Wednesday, November 29, 2006


This afternoon has been a series of misadventures and mistakes, all of which added up to a really interesting learning experience and a few "Ah-ha!" moments. I've been spinning my own yarn for about five months or so. It's challenging, occasionally frustrating, but ultimately gratifying because I can look at the progress I've made since that first slubby, squiggly, overtwisted little hank of yarn on the drop spindle, and see a definite improvement.
After a while, I went on to the challenges of the dye pot. That passed with limited success, especially where the plants are concerned; I had a lot more luck with the KoolAid, but since I haven't actually used most of the plants I grew, I know I still have a lot to learn. It's a science, really, as well as an art.
Anyway, this afternoon, after reading and ooh-ing-and-ahh-ing over an article in this quarter's issue of Knitty (Dye Fingerprint), I decided to take a stab at hand-painting some of the yarn I've been spinning. Don't get me wrong, the creamy white yarn is really pretty on its own, but I wanted to at least give this hand-painting thing a try to see if it's all that and a side of beans. I went on to do a bit more reading, then checked my stash of KoolAid. Drat. Yellow, red, a rather sickly blue, one packet of purple, and three packets of pink. Mixing colors with KoolAid is difficult because some of the colors are so strong in their regular form: 1.5 packets of red plus five packets of yellow doesn't make orange. It makes... red with a hint of an orange undertone. Having discovered this, I mixed three different colors: purple, the sickly blue, and red. I spread a trash bag on the dining table, plopped the soaked hank of yarn on it, and went to work with the turkey baster.
Well... long story made short, the colors ran a lot more than I'd expected, giving me a mulberry yarn with patches of darker colors where there was more overlap between the different shades. I like it. Mom says it's "Striking". Since I know I'll never be able to reproduce it, I may just keep it and knit a scarf or something. Oh.. and if you dye fiber or yarn, the spin cycle in the washing machine is a truly wonderful thing if you manage to catch it before the rinse cycle starts. Since it gets rid of most of the water still trapped in the yarn, it helps cut the drying time.
The four ounces of white roving I pulled out of the bag went a different route. And now I've used all but the three packets of pink.. and since I hate pink, I probably won't use it except to drink later on in the year. Two different colors: red and red-orange. They look pretty much the same, and somehow they blend to make a peachy-coral that almost reminds me of mercuricomb. Strange. I soaked the wool, put it in a ceramic baking pan, and went to work with the turkey baster. I confess I had reservations about baking wool, but I thought the instructions I found on must have something to them if the site's owner hasn't burnt her house down by baking wool, let alone leaving it in a crock pot for three hours.
The process went something like this:
Soak wool for an hour in hot water.
Mix your dye and load the squirt bottles.
Squeeze most of the water out, but not all because the wool has to be damp.
Layer it in a non-metal baking pan and squirt dye in random patterns on each layer.
Bake in the oven at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it so the water doesn't boil away.
Remove baking pan and dump the wool in the sink to cool for a little while.
Once it's cool enough to touch without burning yourself, squeeze some of the remaining water from the wool.
Set the washing machine to the Hot/Cold, small load setting, run enough water in it to be able to immerse the wool.
Skip the agitation because you don't want your wool to felt, and go directly to the SPIN CYCLE! You can probably do this again if you're worried about the colors running and you're not worried about your water bill.
KoolAid doesn't actually need any help from the vinegar because it's already acidic, so chances are the colors shouldn't run if the dye is exhausted. I only did the dunk-spin thing once because the water I squeezed out of the wool was clear... Maybe I should have done it again, but it seemed fine because no dye was coming out in the washing machine.
Anyway, here are some pictures. Suggestions for names for both the mulberry and the peachy-mercuricomb are welcome if anyone feels so inclined. The red on the gray looks truly bizarre, but I assure you it's KoolAid, not the product of some peculiar activity involving goats and spaghetti. It'll look less bizarre (I hope!) when it's spun.

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