Sunday, September 28, 2008

Adventures in Hand Dyed Yarn

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A couple of Sundays ago I took a really fun workshop through Brooklyn Krafthaus. We all gathered in a wonderful studio space down in the Gowanus area. Side note - that whole area holds lots of fascination for a number of photographers, artists and others. In fact, it is the subject of an upcoming show at the Brooklyn Public Library in 2009. I might have mentioned something about it here.

Anyway, I digress. Something I do with regularity. Is it Attention Deficit Disorder or that I have so many things to talk about or is it that my mind just races from one thing to another, always riffing, riffing, riffing.

So. Fellow knitter friend Tomo was teaching this workshop and I really like what she's been doing with her Kool Aid dyeing. I mean, this girl has it going on with the dyes! Check out just a small sampling of her efforts here. Tomo had a few moments of fame in an article about knitting in the NY Daily News. She was named DJ Tomo thanks to one of her many talents.

I ordered up a couple of skeins of KnitPicks bare sock yarn and worsted weight in preparation for the class. When the shipment arrived it all looked like so much yardage I wondered what in the world was I thinking?! For the workshop I took one of each, and decided to work with the sock yarn. It's wonderfully smooshy and soft. Fingering weight, it's 75% merino and 25% nylon (necessary for socks, my opinion, to add durability). For a superwash wool, this stuff is pretty nice. I've never actually knit with it, so this skein will be my first.

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After soaking the yarn for a good 20 - 30 minutes to really prep it, we launched into dyeing. I've been in a heathery, softer color mood lately, so I didn't want to go for a multicolor effect. I took some Slammin' Strawberry Kiwi diluted quite a bit and then dumped the whole skein in the bowl. SLURRPP. The dye soaked up IMMEDIATELY. I mean in an instant, there was clear water and the wool had absorbed the dye. A bit unevely too because there simply wasn't enough to cover over 450 yards of yarn. First lesson learned: make enough to go around, unless you want a variegated look.

Then I shared a small amount of Soarin' Strawberry Lemonaid mixed by another dyer to do some section dyeing. I didn't have that much and didn't bother to dilite it. I dumped one small section into the bowl and again. SLURRPP. Gone. I now had a blob of a darker color smack in the middle of the skein. Second lesson learned: plan ahead!

Here again, an example of me leaping before looking. I am such a risk taker it amazes me I haven't actually hurt myself! Bravery or stupidity I don't know. Reckless, wild, fearless, trusting, impetuous, silly, thoughtless. All of that.

But now I had a problem to solve. I like solving problems. I had to figure out a way to overcome the blob (sorry I didn't photograph it, but when it gets knitted up, it might become evident).

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My next move was to mix up some diluted Black Cherry and dump the entire skein in. It seems to have worked. Some sections darkened, while others picked up just enough to make this skein have varietion of pink/salmon/burnt orange. Third lesson: you can build the colors like layers but you have to plan ahead (see lesson 2).

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All in all, this was a really fun workshop and it's easy enough to work with the Kool Aid. I can see it takes some practice to get control of the effects. Next time I do this I will think ahead about what I really want. The truth is, I didn't go into the workshop with a clear idea of what result I wanted. My friend Marci knew exactly what she wanted to do with her yarn. She even had the projects all lined up.

Every time I go to the grocery store I keep meaning to buy more Kool Aid and then I forget. I guess because I have never bought Kool Aid for drinking, it's not on my mind. I will need to scour the bodegas and ethnic neighborhoods to get the good stuff (I am told these are the best sources for the unusual colors). I realize one needs several packets to work up enough dye to really cover the quantity of yarn, especially if dying 460 yards of sock yarn.

Someday soon this skein will be knit into a pair of simple ribbed socks. Then we will see how the stripes end up looking!


CathyZ said...

Nice! Kool-Aid is fun but as you found out you need quite a bit to fully dye your yarn. I just fixed some silk hankies that had the same slurping problem and had ended up barely dyed at all! Can't wait to see the socks!

Katie M. said...

so pretty! kool-aid is amazing stuff ...