Dyeing II: Fun with acid dyes

Last month, I went to a knitting retreat. The knitting retreat, really, as I haven’t gone to any others and I attend this one faithfully. I took exactly one photo of me knitting and several photos of nature. Crosslake was probably at the peak of its fall color and I would’ve been out in nature a lot more except for the sleet/snow mix we had for much of the weekend.

This year, I participated in the dyeing class. It was taught by the owner of Lavender Lune Yarn Company, who lives sort of nearby. The cost of the class covered one skein of undyed yarn—your choice from a variety of different weights offered—and you could buy more if you wanted to. Not knowing if I’d enjoy yarn dyeing, I went with one skein: a standard hank of fingering weight yarn (465 yards (425 m), 75% merino and 25% nylon). If nothing else, I have umpteen potential patterns to use that with!

Tempting though it might sound, one does not just hurl plain yarn into a pot of dye and hope for the best. We started by soaking our skeins in water and citric acid. The acid sets the dye, which is why these dyes are called acid dyes. After it had a good chance to get thoroughly soaked, remove the yarn and put it in a pot with plain water to cover.

It’s hard to see in these photos, but the pot is on a burner. We heated the water to a simmer, and then started adding dye.

I hadn’t really given much thought ahead of time to what I wanted my dyed skein to look like. As the teacher talked and I looked over the jars of powdered dyes, I decided to go with a light indigo or lavender. I learned that because my yarn was a mixture of wool and nylon, it would be possible to speckle it. Dyes behave differently on different fibers, and I guess they diffuse too much on pure wool yarns to speckle them. So now I was aiming for a pastel blue-to-purple color with specks of dark purple and maybe some bright pink.

This did not quite come out as intended.

I started by putting a small amount of a dye called “Peri My Winkle” into the pot. I figured it’d dye the yarn periwinkle, which I think of as a blue-purple color. What I got was cobalt blue. And as I’d been unwittingly generous with how much dye I put in the pot, it was quite bold in spots. The end result was lovely—it’s just not what I had in mind.

Next, just to see what would happen, I “injected” the yarn with a dark lilac dye in places. You can tell from the drops on the spoon and in the syringe that this, at least, was the color I expected! Mix the dye with some water in a cup, draw it up in the syringe, and squirt it into the yarn without stirring it around.

This, at least, seemed more successful. So I went ahead and sprinkled some fuchsia dye in spots over the yarn, hoping to get the sprinkled effect. It sort of worked. I think I may have put more dye altogether into the pot than the yarn could absorb. Several rinses later, it’s still turning water pink.

Anyway, here’s the final result. Not what I imagined, but quite nice.

Do I want to dye more yarn? Yes. Although I’ll only be working with acid dyes in classes, either at future retreats or in other venues. These dyes are more hazardous to work with than Kool-Aid. You shouldn’t use them in pots that you put food in, it’s not healthy to inhale the powder, and I doubt I should be pouring the waste water down the drain. I don’t have a good working space in my apartment for dyes, nor do I have space to store dyeing equipment. And have I mentioned the large stash of yarn I have that’s already in pretty colors? But a class every now and then would be fun.

Lothlorien Kalari Shawl

Finish one project, start two more. I am not getting ahead here.

But for the moment, I will celebrate a finished project. This is another case of buying the yarn and then trying to find a project that was suitable for it. This particular yarn comes from KnitCircus, and I picked it up at Vogue Knitting Live back in 2016. I loved the name (from The Lord of the Rings!), but I promise, I would’ve left it behind if I didn’t like the colors. But I had indulged in a 669-yard (612 m) cake instead of the 400+ yard (366+ m) skeins I usually get, and it took a while to find a pattern that could be used with that larger size. The colorway name was just a bonus.

 

It was a fun knit. Yes, a mite repetitive, but when you’re using a gradient yarn, you can always look forward to the color changing even when the knitting itself is getting a bit monotonous. It’s a fairly simple pattern, but it has just enough variation (one row of yarnovers with decreases and two rows with a different increase frequency) to keep me paying attention. Really, the pattern changed enough to hold my interest; it was just that the rows were pretty long at the end.

I’m really enjoying wearing this. It’s a chevron rather than an isosceles triangle, so I can wrap it around my neck without fabric piling up too deeply under my chin. And the larger-than-usual size (for me) makes it easier to tie it attractively.

That bit at the beginning of this post about starting two more projects? One of them is another Kalari shawl. I said I was enjoying it!

