Untangling

Monday night I brought one of the pink tangled skeins to knitting night.  My friends got a hold of it.  How weird is it that we ALL find it fun and soothing to sit and untangle yarn and wind it into a ball?  They practically fought over it.

In the end they wouldn’t let me take it and go home until they had finished getting it into a ball.  I was there WAY later than usual.  Ball wound, everyone stood up to leave.  Job done!

Red and Other Colors

Wednesday was dyeing day.  I only had two pots on the stove – one for cochineal and one for fustic.  I was aiming for fuchsia and bright yellow.  I didn’t get either one.  That’s what natural dyeing is all about – surprises and experiments.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I bought all my dye stuff from De Kat windmill the week before.  I’ve also been doing my homework.  Besides looking at online blogs and web sites and reading loads of info on Ravelry, I also have in house these books I used as reference:  Colors from Nature by Jenny Dean, Wild Color also by Jenny Dean, The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing by J. N. Liles, Indigo Madder and Marigold by Trudy van Stralen, and finally Verfreceptenboekje by Atelier Bientje.  Every book and web site has their own recipe.  Just pick what sounds good to you and give it a try.  It’s a lot like cooking.

First I did the mordant work – cooking the yarn in chemicals to get it to accept the dye.  For the fustic I used alum, citric acid and a little cream of tartar.  For the cochineal I used tin and a lot of cream of tartar.  I read that the CoT is a modifier that keeps the tin from turning the yarn brittle and hard.  That worked out well as my yarn is very soft and in excellent condition after dyeing.

While the yarn was cooking in the mordant water (for an hour) I made my cochineal dye bath – or at least started it.  Here is a jar full of ground up bugs:

When the yarn was finished with the mordant I took the skeins out and set them aside to cool off.  I could then use those same two pots to prepare the dye.  I followed my recipes – For the cochineal I used 10% weight of goods, 10% cream of tartar and 2.5% tin.  For the fustic 100% weight of goods only.  I skimmed off the scum from the top of both pots before adding the yarn.  I clearly didn’t filter enough of the wood fiber from the fustic pot as there was a lot left in the yarn when I was finished dyeing.  More on that later.

I rinsed my cooled yarn skeins in plain water, and then lowered them into the dye.  I had 4 skeins for the cochineal (1 100% merino and 3 MCN 80% merino, 10% cashmere 10% nylon) and 2 skeins (100% merino) for the fustic.

As you can see, the cochineal pot is a lovely fuchsia.  I was thrilled with this so far.  The fustic, on the other hand, was not at all what I expected.  Ugh.

This was supposed to be bright yellow!  It looked like mud to me.  Or worse.  Oh well, maybe it would change with cooking.  So I watched the pots closely over the next hour and made sure they stayed just at the simmer level, no boiling, lots of steam.  I had the overhead sucking fan working overtime and the windows open.  The fumes weren’t bad at all.

After an hour I carried the pots outside and had a think about what I saw.

The cochineal dye looked fairly exhausted.  The water around the dye was pretty clear.  The fustic, too, unless you stirred it and then all the sediment would come up.  I decided to take out the cochineal yarn and call it good.  Look how red it came out!  What happened to that lovely fuchsia color of the dye?  I don’t know.  A pH change I’m guessing.

I then had a brain wave.  Why not see what effect the exhaust from the cochineal dye would produce on non-mordanted wool?  Why not see what it would do to that brown fustic yarn? What do I have to loose?  So I quickly soaked my two leftover skeins of 100% merino skeins in plain water for an hour and pulled out ONE of my fustic skeins and rinsed it well.  Then I threw all three of them into the cochineal pot.  The fustic skein took up the red right away, I guess because it was mordanted and the other two were not.  I didn’t let it sit in there too long.  I left the two un-mordanted skeins and the one remaining fustic skein sit in their respective pots until the next day.

Here’s a photo of the first results hanging to dry.  The four on the right are the cochineal skeins and the one on the left is the fustic skein with the cochineal exhaust dunk.

The next morning I rinsed all the skeins outside under a faucet and was please to see no dye runoff at all.  This gave me the courage to wash them in my washing machine, wool cycle, to get any remaining residue out.  This worked out great and all the fustic wood pieces easily washed out.  All the bug carcasses too.  Here are my results after everything was washed and dried.

