Letting My Freak Flag Fly

My buddy TigerSharkKnits made mention in a comment yesterday that it seemed like soon I might tackle dyeing to really round out my fiber arts repertoire (I spin, I knit, apparently I design…). Little did she know!

Dyeing is actually not a new art form to me.  I’ve been dabbling since not so long after I started spinning (just over 5 years ago that. Wow how time flies) and while still mostly a hack, I can at least head to the dye kitchen (I actually have one of those! And I’m about to acquire a steam table!) and turn out something that resembles the idea in my head going in.  I’ve spent a couple of long weekends with my buddy Michelle who dyes professionally and picked up a number of tips and tricks and, well, sometimes I just dive into an experiment and see what happens.

One of my favorite experiments of recent time was my first dabbles with self striping yarn.   I knew the general concept was to take the skein and make it into a bigger hank than it comes but I wasn’t entirely sure HOW big that skein might need to be.  So I did my best to guesstimate. It involved use of an Amazon Pantry box and my cutting table to wind the loop. Looked something like this

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I ended up with a 5 or 6 foot loop that I split into 4 chunks, popped ’em each in a mason jar of dye bath and ended up with this.

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Which is lovely and the socks are great, but the stripes aren’t quite as long as I wanted.  Which meant I needed a bigger loop.  Which lead to this (copied off my project page from a Harry Potter Knit  & Crochet House Cup turn in. Because it’s just a lot to retype)

“Earlier this month I decided to give dyeing self-striping yarn a try. I worked out the method but the execution, while stripy and delightful, needed a bit more work, namely a much larger loop to work with so I could produce wider stripes for my socks. The original skein was created with about an 8 yard loop that produced stripes of 1-2 rows wide which was not quite my aim. This second attempt required a bit more creativity. Thankfully my office provided- I have a 12′ long conference room table that I decided would work quite well as my basis for winding this new skein so after work on a Friday night I set to work. I had a regular sized skein of ready-to-dye wool that I had wound into a center pull ball. I tied the end off to a chair arm at one end of the table, set up a 2nd chair at the other end to support the loop and I walked laps. A lot of laps. Which wouldn’t have been so bad but for the attorney who was still here and walked past wondering what on earth I was doing running laps around a table with string. I think it’s the first he’d seen my geek flag fly proudly so, well, ya know… Anyway, once done, it looked like this.

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I tied the skein off many many MANY times over because I knew the spaghetti in the dye pot would become a real mess if not secure, so I think I had 9 or 10 tie points throughout. And then I hit the potions lab.

To fit with the fandom prompt I got to thinking I LOVE me some Doctor Who, in particular Matt Smith’s Doctor (number Eleven for those keeping track) so I decided to turn my giant skein into stripes to celebrate my favorite doctor. Tan for his tweedy coat, deep red for his Fez (Fezes are cool), green for the light in his Sonic Screwdriver and, of course, Blue for the ever present TARDIS.

The yarn was given a solid presoak to aid in proper absorption of color and the dyes were created using various shades of Country Classics dyes that I mixed for each stripe. Each color was placed in a glass vessel (non reactive you know!) and the skein was divided into quarters with each section placed into its individual vessel and then into a steam bath. I allowed the dyes approximately an hour in the steam bath to exhaust and while I didn’t get TOTAL exhausting this time, it was pretty darn close. Everything was allowed to cool then rinsed and left to dry overnight.

The real fun came in reskeining in my small house full of curious cats. I ended up using a hook on one end of my stash room to hold one side and looped the other around my swift then walked back and forth with a niddy noddy to wind this bad boy into a manageable skein. Come to think of it, this particular dye experiment is some of the best exercise I’ve gotten in months! But I digress…

The reskeined yarn waiting to be turned into socks:

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And of course I couldn’t wait to see how the stripes worked out this time so a quick coffee cup cozy was cast on. Since I know this will become socks and I don’t want a pattern to distract from the stripy goodness, I did the cozy in the same K4P1 rib I tend to use for my most vanilla socks. A couple of repeats to get a feel for the colors and while I have to admit my TARDIS blue isn’t quite what I want it to be, I am entirely chuffed with the overall effect. Next step, test my notes to see if they are good enough to repeat the three colors I do like while improving the fourth! Thanks for the wonderful opportunity to test my skills AND celebrate my Eleven!”

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So there you have it TSK…  Dyeing (I pronounced the E. Did you hear it) is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. I really just need to find a way to not have to do the work thing so I have all the time in the world to do the spinning, knitting, dyeing, designing thing.  If anyone has a brilliant plan for that, please leave it in the comments section!