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Thursday, March 23, 2006

: the Dye Pot

Awhile back, my friend Rachel picked up some luscious yarn. Problem was, the color was not so wonderful – or at least what Rachel needed.

Emboldened by my garment over dyeing, we decided to transform the color of that yummy yarn.

Enter the Dye Pot…

Here’s the original yarn in all its glory – Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere in a rather glorious fuchsia. However, lurking beneath the surface of that color was the Soul of a Jazz Purple.


Rachel sent me these two samples of Purple to peruse…

But wait – this yarn is 85% Cotton & 15% Cashmere – and here’s where the dyer stumbles. What to do with a combination yarn?

Get out ye olde calculator and pencil, that’s what. Following the directions given by the dye manufacturer for immersion dyeing using Procion MX dyes, I first figured out a factor to convert the quantities of materials used. They give all directions relative to 1lb. of dry fiber. I would only be using a *sacrifice* 50g skein of yarn.

So I went through the list and converted all the quantities as needed – but still there was a question tickling my brain.

This yarn is a mixed protein and cellulose. How was the dye going to react since each fiber needed different handling?

The Cellulose (Cotton) needed Alkaline (Soda Ash). The Protein (Cashmere) needed Acid (White Vinegar) AND Heat.

So I decided to Start the process with heat and a little acidity to welcome the Protein, then finish the session with alkaline and a cooled down temperature. There was no guarantee this would work – but what I’ve noticed and learned in my other dyeing attempts is that if I follow the basics, I have gotten great results. So I decided to just go for it.

I added the needed water to the pot and brought the temp of the liquid up over a flame. Usually with cotton, you would just use warm tap water. I watched the liquid closely so it was just giving off a little steam on the surface, not simmering, not boiling.

After I added the salt and mixed dye (1 part Raspberry; 2 parts Lilac; and 1 part Midnight Blue), I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, and mixed well. Then I added the yarn, reduced the gas flame as low as it would go and stirred constantly for 10 minutes. Then I turned the flame off and followed the manufacturer’s instructions for the rest of the process (20 more minutes of constant stirring; remove fiber; add soda ash; repot fiber; stir every 5 minutes for another half hour) with one exception.

Big Difference: I added 1.5 times the amount of soda ash that was recommended to neutralize the acid of the vinegar. If I was dyeing a larger amount of fiber, I would make the percentage of the alkaline even higher.

Voila! The color Purple! I am a Lucky Dog – I must say, I am so totally amazed that this worked – the color is clear and deep. The surface and texture of the yarn seems unaffected by the process and is still soft and *new*. Now let’s see if we can pull it off on a whole batch of yarn… :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What in the world do toast & yarn have in common? Nothing! But the Jelly & Yarn do! Both come from the lovely hands of Heidi who birthday gifted me with them on a recent trip. This morning, I finally had a little time to play with them in the sun (before devouring the wonderful PB&J sandwich made with the Blood Orange marmalade Heidi made herself – YUM is not big enough to say how great this tastes – THANK YOU is not big enough to express my delight!)

I can hardly wait to start some socks from the Briar Rose yarn in the background – all my favorite colors live in this yarn – a custom handpaint from Chris herself. Pampered Piggies await.

Yesterday those little piggies went to market in a big way along Chicago’s Damen Avenue. I met my neighbor Theresa for a Bucktown Boutique Romp – I’ve been on a *local* vacation this week and we decided to be tourists in our own town! Truly nothing better –

We went up to Bucktown and worked our way south.

****** ******

I saw this wonderful arrangement in the window of a shop –

and just had to go in and make some new friends.

This space was FULL of ruffley tulips and just mouth watering roses in bi-colors and more. VOILA! Mega Spring Fever!


I ended up with a retro pot (the green fluted one on the left) as a new home for the Christmas Cactus my neighbor gave me – hey TOM! It’s still ALIVE! I didn’t think I could do it but hey, it’s the 22nd of March and it’s still kickin…

Bucktown is one of the most lovely neighborhoods in Chicago – many of its buildings hail circa 1880 and most of the little shops along Damen are in the original charming storefronts that graced the avenue back in the day. A little north of Larkspur, we found C’est Moi.

This is a delightful houseware store and I spotted something through the window that made me rush inside.

My Aunt Florence, who lives in Hampton, Georgia, sent me some birthday $wag and now I have something to light up my life and think of her in the evening.

The magical thing about this 10″ lamp is that the shade is not a shade at all but a CANDLE! It burns from the inside down and light shines through the rest of the wax. Ah, vacation – enough time to take a picture of it and play in Photoshop to make this card for Auntie Flo – thanks for visiting, y’all…

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


in spring a young man’s fancy turns to love
but a young woman’s fancy just might be…

YARN! Shocking but true – I spent the weekend fondling various cotton yarns in ye olde stash in hopes of finding some suspects to make some samples.

Above you see a sample Ribby Pulli in progress using Calmer. Now, I’ve been reading about the wonders of this stuff all over the web for a couple of years and even have started a sweater (then stopped and frogged) out of a pretty tomatoey color. The Audrey I was going to make went awry, not because of the yarn, but because I thought the design would look evil on me. (MANY devil projects have made me trust my instincts on these things, believe it.)

The yarn sat on the shelf mocking me, as stash is wont to do, and little by little I picked up a little more. (This is how ye Stash grows. And grows. And GROWS.)

But still no knitting came of it. WHY?

Because I just didn’t trust the ball band gauge.

So I did what any sane knitter would do. I ignored it!

Yes, the Ball Band is a Prime Pet Peeve of mine. It’s a wonderful starting point but can be a real roadblock to progress if you always just take it at face value.

The more I knit the more I discover the *personality* of most yarns allows for a Range of Gauges that can be used with them. And sometimes, the best draping gauge (IMHO) is not that which is recommended on its BBnd.

If you are a Geek Knitter (raise your hands!) you will make a scientific swatch that tries to match the manufacturer, especially when a fabulous project’s start is in the balance. Last year, I made another sweater out of this yarn that made it to the finishing stages while over the Atlantic on a jet. I was so smug – seaming it on board, being cooed over by my seat mate, a lovely lady senior who was giving me all sorts of kudos (in French!) for even knitting at all (something young people just don’t do anymore…) The more I *felt* the thing while working on it, the more it felt like a wooden board and WHOOSH! My smug ass dissolved in a puff of smoke.

Inches from the finish line, even though I had spot on ball band gauge, I had to retire it to the frogpile. (YES! It will live again!)

This time, the Muse goes before me and I will not ignore… She sez: “Swatch & Learn…”

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