First, the MCN yarn with cochineal.  Super duper RED.  If you look REALLY closely, you can see slightly where the nylon part of the yarn didn’t dye as deeply.  This only adds depth to the color I think.

Second, the 100% merino skein.  Perfect sold RED.

Now, when you see the results of the cochineal exhaust dye you are going to laugh.  Please don’t laugh too hard.

Yes, they are a tangled mess.  There’s a reason for this.  Remember, I decided at the last minute to throw them into the dye pot.  Because it was last minute, I completely forgot how these were delivered from the shop – with ties so tight that dye couldn’t reach the yarn.  For all the other skeins I spent 20 minutes the night before re-tieing everything more loosely so that the dye could reach everywhere.  An hour after I threw these pink ones into the pot I went to check them.  When I pulled them up I could see clearly that they were completely white under the tie places.  I grabbed my scissors and cut the ties and dropped them back in.  It was too late to tie new ones.  Oh well.  At least they are evenly dyed after sitting in the pot all night.  I’ll just have to spend a few evenings winding them into balls while watching tv.

Now the fustic.  Here’s the one with only fustic, which sat in the pot over night.

It’s a nice light golden brown.  It’s not a color I wear, but it’s a nice color all the same.  Warm.

And here’s the one dyed in fustic, then dunked in the cochineal exhaust.

Isn’t it interesting?  The combination of red and brown makes a kind of weird salmon color.  I like it.  DB saw it and didn’t like it at all.  It’s not to everyone’s taste.  As my mom would say, “it’s different”.  Here are the two together so you can see the combination.

And here is the entire lot.  800 grams, in 8 skeins, all fingering weight.  Just waiting to become something even more beautiful.

 

Pimp My Clothes

Last Wednesday I spent the day at DIY Textile School playing with paints and fabrics and threads.  I decided I wanted to pimp some shirts.  Here’s what I made.

I used techniques I learned in the Mixed Media class to dye these 3 shirts.  I let them sit in the dye overnight in zip lock bags and then rinsed them out the next morning.  Here they are drying in the garden.

So, from left to right…. first the long sleeved t-shirt.  It started out white.  I rolled up the sleeves and put rubber bands around them.  Then I folded the body, rolled it up as tightly as I could and put rubber bands around that.  I then dipped it into some purple dye all around the edges and stuffed it into the plastic bag.  Here is the result:

I think it looks like some kind of weird alien x-ray!  Cool, right?

Then the yellow tank top.  I bought it at the HEMA.  It was a solid bright yellow.  I spun it into a spiral shape and put rubber bands criss crossed over it.  I poured red dye into the center and dabbed dark blue dye (which turned pine green with the yellow fabric) around the edges.  Results…

Yay! Hippie tie-dye bright shirt! I love it.

Finally, this kind of beach cover up dress.  It started life as dull beige.  Who wants dull beige?  Not me.  So I dyed it in purple, spirals again, one below the other.  As I type this post I’m wearing this dress now.  It’s not as bright as I really wanted, but it will do.

Interesting how the red split from the blue in places.  I mixed red and blue dyes together myself, in liquid form, but still the red broke away.  I like it.  Now, as long as our heatwave keeps up I’ll be wearing this dress a lot.

It’s super easy to do!  Go on, give it a try!

I’ve spent today dyeing yarns.  That blog post will be coming up on Friday.  More beautiful colors to show you!

Beat the Heat

We’ve been having a heat wave! Our weather has certainly gone from one extreme to the other.  Everyone has been heading to the beach this past week or so.  And so have we.  We try to beat the heat and beat the crowds by going early.  For example, this morning we biked to the beach and got there around 9am.  Here’s what it looked like:

DB went for a run.  I sat at the cafe at Parnassia and had coffee and a croissant and did some knitting….

When DB finished his run we went down to the beach and hung out for a while.  We dunked ourselves in the sea.  When we left at 11:30 the same part of the beach looked like this….

And people were pouring down to the beach.  We were salmon swimming against the tide as we walked up the hill to leave.  While biking home we passed this handsome swan family.  I thought I should take their picture.

