Preparing for winter

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Scarf and gloves from hand-dyed wool.

Every year, around autumn, I start thinking “Man, I could really use a replacement for item X”. And like always, I start but don’t finish, loose interest in it and it ends up in the pile of hibernating items or it gets frogged.

This year, I’m aiming for a head start. While I’m still thinking about what I’ll make for Christmas, I’ll make everything else.

On the list are: a pair of light gloves, a pair of double knitted fingerless mittens for over the light gloves when it gets a little chillier, a hat, a shawl/scarf, a hoodie, pyjama pants, a pair of pants, a sweater and add to the never ending pile of socks.

As you can see in the picture above I’ve already started and finished: a pair of gloves and a shawl. Both items are knit from the same wool (undyed sock yarn, 80% wool/20% nylon), which I hand-dyed using acid dyes & my microwave oven. The colors didn’t exactly came out the way I wanted, but were close enough for me to still be happy. And since I’m not about to waste any yarn, I’m going to use it all!

I started on the mittens 3 times now, but frogged them… first I had selected the wrong yarn (it was gorgeous and handspun by my mother but the wrong choice for the project), then I tried out the double knitting and decided on a different tactic for the ribbing around the wrist, and then I wrongly decided I needed to cast on less stitches than last time, and it ended up too tight… so it’s frogged for a third time and I’ll get to it… after the hoodie.

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The left shoulder of the hoodie in dark purple merino.

I found this hoodie on ravelry a while back  and I bought it and printed it a while back because I love the big cable on it and the hood… That being said, I’m heavily adapting the pattern because I don’t want the waist shaping & fit, I’m using a different yarn and I decided I wanted to use the measurements I used for my fisherman’s sweater (which I love and adore because it’s naturally dyed, handspun and knitted by me, and it was frankly totally uncomplicated to knit).

And when I was knitting yesterday, I decided I would go crazy doing the small cable on the front center and back center of the hoodie and traded it for moss stitch because I’ve got a thing for moss stitch…

The color though, doesn’t come up right with my awful phone camera… I already edited it a bit to reflect the colour a bit better but, honestly, it should be a dark purple/aubergine.

The yarn is merino from the sales bin, I grabbed 12 balls (miraculously from the same dye-lot) and dashed for the register… the label said 10 balls for a sweater and I counted two for the hood… and now I’m crossing my fingers hoping that I’ll have enough yardage. A part of me wants to go back and pick up two more… just to be safe. But then I’m thinking, what am I going to do with the leftover yarn?

So I’m knitting. I haven’t finished my sample piece on my drawloom yet (which I was going to this summer). I’m working on a pair of summer pants that’s another trial for the winter piece I’ll be making. And I’ve got spinning to finish. God knows when I’ll get it all done because school is starting again next week, but I’m hopeful.

Preparing for winter

Tentative shibori

va_shibori
Shibori on plain weave cotton with synthetic blue/turquoise dye, pull thread woven in 3/1 twill.

In the picture above you see the shibori I’ve done at school as part of the assignments. To be honest, I didn’t follow any rules except mine. I had no idea of what I could do with shibori, only knowing that I had to weave in a “pattern thread” in to my fabric. This pattern thread needed to be pulled tight (very, very tight… you fingers will need to be sore for the next few days or you didn’t do it right), then tied and then the fabric will need to be dyed.

So yeah, if I hadn’t been so quick to decide “oh a twill will be fine” then I hadn’t been in the mess I was in. I had already threaded half the heddles on my loom before my teacher caught me and told me I could do more than just a twill… then you have that dilemma whether to pull out all the threads and start over, or continuing.

Let’s be honest, I wanted to weave that rainbow I had dyed up and I had already given up on that shibori even before I had woven it, let alone dyed, so I just continued my recipe for disaster. (yes it was all part of one warp)

My fabric is a plain weave, because really nothing weaves faster than a one color plain weave. The pattern thread is a 3/1 twill that I’ve woven into my plain weave at various distances and as per usual I forgot my camera and I don’t have anything to show you but the endresult. But you can still see some sort of striping on the fabric, that’s where the thread had been.

Now, what’s wrong? The pull thread I’ve used to weave in, was thicker than the cotton I’ve used to create the fabric with, meaning that it leaves obvious holes in the fabric once pulled out.

