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.

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!


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?

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….