Thursday, July 25, 2013

The pitfalls of dyeing and the joys of overdyeing

So I've been playing in the dyepots lately. I'm not an accomplished dyer but I know enough to make more pretty things than I make messes. And I've learned that I don't need to accept the messes, than I can try to make lemonade out of those lemon dye jobs. Case in point--3 weeks ago I finally got a large enough chunk of time to dye the 2 lbs. of Mixed BFL I'd been hoarding for a sweater for myself. Got out the red, purple, green and orange dyes, made stock solution, applied it to the soaked 4 oz. tops (8 of them!), wrapped in plastic warp and steamed for a good 90 minutes.

The problem was, I'd misplaced my steamer rack (still haven't found the dang thing) and had to use another steamer I wasn't very familiar with. And apparently the new steamer just didn't reach a good temperature and not all the dye set. Instead of bright splashes of color on a naturally-colored striped top, I had weak colors on a dull background. I pulled off half an ounce and spun up 4 little skeins to see if I could possibly use the top. Not. So everything sat for 2 weeks, in clear view so I could think about a solution every time I passed that 2# of ugly fiber.

The original colors

Aha! I could overdye! Thinking that cool colors would work best, I first tried a solution of soft blue on a knitted sample.

Even duller than the original colors, and now the stripping effect is almost invisible. Next I tried a soft aqua.

Top-original color; Middle-dyed with blue; Bottom-dyed with aqua

Not much better, is it? So everything sat for another week while I mulled things over. And it hit me the other day that the original red I'd used would work perfectly with the other colors. The worst that could happen is that the green would turn brown, which was quite acceptable on a naturally-stripped top. And if I used a kettle-dyeing technique, the red dye would strike unevenly and give me a more hand-painted look. This is the result, and I'm incredibly happy with it.

I'm working on spinning the second bobbin of this top, and it's coming out much like multicolored cranberries. It's a great muted red with bright and dark lengths and will make a lovely sweater or jacket for me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing, carding, spinning....the business of fiber moves forward

I've been writing magazine submissions these past few months. Two have been accepted and I'm hard at work trying to meet the deadline for a third. As usual with we creative folks, the ideas and execution of those ideas come easy--putting it all on paper? Not so easy, because our brains want to move on to the next exciting project. A sort of "Oh, shiny!" moment every few days, and difficult to keep oneself on track. But I manage, with the help of lots of DVDs of the sci-fi shows I missed during the winter tv season. All the good ones come on at my bedtime and watching them at their original time would find me sound asleep in my chair with knitting in hand. And the cat snoozing in my lap, having taken advantage of my being asleep to catch a nap on my knitting.

Then there's the business of trying to keep carded fiber in my Etsy shop. I could card 8 hours a day, 3-4 days a week, just to keep all my colorways up to date. On the other hand, it gives my customers something to look forward to. The best part of carding is seeing something in my travels or in the yard that I want to capture in fiber. Upstate Meadows (currently out of stock) was one of those, it caught my eye when returning from Fingerlakes Fiber Festival several years ago. Field after field of Purple Loosestrife and Queen Annes Lace blooming among all those different grasses and I couldn't wait to get home and throw things into the carder to see if I could duplicate it.

One of these days I'll card enough Upstate Meadows to spin and knit a sweater for myself. But not this week, I have other colorways to work on and rolags to refill in the shop and create. Then there's the vegetable garden (and the danged groundhogs/woodchucks who like to break in for a snack) and the berry and fruit trees to take care of. Keeps me busy and makes for quick days and sound sleep at night.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Two of the art yarns for my guild demonstration

I belong to the Butler Spinners and Weavers Guild in (surprise!) Butler County, PA. Way back in the shivery months of very early spring, one of our very skilled members--JoAnn Clark--gave a program on her felting work. She was elaborating on her technique of felting a support for the many smaller pieces she does and gave us the opportunity to felt little balls as a hands-on way to experience how her inner workings were made. And I made a casual remark about doing a program to show everyone how to spin those little balls onto their yarn.

Out of the mouths of babes! (I may be old but I'm still A Babe to Husbeast.....) I'd never really explored this technique much beyond felted and ceramic beads, so I started prowling the shops to see what interesting things I could find to spin into my demonstration skeins. It has been a fun way to stretch beyond what I've been doing, and it's high time I stepped out of my comfort zone again. A creative person needs this push, needs to expand beyond what they've been doing and see what can happen. I'm having a blast with it!

Dragonfly Friends

Dragonfly Friends closeup

Jardin de Roses
Jardin de Roses closeup

When I'm done playing with this stuff, I'll have the yarns up for sale in my Etsy shop. Unless I can't resist keeping some of them and exploring further to see what I can knit or weave with them.....