Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of Imperial Apricots

I recently had a bit of a debacle with some yarn. At the Mountain Heritage Festival, I was lucky enough to run across a booth where the vendor had a basket of handspun yarn for sale for outrageously low prices. I grabbed a giant skein of white yarn and approached the woman; I was sure the price tag was wrong. That much handspun yarn couldn't possibly be a mere eight dollars! The vendor's husband looked at me over the tops of his glasses and said, "She's over spinning. She's into plying now." As if that's an excuse to practically throw away all the beautiful yarn! I still didn't quite believe the yarn was only $8, but I paid for it and left the fairground, my head filled with dreams of using the cochineal or osage orange sawdust I'd gotten at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Fest two years before.
The yarn sat in my knitting basket until I felt like pulling out my kitchen scale. It weighed in at 1 lb 4.4 oz, which really is a whole hell of a lot of yarn... I found a step-by-step article on Knitty and followed the directions for mordanting and dyeing the yarn with cochineal. And then things fell apart: the dye ran and ran. And ran some more. A few people have suggested that the lingering bits of cochineal beetles which are still--ick--lodged in the wool are the cause, and I swear I'm about to attack the stuff with the vaccuum to see if I can get the last buggy bits out that way. I've shaken the yarn outside, I've whacked it against the exterior of the house, shaken it some more, and finally just hung it over the back of a chair. The net result of that particular little venture ended up being more a rose color than the red I was aiming for, and I was a little disappointed.
The little cloud went away today, though, after I broke out the KoolAid and Wilton dyes. A few days ago, I got a ball of white Patons Classic Wool and decided to try for a rich, intense purple. Supposedly, since KoolAid is already pretty acidic, you don't really need to add vinegar to the pot; I did anyway. Vinegar and salt. I didn't want to take any chances with the dye running when I rinsed it. After several dunks in a mix of hot water and hair conditioner (tee-hee), the water stayed clean, so I guess it worked. I hung the yarn up outside to drip dry, then remembered I had a bag of handspun alpaca upstairs in the Tub o' Yarn. What to do, what to do, I thought, and then a little lightbulb lit up.
I've always been pretty indifferent to yellow, but after the September Sockdown, I decided I sort of like it. Not screaming, neon, blinding yellow, but muted, soft, sunny yellow and mustardy Grey Poupon yellow and (I blush to confess) that color known as Butter Peeps. By itself, the lemonade flavored KoolAid is pretty blah; I added a generous blob of Lemon Yellow Wilton dye and got a bright, sunny yellow. A good dunk in another bath of hair conditioner and hot water, and the water was clean. Well! How about that!
The picture is fairly accurate, but the colors are a little more saturated than it makes them seem. It's almost enough to make me want to order some naked sock yarn from KnitPicks or something and take a stab at dyeing some for myself... maybe I'll even put Jacquard dyes on my Christmas list! Or maybe I'll just let it lie and not pick up yet another hobby unless absolutely necessary.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the yarns Apricus and Imperatrix. Rachael, I blame you for their names. :-P


ElvaUndine said...

You did a beautiful job, they are just so gorgeous.

Rachael said...

Oh, I LOVE! These are beautiful! They remind me of the snow crocus I planted last year.

I don't see a difference between spinning and plying and how one can be "over" spinning and "into" plying... Isn't plying a part of spinning? o.O

That really sucks about the cochneal.

Also: I did not know that osage orange was a dyestuff! What color does it dye and what part of the plant? I know a place where the supply is practically unlimited...