Category: hand dyeing

What’s up, doc?

Last Friday was my Ph.D. defense. After a bit of a major anxiety freak out the week before, I actually went into the defense not feeling completely out of my mind with nerves (although I did wake up around 6am the morning of, but it meant I got some knitting in before I had to head to campus). Once the actual event got going, the nerves melted away and science brain kicked in. So I can now proudly declare that I am Dr. Brandy Velten, Ph.D. I still have a strong impulse to call up every agency that sends me physical mail and change my salutation to Dr., but I haven’t. Yet.

Since earning my freedom from the academic grind house that is graduate school, I’ve been diving back into my knitting and dyeing.

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I’ve got a new shawl design on the needles that I’m really enjoying at the moment. A nice simple background with a pop of color and texture that makes it a fun tv-watching knit with some bits of intrigue thrown in to look forward to every few rows. And because my shawl collection isn’t reaching outrageous proportions as it is, I’m anxious to get this one off the needles to accompany me on our evening walks with Rufus as the temperatures are (kinda, sorta, just a bit) getting cooler in these parts.

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A little while back, I couldn’t help myself from dying up a few Halloween-inspired colorways for the Long Dog Yarn shop. One particularly caught my fancy, so I had to steal a skein of Boo! for myself to knit up a pair of festive Halloween socks. The medium length color changes in the skein make up some striping stripes that I’m totally digging. I’m really looking forward to some mindless knitting time on these beauties!

 

Linking up with KCCO and Ginny.

Hane shawl kits

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The testing period for my newest design, the Hane shawl, is winding down, which means I’m getting into gear and revving up as I put together the final touches for the pattern release. Hane is my first design that utilizes my own line of yarns, designed specifically to showcase the speckled colorways I just love dyeing with a coordinating semi-solid tonal used for the lace border. My sample was knit using the Twist base in colorways Safari and Granny Smith.

Photo Aug 04, 12 48 24 PMTo celebrate this brand new design, I’ve hand selected some of my very favorite colorways from the Long Dog Yarn shop in a special kit. Each kit includes your choice of yarn, including a speckled colorway and a coordinating semisolid, plus a Ravelry code to download the shawl pattern at no extra cost when it is released on August 16. Preorders for the Hane shawl kits are now available in the shop and will begin shipping on Wednesday, August 10 so you should receive your yarn just in time for the pattern release.

I’ve had such fun working up the different color combinations and imagining how each would look worked up in this design. Picking out the yarn and coordinating color combinations is one of my favorite parts of the knitting process, so it was easy to let my imagination go wild when I don’t have the usual restrictions of having to make that final choice in the end. I may be a little biased, but I’m a bit smitten with these colorways. It really is hard to pick out a single favorite. I can’t wait to dye up these kits and watch the different combinations come to life in everyone’s very own Hane.

 

Long Dog Yarn

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In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having a lot of fun setting up a new online shop for my very own hand dyed yarns, so I’m very excited to introduce Long Dog Yarn, available now online.

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I had been thinking of trying out yarn dyeing again this summer using acid-fast dyes after the small trials I had using food coloring to dye yarn. Sitting in bed one night, a thought suddenly popped into my head of a label that has a dachshund that stretches around the circumference of the label and the idea of Long Dog Yarn was born as I drifted off to sleep. That next weekend I picked up my first starter dye kit, some blank hanks of yarn, and started reading everything I could find online about mixing colors and hand dyeing yarn. And things really just took off from there. More yarn and more color and more fun.

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Everyday I’m working with my yarns I learn something new, and then I have to try it out. Having all this blank yarn around is very dangerous. My favorite part of the experience is having absolute creative control over the process. My goal is to have Long Dog Yarn supplement the design side of my business, allowing me to imagine a design and create the perfect yarn to compliment it. Plus, it’s just really fun and creatively satisfying in a completely different way to the design side of things.

Knitting Confessions #7

Like most things in the world, knitting has a set of rules and conventions. Sometimes, we knitters break them. This is my knitting confession.

