Dyeing Success!

Yesterday I went to the first day of the Mixed Media & Surface Design course at DIY Textile School.  We did lots of different resist dye techniques on cotton fabrics.  We brought home all our little fabrics in zip lock bags, which we were to open and rinse out the next day, which was today.

I am so excited about the results that I had to take a couple of quick photos and share.  They still need to dry and be ironed, and then I’ll do a better photo shoot.

How did we make all these beautiful fabrics?  Ha! You’ll have to take the course to find out!  Next week we’re doing screen printing and stamping to create our own fabrics.  Can’t wait!


…And…We’re Back

After being away from home for 3 weeks (except for a short day in between trips), it’s taking me a while to get everything organized at home and back in some kind of normal order. I’m still doing piles of laundry and sorting through piles of photos. Today I’m fighting with the “new” Flickr and still haven’t managed to upload my 400+ photos from my travels.

The photo above was taken in my mom’s garden. She has lots of beautiful flowers with birds and bees and butterflies zooming around through the plants. We had fantastic weather the 2 weeks we were there. It was so nice to get warmed up from the never ending winter in the Netherlands.

While in sunny CA we went to Chico to see my niece and her husband, to Yosemite National Park for Sunday Brunch at the Awahnee Hotel, and to Santa Cruz to meet some knitting friends and put my toes in the cold Pacific waters. Of course all during this time I was busy knitting away on my “Twice Born” shawl that is part of Mad May on Ravelry.  I have photos of all these events, but you’ll have to be patient. I’m trying to be patient with flickr.

I also spent 5 glorious days in Estonia for a conference on Traditional Knitted Sweaters Around the Baltic Sea. This was a fantastic experience that was over far too quickly. The weather was perfect, the people so friendly, the knitting and handwork beautiful and inspiring. Add good music and food and you have a little bit of perfection in 5 days. I would love to go back to Estonia to see more and learn more. Of course I have hundreds of photos of this event, but you’ll have to hold on and be satisfied with just this one, that I’ve taken from J.’s FB page.

I’m heading back to flickr now to see how things are progressing with my photo uploads.  More exciting stories and photos will be posted here in a day or so.

Dyeing Day

On Wednesday G. came over and we did some dyeing.  I did yarn, G. did fabric.  I did indigo and she did cooking pots of madder and weld.  Above are the results of my first ever indigo dyeing.

Left to right: 2x 100% merino wool, sport weight, 2 dips; same yarn that was previous dyed with weld (nearly 3 years ago!) and over dyed with 1 dip in indigo; 2x Cascade undyed sock yarn, superwash; 2x 100% silk lace weight.  I was really curious how the different yarns would dye differently.  It’s true what everyone says, superwash yarn takes up dye, even natural dyes, much faster and deeper than non-superwash yarn.  The silk came out beautiful too!

I started out in the morning making a jar of indigo powder, an alkali and a reducing agent, which turned it from blue to a greeny-brown.

Then I filled a plastic tub with hot water and more of the same chemicals.  Then gently dipped the glass jar into the tub, without disturbing it, and poured the contents into the tub under the water.  All of that was to avoid getting any oxygen into the mixture.

It smelled foul and looked green.  Perfect!

Meanwhile G. was busy mordanting fabric and stirring up her pots of color on the stove.

Then I started dipping my yarns, sliding them in and out of the tub gently, watching the magic of the green yarn turning blue before my eyes as it hit the oxygen in the air.  Presto!  In no time I had this:

I then dug into my bag and pulled out a skein of yellow wool that I had dyed almost 3 years ago.  Funny, that day was also with G., dyeing in my back garden.  I decided to take that skein and throw it into the indigo and see what kind of green I would get.  Not bad actually.

Here’s my yarn after a second dip and with the newly green skein.  G. is in the background showing off her bright red madder fabric.

And here are some of G.’s results.

It was such a fun day!  I love this stuff.  I love the chemistry and the mystery and the magic of dyeing.  I can’t wait to do it again.

And that might come sooner rather than later.  My indigo vat is now blue, which means it still has indigo in it, but has become oxygenated.  I need to put some chemicals in it again and it should turn green again and be ready to dye some more.  I think I’d like to try some simple tie-dyeing on t-shirts.  Why not?  Isn’t that back in fashion?