Tomorrow should be cooler.  I’m planning to do some yarn dyeing so it had better be cooler!  I’m hoping for rain tonight so I don’t have to water the garden tomorrow.  Stay tuned….

Of Windmills and Color

Yesterday G. and I rode our bikes to the Zaanse Schans to buy dyes for dyeing yarn and fabric.  It was a glorious day!

I suggested going to the windmill De Kat to buy these dyes because I knew the weather would be nice.  G. suggested going by bike, which made me gulp and exclaim “bike!?”.  I’d never biked that far in my life and was a little nervous about it.  Silly me.  It was great.

We met part way there because she lives in Amsterdam and me in Haarlem.  We met at bike route point #11, which is where one of the many ferries takes cars and bikes across the North Sea Canal.  She had mapped the whole thing out using “Fiets!” app, which also has a web site where you can see your routes and upload and download them.  Luckily, here in NL, the country is crisscrossed by numbered and marked bike routes.  My route yesterday was this:

We biked through small towns and past fields of sheep and ponds with ducks and geese.  We got a little bit lost in Zaandam because there wasn’t a sign where we should have made a left turn.  It’s times like that that I’m happy to have GPS on my phone!  We were soon back on course.  We biked past not one, but TWO chocolate factories which smelled so strong it was almost (but not quite) sickening.  We can smell the chocolate in Amsterdam and Haarlem when the wind is right.

G. couldn’t believe I’d never been to Zaanse Schans before.  I live with a Dutchman.  Why would he want to relive his school trips with me?  I feel bad that I didn’t go there with my mom when she was here.  I just didn’t know how nice it was.  And how close to home.

We only went to the one windmill, De Kat, because we were on a mission to buy dyeing stuff, and because we didn’t want to get home too late in the afternoon.  There were tourists, but it wasn’t super crowded.  We climbed up the stairs to the middle layer of the mill, where the works are inside and the walkway is outside.

There’s a small gift shop and we asked where we would buy the dyes.  The woman said “oh you have to get Piet to take you to the back room”.  Piet was dressed in traditional clothes, including wooden shoes, and carried his bone pipe with him.   He took us through the door marked “Private”, into a fantastic room filled with magic powders.

Nearly all of the products they sell are for making your own paints.  Only a very small part of it, just one “bookcase” was for fabric and wool dyes.  That’s ok.  It’s enough for us to play with!  Isn’t this a fantastic place?

G. wanted a photo with Piet to send to her mom.  Here it is.  Very sweet.

I bought more stuff than I was planning on buying.  I couldn’t resist.  I bought cochineal which is very expensive.  I’ve never dyed with it before so I’m looking forward to playing with that.  Logwood, which I have used before.  Fustic and woad, which are new to me.  I also bought some chemicals for mordants and modifiers – alum and iron and potash.  I was looking for copper for a modifier, but they didn’t have it and I suspect you can’t buy it anymore because it is dangerous to use.  Just as well I couldn’t get it.  I also bought a sweet little book of recipes which included bits of yarn as samples.

We had a quick sandwich in the area and hopped back on our bikes to head home.  G. left me at Zaandam to head to Amsterdam and I pedaled back the way I had come.  I have to say, by the time I reached the ferry I was pooped!  Still 8km to go.  When I was on the ferry you could see in the distance a big cruise ship coming up the canal heading for Amsterdam.  I stopped on the other side and took a few photos of it.  I wanted to include the boat watchers.  I found it really funny that people would drive to this point, get out their chairs and picnic stuff and hang out watching boats come and go on the canal.  Plane spotters and train spotters and now boat spotters.  Takes all kinds.

I biked 40km (24 miles) in total yesterday.  When I got home at around 3pm I put my head under the kitchen faucet and ran cold water.  The farthest I’d ever biked before was 20km to the beach and back.  This was twice as far.  I felt really tired but really good.  Today my legs feel tired, but not sore and not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  I even went to knit night last night in Amsterdam and BIKED to the train station!

