Natural Dye Workshop

Last weekend I went to a natural dye workshop in the city.  I never really understood why people would dye their own yarn.  You can just buy whatever color you want so why go through all the work of trying to find a way to dye it.  Then I realized that’s what people say about knitting too.  The final temptation was when I stumbled on Grackle & Sun’s blog.  There were a series of posts about natural dyes and suddenly it all became interesting.  There were no guarantees and so many variables that now it truly became a unique and fun idea.

I went searching for someone teaching natural dyes but I didn’t find much.  Finally I found sifu design studio & fine yarns that was having a Saturday afternoon workshop.  I was a little anxious about the parking since my parallel parking skills aren’t the best but luckily it all worked out.

The workshop was informal and the instructor even said she was using the “alchemy” approach in order to give us a good intro and overview.  If you want to be able to reproduce a dye lot you have to take very detailed measurements and notes.  Detailed notes take a lot of time so we skipped that part and just went straight to the dying.

We each got one white Cascade skein (not the super wash) split into three mini skeins.  This gave us the chance for three different dye attempts.  We had four dye baths going: onion skins, beets, marigold flowers, and Brazilwood sawdust.   We let each pot sit for an hour and then strained the water.  For my first skein I used the Brazilwood sawdust and ended up with a light pink mini skein.  I thought about putting it in for a second time to try to get it a bit darker but the skein was already tangled enough I didn’t want to risk it.

For our second skein we talked about the concept of a resist.  A resist happens when something interferes with the yarn taking the dye.  It can happen on accident or on purpose.  Some of us decided to go ahead and try it on purpose for our second mini skein.  We didn’t have rubber bands so we used some balloons and tied them tightly around sections of the yarn.  The idea here is that if the dye doesn’t reach the yarn then you will have white sections left in your yarn.  After that you can decide what you want to do about those white sections.

Some people wanted to try a different dye bath, some left it white, and some put it back into the same dye bath a second time.  I decided to try this out with the marigold dye bath which gave an awesome yellow.  However, my resist wasn’t very noticeable to me.  I could see the white parts but they were just too narrow to really have any impact.  I decided to put my mini skein back into the marigold bath and leave it in for a while in hopes of completely eliminating the resist.

It worked pretty well.  My mini skein ended up a beautiful almost fluorescent bright yellow and I don’t notice the lighter sections unless I’m looking for it in direct sunlight.  Unfortunately it was also during this dye bath that the only bad part of the class came up.  It was made very clear to us how many of our mini skeins each dye bath could hold.  There was just enough for each person in the class to dye one of their mini skeins at a time.

I guess someone thought they were better than everyone else and she decided to dye her skeins however she saw fit. In the pic here you see me and another classmate with our mini skeins in the marigold dye bath.  It was empty and we each put one in leaving two skeins in the bath.  We were told repeatedly that this dye bath had a limit of two skeins at once.  Well when we came to take them out there were now four skeins in there.  Not three, but four.  And guess what?  The extra two were from the same lady.  So not only did she ignore the dye bath limit she also ignored that we should only do one skein at a time.  I have no idea why someone would do this.  We had plenty of class time and there was a limit to the number of skeins we had to dye.  It just completely baffles me.  She ended up sitting around for the last hour of class with nothing to do.

The last topic that came up in class was the concept of over dyeing.  This doesn’t mean you leave your yarn in too long it means that you take an already dyed yarn and dye it again.  It came up with the topic of the resist.  You could use a resist in the first dye bath and then over dye the skein in a different dye bath.  This would leave the white yarn sections with the color of the second dye bath while the rest of the yarn would be a combination of the two dye baths.

My resist didn’t work so well the first time so for my last mini skein I decided to do a simple over dye of the entire skein.  I used the onion dye bath first.  This gave a different yellow than the marigold.  It was a little muddier and had some orange in it.  I wasn’t too thrilled with that yellow which I’d already seen other classmates get from the onion bath so I over dyed it in the Brazilwood sawdust.  This gave me a light/orange peach color that I was much happier with.

So in the end I had my three mini skeins in yellow, pink, and orange/peach. They were still wet here on the back of the chair but pretty close to their dried colors.  I let them hang over night to dry.  All three mini skeins got tangled up enough that I had to hand wind them.  In the future I would make sure to tie the skeins in multiple locations instead of the one tie I had.  Hopefully this will leave me with neater skeins to wind.

While the alchemist approach to dyeing is great as an intro I think I would really like to be more exact on any future dye attempts.  I’d also like to experiment more with the concept of the different mordants and well honestly everything.  I heard that some master dyers even get the pH of the soil for plants they use in their dye baths.  I know that our results were more of a let’s see what we get but I would have more fun trying to get a certain result from the beginning.  Either way I will definitely be looking into dyeing yarn again!

Stitches Midwest

I’ve already posted about each day at Stitches but I wanted to do a final post-mortem so to speak on the whole weekend.  I already discussed the classes each day but here is the overview.  I had a total of 18 class hours:

  • Perfect the Fit with Barry Klein (6 hours)
  • Accessorize with Beaded Belts with Judy Pascale (3 hours)
  • Entrelac Basics with Gwen Bortner (3 hours)
  • Stranded Color: Just Beyond the Basics with Beth Whiteside (3 hours)

Except for Perfect the Fit each class had a little knitting project.  On Friday I also had the Parade of Elephants event. I finished off those projects as you can see to the left.  My coffee sleeve turned in a tiny red bull size cozy after felting.  See that fair isle strip? It was knitting in the round and then I used a steek.  That’s right, I cut my knitting.