New Sewing FO

See? I kan haz sewing FOs!  This is my new red wool jumper (jumper in the American meaning of the word, not the British meaning).  I bought the fabric in California 3 or 4 years ago.  I cut out the pieces about a year ago.  It just sat in a pile for a very long time before I decided it was really time to finish it.  It’s extremely simple and comfortable.  I’m sure I’ll wear it a lot.

Of course I didn’t just make it how the pattern said to do.  Oh no.  You see, the pattern didn’t call for any lining, just facings on the inside.   I didn’t think this heavy wool would feel nice this way, nor did I think it would drape as nicely without lining.  So I went out and bought some stretch lining and figured out how to put it in.  Here’s a photo of the inside:

I’m really happy how this worked out.  It feels great.  DB took the first photo last night before we went out to dinner.  It looks a little schoolmarmish for a dinner out, but hey, I AM schoolmarmish so that’s what you get.  Maybe the red makes it a little sassier.

By the way, I took a photo of my elbow this morning.  Thursday afternoon in Amsterdam I slipped on ice and fell hard on my right hip and elbow.  The hip is fine, but the elbow is bruised and sore.

This morning at the gym I really noticed that my upper arm is sore from this fall.  Otherwise, as long as I don’t touch it, it’s feeling pretty ok.  The weather has warmed up and all traces of ice and snow are gone from Haarlem and probably also from Amsterdam.  It’s starting to smell like Spring outside.  My rose bushes are putting out new green shoots.  Almost time to get the gardening gloves out!

Handwerkbeurs Zwolle

Yesterday I and 4 of the “usual suspects” went to the Handwerkbeurs in Zwolle.  If you haven’t been there, it’s the twice a year marketplace with everything from quilting supplies, to beads, to felting, to embroidery and knitting.  Every year there are more and more yarn shops, which is great for knitters.

Of course I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head, but I always like to go and see what’s new and to hang with my peeps.  The train ride there and back (70 minutes  more or less from Amsterdam) is perfect knitting and chatting time.

Above is a photo of what I got yesterday, except for the buttons which I forgot to photograph.  From left to right:

4 skeins (25g each) of 100% cashmere, “Adam”, from Bart and Francis.  It was expensive, but I’ve never owned anything 100% cashmere and I just couldn’t resist.  I’m hoping it’s enough for a large scarf/small stole.  I’ve already been looking through my Estonian Lace books to find a nice stitch pattern to use. (I can’t find this yarn on their web site – maybe it’s coming soon.)

Next is 50g of lace yarn in 80% merino, 20% silk, hand dyed by Loret Karman.  Isn’t it lovely?

Finally, JORIS! I’ve been stalking this pattern on Ravelry for a while now.  When I saw a shop with a few of these little guys in different colors and sizes, I just had to buy the pattern on the spot and some yarn to make him with.  The yarn is Schoppel-Wol, fingering weight. He will be kind of small using this yarn, so I might make him with a double strand and chopping up the skein into its component colors.  The designer, Annita Wilschut, has lots of other critter patterns like sock monkeys and frogs.  Her site is in Dutch, and the pattern I bought yesterday is in Dutch, but if you look her up on Ravelry she also has pattern downloads available in English.  They are just adorable!

I bought a few buttons from Lüna Design, a German man who despite speaking only German, managed to babble on and make himself understood well enough to sell loads of beautiful buttons.

N. and I also spent some time admiring the beads from Khyber Gallery.  What an amazing selection of beads made of all kinds of materials from the near and far east.  Beautiful amazing things.  Unfortunately I was completely out of money by the time I saw them, which was probably a good thing.  I won’t be surprised if we make a road trip to Wageningen to visit the shop, where Ans says she has far more stock than at the beurs or what she has online.

All in all it was a really fun day and I’m really glad we went.  I didn’t get home til 7pm, tired and hungry.  DB had a fire going in the fireplace and food ready to eat.  I couldn’t ask for more!


Fishy Fishy

Welcome to my downstairs WC, otherwise known as the toilet.  If you are American, “bathroom” with only a toilet and 4 walls.  A week ago it had 4 white walls and black and white tiles.  Now it’s full of fish and shells and sand and grasses.