—–

Lothlorien Kalari Shawl
Pattern: Kalari Shawl
Yarn: KnitCircus Trampoline
Colorway: Lothlorien
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)

To make knitting two pieces on one needle easier

I’m sure this isn’t new. It’s new to me, but given how much knitting experience there is out there in the world, other people have no doubt figured this out or read about it somewhere or whatever. I’m posting about it anyway, because it might be helpful to someone else. (Plus it lets me demonstrate progress on a project.)

I’m knitting both sleeves of the Highlander cardigan simultaneously in order to keep the increases at the same places and keep the pattern the same. It’s easy when knitting two identical pieces on the same needle to turn and go back along the first piece before you’ve knit across the second piece. I managed to get four rows ahead on the right sleeve totally by accident a couple of weeks ago, and had to carefully catch up on the left sleeve, and it wasn’t fun at all. Nor is this the first sweater I’ve had this problem with.

This time, it occurred to me to pin the two sleeves together with a stitch marker.

Seriously, this is so much easier. It reads as one long piece of knitting now. I need to be careful not to keep knitting across the left sleeve with the right sleeve’s yarn, but there’s enough of a break between the two sleeves to signal that I need to drop one yarn and pick up the other. Keep moving the stitch holder up so that it doesn’t pull too much on the edges.

Yarnbombing!

My friend S. recently acquired a walker. Now a walker is a good and useful thing and its benefits are many, but it must be admitted that this particular walker was not all that exciting, aesthetically speaking. S. is a passionate, inspired woman. This walker was about as passionate and inspired as gruel.

Obviously it needed to be yarnbombed.

Consider it a collaborative effort. I did the actual crocheting, but E. and Suncat and I chose the yarns together. S. knew we were doing this—we got her informed permission before embarking on this project—but the details could still be a surprise.

Two fun yarns: the solid purple one on the horizontal bar has a sparkly metallic thread in it, while the one on the vertical bar mixes green and purple nicely.

As you may have guessed, S.’s favorite color is purple.

This was supposed to be a blue and purple yarn. Somehow all the purple avoided getting into this piece.

Yarnbombed Walker
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Paints
Colorway: Oceana
Hook: 4.5 mm

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Party
Colorway: Purple Sparkle
Hook: 4.5 mm

Yarn: Lion Brand Homespun Stripes
Colorway: Petunia Stripes
Hook: K (6.5 mm)

Making all the things

I had a lot to blog about when I was doing small projects and finishing them one after another in short succession. Now I’m working on several larger projects and haven’t remembered to say anything about them. (I knew my productivity would drop when I stopped having those weekly conference calls at work!) So, an introduction to the current projects:

Randomicity

Although Passeggiata turned out to be a lovely shawl—after five restarts—I was disappointed that it wasn’t as semicircular as I’d thought it would be. I read up on the construction of semicircular shawls (thank you, new edition of Vogue Knitting) and Randomicity is how I’m putting that into practice. I’m delighted to report that at about 80% done, this shawl has gone beyond semicircular and is more of a major sector.*

Highlander

I saw this sweater at Shepherd’s Harvest back in 2010. I bought the pattern, bought yarn, and then, for whatever reason, didn’t start the project. Almost a decade later (eek!), it finally felt like the right time to get going on it. Honestly, I hadn’t even realized the pattern had cables until I began knitting it. You knit the back and the fronts as one piece, so it started slowly, but now that I’ve divided for the armholes, it’s going much faster. If I don’t bog down on the sleeves, I might even get it done by this fall (!).

Kalari Shawl

A few weeks ago, I needed a small, mindless project. By this point, neither Randomicity nor Highlander were small, and while Randomicity is pretty straightforward, I need to pay attention to Highlander. The Kalari Shawl was both simple (garter stitch and increases, with a row of yarnover holes to add visual interest) and would use up this nice cake of Knit Circus Trampoline that I’d gotten at Vogue Knitting Live! back in 2016. If this shawl wears well, I may be making more, since it does a lovely job of showing off a gradient.

Sunshower Shawl

I rarely participate in knit-alongs, but I saw this being advertised on Jimmy Beans Wool’s site last year and thought I’d try it. This is a shawl on an installment plan. It’s going to go into next year because I probably won’t get the last shipment of yarn until late in December, and it could very well be January before I finish it.

Left to right: Highlander, Randomicity, Kalari Shawl, Sunshower Shawl

I have to finish something—anything—because I want to start another three or four projects, and I cannot afford to give in to this temptation.


