Play time, part 2

Ok, so I’m not that mean.  I won’t keep you waiting too long.  Because really?  No one should have to wait for this.

DSC_2813 copyI mean it’s practically electric.  Totally cannot get enough (and I’m usually fairly immune to the charms of blue, but somehow this totally does it for me).

But the thing I find really interesting is how differently each base took the color.  From left to right that’s Matrika, Zenith, Apex, Meridian, and Corona, all from Seven Sisters Arts.  Just as a reminder, they looked like this undyed.

DSC_2044jpg copyAnd ok, maybe you’d expect the Apex (the gray one in the middle to come out different).  But the others surprised me.  The Matrika and the Zenith came out the lightest (I think maybe because of the way the silk in the Matrika and the BFL in the Zenith reflect the light).  Then the Meridian and the Corona are super saturated (my guess is that it’s the superwash merino…I wonder if whatever they do to make it superwash makes it drink up the dye a bit better).  And of course Apex was gray to start with and so it kept that lovely mellow feeling (don’t tell the others but it might just be my favorite).

It was awesome to see how they behaved (and to see everything that goes into dyeing the yarn), and I’m already scheming about what I’m going to make with them.  The Zenith and the Corona are vying with each other to see who gets on the needles first, and I suspect you’ll be seeing more of all of them around here over the next little while!

Play time, part 1

My job is awesome.  I mean yes, sometimes I spend too much time with boxes and labels and tape.  But I also get invited to go visit with fabulous dyers and play with their yarn.  And really, that makes up for an awful lot of time spent packing boxes!

While we were up in Maine, Karen of Seven Sisters Arts asked if I’d like to come over and play.  You know I love her yarn (I used it most recently in Pelagic, and before she opened Seven Sisters Arts, she was half of String Theory, and I’ve used a ridiculous amount of their yarn).  So after checking once or twice to be sure she really meant it, I gleefully said yes bopped right on over.

When I got there, I found a pile of yarn (starting at the bottom left and working across to the top right that’s Matrika, Zenith, Apex, Meridian, and Corona).

DSC_2044jpg copyAnd a top secret notebook full of recipes and colors and truly inspiring bits of fluff.

DSC_2046 copyWe talked color for a bit then got to work (if by work you understand that I mean I said ‘oooooooh, pretty’ a lot while Karen did clever things with dye and hot water and yarn).  It went a little something like this (humming the Jaws theme song now is optional but encouraged).

DSC_2062 copyAnd this.

DSC_2072 copyThen this.

DSC_2075 copyAnd a bit later, this.

DSC_2082 copyOh and a bit later still, this (hint, dyeing yarn takes a long time…keep that in mind next time you look at all those beautiful skeins your favorite dyer offers).

DSC_2089 copyThen?  Then came the completely unbearable drying period before we could see what we’d done.  Which I will now shamelessly replicate by waiting a day or two to show off the final result.  Because I’m terribly terribly mean, that’s why.


Last time I showed you a bit about how I dyed these, so this time it seems only fair to show you how they came out!  Full disclosure, these are still a bit damp (and there is no way I care enough to iron them, that’s never going to happen), but this is a pretty accurate version of how they looked once they were washed (and washed and washed and washed) and dry.

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DSC_0737 copyOverall, I’m super pleased.  It was a bit messy (my fingernails are still blue), and the process is a tiny bit smelly (best done outside).  But the kit made it pretty idiot proof (and dyed a lot of fabric), and the napkins are huge and stood up to the dye (and the power washer) perfectly.

If I were going to do it again, I’d probably get a little bag of thiox (or a commenter on the last post suggested rit dye remover, which is probably easier to find at the craft store) so I could revive the dyebath after it got all churned up from having things go in and out.  But even without that, it dyed 24 huge napkins and several shirts a lovely deep blue, and I totally feel like I got my money’s worth from the kit.

One more, just to show off, because I’m totally happy with it!