On Mondays, I’ll fess up to some of my own, personal knitting “no-no’s”. Feel free to join me by blogging some of your own weekly confessions or stories of breaking knitting conventions and join the linkup below.  

Confession #6: Hand dyeing yarn is fun, until it isn’t.

This is going to be a long confession because the pain is still so close at hand. First up…
Dyeing yarn can be a lot of fun, especially if you are just doing single skeins. When you are trying to do enough yarn for a sweater in the same color, it gets a little trickier. A while back I overdyed some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes sport into a lovely dark pumpkin orange for my Peabody sweater. After laying the six skeins out to dry, I thought I had done a pretty decent job of matching the color across all of them. I was pretty pleased with myself.
Fast forward to this weekend – my Peabody is finished, seamed, and blocking. When I notice the shoulder of one sleeve is visibly, disturbingly darker than the rest of the sweater. Boo. A whole number of things went through my head, “It’s still wet, maybe it’ll be less noticeable when it’s dry? No, it’s too obvious. Wait, isn’t that the same skein I made the other sleeve with? Yes… it is, and that sleeve is way darker than the body of the sweater. Well, will anyone notice that if I just don’t put my arms near my body while wearing this sweater?” 

After about five minutes, I gave up trying rationalizing letting this mistake slip. Even if no one else in the world noticed the color difference (I would just have to make sure to surround myself with colorblind people, right?), I would notice it every single time I pulled out the sweater. And it would drive me nuts and diminish my love for this sweater. And I had worked hard on it, and I wanted to love it fully, as it deserves. So I knew I had to redo the sleeves. (This is where I thanked the stars that the sleeves were seamed into this cardigan. That, and the fact that the yarn in the body wasn’t glaringly different in color. It could have been so much worse.) 
So I undid the sleeves and am redoing them. Fortunately I had one skein of yarn left that, at first glance, looks like it will match up more evenly to the body. (Please, please work. I do not want to knit these sleeves a third time. Sleeves are my least favorite part of sweaters….)

I also had a whole other dyeing conundrum this weekend with some mystery yarn I picked up a church rummage sale. After doing a burn test, I was convinced it must be some natural fiber – it definitely didn’t burn like acrylic yarn. So I tried dyeing it with some food coloring. At first it all looked swell, but when I went to rinse the yarn, all the dye washed out. That was a sad Saturday. So Sunday, I headed over to Michael’s to pick up some Rit dye and see if that worked better. After hours sitting in the warm dye pot, it came out looking great. When I rinsed it, it was a beautiful silvery gray. I was really excited how this was turning out after the disappointment the night before. But when I added a bit of soap to make sure all the dye was rinsed out of the yarn – bye bye color! All the dye washed out again. It was a very sad, no good Sunday. Needless to say, I threw out the yarn. It was a bit mangled from being heated, and I was just so frustrated I didn’t want to even see it any more. 
So dyeing yarn can be a lot of fun. Until it isn’t. 

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Adventures in hand-dyeing: Creating a gradient

This is just a first hand account of my experience using different dyeing techniques, but I hope it will serve as a guide (or in some cases a what-not-to-do) for people looking to try hand-dyeing yarn techniques themselves.

One of the main reasons I wanted to try hand-dyeing yarn was to create long gradient color changes (like these beautiful skeins). When my eyes see a beautiful gradient skein of yarn, they send out a signal that immediately blocks the portion of my brain used for rationalizing while amplifying the impulses of NEED! NEED! BUY! NOW! Somehow, I have managed to somehow override this impulse (it’s the guilt that would come from dropping some major dough on this yarn). But now, I can give in, because I can create my own.

First, a little bit of technicality to get out of the way: gradient dyed yarns are just a version of dyeing yarn into long color changes, also called self-striping yarn. For the gradient change I am interested in producing, the color change pattern doesn’t repeat like you would see in a more traditional self-striping pattern. More on that when I try my hand at creating a repeating self-striping pattern for socks.