I had already realized that would happen, but I still wanted to make something of this shibori and for the first time this semester I was a bit hesitant about dumping loads of mordant- and dye-solution on it. I still wanted to see some sort of creasing color pattern (to say the least).

So, once I had tied my fabric into something that resembled a big shrimp, I didn’t want to totally immerse it in the mordant and the dye solution because I was terrified that there would be no pattern at all to see. So I sprayed on less mordant solution and less dye than I normally would have if I would dye in a rainbow fashion. I did my best to just dye the “good side” of the frilled fabric shrimp. But when I turned it over to rinse it, I discovered that I still had big parts of undyed fabric.

Deciding I’m going to wing it anyway, I put it in the spin dryer and took it home with the explicit instructions to only cut loose the pull thread when it is completely dry again.

And so it happened, this is the endresult. The fabric gives a slight illusion of still being creased, but it was ironed flat after rinsing it with vinegar solution to deactivate the mordant and having handwashed it in hot soapy water and dried again.

All in all, I like this fabric, it came out a bit lighter than I had wanted it to be, but you can definitely see the creases. However I will need to experiment with this some more and do this at least once the way I should.

Tentative shibori

Dyeing with the door open

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Rainbow dyed cotton warp.

I’ve worked like crazy to get my warp done last week, I didn’t even get to card or comb the wool I had planned to bring along. And I should have known, but the Saturday was so crazy busy that I didn’t even get to preparing the cotton warp for dying aka boiling it in soda ash for an hour. Let alone that I could take pictures.

I had loads of fun though, talking to people about what I was doing in the dye kitchen with my big pot of weird red stuff (cochineals) and later the brown stuff (the madder root). And explaining what techniques were used on the samples laid out concerning the dyeing process.

My dad and one of my nieces made the trip to Ghent to come and see what I was doing! It was really wonderful to see them. I spent far too much time talking about weaving…

Sunday however, I was so dog-tired, I had a brief one second thought about just staying in bed and let the other weavers muck about in the dye kitchen. But then I thought about maybe getting to dye my warp and checking on the wool I left in the madder root dye bath overnight. Needless to say, I was out of bed and on my way at 6 in the morning on a Sunday… (I’m crazy, I know)

Sunday was a lot calmer in terms of visitors, but a highlight in dyeing because I found time to put a part of my warp in soda ash for an hour AND I got to dye it as well. Loads of people were interested in what that brightly coloured yarn was doing next to the big pot of madder root…

I took the leftover dye home and dyed the rest of my warp at home. Which is still drying but is looking gorgeous.

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drying rainbow warp.

I think I talked about this before, but in case I haven’t: I use synthetic dyes (Procion) for this rainbow dyeing. I use only red, blue and yellow and then mix my colors. In contrary to dyeing in a dye bath, this is more or less done cold. More or less because the cotton is boiled in mordant solution, lightly spun dry and then immediately painted. The salt solution (to urge the dye onto the yarn) that is sprayed on after an hour or so, is also hot and the soda ash solution you spray on to fixate when you’re done, is also hot. The cold thus refers to the fact that the cotton throughout the dyeing process is cooling down from being in the mordant but doesn’t get reheated.

I can’t wait to put it on my loom!

Dyeing with the door open

Visits

Some of you may know already, but every year the school where I’m studying hand-weaving holds an open door (I hope that’s a correct translation). It’s in Ghent, Belgium and it’ll be this weekend (I know, short notice, sorry).

I’ll be there mostly dyeing wool (cleaned fleece or maybe roving, maybe combed top, we’ll see how much I get done) and cotton (warp), I’ll be “printing” on weft. So there’ll be loads of stuff to see. There are really beautiful things to see on the looms of my fellow students. It is going to be amazing.

So tomorrow, I will start preparing all of my dyeing adventures for the weekend! I’m really excited about this. I’ve got loads of other things to show you as well, but that will probably have to wait until after this weekend. Unless, by magic, I have loads of spare time tomorrow (I don’t think so).