My elephant did not turn out so well.  I’m showing him from his most flattering side.  He needed a tighter gauge as you can see all the stuffing through the knit stitches.  Plus he needed a much fatter stomach.  He ended up being long and skinny in the torso which is not how I think of an elephant.

I will definitely being going back to Stitches and signing up for the classes again.  I will probably cut back on 12-15 class hours.  It was an exhausting weekend.  Barry Klein was my favorite teacher and I will hunt down any classes he offers in the future.  On the flip side I will actively avoid any classes offered by Judy Pascale.

On to the shopping.  I ended up spending about $150-200 in merchandise.  I thought that was a lot until I talked to everyone else I met there and ended up on the conservative side. Here is what I bought:

  • The New Knitters Template  (for my mom)
  • 5 skeins of yarn
  • 2 tubes of beads
  • Soak heel lotion
  • Soak wash

I was very happy with everything but of course it was a long weekend and something had to go wrong.  Well, I forgot my mom’s book outside and it was left in the rain.  It wasn’t too bad but all the bottom corners were wet.  I would just buy another one but it was signed.  I haven’t told my mom yet so if she reads this before I see her I guess she knows now!

Since I couldn’t just buy another signed copy I had to do as much damage control as possible. So my first step was to put wax paper between every single page so that they wouldn’t dry stuck together. Thank you, book, for only being 79 pages. A few pages were tricky to separate but I got them all without losing any content.  Now I just need it to dry as smooth as possible.

The first night I left heavy books on the pages to flatten them out but they didn’t dry at all.  Now I’m alternating between airflow and sunlight to allow drying and the heavy books to flatten the pages.  I think it’s going pretty well.  Worst case, I’ll get her another copy next year and take this one back for myself.  I kind of like this one better anyway.  It now has character and a story.  How can smooth undamaged pages compare to that?

We’ll end with separate pics for each yarn skein.   I love yarn pictures.

madelinetosh tosh lace

Colorway: Posy

Price: $24.95





madelinetosh tosh vintage

Colorway: Alizarin

Price: $19.20




Dragonfly Fibers Djinni Sock

Colorway: Velvet Underground

Price: $24.00




Dragonfly Fibers Traveller

Colorway: Titania

Price: $20.00




Timothy Street Yarns

Colorway: Evening Walk?

Price: $13.00




Stitches Midwest – Friday
Stitches Midwest – Saturday
Stitches Midwest – Sunday

Winding Yarn

I managed to wind all my yarn hanks on Thursday.  I think it will be a lesson to me about procrastination.  I had about three months of laziness waiting for me.  Imagine if I was buying at my normal pace. My arm was actually getting tired by the end of it.  Then I went bowling last night for the first time in years and I still have my knitted gift bag to finish off today.  Not to mention my socks.  I’m tired.  I think I will use my left hand the rest of the day.

Yarn Addict?

I wonder what really makes a yarn addict?  I’ve never applied the term to myself because I don’t go out and buy more and more yarn.  I need to plan a project before I’ll look around for new yarn and this year I’ve tried to start looking at what I already have first.

Maybe because I’m not buying yarn every single month (or twice a month) it’s opened new doors.  I can’t think of another reason why I love looking at pictures of yarn.  Yarn hanks are the best and I will look through knitting or spinning blogs just for a peek at some yarn pictures.  This is new.  I used to have very little interest in the pictures until there was knitting.  I needed to feel the yarn before I cared much of what it looked like unknitted.

I’m getting a little concerned. I look at these pics and I have no desire to obtain this yarn I’m looking at but simply enjoy looking.  It’s weird.  Isn’t it?

Tomorrow I have a mass yarn winding session planned so here are the pics of some of my yarn.  My own yarn pictures don’t really interest me so I guess I’m some sort of yarn peeping tom instead of a yarn addict?

TKGA Master Knitter: Choosing Yarn

So, what does “light-colored” mean anyway?  I’m having difficulty accepting this as I start my TKGA Master Hand Knitter’s Program.  I don’t like light-colored yarn.  I’m sure I’ve said this before and will say it again, but I really don’t like it.

I was talking to my friend, Laura, at work about finally getting around to our swatches.  She’s waiting for the yarn she ordered and I’m just being lazy and SWTOR obsessed.  Either way, I am not happy after Laura pointed me to this Choosing Yarn Article (for those of you who are TKGA members).  To sum it up the article basically says that if you are not using white, cream, or pastel there’s a good chance you will be asked to redo the swatches.

Now I’m frustrated.  Why don’t the directions just say white, cream, or pastel?  Light-colored does not mean pastel to me. Pastel means you have to squint and turn your head in funny directions to see a hint of color.  Okay, so maybe they want to see that you can make “good” color choices for your work and swatches.  Apparently I can’t.

I think it’s easier to see stitch definition in a medium color.  Colors like a rose pink, sea green, or light blue.  But not pastel.  I think color makes things easier to see and neutrals harder to see.  Maybe I have weird eyes.  Maybe I just haven’t looked at enough submitted notebooks to appreciate the neutrals.

The good news is that I managed to knit Swatch # 1.  The bad news is I will have to redo it.  The middle ground is that I have awful edges on my ribbing portion so I was probably going to redo it anyway.  I need to look up ways to even out the tension when I’m on the first/last stitch of a row.  Right now every other row end has a freakishly large knit stitch.

More good news is that along with knitting my first Swatch # 1,  I am no longer committing knitter’s sacrilege. I’ll post more on that later.