From what I can tell, there are basically two ways you can dye yarn into long color changes. One, you dye the sections of yarn each in their own, individual dye bath, while the other technique you use only a single dye bath but change the amount of time each section spends in the bath. For this walk-through, I’m using the second technique here, which I think would allow you to control the color for a more subtle gradient change. I want to try out the single dye bath technique as well to see which I prefer, but that will have to wait for another day (and another blog post) when I get a bit more yarn. I highly recommend also checking out this really awesome tutorial posted over at Maiya knits using a crockpot to gradient dye. If you want a gradient color change that repeats through your knit, check out this tutorial on knitty.com.

For me, I used my stove top, McCormack food dyes, and a 100g skein of a worsted weight acrylic wool blend. For a run-through of the general supplies you need for dyeing, check out this post.

Preparing the yarn and dye bath 

1. Divide the yarn into mini skeins: My yarn weighed 100g and I knew I wanted to do 5 color changes, so using the back of one of my kitchen chairs, I made the single skein into 5 mini skeins, each weighing approximately 20g (I used my kitchen scale for weighing and it is definitely not the most accurate scale in the world). The important thing to keep in mind while doing this is to keep each of the mini skeins connected to each other. In other words, do not cut the yarn after winding each mini skein – they should all still connect to form one large skein like you started out with. I fastened each of the mini skeins with some scrap yarn to keep them from getting tangled in the dye bath.

2. Soak the yarn: All 5 mini skeins were soaked in a bowl of warm water with some vinegar. I didn’t really measure anything out, but I wanted enough water to completely cover my skeins and then probably about 1 tablespoon of white vinegar went in with that. I left the yarn to soak for at least half an hour while I prepared the dye bath.

3. Prepare the dye bath: In a pot large enough to hold all my yarn, I added enough water to completely cover the yarn and then started adding dye to try to produce a teal color. I used McCormack’s neon food coloring in neon blue and green. I also added some vinegar to the pot. Then I put it over medium heat to get it warmed up to about a simmer – you want to aim for around 160-180F.

Dyeing the yarn


4. Add the yarn to the dye bath: After the yarn had been soaking for about half an hour, I lifted it out and carefully squeezed out any excess water. Then I lowed all 5 mini skeins into the dye bath and give them a gentle stir while keeping track of which skein marked the end of my chain of mini skeins.

5. Remove first mini skein: After about 30 seconds in the hot dye bath, I lifted out my first mini skein and put it into a bowl of warm water sitting next to my pot on the stove. This first mini skein marked one end of my large skein.

Note: It’s important that you don’t change the temperature of the wool rapidly, or you might cause felting. So, if you are rinsing skeins immediately out of the simmering dye bath, they need to go in warm water. Same for the initial soaking of the yarn, if you are putting it immediately into a hot dye bath, you should probably soak it in warm water.

6. Remove second mini skein: After about 5 minutes, I rinsed out the first mini skein in the bowl of water, laid it on some plastic wrap on the stove, and then lifted my second mini skein out of the dye bath (this would be the next skein attached to the one I had already removed) and put it into the rinse bowl.

7. Replenish the dye bath: Because the first two skeins had soaked up some of the dye in the bath, I made up some more in a small container (using the same ratio of green to blue I used when first preparing the bath) and, then, added it to the dye bath off to the side so it doesn’t get directly poured onto the yarn.

8. Keep removing mini skeins and replenishing dye: I simply kept taking the next skein out after a longer duration of time had passed (I would simply lift the yarn out a bit and look at the amount of coloration it had to decide whether I was happy with the color). I think I had approximately 5-10 minutes between each mini skein. When to take out each skein can really just be up to you, but keep in mind once dried, the colors will appear lighter than they do when wet. Between skeins 3, 4, and 5, I kept adding a bit more dye to the bath so that it was never fully exhausted. You can always use a small spoon to scoop up some of the dye bath and see how much color remains. Because you are adding more dye with less yarn in the bath you should end up with a darker color in your remaining mini skeins. With each mini skein I lifted out, I put it into the warm rinse bowl, and then following that onto a piece of plastic wrap while the next skein soaked.

