Category Archives: Dyeing

Finished Swallowtail

Sometime in June, I think, I finished the Swallowtail shawl.

Sometime in July, I blocked it. The color is all wrong in the next 3 photos.

Charlie, ever obliging, helps hold down a corner

The fabric is super lightweight and drapey.

The color is most accurate in this picture.

I used Ted’s hint when creating nupps. Essentially, when you have a yarnover for the nupp, make it a double yarnover. On the purl side, move all the stitches to the right needle, dropping the extra yarnovers, and then move the stitches back to the left needle. This helps even out the tension. Then perform the p5tog, ensuring you haven’t accidentally hooked one of the bordering yarnovers. It makes for a very lovely, very easy-to-execute nupp.

Sometime in August, I wove in the ends and took a few modeled shots.

Fly away, Swallowtail!

Pattern: Swallowtail shawl by Evelyn Clark (pattern here)
Yarn: Alpaca Misti lace, 100% alpaca. Handdyed by me.
Modification: I used the recommended yarn (a first for me?) and the recommended needle size (US 4, 3.5 mm), but I made the shawl larger by knitting the “budding lace 2” chart 19 times (instead of 14) and by repeating the “lily of the valley 1” chart one more time after LoV2 (omitting rows 1-2 the second time around).Thanks to Ravelry user kmcschmidt for the clear explanation.

To celebrate project completion, I have a yarn giveaway. I started with 3 full skeins of Misti alpaca lace yarn (150 g), I ended with just over 80 g. You should have enough for your own larger size Swallowtail shawl, if that’s what you choose to knit (doing the math, my shawl must have been ~70 g).

If you’d like a chance to win, please leave a comment. You will receive the full skein (still in hank form) and the partial skein is as I used it, in a center-pull ball. (Allergic folks – observe the cat in the picture above.) I’ll hold the random drawing in 2 weeks, after the comments close. Entrants, you are in luck – bloglines largely has stopped seeing me, so I have lost most of my readers – that means odds are good that YOU will win!

Swallowtail shawl

Because you know that I finished my Simurgh shawl in March and Meredith’s bolero in April, you might be wondering what the heck I’ve been working on since then?!

Check it out – the ubiquitous Swallowtail shawl (.pdf pattern) by Evelyn Clark!

Admittedly, it’s not much to look at here.

I’m using my own hand-dyed yarn (blogged here). I love the subtle variegation of the colors. It really came out well.

This yarn is, by sheer coincidence, exactly the same yarn recommended in the pattern (Misti Alpaca Lace). I was looking through Ravelry for suggestions on what to do with the yarn and couldn’t believe how many people had made the Swallowtail Shawl. I had a real DUH moment when I finally looked at the pattern.

My plan is to make the shawl a bit bigger than originally indicated by the pattern. I first saw Pepperknit’s version of the shawl, which had some nifty instructions on how to make it larger (ie, 19 repeats instead of 14 for the first lace pattern). Then, as I wandered through Ravelry, I found others had widened the nuppy Lily-of-the-Valley part by adding a third repeat (as Pepperknit herself mused about). Essentially, knit chart 1, chart 2, and then repeat chart 1 again (but omit rows 1 and 2 this time). Sounds pretty straightforward.

This shawl is for an aunty of mine in California. She is fabulously creative – I’ve shown you some of her work before. She sewed all sorts of clothes for me and my sister when we were growing up, and this past spring, she even sent a handmade jacket for Meredith. Aunty definitely deserves a reciprocal gift.

That silk/wool blend

The fiber that I sent to Wooly Knob is back! Actually, it was waiting for us when we returned from Rome (couple-week turnaround!), but I didn’t have a chance to talk about it until now.

To refresh your memory, I sent them this:


This is what I got back:

Well, knock me over with a feather – it’s PLUM colored! I opened it up, and it was so unlike the original fibers, I could not remember what I had sent to them for about 10 minutes. Did any of you think it would look like this?!

I also sent out some Blueface Leicester x Border Leicester wool that I had washed and dyed.

This was processed by Spinderellas; I asked that it be carded and pindrafted. Lynn sent it back within a week or so – love her service!

It’s in a big, tall bag, and it puffs up when opened. It’s taller than our large-scale furniture!

I haven’t had a chance to spin either of these. Where is my time?!?!

Winter color

I bought 3 skeins of ecru laceweight alpaca yarn a few months ago. I dyed it last weekend using the resist-dye technique. Dyes were Washfast acid dyes, Terra Cotta over Pumpkin Spice.

I had leftover color in the dyebath and put in some “mop-up” fiber – in this case, it was a 4 oz batt of grey Icelandic wool from Misty Meadows, a local producer.

Although I have no plans for the batts, I am thinking about making a triangle shawl or perhaps a rectangular stole from the alpaca. I theoretically have 1311 yards of yarn. I found a pattern that I liked, but it calls for 1300 yards. Would you risk it?

More destashing – up next is a 100% wool roving. The fleece was purchased at a Massachusetts Sheep and Wool show ~4 years ago. It originally was a light brown and grey mix, and the uncovered animal that grew this nice fleece is a Merino-Romney cross. I dyed half of it purple, the other half orangey-red. The wool was carded into roving by Spinderellas – Lynn, as usual, did a wonderful job.

The downside – I think this fleece had some tip weakness. Also, I felted it a little bit during the dyeing, and that likely contributed to a little bit of tearing when the wool was picked during processing. You can see here that I needed to pick some bits out of the roving as I spun. (The picture in that link shows the amount of stuff in 4 oz of roving – too much trash to be “mindless spinning,” but it still makes a very nice yarn.) I recommend spinning this somewhat tightly.

