Friday, March 30, 2012


This is an interesting way to dye. Instead of messing directly with dyepot and fiber until you get what you think you want, this method has a Christmas morning effect, where you go to bed full of hope and anticipation and jump up with excitement the next morning to see what Santa brought/the dye did. And here it is:

Whoa. Not what I expected. The dye was a lot stronger than I thought. A whole lot stronger. I was expecting to see a sort of medium blue. Instead, I got navy blue with some slight tinges of other colors. [Note to self: this dye is waaaaay stronger than I realized. Use less next time.] Let's turn some yarn over and see what the underside of a skein looks like:
Oh dear. We've got dark blue on the top and pastel/white on the bottom. Yikes. [Note to self: snow dyeing colors mainly the exposed top surface. The color doesn't penetrate through the yarn much, even though it's soggy with vinegar water.] Better take the skeins out and see what they really look like:
Kinda like if Holstein cows were navy-blue and white instead of black and white. I really don't want this much dark/light contrast in the knitted fabric.  What to do? I could overdye it all by immersing the skeins in a vat of lighter blue, but that might overwhelm the little tinges of purple, aqua, and yellow that show up in the current state. They're neat. I like them. (Click on photo to enlarge it and see them better.) So here's what I did instead:
Poured off the dye juice from the bottom of the tub into a pot. Arranged the skeins one at a time white belly side up on the rack. Using a cup, poured the dye runoff onto the white areas of the skein. (I had realized that my fears of muddy brown sludge were unwarranted here because of my overuse of the strong blue.) Here's what that skein looked like after The Treatment:
The poured runoff gave a faded denim color to the white areas. The pouring also allowed me to direct the light blue away from the tinge-y areas and to keep the unevenness going because it's one of the hallmarks and my favorite things about yarns dyed with these sorts of methods. So here are all the skeins after their light blue addition:
There's contrast, but it's less stark. Refer to the blue Holstein picture for comparison.  At least it's closer to what I had in mind at the beginning. Now to wrap 'em in plastic and steam to set the dye:
(It just so happens that I had a surplus of blue plastic wrap that I used for this. I like blue, OK?) They were steamed for half an hour, then busted out of their plastic cocoons and rinsed. And now here they are nearly dry and ready for their closeup:
(And I do suggest that you click on it to see the detail of a bigger picture.) Eight sibling skeins. There's a family resemblance, but each one is distinct in its range of colors and the amounts of each. The result is a surprise, but a very pleasing one. I had no idea such tiny spots of yellow would yield big patches of green, nor that there would be very little purple, and what there is turned out a dark eggplant, nearly (dare I say it?) brown.

Next time (and there will be a next time) I will start with yarn that is a base color, not white. Snow dyeing seems best to me as an embellishment of color, not a full dye job. Definitely a lighter hand with the dye powder; a little goes a long way! Might be interesting to experiment with applying a strong dye solution in squeeze bottles to the snow and see if it diffuses and blends more than the straight powder. I'd better get cracking if I'm going to do it--this winter's giant snowbanks are melting in the 40 degree heat!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Snow Dye Day!

I've been contemplating doing this ever since I saw the post of another blogger who did it. What to do if life gives you snow rather than lemons? Dye your yarn with it!

Here are the materials: KnitPicks Bare Superwash DK Wool and some dye, a dedicated plastic tub, some metal racks, and (out of frame) a plastic bucket and white vinegar.  First step: soak the yarn in a vinegar solution.

 This was, as I recall, 1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water for half an hour. Then the hanks were carefully hauled out and gently squeezed to be wet but not drippy.
Wet hanks were arranged on the racks so as to have even exposure to the rain of color to come.

 4 inches of clean snow gets packed in on top of the yarn.

Next, the dye powder is sprinkled on top of the snow layer. I used 2 shades of blue plus dashes of vermillion and sprinkles of yellow.  The goal was to achieve a mainly blue result with purple areas and some tinges of aqua.

