Natural Dyeing – A New Adventure

When I knew that I was going to have “in between time” from my last interim job to whatever is in my future, I decided to take a natural dyeing class in my area – this one was with Brook Sinnes and Kira K. Brook is the owner and chief dyer for Sincere Sheep, and Kira Dulaney is a local knitting teacher and designer.

I knew both of them going into the class, so I knew it would be top-notch. Brook taught me to spin on a spindle, and I’ve got on a yarn hop in the East Bay with Kira. Initially, there were two days of dyeing – I signed up for the “cool colors” one, but as you’ll see, there are plenty of warm tones in what we ended up with.

Natural dyeing refers to using plant or animal materials for dyestuff, as opposed to synthetic dyes, which were created beginning in the 19th century.

For our class, we dyed onto Brook’s own Cormo yarn – which she has created for her own company. The sheep are raised in Wyoming, then it is spun (oops, I forget), and then comes to her house/dyeing studio in Napa, CA. She had already mordanted the yarn we used (the mordant makes the dye stick to the fiber and not wash out).

Her operation is done out of her backyard patio, given that it is California and the weather will mostly work.

We had different yarns prepared so we could see the effects of overdyeing – which is one of the ways to get a variety of colors with just a few dyes. Our yarns were dyed with saxon blue (a pretty caribbean blue), and two different intensities of indigo (blue jeans).

Brooke had us dye with Weld (yellow), Madder (an orange red), Marigolds (golden yellow) and Logwood (purple), and except for the marigolds:

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we used purchased extracts that were weighed and measured into the pots (weld below):

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By the time we finished, we had 14 mini-skeins in a variety of shades, with a color chart to match. To finish the yarn, I hung it up to dry at my cousin’s house,

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and today I am rinsing the yarn again to get out any remaining dye, and drying on my balcony (it’s only a bit of sun, so I think I’ll be fine).

 

I would recommend this class as Brooke is really good at demystifying how the dye process works for natural dyes, and helps you figure out if you’d like to try it at home. I think I will try my hand at some yarn and fiber dyeing.

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Tour de Fleece – a Spin Update

All in all, it’s been a good thing to participate in Tour de Fleece. I started with a couple of goals – to spin daily, and to work through the Fiber Optics gradient fiber in my stash as far as it seemed workable.

I really only took 1 day off after having spun the singles to let them rest, and then this past weekend I decided not to bring my spinning (which by then was plying) on my weekend away.

If I had brought my spinning, I would have finished plying all the fiber by the time that Tour de France. But I didn’t finish plying and so achieved my goal of “workable” too! Last night, well after all those cyclers had passed through the Arch deTRiumph in Paris, my plying was done, and today I took some photos:




The wee bit of dark yarn was my “swatching.” This little bit:

is a three ply that I spun out of the leftovers just for fun!

As you spinners can tell, no, I haven’t finished the yarn yet – I am headed out of town on Tuesday, so I’ll get to this when I return! Yum!

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Spindle Spinning with Interchangeable Shafts

PDXKnitterati (aka Michele) asked in the comments how I ply my yarn on my spindles. She does chain-plying, which is a great method to get a 3-ply yarn without any equipment. BTW, check out her website, she is teaching some fabulous classes at Vogue Knitting Live in Columbus, OH in November. I got to take some of her classes at a knitting guild retreat, and she is lovely and skilled, and a great listener too! But, back to her great question.

Now, I do have a “bouquet” of spindles that I have acquired over the years, from fine lace weight versions to larger wagon wheel ones:

But the ones I use the most are my KCL Woods interchangeable spindles. Ken Ledbetter creates beautiful spindles where you can screw on and off the shafts at your pleasure. I have three spindle tops and 7 shafts at the moment. I just ordered more shafts separately because you can do that now!

Why is this an advantage? Well, using these kinds of spindles means that you never have to wind off your single’s cop to another place before spinning more. You can keep going and spin all the the fiber at once! A lot of time is saved.

In this case, I used two different spindle shafts that are very close in weight, so there was no big difference in how they spun on the same spindle top. That was lucky!

I tried some makeshift lazy kate versions for the spindle shafts that did not work:

Looks are deceiving, this was a mess!

The best thing to speed every thing up was what I bought from Ken a few years ago: the portable spindle lazy kate. As you can see, it can hold as many as six spindle shafts. I’ve only done three at a time when I spun some fine sock yarn as a 3-ply. Here’s the 2-ply that I am current spinning, which is more typical for me.

Please note that the spindle I am plying on is a very very basic Schact spindle that I got when I took my very first spindle class with Brooke Sines long ago at a knitting store now closed. Definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it!

This is a way better set-up than trying to use shoe-boxes and other homemade devices. The yarn guide unscrews and the whole thing fits into a shoebox for easy packing and transport.

I don’t see any of these lazy kates listed on Ken’s website, so if you’re interested I’d email him to see if he’d do a custom order.

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Tour de Fleece – Day 17

It’s Day 17 of Tour de Fleece, and it’s time to update on s my progress. The fiber is Fiber Optic Yarns  merino and silk blend in the Smoke on the Water gradient colorway. I’m spinning with a KCL Woods interchangeable spindle.


I’ve spent every day of the Tour de Fleece spinning a bit until yesterday. Here are some photos of the progress.


All the singles were spun by Saturday, so I decided to take a rest day yesterday, for me and the singles.