Drying yarn

9. Rinse all skeins & hang to dry: Once all the skeins had been dyed, I rinsed them all together in warm water to remove any excess dye and then hung them up to dry.

10. Wait, quite impatiently, while yarn dries

11. Wind yarn back into single skein/ball

12. Knit!

You will probably notice about now that my skeins aren’t exactly teal, but more of a gradient from mint to forest green. I found out later that blue can be a bit of devil to dye with. You can read all about issues (and how to hopefully fix them) dyeing with blue food coloring. I think the issue with my dye bath was not enough vinegar. I’m still having issues with getting a good teal shade in my yarn, but one of the exciting things about dyeing yarn is the element of surprise. In the future, I plan on trying baths with more vinegar and a lower green to blue ratio so hopefully there is less green for the yarn to soak up initially (in my brain, this means it’ll be forced to take up some of the blue, right?!).

But I’m happy with my gradient experiment. Although it didn’t turn out exactly the shade I wanted, it still produced a lovely green gradient. I think this yarn will end up as a newborn sweater for my Ph.D. advisor who is having his first baby this fall. And it inspires me to try many more gradient experiments in the future! I can’t wait to have my very first pair of gradient dyed socks.

If you come across any other great resources for gradient dyeing (or tips for dyeing with blue), please let me know. I would love to keep this page updated as I learn more and get more experience.

Adventures in hand dyeing: Getting your act together

I have been wanting to try dyeing my own yarn for a while now, but just hadn’t set aside the time to actually do any research on the topic (unless ogling hand dyed yarn on Etsy counts as research). That was, until this weekend, when I just decided to dive head first into a giant vat of yarn and dye. And since I had done the work to look some of this stuff up, why not share it for anyone else who is teetering on the edge of trying dyeing at home. Or even if you aren’t teetering on any edges (except perhaps the edge of sanity), maybe you will be inspired to give it a try. Why? Because it is fun as all get out, it’s relatively cheap, and you can probably do it with things you already have in your home.

But before we actually jump into any dyeing, we should probably get our acts together and get organized (at least a little bit, otherwise you will have a giant mess on your hands…. literally).

Things you need for dyeing yarn at home (in more detail than you probably wanted, but you’ll thank me later)

1. a yarn base

To dye yarn, you need yarn. The best yarn for at-home dyeing is composed of 100% animal fibers (like wool or alpaca). Most people swear by wool because it’s easy to get and relatively cheap. You can go with a white/cream colored base or you can even find undyed fibers specifically sold for people looking to dye their own. Here are a couple sites I’ve found to order natural, undyed skeins of yarn:

For my initial dyeing experiments, I just used some white yarn I had in my stash. Two of them were wool acrylic blends (more on that in just a bit), and one was Cascade 220. I have gone ahead and ordered some more yarn for dyeing, specifically for making socks. I’m trying this merino wool and nylon blend and this 100% wool fingering yarn in “Snow.”
Your yarn doesn’t have to be white/cream/natural – you can actually use previously dyed skeins that need a little extra life. This technique is called overdyeing and would be a great way to re-inspire leftover and/or ugly color-challenged skeins of yarn you have lying around in your stash.
If, like me, you have wool acrylic blends on hand and want to give dyeing a shot – go for it! Just be aware, the acrylic will not dye. At. All. So the higher the wool content, the darker your color will be. In the end, you will get a bit of a heathered look to your dyed yarn because only the wool will be colored while the acrylic will remain white. It can still look quite nice, but the colors won’t be as bright and true as if you were using 100% wool. Here’s my acrylic wool blend dyed in a gradient of green. You can see as the color gets darker, the heathered appearance is more obvious.
Next, you’ll need…
2. dyes

You may be surprised to learn you probably already have what you need in your kitchen cupboard. You can get great dyeing results without using professional dyes – all you need is some food coloring or some packets of Kool-Aid or both! I ended up using some McKormick neon food color drops that had been in my cupboard for probably 500 years (this is just an approximate date and has not been scientifically tested with carbon dating). Here’s what I’ve gathered about the various “supermarket” dyes you can use:

Food coloring: you can use the dropper style (like you find in the baking aisle of the grocery store) or many people like the Wilton’s concentrated gels. The benefit of the gel is that you get lots of color in a little jar and Wilton also has many beautiful colors available. Wilton gels are found in your usual big-box craft store, like Michaels, and, of course, can be found on Amazon. For the liquid drops, you will need a lot more to get a rich color (we are talking the whole tiny bottle for 1 skein of yarn) and you will have to play around be artistic when it comes to making up new color combinations. 