So on the Saturday after the book launch, I decided I deserved a little break, and signed up for an indigo class at a local fiber studio.  I was super excited, and I’ve always been the advance prep sort, so I decided I’d snag some napkins and do a bit of work ahead of time (as always, amazon links are affiliate links).

0 copyI went, I dyed, and…eh.  I don’t know if it was because I was tired from the launch or because it was hot or something else, but I wasn’t all that thrilled with the results.  The color was super light, and the patterns were not distinct, and I just didn’t care for it.  So I decided to fix it.  I bought an indigo kit, dragged some buckets out of the garage, and got to work.

1 copyI mixed up the dye and left it to sit.

2 copyI tied up the napkins again (rubber bands people, you need lots and lots and lots of rubber bands) and tossed them in some water to soak.

3 copyThen I oh so gently nestled the napkins into the dye.  It looked inky and dark when they went in.

4 copyBut after just a moment it cleared up and went bright, celery green.

5 copyI let it sit for a while (cough, overnight, but some lovely folks online have told me that was unnecessary and a few minutes would do just as well) then pulled everything to get some air (and watch the show as they went from green to blue in the space of a moment or two).

6 copyBack in the bucket for a second dip (I was fascinated to see the bits that had turned a lovely blue in the air went back to green, albeit darker green, once they were in the dye again).

7 copyThen out again for another battle with the air (I left them out for a good long time, like an hour, to make sure the bound up bits got air too).

I did this for a total of four dip/air cycles.  By that time, they’d stopped turning green when they went back in the dye, and the dye itself looked blue instead of green too, so I decided I’d likely gotten as much out of it as I could.

I hosed the ever living crap out of them while they were still bundled up (here’s where I say seriously nice things about having a pressure washer…forget cleaning the fence, this is much more fun), left them in the sun for a few hours to get mostly dry, then snipped the rubber bands.  And that’s where we’ll pick up next time!

It’s a Process

Having decided to dye the blanket, I thought I should do a bit of research.  Armed with a bit of reading, I first washed the blanket (it hadn’t been washed for years…because it had been in the blanket chest, not because I’m filthy).  Then I dug out my old jug of synthrapol from a previous tie dyeing phase and ran it through with a shot of that out of some vague notion that it would be helpful. Then, while the blanket was still wringing wet, I trundled off to mix up the dye.

I used all three packets, and I followed the directions to the letter.  Yes, even the part about the cup of salt (farewell fancy Penzeys salt, it was nice to have known you).  I ran enough water in the washer to allow the blanket to move freely, tipped in the dye, and swirled it all around.  Then, in an unexpected move, I left it alone for a full hour.  I’m bad at waiting.  This was a challenge.

Once the allotted time had passed, I came back and drained the washer and ran it again with just water.  I did that a few more times until the water ran clear.

I picked up my blanket and…and…it was exactly the same.  Exactly.  No difference in color what so ever.  It’s a bit softer and a bit fluffier now, which actually makes it even nicer, but the color is identical.

The next plan, fiber reactive dyes.  That involves finding a vessel in which I can simmer my blanket on the stovetop.  Should be entertaining.  But it will have to wait until the post office brings me a package.  Though now that I think of it, you can also simmer the RIT dyes, and I can get more of those locally.  Maybe if I’m going to be simmering one way or the other, I should just use those since they’re on hand.  Does anyone have some super secret dyeing knowledge that would be of use in this decision?  Plan A failed, so I’m totally up for taking suggestions.

Oh, and don’t forget to leave a comment on the giveaway post (look down the page a bit) today for a chance to win Laura Nelkin’s Adorn collection.  I’ll be picking a winner tomorrow, so you’ve still got time!

This Could be an Error

At some point in my youth and childhood, I went on a trip to Ireland.  While I was there, I got a blanket (from this company).  It seemed ruinously expensive at the time (I was a teenager, that was a lot of hours of babysitting), but I loved it and wanted it beyond all reason.  It lived in my room for many years.  For the last decade or so, it has lived in the bottom of my blanket chest.