You can find all of the information here:

OPENDEUR Handwever - 3 t_m 5 jun '16
Opendeur CVO Gent, Martelaarslaan 13, 9000 Gent op vrijdag, zaterdag en zondag 3/4/5 juni 2016.
Visits

The C of Red

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Red wool, dyed with cochineals and/or madder root.

I’ll be honest, this picture is not an adequate representation of the actual colors, there’s a) my color perception that loves reds, b) the accuracy of my camera and c) the calibration of my screen. Anyway, I did my best, in different lightings and this is the least bad result.

But enough about the quality of my photos, what on there is what is important: dyed fiber!

After reading weird weekends’ post about crushing bugs, I had to go and get me some bugs. Yes, as a vegetarian, who rescues spiders from the kitchen sink, I went to go buy cochineals to dye with.

I left with 10 grams of cochineals, some Allum and Tartaric Acid, and an unreasonable excitement about the future crushing of already dead bugs.

At school, in the module dyeing and binding off of last year, I had the chance of dyeing with cochineals on wool, or at least see my teacher do it. She obtained a bright fuchsia, which isn’t really my color, definitely not on its own. So I classified cochineals as something I would never dye with unless I there was nothing else available. But seeing weird weekends post, I had to change my mind. That red!

That being said, two weeks ago, I had to stay at my parents’ place to babysit their pets. So I packed my bugs, mordants, fiber and got busy. I stayed true to weird weekends’ recipe when it comes to timing and the mordants I used. But I wanted to try dyeing two shades so I used following mordant proportions 30%/20% (Allum/Tartaric Acid) and 40%/10%.

I made four portions of my wool, 2 of them went in the 30%/20% mordant and the other two in the 40%/10% mordant. I put one portion wool prepared with each mordant in the the cochineals dye bath and then put the other two in a dye bath with madder root.

In the picture it is hard to see but the two sachets are 2 different shades of red, one is more burgundy and one a little more orange-red. The 40%/10% and 30%/20% wool in cochineals following recipe I’ve linked when it comes to timing. I did filter the cochineals with a coffee filter before I put the wool in!

Now the top strands are madder root. When those two came out of the dye bath at the same time the cochineal strands did, there was no difference between the two strands although the mordants had been different. They also came out lighter than I intended, so I decided that they simply hadn’t been in the dye bath long enough. Nonetheless, I put them to dry next to the cochineals and went about preserving the dyebath I had made.

Because I hadn’t put in any salt or acid in the dye bath it was good to be used again, so I put the residue from the coffee filter back into each dye bath and canned them. (The word canner makes me think of a tin can, which is not what I used). Now my jars were sealed, I stored them at home in my cupboard, awaiting the arrival of my own canner.

Lo and behold:

Now the canner had arrived and since I still wasn’t very happy with the madder root dyed wool, I grabbed my gloves and got back to it.

Firstly, I made some oxalic acid by boiling the rhubarb leaves. A small part of the acid I mixed with water and put one part of the madder root dyed wool in. That jar, together with the jar with acid I put in the canner for an hour and then left them out on the counter to cool down. The next day, when the wool had dried again (without rinsing), I put it in the cochineals dye bath, the other strand that I had left untouched, I put in a nylon stocking and put it in the madder root dye bath (with the madder root itself still in it). Both dye baths I warmed to 60°C for one hour and then left it until I came back home from work. Then I warmed it again for an hour, again left it to cool and then I pulled the wool out of both baths.

The result are the two strands at the top of my first picture. The strand I dyed with madder root only is the lightest color, but still I obtained a deep orange bordering red. The strand I dyed with cochineals after, became a shade of red lighter than the orange-red I had obtained with the cochineals only, but still darker than the madder root only one.

So, 4 shades of red, ranging from deep orange to burgundy, which I’m very pleased with. Hopefully sometime in the following weeks I’ll find some time to spin it as well :)

The C of Red

Indigo

Indigo dyebath with cotton.
Indigo dye bath with cotton.

I love dyeing way too much, I admit, I’m an addict… When my teacher mentioned we could take the indigo dye bath home, I couldn’t resist.

Firstly, indigo is a plantbased dye that cannot be dissolved in water. It is a rather expensive dye and it is gained through a peculiar process where its reaction to oxygen will cause it to form a deposit in the container. It is that deposit that you can buy as being indigo dye.