Here's the side view of the layer cake. You can see the dye already soaking through the snow, the yarn layer, and the space under the racks. Although my example blogger laid her yarn straight on the bottom of her tub, I found that some quilters who snow dye use racks to keep their fiber from soaking in the mix of dye colors and snowmelt in the bottom. As you probably learned when you rinsed your watercolor brush in school, miscellaneous colors tend to muddle into muddy brown, a result that delighted my blogger, but wasn't part of my plan.  And on goes the lid and the tub and its cargo move into a heated garage to melt and dye overnight. What will the morrow bring?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Further Digression

What's this? A snake?
 No, just a harmless Saroyan scarf, off the needles and ready for blocking, all 7 feet of it.  The yarn is nowhere near the worsted weight the pattern was made for; it's Blue Moon Socks That Rock Pining 4 Ewe. It started with a sock club skein, to which I added a second skein so the scarf could be long. The designer said it was adaptable to lots of different kinds of yarn and she was right!  I also added some beads as is my wont. They're not very visible in the pictures, but they're there!

Here's the blocked result:

Neither the indoor nor the outdoor sun shows the actual color. You can get the best idea of it from the yarn link.  It seemed to me that this yarn wanted to be leaves, not socks, and it looks very happy in this incarnation.

Still winter here; still up to our eyeballs in snow, thanks for asking.
The neighbors' mailboxes protrude just enough from the snow to be reachable.

Charlie the dog (18 inches high at the withers) climbs the berm across the road from the end of our driveway in search of horse muffins thrown up by the snowplow. He thinks it's a wonderful treasure hunt in the mountains.

Meanwhile, a young moose rests in the driveway next door. The good news for them is that the high berms give them access to willow branches they've never been able to reach before.  The bad news is that slogging through snow up to their (very high) armpits is extremely exhausting and they've given up finding quiet places to ruminate. They just flop down wherever they happen to be, and sometimes that's a driveway; tough luck if you need to pull in and park. Come back when I'm done with the cud, bud.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Snow: A Digression

Usually I try to stick to my knitting on this blog. Literally. The topic is limited to my knitting. But lately the frisky squeals of delight from Outside (as the Lower 48 is known in Alaska) about how early spring is this year and the blossoms of this and that are coming/peaking/over already are making me grind my teeth just a little. Although it's lovely for you Outsiders, I'm sure. Either that or it's the harbinger of doom from global warming. Whatever.

Up here is where all the snow went this year instead of spreading itself over the rest of the continent. Record  amounts of it. Maybe even all-time record amounts. And it's going to take a while for all of this stuff to melt. (And boy, will we have a mess when it does!)

So I went outside with my camera today, Friday, March 16, 2012, to document a little of what it looks like around my house.
Here's what the outside of the house looks like--several feet of snow on the roof and the snow just laying around in the yard about 4 ft. deep.
Out in back, you'd have to do some major shoveling to get to and open the door of the shed, what the grandson calls "the moose house." And by the look of it there's going to be an avalanche off the left side of the roof pretty soon. Thank goodness we, for this very reason, only keep stuff in there that we need in the summer.
And here's the woodpile. I climbed up on some snow to shoot down into the pit it has made for itself. We don't need the wood for heat, so it hasn't been very motivating to dig my way out there and sled some back to the house. Besides, the splitter is in the moose house.

But snow or no snow, the light is coming back, and at this time of year comes charmingly in the west windows in the afternoon and lights up the colored glass.
It will just have to do for color until the flowers get here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sunny Boy

The sun/star/giant yellow doily baby blanket is done and ready to come down from blocking. In spite of how the points are hemmed per instructions to keep from curling, they still curl. Nothing to be done about it, I'm afraid. A little attention with a steam iron may temporarily tame them, but they'll be back to the curl soon after. In spite of that detail, I think this is pretty cool, don't you?

And to go along with it, I have employed the Cheat-Toes yarn (it's going for toes after all!) for my standard booties and a hat. Said chapeau is a trial of the Breast Hat pattern in monochrome and a much finer yarn than the DK of the original.  Because it's top-down, it's very adaptable to all manner of sizes and yarns to top the crania of babes (and adults) who are not as tickled by the boobular color scheme as those of us with skewed senses of humor and more than a little tendency to breastfeeding evangelism. No worries--there will be actual breast hats eventually. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, bright baby things certainly cheer up the Alaskan winter gloom!