*Pac-Man shaped. 🙂

Catching up

It’s like I’ve been knitting faster than I’ve been writing. It would probably be more accurate to say that I’ve been knitting more often than I’ve been writing. Whichever way you phrase it, what it means is that we’re well into 2019, and there are projects I finished in 2018 that have yet to see the light of blog. So this is a summary post to get them documented before I forget about them writing-wise altogether.

Reyna

I never know what to do with hanks of fingering weight yarn that are less than 400 yards (366 m), and I only had 395 yards (361 m) of this lovely yarn. Ravelry’s pattern browser came to the rescue. I found Reyna, one of those patterns that looks fancier than just plain garter or stockinette stitch, but lets you stop when you run out of yarn instead of frantically trying to wrap things up at the end of a pattern repeat. Cleverly, the garter stitch bands remain the same from one repeat to the next, but the mesh sections double in width. I’m thinking to try Reyna again with a yarn that I have lots and lots of, just to watch the pattern develop.

(Click to enlarge.)

Gradient Spiral Shawl

Another cake of gradient-dyed yarn and me wondering what to do with it. The pattern for the Gradient Spiral Shawl looks like mindless knitting. I figured it was just garter stitch with regular increases and decreases to produce the spiral shape, and so this would be the perfect project to take along to social events.

Nope.

See those little loops on the outside of the curve? That’s I-cord. And sure, I-cord itself isn’t complicated, but this is I-cord that has to be the same number of rows for each loop, or it becomes obvious when you stand back and look at the shawlette as a whole. And it’s I-cord that gets worked by itself on some rows and worked with the rest of the row on other rows, for joining. And meanwhile, on the inner edge, that’s also I-cord. It made for a lovely shawlette, and I might make another one someday, but it most certainly isn’t mindless knitting!

(Did I mention the I-cord bindoff?)

Dawn Cowl

With the two projects above, I already had the yarn, and went off looking for patterns to use them in. This project was planned from the very beginning. I love the Zuzu’s Petals cowl I did a few years ago. I had vague thoughts of making another one, but for that, I needed another ball of Catnip or its equivalent, and I don’t stockpile worsted weight yarn the way I do fingering. But then Twisted Fiber Art came up with this new colorway. Instant love on my part, and then I remembered I was in the market for Catnip anyway…

—–

Reyna
Pattern: Reyna
Yarn: Blackberry Ridge Mer-made Fingering Weight
Colorway: Wild Rose
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)

Gradient Spiral Shawl
Pattern: Gradient Spiral Shawl
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Muse Evolution
Colorway: Zen
Needles: 4 (3.5 mm)

Dawn Cowl
Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Catnip Evolution
Colorway: Dawn
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)

Protective armor

It’s a mite frigid here this winter.

Why yes, we’re three days into March. Fewer than three weeks until the spring equinox. The days are getting visibly longer. I no longer leave for work in pitch darkness, and I get home before sunset. I totally get that spring is coming.

It’s still blasted cold, and that’s an impressive amount of snow out there.

Pink knitted cowl in seed stitch.

I have been buying super bulky yarn in much larger quantities than I usually do. I’m certain this is an instinctive reaction to the cold and snow. But even if I hadn’t been primed to insulate myself with as much wool as possible, I’d have acquired this yarn. Malabrigo makes lovely yarn, but many of their colorways are brighter or warmer than I like to wear. So finding a lovely pastel pink was a happy surprise. Between this particular color and the texture of Rasta, it was like knitting with a strand of cotton candy.

As for the pattern, well, this gave me a chance to experiment. For one thing, the pattern calls for buttons. They’re nice, and I’ve liked what they looked like on the other cowls I made, but they’re not necessary. I think this one looks fine without them. Also, the other cowls I’ve made were beautiful and warm, but they fit rather loosely. So this time, I went down a needle size, and this one has a much closer fit: yay! After all, I’ve got to protect myself against the never-ending chill.

—–

Pink Rasta Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Colorway: 703 Almond Blossom
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)

Rose Ardent

On the pattern side, this is pretty straightfoward. Once upon a time (two years ago), I knitted a shawlette from a pattern called Ardent. That was my first Janina Kallio project, I think. And since I’ve enjoyed wearing the shawlette as well as knitting it, I eventually decided to make another one.

Rose Ardent shawlette draped on a hanger.
(Click to enlarge.)