Dyeing indigo comes with some lovely chemical jargon, like reduction and oxidation. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the theory behind “reduction” is, but with indigo it means that the balance between the dye, the water, the soda ash and the glucose is just right and the bath will turn yellow (as shown in the picture above), this means the dye is dissolved and ready to attach itself to the cotton. When you remove the cotton from the bath, it will start to react with the oxygen in the air (oxidation).

On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dyebath.
On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dye bath.

Time to do it ourselves! I started dyeing a part of my warp as an exercise at school. But since indigo is an expensive dye and it would be a shame to let it go to waste, we could take it home with us. Now I live an hour train ride and a 15 à 20 minute bike ride from school, so when I left school I had a carefully wrapped parcel containing my indigo batch, my indigo dyed warp and my rainbow dyed warp. I’ve never been so careful driving home on my bike, afraid to spill the indigo dye bath all over the inside of my bike bag. Not that my pair of rainpants could get any more blue…

Anyway, I left the warp for another two hours in the heated dye bath last night. This morning I rinsed it, put it in the dryspinner and then left it out on a towel to dry. Then I had this wicked idea, I still had some soda ash left from previous dyeing adventures and I had discovered that agave syrup is basically only glucose and fructose, which makes it ideal for reviving my indigo bath.

You hear me coming, right? Yes, I had another skein of cotton laying around which I prepared with soda ash, I revived the indigo bath with soda ash solution and a teaspoon of agave syrup (which I stirred into the soda ash solution) and put the yarn in the bath (I’ve spun it dry before adding it to the bath).

The reduction was all of a sudden so much more prominent than with the original dye bath! The yarn however is one that dyes a little more difficult and being a leftover bath, there wasn’t that much indigo left in it. But I still managed a light blue with the leftover bath, which is exactly what I wanted.

I sense a little project coming soon with some indigo dyed yarn…

Indigo

Rainbow dyeing the ikat warp

I told you about the ikat warp I was so excited about making, right? Well, this week we took it a step further. I asked my teacher if I could dye it using the rainbow dyeing technique we learned the week previous. The normal exercise would be to dye the ikat warp in a unique color, but since I already have practice with that, I wanted to try something a bit different.

Now, the thing with dyeing is that you have to wait to find out what exact colors you’ve created until after it has gone through the whole proces _and_ it has dried (unless you’ve got a whole color library ready to go). So as you understand, these are hugely important reasons to get out of bed early ;-)

So this morning I checked it and wow:

Rainbow dyed ikat warp
Rainbow dyed ikat warp of unbleached cotton, tied off with (natural) raffia ribbon.

Now “rainbow dyeing” as we use it at school isn’t really about dyeing a rainbow. It’s a sort of “uncontrolled” dyeing process, by which I mean that it will not give the exact same result twice. This is up for discussion though because you can recreate the colors and you can attempt to recreate the pattern in which you dyed, but the key for me is that I’m free to use as many colors as I want with just three stock dye solutions: yellow, magenta and cyan. Now, the cyan, wasn’t really cyan because of reasons and a little more royal blue, but the idea is the same.

I didn’t fancy mixing color solutions to create the colors I wanted because lets be honest, I’ve done that many times before. Now however I just wanted the stock solutions to create a color scheme for me. So I’ve put the yellow, magenta and blue where I wanted it to be and voila!

Raffia

I tied of the ikat with raffia ribbon, right? Well, my reasoning is that since raffia is a plant and it roughly contains the “same” qualities as the cotton, I’m fully expecting it to not have blocked all the color out of the tied off areas. If I would have used synthetic raffia, I wouldn’t expect the dye to “bleed” through the tie off. Since I’ve only used natural raffia, I can’t compare (yet). Still, I was curious this morning and removed just one. Understand that I’m risking the wrath of my teacher because I am not to remove any of the ties until it is safely on my loom.

Undone ikat tie on the rainbow dyed warp.
Undone ikat tie on the rainbow dyed warp.

And behold: the area where I tied off the warp has taken a very faded yellow as opposed to the orange-pink area around it. Which is more or less what I expected and yet I’m curious what the rest of the warp will look like.

Next week we’ll be putting it onto the loom!

Rainbow dyeing the ikat warp