Kool-aid: Cheap, readily available at the grocery store, and a surprising amount of colors! To me, Kool-aid dyed yarn comes out either bright and rainbow-y or a bit pastel-y, but doesn’t get you the deep rich colors that you could achieve with the food gel dyes. Here is a pretty little visual guide to the different colors associated with different Kool-aid flavors. Of course, you can also mix and match flavors to achieve different colors. This blog does a really nice job of covering several ways you can use Kool-Aid to dye yarn.

Other junk things you’ll need for dyeing at home:

3. vinegar*

The vinegar helps bind the dye to the fiber and can be included in an initial soak bath as well as in the dye bath itself, although this depends on the type of dyeing you are doing and your personal preference.

*Necessary for dyeing with food coloring, but not for Kool-aid. I don’t know if this is a scary fact or not, but Kool-aid is acidic enough all on it’s own and doesn’t require any extra vinegar. Yay?

4. cling wrap/old towels/newspaper

To keep things neat-ish if you are hand “painting” the yarn with colors on a flat surface rather than dipping/soaking it into a dye bath or doing kettle dyeing.

5. large pot(s)/glass dishes/mason jars/disposable roasting pans

You’ll need a large bowl or pot to do your soak and rinsing (though clean sinks work really well for this, too). For dyeing, if you go with the dip dye method, are just dyeing your yarn a single color, or want to try the wonderfully unpredictable kettle dyeing, you will need non-plastic containers that are large enough to hold your piece of yarn and enough water for the yarn to be completely submerged. These containers also need to be heat-tolerant.

6. foam paint brush/turkey baster/syringe

If you want to apply different colors to your yarn while hand painting to get color changes (what’s the point of hand painting if you can’t use lots of pretty colors?!), you’ll need something to apply the prepared dyes. I’ve seen people use foam paint brushes (really puts the painting in hand painting), while others squirt the due on with a turkey baster or other type of syringe. I used an old flavor-injector I had in my drawer to apply my dyes.

7. stove top/microwave/steamer/crockpot/oven/the sun

No matter what staining technique you use you will need something heat up your yarn while it is soaking up the dye. For most people, this will be your microwave, which makes dyeing relatively quick. If you live in the 1800’s like me, and don’t have a microwave, do not despair. For dip dyeing or kettle dyeing, you can just use your stove top or a crockpot. You can even use the sun if you want to go full hippie. For hand painting the yarn, you can use a steamer insert with a pan on the stove or if you have a rice cooker with a steamer insert, that works, too. I haven’t tried this myself, but some people also “bake” their yarn in the oven in large roasting pans. Aim for under 200F, and make sure the yarn is covered so it doesn’t burn.

8. gloves

This is where that literal mess on your hands comes into play. Me, I am a glove-free bird. You cannot cage me with gloves. I feel the tie-dye mess on my hands makes me look like an arteest. But you may be less inclined to walking around in public with neon finger tips, so you’ll probably want some gloves. You can buy disposable latex gloves at pharmacies usually.

I think that’s it. All the important stuff (i.e. what I can remember), anyway. Later on this week, I’ll post another update covering my journey into gradient dyeing. Also, as I continue to explore and learn, I keep this and all following tutorials updated. I’ve also compiled a pinterest board with some of the sites I’ve found the most helpful during this process.

Please let me know if you find these tutorials helpful/confusing/mindless babbling, and if come across other great resources for hand-dyeing yarn, please share!