Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wrap It Up, Kate....

The main body of the Trinity Stitch Shawl

After a long and persuasive discussion on the merits of hand dyed yarn (translation: torrents of senseless abuse from Liz), I made my first tentative steps towards the dye pot last night. I’ve been experimenting a bit with the Kool-Aid stuff but that wasn’t good enough for our Princess Elizabeth….

I had a skein of totally hideous orange that was just Kool-Aid gone wrong. Orange is not my favourite colour in the universe but I’ve learned to handle it in small doses. There was nothing small or subtle about this visual equivalent of a punch in the face. It kicked around in the Yarn Purgatory (where bad yarns go to find redemption) for a couple of months while I pondered what to do with it…I mean other than burning it.

Emboldened by a fresh case of “Oh, what the hell, I’m not likely to make it much worse”, I dug out the Kool-Aid once again, with the intent of over dying it in red. Cherry to be exact. It worked and I’ve got the nicest skein of tone on tone rust going. It’s beautiful really.

I got a little arty and tied off small sections with waste yarn, just 6-12 strands where the orange had been a lot calmer so there were some orange “highlights” in the yarn where it had been voided. Just when the dye charge was nearly exhausted, I removed the blocking yarn and chucked the whole skein back into the pot to absorb the rest of the dye, which served to soften the edges and make it look less “blocky”.

It really is nice and I’m happy with it and I think I could get into this whole dyeing thing. Like I need another place to stash disposable income and spare time.

In any event, I’d be an idiot to not take the opportunity to learn the art and science of dying from Liz because, quite frankly, and this NOT the best friend speaking but the artist, she one of the best. She’s got a fantastic eye for colour. We actually became friends working on a project that required some custom dying and she knocked my socks off then. I’ll save that story for another day because what I really want to tell you is about packing for an expedition to Liz’s house.

“Bring Vinegar, I’m almost out”. … load one big ass zillion gallon jug of vinegar in the tote bag.

“Bring Beer, I am out”…oddly enough, so am I but the Beer Store is enroute.

“Bring wool”…happily I have 3 skeins of Briggs & Little worsted, natural, all washed and ready to roll.

“Bring Light bulbs, it’s dark in here”. Only Liz would attempt to dye in the dark and worse yet, get away with it. I thought about packing a cot and a blanket but there’s only so much room in a Honda Civic.

Three tote bags and a liquor store bag later, I find myself pounding on her front door. Of course, she won’t let me in. Front door bolted like the Crown Jewels and/or Brad Pitt were tucked inside. When I drag all this plunder around to the back door, and when I let myself in, she’s busy babbling on the phone. Apparently it was a big surprise I was dropping in with half of Home Hardware in tow.

The game plan was this time I would sit and watch the process as she explained each step. We ended up with a really cool skein of teal and navy, which in a stroke of serendipity, completely complements the skein of rust I made earlier. Liz was a bit disappointed because I think she had something lighter and more spring, more tropical lagoon, on the brain. But my skein was lonely for a mate and over-rode the process. For the record, mine smells better.

So what has all this got to do with the Trinity Stitch Shawl pictured above? Absolutely nothing, except this…that sucker is coming off the needles today if I have to knit it in my sleep. While at Liz’s, supervising the dying process, I started up yet another project and so something’s got to get finished. Today. Barring natural disaster or my life taking over.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.


At 1:38 p.m., April 12, 2005, Anonymous Karin said...

Thanks for the Kool Aid dye info - I'll cut and paste that somewhere for future reference. Hubby is quite intrigued with this whole thing, but I think I'd best wait until he's totally immersed in attending every airshow he can possibly drive to before I make more yarn purchases (his obsession being planes). Fortunately, the airshows are strarting soon.

Now remember I told you about the guild lady who had KoolAid dyed some sock yarn? Well, I was wrong - she actually used those Easter egg dyeing kits! The colours were gorgeous. And she uses the microwave for the heat instead of the stove. I'm not really sure how her colours came out so well, since our egss are always very washed out pastels, but we're working on her doing a workshop for the rest of us. Liz, I'll be sure to wear my little girl panties when I try the easter egg dying.....oh, um, but they won't fit......although I could use my daughter's (she's almost 12)- since she's almost 5'7" and not petite, it might work.

