White is Boring and Other Experiments

Wednesday I finished with mordanting all the yarn and fabric for my workshop next week.  Mordants are chemicals used to prepare materials for natural dyes.  They change the chemical surface of materials so that they more readily accept dye and different chemicals are used for different materials – plant or protein fibers.  So, since we’re going to dye both plant and protein fibers next week, I had to do two types of mordanting.  It’s tedious.  It’s not interesting since you don’t see anything really happening.  And it’s just white.  Ho Hum.

So after I finished with that and since I had all the dye pots out, I thought I’d do something fun with the rest of the afternoon, using acid dyes and wool.  Of course the weather did not cooperate and it started to rain so I had to do it in my kitchen sink.

My aim was to end up with speckled yarn like those commercial brands that are so popular these days.  I think it came out pretty good!

Then I wondered how this would turn out if I dyed spinning fiber using the exact same technique.

Not the same!! The dye really spread around and left no speckles at all.  The colors blended and I lost all the pop of the bright colors.  I thought this might happen.  After all, since yarn is twisted it tends to resist dye more than fiber.  Fiber is open and welcoming and soaks up dye easily.

Still, I like them both and it’s amazingly quick and easy to get these results.  Beats the heck out of plain white.

Preparation

Today I’m scouring some cotton fabric in preparation for my natural dyeing workshop.  Scouring is the first step in dyeing cotton fabrics no matter what type of dyes you’re planning to use. The purpose is to remove all the chemicals that the industrial textile process has left in them. 

Here is a photo of the pot just after adding the white fabric. Looks pretty white and clean, right? The rinse water was tan colored.

Next step – mordant! Stay tuned. 

 

Color Chemistry

The above yarns were all dyed from 200g of ground madder root and all started in the same pot.  How did I get so many colors?  This is the fun of dyeing with natural dyes – many colors depending on what else you throw into the pot.

The 2 skeins on the left plus the little ball at the bottom were treated to an ammonia rinse which turned them from reddish orange to pinkish orange.  The skein on the right and the larger ball were left to sit in the dye bath after vinegar was added, which turned them true orange.  The pH of your water changes everything.  Even after rinsing in pH neutral water they stayed these colors.

Preparing the madder for dyeing looks like cooking chocolate and not at all like the dye it gives to the yarn.

The type of fiber you are dyeing and how you mordant it also make a big difference to the results of course.  The two balls of yarn above are non-super wash wool.  The others are super wash and take up more dye quicker.  All of the yarn was mordanted in alum the day before I did the actual dyeing.

I also dyed 2 pieces of cotton in the same dye pots as the wool.  They came out much more subtle in color but still very nice.  I have to use some other mordants for cotton to get darker colors.

Several weeks ago I bought a bag of small black beans.  I put them in a big dye pot with about 1″/2.5cm of water over them and heated them just to a simmer.  I did that for 4 days until they started to stink a bit and then poured off the liquid into 3 jars and put them in the fridge.  On dyeing day I threw the bean water, 2 skeins of yarn and a piece of cotton cloth into the dye pot, all mordanted the day before.  I cooked all of it at just below a simmer for an hour and then let it sit in the pot over night.  Here’s what I got.

The grey yarn on the left is super wash wool and the one on the right is non-super wash BFL/Alpaca.  What a difference!  I was very surprised at that difference.  In fact I took the lighter one and threw it into the pot of madder exhaust that I had not thrown out yet.  I’m going to let it sit there until Wednesday and see what I get.

Now, this is the first time I’ve dyed with black beans and I’ve read that it is not light fast under any circumstances.  I’m testing that by putting most of the skein away in the dark and putting a bit of it in a sunny spot in the house for a month or more.  I cut the fabric in half and am doing the same with it. I’ll let you know what happens.

I do like the grey skein. It’s a lovely color.  I was kind of hoping for more blue in it, but to be honest I didn’t check the pH of the pot and maybe playing with that will give me more colors.  It was an experiment.  And also, really, I’m not too excited about spending a lot of time on something that is going to fade away easily and quickly anyway.  I’ll see what the light experiment brings before I spend more time on beans.

It was a fun dyeing day and madder has proven itself once again to be the workhorse of dyes.  Easy, reliable, beautiful.  I think madder and logwood are my favorites for those reasons.

Stay tuned for the results of the  bean to madder multi-day-dip!

 

 

 

Color by Numbers

There’s been a lot of dyeing going on chez UDS these days.  I’ve decided to split up the news into a post about acid dyes and a post about natural dyes.  First up, acid dyes!

