cool to the touch. I slung it around plastic hangers and suspended it on my shower curtain rod over a bowl, which worked well.

Once it's dry you can wide it up and knit away.

I'm about five inches into the sweater and am loving the lightly variegated color. So yay!

Have you ever dyed wool? How did it work for you? Are you getting ramped up for Christmas or are you one of those uber prepared folks who is already done (lucky you if you are!)