At 3:29 p.m., April 12, 2005, Blogger Kate, the Odd Ball Knitter said...

Kool-Aid, easter egg dye...it's all the same stuff. It's food colouring with vinegar added to give it the acidic quality required for the protein to accept the dye.

I've also seen references for microwave dying and Liz was talking just last night about a process that used a slow cooker for dying roving (the wool before it's turned into yarn). If you want to have a little silly fun with a young kid this summer, you can also use a small amount of yarn, very little liquid, a package of Kool-Aid all in a Zip-loc bag and just use the heat of the sun to process. The colour will not be as intense due to the lack of heat but little one can't burn herself either.

I would have to check with Liz but my guess on why the eggs come out so pale and the yarns so vibrant, is not the nature of the dye, but the nature of the material being dyed. Microscopically, wool is a very rough material. The outer layer is all these overlapping scales (think of the last shampoo/hair conditioner commercial you saw). Heat and acid help open up those scales and the molecules of dye are absorbed. It's also these scales that allow wool to felt.

Egg shells, on the other hand, are much smoother in comparison and if I dare to walk into my chemistry geek past, they are 95% calcium carbonate in composition, which has been used for centuries in winemaking to lower acidity. In short, the egg shell itself counters the acidity of the vinegar. Furthermore, there is a natural coating on an egg that seals the pores and helps keep bacteria out and maintain moisture levels inside the egg. There's a whole lot of things working against us when we're dying eggs.

Oh god, somebody stop me before I geek again...

By the way, don't mind Liz's "big girl" comments. She's been nagging me for ages about getting into the dying but I know for a FACT that she would be the first in line to encourage anyone to start dying with Kool-Aid/food colouring. First, and foremost, because it is non-toxic. You do not require special equipment considerations which is absolutely vital when stepping outside the food-safe dyes. Most other dye stuffs are toxic, in varying degrees.

At 3:45 p.m., April 12, 2005, Blogger Kate, the Odd Ball Knitter said...

Oh yeah, and I totally get the "air show" obsession. My dad was in the Air Force and to this day, he can hear an airplane flying overhead and without looking up, he can tell you which company manufactured the engine. In short, I come by the "freak gene" honestly.

At 6:21 p.m., April 12, 2005, Anonymous Karin said...

Well, we live pretty close to the London airport (not that there are tons of international flights from here or anything), but not only does my husband have to look up every time one passes overhead, but he also will bolt out of the house, even in socks, in the dead of winter, to see what's passing overhead if its 'not familiar'. He doesn't think it funny at all when he announces, when the familiar ones fly by, that 'I guess that's the Jazz flight 297 to Winnipeg - he's 4 minutes late'. Then he tells me which runway they're using today and why.....I can only imagine what he'd be like if he had any professional association with airplanes at all. With me, all of his comments are all in one eye and out the other, much like when his eyes glaze over when I start on and on and on about knitting.

I kind of figured that on the eggshells vs. wool thing.....but you said it so much more eloquently. And no, I was not taken aback about Liz and the pants thing. I don't get offended easily. Oh, and about the slow cooker dying of roving, Stephanie the Yarn Harlot had a guest do a tutorial of that entire process.....there, I'll just go and look it up now - amuse yourself while I'm gone.....

Found it the first time! Yes, its at yarnharlot.ca in the February archives. Fortunately, it was near the end of Feb, so you don't have to scroll down too far. Looks messy, looks toxic, and I don't need yet another hobby (spinning) to suck up even more time and money just yet. Although I keep dreaming of spinning - I used to dream of spinning way before I found out lots of people actually do so today. The picture in my head, though, was always kind of pioneer-ish, although I had none of the other pioneer woman type jobs to do - only the romantic spinning of yarn part. There's a pioneer village not far from me, and its really quite pathetic. I keep thinking that I could volunteer and go sheer the 3 sheep they have, card the wool, all that stuff, and then get them to buy me a wheel and spin it. And knit it. And I only think about the romantic part of the whole sheep thing - I never even think about all the poop.

Ahh, gotta go. Kendra (11 year-old) is waiting patiently to have her turn so she can 'do neopets'. And I guess I should make dinner.


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