I recently bought a small amount of Greener Shades dyes to try out.  I bought 10g of each of the 9 colors they sell, plus I bought the pdf download of their color book, which shows examples of dye percentage combinations at various DOS concentrations.  I bought these dyes because they are supposed to be easier on the environment, claiming to have no or fewer heavy metals than other acid dyes on the market.  If you search Revelry or online you’ll find some detractors who think the dyes are less “green” than claimed, but if using them allows me to dump water into the sewer system with a clear conscience then I’m all for it.

Of course using only 9 colors requires you to work a lot harder to get interesting colors than just buying them already mixed and tested for you.  I’ve used Dharma Trading dyes with great success and they have even more colors than ever, so it’s a big jump backwards to DIY color mixing.  I was skeptical.  But not any more.  Look at what I did!

I’ll take you through a few photos of dyeing in progress and then the final results.

The weather was fine, so I was able to put one pot outside.

This pot turned into these:

Merino/poly super wash sock yarn.

Dorset Horn fiber.  I dyed them as braids because I was curious how much dye would reach into the bound up parts of the fiber.  I was actually kind of surprised to see so much white.  I have no idea why I decided to dye BOTH braids like this.  Now I have 200g of fiber with big white spots, which is not my favorite.  Maybe after spinning it will look good/interesting?  Not sure what I will do with these.  Maybe over dye.

The above is some BFL dyed with red and black dye.  I expected the dye to mix more, but I like this affect.  I’ve already spun it up into a 3-ply worsted weight yarn sample.

I was really excited about dyeing some of the special blend of fiber I recently ordered.  It is 20% white BFL, 20% oatmeal BFL, 20% merino, 20% silk and 20% mohair.  It’s almost too soft to spin.  Several spinning friends have given it a try and most of them found it easiest to spin woolen.  What I found is that after dyeing the crimp returned to the wool and it was much easier to spin.  Here are before and after photos.


Last but not at all least, the series of gradients dyed on 3 different kinds of fiber.  First I dyed 100% merino, and after that success I decided to replicate the colors on 50/50 BFL/silk and Super Soft Shetland (from J&S).  I mixed up 5 bottles of dye and hand painted the fiber and steamed to set it.

Merino above.

BFL/silk blend.

Two 100g braids of Super Soft Shetland. I can’t WAIT to spin these! They feel fantastic!

And the whole family together.  I’m really happy with the dyes.  So happy that I’ve ordered more from Greener Shades!

Tomorrow I’ll have photos of the natural dyes. So much color from one pot!

Here Comes the Sun

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

After stressing myself out over a contest project, which I finished just in time, but can’t show you yet, I jumped right in to finish some long waiting WIPs.

The vest on the left was 99% finished for so long!  All I had to do was weave in the ends and block it and it was done.  The one on the right has been finished for over a year but I never posted anything about it.  I was always planning to write up the pattern for these vests.  Left is a size L and right is a size S.  What I like about the pattern is that the size differences are in the size of the leaves.  The neckline and armholes areshaped along the leaf decreases, in the same manner, no matter the size.

I decided that the design is not so special, and I’d probably spend a lot of time writing it up, and no one would publish or buy it.  I am wearing the yellow one.  My niece is wearing another size S version in a light brown, and this green one is destined for my friend N’s wardrobe.

For all of them I used Madelinetosh Vintage, a worsted weight yarn.  Above you see colors Terrarium and Edison Bulb.

Luckily today the sun came out in the afternoon so I could quickly take these photos.  Thanks to DB for holding the pole. :-)

I also did some spinning this morning.  In my jammies.

Free For All

On January 1, 2015, the EU in its infinite wisdom enacted the VATMOSS ruling which is intended to force companies such as Amazon and Apple to pay taxes on sales of electronically downloaded products.  Unfortunately, this far reaching tax law also affects individuals selling knitting patterns online.  Even more crazy, this law affects sales to individuals living in the EU, even if said knitting pattern designer lives and works in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world.  If you thought the U.S. was an overbearing bully of a country, well, the EU as a group of countries has just joined that club.

Over on Ravelry, Casey and team have been working around the clock to come up with a solution for all the thousands of pattern sales that take place via their site.  No, Ravelry is not selling the patterns.  They are only the vehicle which allows hundreds of independent people to sell their work.  If you want all the details about how Ravelry has come up with a (hopefully temporary) solution, please go here.

