Monday, January 12, 2015

Mason Jar Dyeing-The Ombre Effect

There are many different ways to dye wool and this is the method that I use. It’s entirely experiment based and nothing is measured to the exact cup or tablespoon. Dye mediums are not always the same brand or even a commercial product. I also dabble in natural dye stuffs, though the end product is never as vibrant or intense as its commercial rival.
Also, there are many different fibers that you can dye ranging from animal to plant. I will refer to fiber as wool, because in this case and these pictures, that is what I will be using, specifically a blend of cheviot and merino sheep’s wool.
The basic materials needed for dyeing are: gloves, mason jars and lids, dye (liquid, powder, or natural materials), mordant (vinegar or lemon juice), wool, and hot water.

To begin, put your gloves on and start adding your dyes to the mason jars. Mix colors at will. I usually try to at least cover the bottom of the pint and a half jars and maybe a little more in the half gallon jars. Then I add the vinegar, which looks to be about 1/8 cup for pint and a half jars and ¼ cup for the half gallon jars.


In the yellow jar, I mixed liquid pink dye and powder yellow dye. I’ll make sure to mix it really well in the next step.

Have your clean wool ready. Fluff it apart and try to get as much natural debris out as possible. More will come out when you card your fibers and even when you spin and knit the yarn.

Fill your jars with a quarter to third of the hottest water possible. I use my teakettle to boil the water. Add wool and cover with lid. If you overstuff the jar, the dye may not penetrate as desired. You can let it sit for a couple of hours or up to a day.  The longer sits between adding water will cause a stronger shade variance.  Since I use my dryer kind of light another counter top, I take advantage of the heat that it gives off and do some laundry. This heat or any other heat source that you could use helps to intensify the color in the wool. In the summertime or really hot days, I let the jars sit in direct sunlight for as long as possible.

Later, add a third to a quarter more water. Pour the water down the side of the jar as much as possible and not on top of the wool. Cover your jars. In this stage I like to tip the jar upside down, only until all the bubbles have stopped, to soak the rest of the wool. It may or may not start to seep into the un-dyed wool, but all your wool is soaking up water now. You can make sure the color bleeds in the last step.

The next step you will add a final third or another quarter of hot water. If this is your last step, you can tip the jar over and let it sit upside down for 5-10 minutes. It’s ok to move the jar around to disperse the dye more.  Repeat this step again if you were adding water in quarters. You can add water in whatever increment you would like to create even more variegated shades.

Next you will want to rinse the dye out of your wool. You may need to repeat the rinsing step one to two more times if your wool is really saturated. Remember to only use cold water in this stage. Wait for your jar, water, and wool to be totally cooled (room temperature) before rinsing. Refer to this video for rinsing and drying your dyed wool. Don't forget your gloves!

If you feel that your fibers are too dry or brittle from the dye or mordant, add a little wool rinse (like Eucalan) or hair conditioner to your final rinse. Most animal fibers are follicles just like human hair and need a little moisture to sit, stay, lay down and roll over.

It will take a day or two for your wool to dry, depending on the time of year and humidity. Again, I use my dryer to my advantage and let it help me dry my wool faster. I always have a towel folded underneath the wool as a barrier and to help soak up the dripping water. Once dry, you should card the fibers to prepare for spinning into yarn or felting. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dirty Hank?

How to clean a Dirty Hank of Alpaca

After you have wrapped your yarn around your kniddy knoddy to figure yardage, tie bits of yarn around each section. This will keep your strands in place when it’s floating around underwater.



When spinning this yarn, it left black, greasy spots on my fingers and palms where it rubbed. This yarn needs a couple hot baths. To get most of the dirty grease out of the yarn, I add quite a bit of Dawn soap to the sink, then fill it with hot, but no scalding, water. It will foam quite a bit and the water should feel slick when you rub your fingers together. Add the dirty hank. Do not twist, rub, wring, squeeze, or scrunch the hank. Gently press it to the bottom, releasing some of the air bubbles, then let it soak for 15 full minutes.


After 15 minutes, swirl the alpaca in the sink a few times, then draw it up out of the water, holding the hank with your fingers separating the strands. Do not twist, rub, wring, or scrunch the yarn. It is now in a critical stage and can felt easily. Gently squeeze the water out of the yarn from the top to the bottom. Set it aside and rinse out your soapy sink. Add more water (as close to the same temperature as the first bath). This next rinse will be to get the soap out of the yarn. Do not add anything to the water. Add the less dirty hank to the water. Let soak for 15 minutes.