I complain a lot lately about getting older and how my body is changing.  I don’t like it.  Not at all.  Getting old sucks.  Pains popping up where there weren’t any last week.  Swollen fingers and sleepless nights.  And then I go for a bike ride like this and I count my blessing over and over again.  I’m so happy I can do this.  Getting old sucks, but getting old in style is pretty ok.

p.s. If you want to know how to change the direction that a windmill is facing, you can find out HERE.

Neon is New!

I just finished knitting this sweater and I LOVE it!  The pattern is Neon by Joji Locatelli.  The yarn is Madelinetosh DK Twist in color Mansfield Garden Party.  If ever a pattern and yarn were meant for each other, this is it.

The yarn is so variegated that I really had no idea what I was going to make with it that wouldn’t end up looking like a pooled mess or clown barf.  Then my new friends I met in Santa Cruz showed me all their Neon sweaters and I thought that I had found the solution.  I did indeed!

Like all Madelinetosh (and most all hand dyed) yarns, there are differences in each skein.  You can overcome this by alternating skeins as you knit (to mix up the color differences) but I really didn’t want to bother.  What I did bother with, however, was making sure that where I changed skeins, the color differences were matched in the body and sleeves.  You can see above where the colors kind of change, and they change at the same points in the body as in the sleeves.  I weighed my skeins and used 60% for the body (knit in one piece) and 20% for each sleeve.  Clever, no?  These color differences are much more obvious in a photo than in real life.

Modifications I made to the pattern –
First, I didn’t make all the waist decreases.  I skipped the last one.  I’m short and I don’t have much of a waist, so skipping a decrease made perfect sense for my fit.  I made 3 rounds of decreases and 3 rounds of increases.

Second, I did the bottom ribbing and the sleeve ribbing bind off using Jenny’s Amazingly Stretchy Bind off.  I thought it needed to be really stretchy, and after washing and blocking it is indeed stretchy!  Maybe this was overkill.  I probably could have used just a normal bind off.

Third, my sleeves are shorter than the pattern states which I did by knitting fewer ribbing rows.  I have short arms.

Fourth, and importantly, I knit my sleeves FLAT instead of in the round as the pattern states.  She goes to great lengths to explain how to do this stitch pattern in the round, which is very fiddly and annoying.  Why bother?  Just knit them flat with an extra stitch either side for seam allowance and spend 10 minutes sewing them up at the end.  Simple!  No worry about gauge or anything.  When I got to the cuffs, I did knit them in the round.

sleeve seam

Fifth,  I made a small ribbing neckline instead of the stockinette stitch in the pattern.

And finally, also importantly, I knit the neck ribbing and the front bands ribbing on needles TWO SIZES smaller than called for.  I read on Ravelry that a lot of people found the bands floppy.  Simple solution.  Use smaller needles.  Actually, every sweater I’ve ever knit that has ribbed bands calls for smaller needles for this part of the knitting.  I don’t know why Joji choose to use the same size.  Mine turned out great.  Oh, and I also made 3 stitch button holes because my buttons were kind of big.  Perfect.

I’m super happy with how this turned out.  It fits perfectly and I’m sure to wear it all the time.  I’m tempted to make another one!

Despite the Weather

Despite the terrible weather we’ve had this year, some beautiful things are emerging from the garden.  The Snow White tree rose in the front of the house is looking better than it has in a couple of years.  I really was worried about it after this past winter.  I had to cut a lot of it off, but maybe that’s what it needed to come out and bloom like this now.

I also have a 3 David Austin roses in the front garden, but they just struggle to stay alive.  Two of them are currently blooming – just one flower each – but they are holding on.  They are such fragile things.  Each year I expect to have to dig them up and replace them with something hardier, but each year they manage to grow a few inches and only half of that dies back.  The flowers though are so beautiful.

And in the back of the house I have some little succulents growing in a place that doesn’t get much sun.  This year they are blooming!

I don’t have a photo, but we have about 5 meters x 2 meters of blackberries growing along a side fence, just bursting with flowers and green berries.  We’re going to have kilos of berries in August.

So, even though we’ve had far too much cold weather this year, all is not lost.  It’s not all bad news.  I’ll just keep looking out the windows at these signs of life and I’ll feel a little better about wearing my winter jacket.