What is completely insane about this situation is that there is no threshold for small independent sellers, like me.  I read a lot about the situation in the UK, mainly because it’s so much easier to read about this subject in English, but also because there seems to be much more of an uproar in the UK about this.  The Dutch press, and people, seem much quieter about it.  But anyway, in the UK there is talk of convincing the government that there should be a threshold under which you are exempt form this nonsense.  Currently, in the Netherlands, the threshold is zero.  ZERO.  Sell a digital pattern for 1 euro and you are subject to this tax burden.  And it’s not so much the burden of paying the taxes – I’m fine to pay tax on what is owed – but the administrative burden is just awesome.

We are now required to 1) charge VAT according to the tax rate in the country of the buyer of our patterns; 2) provide at least TWO forms of proof of the residence of said buyer!; 3) file tax returns in those EU countries.  And this is true even if you live in Australia or Canada or Botswana and sell digital products to people in all 28 member countries for 1 euro a pop.

Some designers on Ravelry have gone with the solution to sell via LoveKnitting, a site in the UK that will handle this VAT mess for you.  But after a 6 month grace period, this will cost you .20p per item plus 20% of the sales price.  Plus you have to pay PayPal fees.  Plus take the VAT of an average of 20% off the top.  Pattern sales are hard enough to come by and this will mean that the price of a $5 pattern bought from an American designer jumps to $6.05 for me, and said designer will get $5 less 20% less 20p less PayPal fees.

Some designers have decided to stop selling to customers in Europe.  This makes me incredibly sad.  In the happy knitting world we have been open to everyone everywhere and via Ravelry we shared our craft and our lives (via images and forums) across all borders.  Now, thanks to the EU bureaucrats, we are separated, segregated, different.  Not to mention how angry I will be when I see a lovely pattern on Ravelry and try to buy it, only to find myself locked out because of this ruling.

Some designers have decided to set all their patterns to FREE on Ravelry.  The gorgeous patterns of Julia Mueller are now all free.

I decided to do the same.  After all, my pattern sales have been almost nothing the past years.  I sell, on average, a pattern a month.  That’s it.  So, on January 1, I set them all to FREE.  And as of this morning, 2 January, 2015, over 2,000 copies of my patterns have been downloaded.  This morning I have 3 patterns on the Hot Right Now page in the pattern search on Ravelry.

While I love the fact that people are discovering my patterns, I have real mixed feelings about how this has happened.  This tells me a few things, that frankly, I think Ysolda has already known and talked about on her blog before.  First, most people think that knitting patterns should be free and aren’t willing to pay for them.  Most people think that your time, as a designer, is worth nothing.  And that they deserve to get stuff for free.

Second, people will download free patterns just to have them.  They will most likely never use them or knit them.  But since they are free, they will download them and store them on their hard drive with no intention of ever bringing them to life, which, frankly, I don’t like at all.  If you are going to the trouble of downloading them, then make them.  I spent hours working on these patterns because I wanted to see them made and enjoyed and USED!  This irks me more than point one about expecting to get them for free!

Anyway, the world has changed and we have to adapt and change with it.  Even Trent Reznor puts music online for free.  Some authors have offered their books for free.  And by “free” I mean given away, not pirated or stolen.  So, my patterns are free, but I’m going to try something different too, that I’ve seen on other sites such as podcast sites and others offering information and entertainment on a small scale.  I’m putting up a DONATE button.  I’m also going to add all my patterns to the blog so that you don’t have to be a member of Ravelry to see them or download them.  This might take a few days so bear with me.  I have no idea if anyone will donate a penny because they have downloaded a pattern or knitted one of my free patterns.  But I have to believe that most people play fair, even if “fair” means different things to different people.

Please continue to support small, micro businesses in this new economic world.  Whether from an Etsy shop, or Ravelry, or from their own web sites, the micro economy should not be ignored by us consumers, nor by the big heads in government who set policy we all need to follow.  Since the 1970’s I’ve seen bumper stickers and posters reading “Buy Local, Think Global”, encouraging consumers to support local businesses without forgetting that we are part of one world environmentally and economically.  This needs to be changed to “Buy Small, Think Big”.  Support the individuals who make your world more interesting and rich.  And don’t forget that rules and regulations affect us in ways that might not be obvious at first.  Think bigger than your own self interest.

A First!

Here are my new fingerless mitts that I finished last night.  I knit them with my own hand spun yarn.  This is my first finished project with yarn I made myself!

They fit snugly and are very warm.  The fiber was 50/50 merino and silk.  I cabled plied the singles (first time cable plying!) which resulted in a worsted weight yarn.

I’m pretty proud of this first project!  They aren’t perfect, but I don’t expect perfection.  I only expect warmth and a smile on my face when I look at them.  Success!