Again, give the yarn a swirl in the sink and draw the yarn up out of the water, separating the strands. Squeeze all the water out of the alpaca, then set it aside. The grease that was in your fiber was full of dirt, hay, grass, and possibly fecal matter, but would be what would make the yarn soft. We just scoured it all down the drain. This time, we want to soften and condition the yarn. This will be my final bath, but if your yarn is extra dirty, you should add more soapy soaks and rinses. Fill your sink with hot water and add a wool rinse, like Eucalan No Rinse Delicate Wash, Lanolin Enriched.  Press the yarn down into the water, releasing the air bubbles. Let soak for 15 minutes.


Have your drying method set up prior to this last step. I use a wooden laundry shelf with a bar for hangers. I rig up an (old, ugly) towel so that no water gets on anything beneath the drippy hanks. You could use your shower curtain rod or an indoors clothesline. I have hangers ready, as well as another (pretty ugly) towel.

Squeeze all of the water out of the hank, one last time. Lay yarn on the towel and roll it up, squeezing with each roll. Unroll and place on hanger for drying.



Your yarn should be soft, bouncy, and a little fuzzy. It’s probably curling too. I let my yarn dry in this state, but you could add hangers to the bottom of the hank to weigh the yarn down. Too much weight will take away the memory of the yarn and its elasticity. It may take 24 hours for your hank to dry.



I always clean more than one hank at a time. I have a very small house and this project takes up my “laundry room,” which is in my kitchen. Since this whole scouring and drying process takes up time and space, I even wash more than one hank at a time. Depending on how dirty the yarn is, the yardage, and the bulk, you could wash 3 medium to large hanks at one time, in the same basin/sink. Adjust water-level per basin size. And of course, I try to wash as much yarn that will fit into the drying space.




Friday, April 19, 2013

Baggy Bolero

This baggy bolero is among my first real clothing designs. Back in the day, I picked up any yarn I could find, even if it was lying on the side of the street in a big trash bag. Literally. This yellow rug yarn came out of a trash bag that I found on the side of the street. It was in a black bag and I just knew that bag had yarn in it. Slammed on my breaks, did a quick U-ey and low and behold, this bag was slam full of vintage yarn and unfinished projects. Some yarn wasn't so pretty, nor did it smell very pretty, but any obsessed yarnie would justify throwing it in the back of their car.
Now that this TMI story is behind us, with that yarn, I made this gorgeous baggy bolero and love it. I found a bit of staining through the yarn (only one tiny spot), so this yellow bolero is mine forever. I couldn't sell it, there's too much story in it.
Celtic knot square
This is the remake of my original design with non-smelly, store bought wool, Lamb's Pride Bulky. I was trying to mimic the drape and bagginess of the original, but it can't happen with this wool. The rug yarn above is a cotton blend, and surely some wool. The cotton version gives weight and drape while this wool version is lighter and bulkier and in being so, smaller in size.
The pattern I used is exactly the same, I did not alter it for the different yarn used. The circles are made first and connected to each other, then a square is made around them. I make most of the bolero, sew the square in, then finish the bolero incorporating the square. Short seams are sewn to make the sleeves. All in all, this is a very simple pattern, and a great design. I'm sure I will find some cotton yarn that can substitute better for the vintage rug yarn someday.
A simpler version, which just popped into my head is a simple rectangle without the celtic design. Maybe some striping. Maybe sewn on appliques. Hmmm....

Granny Square Messenger

The Granny Square is the first thing that I ever learned to make, as well as the first pattern I was taught to read. It is a classic design that makes you think of retro and most likely, real live Grannies sitting around crocheting pretty hideous blankets. I really like to use granny squares, even when just trying to see how different colors work together. Instead of a swatch, I may make a granny square, alternating colors here and there.
Here, I have made three granny square panels. Not squares, but a three sided granny pattern. Front  and back of the bag, and then the flap. I doubled up on yarn for the strap, but it will stretch on anyway, nothing I can do about that except, maybe, line it (and you know I hate sewing machines). Easy bag to make, but a treacherous pattern to write.
The bag above is made with Berroco Comfort Worsted. It is an acrylic yarn with a mercerized cotton feel to it. It's cool to the touch and very heavy. It does tend to split a little when working with it, but the finished product looks so smooth. I chose these colors because I wanted to keep that vintage feel with the granny design.