This little tiny room really needs to be completely renovated.  It needs to be taken back to bare bricks, re-plumbed and rewired.  But we don’t have money for that so I really wanted to do something to cheer it up a bit and make it at least fun.  A fun toilet?  Yes, why not.

I started by painting the wall behind the toilet itself, and around the doorway, and the ceiling, white.  The walls are all papered, but I just painted over the wallpaper.

Then I went on to the fun part.  I first painted gold for sand.  Then I painted a mixture of gold/silver below that for rock.  After that I painted the blue.  It’s a shining silvery blue in color “ocean”.  I then painted some darker blue streaks through it, which looked really bad, so I painted some more “ocean” over that and it looked better.

Then came the trip to the beach to gather sand, shells and grass.

I mixed the sand with paverpol and patted it on by hand.

I had earlier in the week printed out images of tropical fish and cut out each one.  I glued them on, also with paverpol.

I glued some grasses in the corner as kind of an experiment.  I wasn’t sure they would stick.  That paverpol is pretty amazing stuff!  I was even able to glue down the sea shells with it!  It dries clear too.  And this is the final result!

I’m really happy with the final result.  I’ve never done anything like this before so it was all just a big experiment.  At least we’ll have something to look at while doing our business.  Hopefully one day we’ll have money to redo it properly, but until then this will be fine.  DB wants to somehow rig in sound so that when you open the door you’ll hear whale calls.  If anyone knows how to do that, please let me know.

Creative Sunday

Yesterday was a very crafty day.  I went to a spindle spinning class at Penelope Craft in Amsterdam, taught by the very talented Christopher.  He’s a wizard with a spindle, with any kind of fiber, and can stand there making lace weight perfect singles while talking to us at the same time.  He’s also a professional singer and musician.  Such a talented guy!

Some of the students had done this before, but most of us had not.  It’s much harder than Chris makes it look.  My feeble attempts came out like bulky weight thick/thin singles.  The only fiber that I was really happy with was the pure silk.  It was just easier for me to draft for some reason.  I find that drafting (pulling the fiber out it just the right amount at the right speed) is so difficult to get right.  I know, practice makes perfect.  Chris kept reminding us about how long it took us to get really good at knitting and not to be disappointed in our first 3 hours of spinning.  We all seemed to be perfectionists who want results NOW.  Silly us.

At the same time as this class was going on, Ginni was having a craft market at her studio, DIY Textile School.  I didn’t want to miss it so I ran out of Penelope Craft just at 3pm and headed to the other side of Amsterdam as fast as I could.  I got there in time to buy a necklace of crocheted steel and beads, and a pair of earrings made with vintage beads.  And I had a tiny piece of the most amazing chocolate pecan pie.

If you are in Amsterdam at the weekend before Christmas, I think the Sunday Market at the Westergasfabriek will be pretty amazing.  I won’t be able to make it because I’ll be busy painting our downstairs toilet (more on that later).  But go there if you can.  Happy crafting everyone!

Starry Starry Night

I’ve been playing with yarn again.  This time I wanted to try tie-dyeing yarn.  I already had a name for it before I started: Starry Starry Night.

My goal was to make a night sky blue/violet/black with bright yellow “stars” here and there.  I decided to jump right in using 3 skeins of nice yarn.  So brave of me! “In for a penny, in for a pound” as the saying goes.  I used 80/10/10 merino/cashmere/nylon fingering weight yarn that I bought from Dharma Trading when I was in California.  It’s so soft it almost melts in your hands.  I figured if I was successful with this dye job I’d have enough yarn for a summer sweater.

First I soaked the skeins in water and a little bit of Eucalen.  Then I tied up the yarn with cotton string that I had to block it from getting dye.  I wrapped 2 skeins in 4 places, and 1 skein I wrapped in 6 places.  I didn’t wrap them at even distances (i.e. 1/4 skein, wrap, 1/4 skein, wrap, etc) but instead made the distance between wraps a little more random.  Why did I wrap 1 skein 6 times?  Well, to be honest, because the yarn was so soft that when I took that skein out of the water it kind of fell apart and started to get tangled, so wrapping helped keep it under control.  And, I figured, I can use that skein for the sleeves. 🙂

Here’s the wrap on one skein:

After all the wrapping was done I mixed up my dye colors.  I used 40% sapphire blue, 40% violet and 10% black.  From my previous experience with the black, I figured it wouldn’t mix with the other colors quickly, which was fine with me.  I wanted the colors to stay a little separate in the pot.  First I poured in the blue dye solution into the big pot and stirred well, then I added the violet and didn’t stir at all.  Finally the black, also without stirring.  Then I lowered all 3 skeins, held together at the top, into the pot.  I only gave them a slight swirl to make sure they were all under water.  I turned on the heat and let them sit, just under the boiling point, for 45 minutes.