Its fall from grace is not its fault.  It’s a lovely, sturdy, wooly blanket.  It does all of the things a blanket should do.  But I no longer like the colors.  At all.  There is nothing purple or blue in my house.  I just don’t find myself drawn to any of those colors when picking things for my home.

So, rather than throw it away or keep it tucked away in the shadowy depths of the blanket chest, I have decided to rescue it.  I’ve bought some packages of dye and I’m about to go abuse my washing machine.

Now like any rescue plan, this one has some risks.  There is every chance that the result will be a big giant mess.  But I’m willing to chance it.  As I see it, there are three possibilities:

1) The blanket is ruined in some way.  Either it felts horribly or it turns a wretched color or some other mishap befalls it.  But, I currently have a blanket I will never use.  If the plan goes horribly awry, I will still have a blanket I will never use.  The risk is small.

2) The washer is ruined in some way.  This is the bigger risk…a broken washing machine is not in the budget for this month.  But, the package of dye says you can do it in the washing machine, and I’ve used it in this fashion before, so I’m hoping this risk is small too.

3) The blanket takes on lovely earthy browns instead of garish 90s purples, and I am once again madly in love with it.

Anyone want to place a wager as to how this will turn out?

Later that Night

After a full day of dyeing, you might think we’d have had enough fun.  Nope.  There was more to come that night.

We started by dyeing (or perhaps painting is a more accurate word) silk scarves with Dye-Na-Flow paints.  The process was unreasonably entertaining.  It felt sort of like craft day at summer camp.  We each made two and it was amazing how different they all were.  You can see both of mine in the picture on the left.  The first is the purple one in the middle on the bottom row, the second is the orange one running perpendicular to the others towards the top of the picture.  I may have to become one of those people who knows what to do with scarves.  The skill has so far alluded me, but it seems there might be some benefit to acquiring it.

Our next activity was a bit more of a spectator sport.  When we were done with our scarves we wandered over to watch Judith MacKenzie dip yarn into a giant vat of indigo dye.  She explained the history and chemistry of indigo while her hands  turned ever bluer.  When the yarn first goes in and comes out of the dye it is a lovely emerald green.  If you peer hard you can just see it in the photo below.  You have to shake and fluff and toss (and otherwise oxygenate) it before it turns blue.  It looks rather like a magic trick.  I couldn’t bear to leave mine in the grass to dry overnight so I took it back to my room to drip dry in my shower (with a trash bag underneath of course to keep me from dyeing the tile).  It looks exactly like a pair of five year old blue jeans.

The Three Rs, Part One

The word that comes to mind for day one has to be rowdy. I mean it in the nicest possible way, but there’s just no way around it.

The students at the retreat were divided up into 3 groups and each group rotated through the three instructors in a different order.  All of the groups seemed to develop their own personalities.  Mine was obviously the coolest.

Our first day’s activity was dyeing with Tina Newton, the mastermind behind Blue Moon Fiber Arts.  We started with a discussion of color, silk, and dye.  Within a few minutes, we were wielding squirt bottles full of dye with reckless abandon.  We played with three very different sorts of yarn and two different preparations of unspun silk.  That’s Silkie Socks over there on the left and some lovely silk top (I think, I neglected to take notes so I could be wrong) down there on the right. We also did a silk laceweight, a lovely silk mohair blend, and a whole stack of silk hankies.

We used miles of plastic wrap (and somehow managed refrain from mummifying anyone in it) and learned the ancient and sacred dyer’s call and response of “vinegar, vinegar, vinegar” “oh shit!” By the end of the day my hands were blue (and while my toes remained color-free, I did see a few folks sporting some brightly-colored splotches on their feet) and my face hurt from laughing.  Any lingering shyness about meeting new people had vanished, and we all smelled faintly of vinegar. It was an excellent start to the weekend, and we walked away with lots of goodies.