This bag is made with leftover acrylic yarn that I used to make a Dr. Who scarf. It's Vanna White Lion Brand. The bag came out a little bigger than the Berroco one, for whatever reason. I don't think this acrylic has too much give or weight to it. It's fluffier and lighter. It definitely does not have a smooth look to it, rather a granny blanket look. Nonetheless, I needed to give my pattern one more preliminary test before sending it to a real pattern tester.

This is the bag with the flap flipped over. Perfect size for binders, folders, and books....hint schoolbag!
This bag is for sale on etsy.

Funky Halter (still altering this pattern)

This is a pattern that I designed on my own. I have been working on it a bit to polish all of the edits and alterations that I have made over the years. The mannequin above has a more natural figure than the one below! I used both to show that a slightly bigger bust (though unnaturally proportioned as this mannequin is) looks a little better with this halter.
The bottom of the halter is constructed first, then the band and ties, then the cups are added last. There is a slip stitch zig zag connecting the cups. In previous patterns, I could get the cups to look right. You basically had to have the most perfect boobs to hold up these cups. I sure don't. On a whim, I tried the zig zag and fell in love with the look of it. Using a sock yarn and hook too large for this yarn (L), makes a very drapey and open fabric. I used Patons Kroy sock yarn. I love pretty much all of their colorways. I am working on another already (still editing) and the colorway (Fern Rose Jacquard) is so bright and happy with its Kelly green, cotton candy pink, and electric blues.
The back of the halter is completely open, great for showing off those back tattoos. Also, good point to make, the cups are lined with fabric. Sewing machines are not my friends. I did line these cups myself, but will pay someone else to do it next time.

Cowl Shawlette

A new favorite pattern, based off of the cowl shawl. This would be the Cowl Shawlette! Made in thinner yarn (sport, sock, or lace) and with a smaller needle, to be worn open or pinned around the neck or shoulders. The black yarn is a Phildar  85% acrylic and 15% wool, so it still lends warmth, but slightly more washable than the colorful one below.

The variegated shawlette is made from Malabrigo lace. I bought the yarn on my Yarn Along trip last September. I waited forever to use the yarn, just until I could figure out the best pattern to use it for. I think I made the right decision. It's a soft, airy, and clingy fabric made of 100% wool and 100% warm! It's super bright and can be worn with anything! I am keeping that one for myself.
The black shawlette is for sale on etsy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cool Pleated Purse!

I have had these purse handles for about 3 years now and finally got down to making a purse to go with them. The hardest part was deciding what color would compliment all of the colors on the handles. Then I had to decide on a design that wasn't too busy. I wanted the handles to be the eye-catcher of the bag. Lighting never does any justice for the true color of things, but this bag is a coral/orangish color. A pinky orange. I used a Drops Design pattern, which I have used before but with a lighter weight yarn. This time I used Brown Sheep Bulky 100% wool. The handles are plastic but heavy and not cheap! I loved making the pleats and they inspired me to knit a pleated skirt. I love this bag!

Flower Headband

This colorful headband is crocheted throughout with a mesh/window band and a flower sewn on. A great way to use up scrap yarn. I love putting coral and aquamarine together. I don't know why but those colors sing next to each other. And of course, grey makes me happy! This is one of my favorite impromptu flowers to make. They always turn out oversized, which is perfect!

Ribbed Tank

I have made this top before. A simple ribbed tank from Stitch N Bitch. I used Peaches N Creme kitchen cotton in Denim. I liked using this basic cotton better than the Lion Brand Cotton which is partially acrylic. With the lion brand, there would be less pilling, but it is a much heavier yarn and more expensive. I love the drape of this top with the kitchen cotton. This is a wonderful summer piece that flatters curves and style! 

Burly Spun Neck Cozy

This is another of my original designs. A simple garter stitch neck cozy with vintage buttons. The yarn is a very expensive Brown Sheep Burly Spun 100% wool. The yarn is so thick, the project works up quickly. I love the variagation of this color combo. Its a very warm and natural looking piece, perfect with a sweater for fall, but looks nice under the collar of a pea coat for winter!

Pictured: Yours Truly