Here’s how they came out:

It looks to me like the blue and violet mixed together really easily.  I don’t see much separation and the violent is certainly the “weaker” of the two, not making much impact.  The black, like my previous experience, stays separate quite a bit and made some nice transitions between blue/dark blue/black.  Lovely!

Before rinsing them, I laid them out on some plastic on my table outside to do the stars.  I mixed up some super concentrated fluorescent yellow dye and put it in a little sqeeze bottle.

Working around, from tied section to tied section, I sqeezed on the yellow and worked it into the yarn carefully.  I didn’t move the skein around so that the yellow didn’t spread to other parts of the skein.  When one skein was done I put it into a glass pan, with a little water and microwaved it for 2 minutes on high.

After I was finished with all 3 skeins I rinsed them all out and here is the result:

Now, when I picked up my camera to take the above photos, I suddenly thought “Damn! I’ve made the Swedish flag!”.  This was not my intention!  Whatever sweater I make from this will definitely not be worn on a trip to IKEA so I won’t be mistaken for an employee.

Today they were finally dry enough to wrap up and take a final stash photo:

My sweater ideas:

1.  Stockinette stitch in blue and when ever I come to yellow yarn, make purl stitches.

2.  The opposite of 1., meaning reverse stockinette for the blue and knit stitches for the yellow.

3.  Stockinette for the blue and when I come to yellow make a 3-into -3 Estonian lace stitch.

I like option 3. the best but will have to swatch to see if the yellow is wide enough to make it work.

I really like this technique, and there are hundreds of things you could do with tie-dyeing yarn, but does it make any sense for large volume dyeing for someone with a shop or selling dyed yarn?  I don’t think so.  Tying and untying the skeins took a lot of time and it’s really fiddly.  But for a one-off dye job to use for yourself, it’s super fun!

I have no idea when I will get around to knitting up this yarn I’m dyeing.  My shoulder is still really f-d up and I only knit about 90 minutes a day.  I’m still VERY excited about the book I’m working on and I’ve made a lot of swatches for that.  More news about that as the project progresses and I decide how much of it I want to share.

Next dyeing project?  I think I want to try making muted colors by starting with brights and then over-dyeing with their complimentary colors.  This should make some nice Fall yarn……



Dye Job

Even though I can’t knit (the shoulder saga continues), I can dye yarn.  I’ll always find some way to play with fiber!  These projects were done specifically for the Ravelympics Ravellenic Games “Hand Dye High Dive”.

For this event, I gathered up some sock yarn that I didn’t like.  I didn’t like the colors and knew I would never knit with them.  The answer was to either give them away, or over dye them.  Dye it is!

First I’ll show you the before photo, then the after photo.  All the skeins are 50g of fingering weight yarn, 90% merino and 10% nylon.

Pink to Purple –


Now, isn’t that better? What’s interesting is that 2 of the pink skeins were darker but in the purple, only 1 looks just a touch darker (the bottom skein).  It’s a lovely semi-solid color with just hints of lighter purple throughout.

Now the green –

Wow, I have to say, I LOVE how this came out.  What’s interesting to me is that all the original skeins were different shades of blue and green and all turned out dark green with hints of kelly green throughout.  The bottom skein has just a touch more lighter green than the rest.  The dye I used was 80% kelly green and 20% black.  I mixed the colors together in a jar before putting into the dye pot, and stirred it really well.  Did the dye just not mix as well as I thought it did?  Why did the yarn dye in this semi-solid way?  I just don’t know, but I’m thrilled with the result.