Now onto the plying – and I hope to go slow and do it well!

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Swatching and Finishing – Part 3

Part 3 – in which I apply well-known methods to a new project

Given the history of letting things go to chance as evidenced by Parts 1 and 2, I decided for my current project to plan things out better. My idea was to make another top like this one, which is a summertime staple.It’s sleeveless with shirttail hems, a simple reverse stockinette ribbing, and a bit of beading on the neckline. It’s my own design:

I’m using a similar linen yarn to the original – Reed by Shibui. It’s a chainette of finer linen, and it’s one of the easiest to knit linens that I’ve tried.

I knit a gauge swatch, and even washed it!

It’s a slightly looser gauge, but it looks good and feels nice and drapes.

So, far, so good – I’ve begun the front, and hopefully my attention to swatching and washing the swatch will pay off!

Lesson: try the full swatching method, and see how it goes!

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Tour de Fleece

It’s been a while since I spun, so this year I decided to join Tour de Fleece to get my spinning mojo back.

Midweek I took a spin with spin with some undyed fiber (alpaca, and it was a little hilarious as my hands tried to remember how to draft the fiber, and then get the proper spin. There was a fair amount of park and draft while things got fixed. The result was (remarkably) ok:

Then I had to figure out what out of my stash to spin. I had been holding onto a lovely Fiber Options Yarn gradient in the Smoke on the Water color way in a delicious 80/20 merino/silk blend. Brandy seems to have approved!

Last night I did the swatching and oh my, this is going to be fun! I’m shooting for a 2-ply laceweight/light fingering weight yarn, the sample is a little thicker than I’m planning on.

With my coffee in my Jennie the Potter sheep mug, I’m all set!

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Swatching and Finishing – Part 2

Knitting without Swatching: A Somewhat Sorry Tale

In this example I show what can go wrong with knitting a sweater without a gauge swatch. I had a bunch of free-to-me Tahki Cotton Classic that had been marinating in the stash for at least a decade, so I decided I wanted to knit a cardigan.

I knit a CeCe sweater by Bonne Marie Burns a number of years ago and it’s an easy loose-fitting sweater with a V-neck and a simple lace pattern.

So I started – and as advertised, I skipped the gauge swatch. Even though the yarn recommended and the yarn I used are completely different.

It’s a bottom-up sweater knit in pieces until the yoke. I knit the body – and had to re-knit a few rows because I wasn’t paying attention. I knit the short sleeves and that went well. Then came the time to put the sleeves and the body together.

This next error had nothing to do with gauge and everything to do with not ready the pattern. The body required a lace pattern for the 1st front, stockinette at the side seam, more lace pattern for the back, stockinette at the other side, and then lace for the second front. Unfortunately, I had knit the sweater in a solid lace pattern, which with the size I was knitting coincidentally worked with the stitch count I had.

I ripped back the body to the ribbing and re-knit according to the directions – with a 15″ inch body length. The joining of the sweater working pretty well, and although it was a bit long  before I finished the ribbing at the back.

Then I soaked the sweater in “wool wash” and blocked it without stretching out. When I put it on after drying, the sweater sagged to a long length – and I realized that not swatching had bitten me badly. When on, the body grew to about 18 inches. Yikes~

I ended up cutting off about 4 inches – and then wrangling the live stitches back onto the needle, and re-knit the ribbing from the top/down.

In the end, the sweater is “ok.” It’s a loose-fitting sweater good as a layer piece, but the armholes are pretty big, but I don’t have the heart to re-knit that half of the sweater!

Lesson: It’s always a good idea to swatch (and block the swatch) for a garment!

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Swatching and Finishing – Part 1

I’m doing a very short blog series on how swatching and finishing affect the accessories and clothing that I knit.  It come out of my experience recently in getting stalled on completing a couple of projects, and how I am now working through a new one.

Part 1: The Mystery Knit-along

Long-time readers may know that I have been challenged in doing mystery knit-alongs where I am satisfied with the end result.  In part, it’s because I really am largely a product knitter – knitting for an outcome, and since I don’t know what I am knitting, often I am not all that happy with what is made – which is nothing to do with the designer’s capability, just my personal taste.

Shortly after the race issues got raised in the knitting world, I realized that I had been living in a lily-white bubble as to who I was following on Instagram and my blog-reader, so I upped my game and found some great new-to-me voices, such as @lolabeanyarnco and @untangling.knots, and I’ve really enjoyed @drunkknitter, both her posts and her YouTube channel.

I decided to join Saffiyah’s (aka Drunkknitter) mystery knit-along which was designed in the throes of the final episodes of Game of Thrones, which I haven’t watched since season 1. The plus was that I could knit from stash, so this was all about supporting a designer.  I did knit a swatch (lost to history but didn’t wash and block it,) and then knit-along:

There were some pattern reading adventures along the way (a couple of errata, but mostly me not paying attention), and it looked like this as I got almost to the end:

The thing was, it seemed really small – and I’m not a large person. I finished the knitting, but was feeling discouraged by other knitting too (see the upcoming Part 2), so I just stuffed it away, somehow hoping all would be get fixed by ignoring it.

Finally, I realized how many kinds of stupid that was, so I put it in a bowl with wool wash, blocked it pretty aggressively, and voila!

 

All the worries about size are gone. And it looks enough for me to wear or give as a gift!

Lesson: sometimes it all does come out in the blocking!

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