On the yarn end, well, last November, Suncat and I went to Vogue Knitting Live. One vendor there was Melting Pot Fibers. I admit, I might’ve not looked all that closely at their wares on my own, but Suncat was interested in their roving. While she investigated it, I looked through the yarn on display and found a skein of fingering weight yarn in a glorious shade of rose.

Rose Ardent shawlette laid flat.
(Click to enlarge.)

So…lovely pattern + lovely yarn = another Ardent shawlette. My only frustration is that even though I had 20 yards more of this yarn than the pattern called for, again, I ran out before the end. (And again, not noticeable when wearing it.)

—–

Rose Ardent
Pattern: Ardent
Yarn: Melting Pot Fibers BBY004 – Sock Yarn Blend
Colorway: 711
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)

A shawl Penelope would love

Ahem. I have finished the Passeggiata shawl.

That doesn’t look right written out. Far too quiet and restrained. You need to imagine me dancing around, waving the shawl in the air, and yelling, “Finally! It’s done! I can have my knitting life back!”

It’s bigger than it looks. That’s a corner of my sofa in the photo.

(Okay, that was exaggerated. I was with friends, and there wasn’t enough space in E’s living room for a lot of dancing around, and yelling would mostly just have alarmed E’s neighbors, who don’t know that I knit, much less care how it’s going. Although my friends were impressed. Also, I’ve been working on another Ardent shawlette, so it wasn’t even like the Passeggiata was the entirety of my knitting life.)

I began the Passeggiata back in September. I was at the knitting retreat, and it was an easy enough project to work on while I was away from home. It’s a garter stitch shawl with stripes, which seemed easy. As detailed in Adventures in striping, however, getting the stripes to work out has proven to be quite the challenge. When I posted that in November, I was on my third attempt. I finished the shawl on my fifth (!) attempt.

Attempt #4: This was when I modified the striping pattern. Unfortunately, now I didn’t have enough of the Aniversario to finish.

Attempt #5: Kept the modified striping pattern. Ripped back into the initial purple section and took out a few rows, hoping that would give me enough yarn at the end for that final stripe. It did.

A closer look at the stripes.

I had the same problem with Passeggiata that I did with Melodia last summer. These are supposed to be semicircular shawls. However, as knitted, they’re inverted triangles. If you’ve knitted them loosely enough, you can force them into a semicircular shape during blocking, which I did with Passeggiata. I also used three different bind offs to help shape the shawl. For the first and last 40 stitches, I used the standard bind off, because a tighter bind off would help straighten the tips. The next 60 stitches in on both sides were done with a suspended bind off: a little stretchier, but not that much. For the center, I used the yarnover bind off, because I needed as much stretch as possible to open up that arch. I then blocked fiercely, and I was successful. But basically, the knitting will not naturally turn into a semicircle if the only increases are at the edges. You need to increase within the body of the shawl as well. At this point, I probably wouldn’t do another one of these shawls unless I was prepared to add those increases in myself. I started a true semicircular shawl a few days ago, and just a couple of inches in, the difference is noticeable.

But enough of that. It’s done! It worked! It’s a shawl! Yay!

—–

Passeggiata
Pattern: Passeggiata
Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Sock
Colorways: Aniversario and Cote d’Azure
Needles: 8 (5.0 mm)

Sparkly Purple Shawl

I honestly cannot explain why it took so long to make this shawl. I’ve made two shawls from the Grande Wrap pattern already, as detailed in Mega-shawl! and And again!. I knew what I was doing, and even if I hadn’t, this is a garter stitch shawl done on size 13 (9.0 mm) needles: not particularly difficult. And yet I started it in May 2017, zoomed along up until I only had two rows left (two!), and then let it sit for 15 months.

[wince]

Well, it’s finished now, anyway.

A knitted purple shawl with a purple button.

I tried to make this one look dressier than its predecessors. It started as an excuse to use the metallic Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, which had been tempting me for some time. As designed, the shawl is tied with two cords. That’s worked fine with my earlier shawls, but I was afraid the friction would eventually break the metallic thread in this yarn. Plus, the bow wasn’t at all elegant, whether it fell at the front or the back. So I replaced the cords with a crocheted button loop and a large button. (I am so happily amazed that I managed to find a button that both coordinated with the yarn and was large enough to work on a heavy shawl.)

—–

Sparkly Purple Shawl
Pattern: Grande Wrap
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Metallics
Colorway: 305 Galaxy
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)
Hook: L (8.0 mm)