And finally, the blue –

I love this blue!  As you can see in the “before” photo, 2 skeins were dyed blue and black with some grey between, and 2 skeins were dyed with just the blue.  I didn’t expect the new blue to cover the existing black, and it didn’t, but it did cover the grey (like a good dye should, you know).  The dye I used was sapphire blue with just a touch (10%?) black.  The depth of color is really lovely.  I’m going to make a short sleeved T with this, alternating the skeins to get black stripes here and there through the entire sweater.  200g should be just enough, I hope.

So, that’s my games, done and dusted.  I am super happy with these results!  I love dyeing yarn.  I have to stop myself from thinking about making it a side business.  I think, as with a lot of things, it would kill the joy.  I will dye what I will knit myself.  At least for now!

Bright Dyes

With my bum shoulder I haven’t been able to do much knitting lately.  But I can still dye yarn and that’s just what I did yesterday.  Above are the results (plus some black silk, photos below).

The 4 skeins at the front of the photo are all Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky Undyed.  I used these colors on this yarn mainly to test out the dye and see how it looks on wool.  And yes, it’s kind of expensive yarn for a dyeing experiment, but undyed yarn is not that easy to find around here and it’s what I had.  (I bought these from Ribbels, in Leiden) Now that I see it, I’m super happy with the results.  You know, bright colors are the in thing, so I’m planning now to make a hat and cowl/scarf with these four colors together.  THAT ought to brighten up a dreary Dutch winter day!

The dye colors are all Dharma Trading acid dyes in colors:  fluorescent lemon, fluorescent safety orange, true turquoise, fluorescent fuchsia.

This green is 50/50 wool acrylic Mille II from Lana Grossa, also a bulky weight.  The dye color is chartreuse.  I’m going to make a new iPhone sock with it.  You know, green apple green.

I also dyed some 100% silk lace weight yarn, 3 skeins 50g each.  One skein had already been dyed black, but it wasn’t a good dye job.  There were some grey and white spots where the dye didn’t get under the skein ties.

If you look hard at the above image you can see that the skein on the far right is the one that had already been dyed black.  It’s just a bit blacker.  They aren’t quite dry yet but I don’t expect the colors to change much.  Silk is tricky to dye.  It takes stronger dye to get the same strength of color as you would with wool, and you have to watch the temperature carefully.  If you cook silk at too high a temperature it will loose its shine.  For this dye session I used quite a lot of black dye powder (double strength) and it soaked up every bit of the dye without any rinsing out.  I think I will just call it good and consider them 2 different dye lots.  At least there are no light spots or streaks of color.

All of this dyeing was done with the immersion method on my stovetop.  First I made up dye solutions.  I could have made the solution right in the pot I would use for dyeing, which I did for the green and the black (the first and last to cook), but I used the time while the green was cooking to make up these other colors ahead of time.  I made up 2% solution which is double the strength I needed.  I just wanted to be ready in case I wasn’t happy with the ‘normal’ strength and wanted to boost the color.  For each dye cook I poured in half the jar of dye solution, 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 liters or so of water – for 100g of wool.  It was only with the yellow that I ended up dumping in the second half of the dye solution.  I wanted a super yellow and seemed to need the extra dye to get there.

Each dye pot was cooked, at just below boiling, for 50 minutes.  I then drained the water out and dumped the wet yarn onto my rack outside to cool off completely before I rinsed them.  The only variation was the silk, which was cooked at a little lower temp for an hour.  I also let the silk sit in the pan with the fire off for a couple of hours to cool, but that was mainly because I was eating dinner and didn’t want to bother with them.

What’s next?  I have a lot of other colors I want to try out, and lots of fingering weight yarn to try it out on.  The Ravelympics Ravellenic Games are coming up (beginning 27 July) and I will dye yarn then for my event.  I want to do some multi-colored skeins using paintbrushes and spray bottles.  Those skeins will then be either steamed or heated in the microwave to set.  I can’t wait to try it out!

I end up dyeing yarn like I do most things – I expect, and want, my experiments to be good enough end products to be usable in projects or wearable designs.  I don’t make time or resources available for true experimentation.  Is that because I tend to be a Type A personality? Or because I just never seem to have as much time/resources as I think I need to experiment?  Or do I think deep down that experimenting is a waste of time?  Am I so practical and so non-artistic?  When I have some more time I’ll have to think further about that….