ETA – Roving has sold

The fiber has very little VM, no bugs, and no smoke or funny odors. It has been around the cats, but it was stored in a bag during that time. This is 11.7 oz (332 g) of wool. Because of the neps, I’m asking $10 for the lot, and I’ll split the priority mail shipping with you if you’re in the US.

Dyes and blends

Last weekend, I was peeking into the fiber storage bins and came across a partial fleece that I had forgotten about. It’s a naturally colored Corriedale – chocolate brown with silver fibers, slightly bleached tips, almost VM free (from a covered animal). I bought it years ago, scoured it, and put it away.

Isn’t it just gorgeous? Here’s a closeup of a single lock:

I think the final weight was a little over a pound. I didn’t want to card it myself, but it seemed somewhat wasteful to send fiber out for processing when the total weight was that low. I dug up some bleached tussah silk for blending. (Remember I said I was soaking silk last weekend for a dye session?)

One rarely sees the combination of brown and pink in roving (I hope it’s not because that’s a vomitous combination!), and Valentine colors were sort of strong in my mind. I didn’t exactly want the classic carnation pink and thought I’d tone the pink down with purples. This was dyed in the turkey roaster, mostly by sprinkling dye powders, although I did use some of the old dyestocks that I have gadding about in the laundry room. I used Washfast acid dyes and citric acid, the colors include Deep Red, Raspberry Sorbet, Mulberry, and some kind of purple (sorry, I forgot!).

Before the photo session, I drafted the top a little, otherwise it looked like a wet cat. I am really happy with how this turned out – even though I bumped my hand when I was pouring the dyestock and dumped a big bolus of purple in the middle of the roaster.

The wool and silk will be carded together into roving – the final ratio is about 80/20 (OK, for you bean counters out there, it’s 78/22). Altogether, it’s almost 2 lbs of fiber, so even with carding waste, I’ll get enough back for an adult-size project. I’m sending this to the guys at Wooly Knob – they did a really nice job with the last stuff I sent them, and for once, I think I need their long turnaround time.

Next up in the destashing, I have 2 pristine balls of Reynolds Odyssey, plus ~32 g of a leftover ball. The reason the leftover is in a plastic baggie is because when I was knitting from it, it was exposed to cats. The other 2 were taken out of the original bag only for photographing and thus are as cat-free as anything can be in my house.

ETA – Yarn has sold

The yarn forms subtle stripes as it is knit. I think this should be sufficient yardage for a pair of fingerless mitts, a hat, or even a pair of (smallish?) mittens. According to Webs, the yarn retails for $9.95/ball. How ’bout we say $12 for the whole thing, and I’ll pay first-class shipping in the US?

I also tried weaving on a very small scale last year. I don’t think I ever talked about it because I was not excited about the project. In any case, my uninterest is your gain!

ETA – Looms have sold

This is a Hazel Rose Loom Tiny Weaver set. They are very similar to Weavette looms. This handmade set retails for $39.95 plus shipping (my receipt from March 2006 shows $49.13). I made 3 squares using this tutorial and decided it was not for me. I have some good “practice yarn” – 100% wool, worsted weight singles, pretty colors, but scratchy as hell – I will throw in a bit of that so you don’t have to sacrifice any yarn while you figure out how to weave. I’ll let this go for $30 and split the USPS priority mail shipping cost with you.

Resist-dyeing, revisited

I seemed to have confused people with my description of how I dyed these yarns, so I dyed up more wool and took photos as I went along. (Who says I don’t bend over backward for all y’all?)

This process can be applied to yarn or unspun fiber – in this example, I used ~3 oz of combed Merino top (64 count). I soaked it for 60 min in warm water. While it soaked, I prepared the resist strips.

I used a clear plastic bag to better illustrate the resist, but you can use whatever they hand out at the grocery store.

Cut the bag into strips about 2 inches wide.

Wind the plastic tightly around the fiber, wrapping it several times. Secure the ends with a firm knot.

Tie as many or as few resist strips as you like, in whatever order. You can bind the entire skein together or leave parts untied – the sky is the limit. I tied until I ran out of plastic.

I picked 2 coordinating colors – Country Classic “Spring Green” and Washfast “Grape Juice.” I started with spring green. I set the turkey roaster to 200F, sprinkled in a few teaspoons of citric acid, and sprinkled in some dye. I stirred until everything dissolved and checked to ensure that I had a pastel dye bath.

I dropped the wool into the bath, put the lid on the roaster, and let the dye do its work.

I came back occasionally to rotate the fiber gently, and after 30 minutes, I added a little more citric acid to coax more of the dye onto the fiber.

I waited until the dyebath was mostly exhausted (the pic may or may not show a faint green tinge in the liquor).

I removed the yarn from the bath, squeezed out excess water.

Even with the ties on, you can see that parts of the top are white – they resisted the dye because liquid couldn’t flow through the area. Remove the ties, and this is what you get!

I poured a little more water into the dyebath (no need to change the water, the first color was used up, and the bath might still have some usable citric acid remaining), added more acid, and shook in a small amount of the purple dye. I stirred to dissolve and checked for a pale color again.

I tied fresh ties onto the top and tossed the fiber back in the roaster. Usually, I check the progress about every 10-15 minutes while dyeing to rotate the fiber and ensure even take up. (That’s why the color bands looked fairly consistent after the first dyebath.) Uneven color can be due to a few things – local high concentrations of citric acid from incomplete dissolving (eg, there’s a large, solid, chunk that is diffusing slowly), local high concentration of dye (again, due to incomplete dissolving), and local higher temperature (eg, immediately above or next to the heating element).

Well, I was away for a couple hours because I made dinner, ate dinner, and cleaned up dinner. (We had pizza with homemade crust, Italian chicken sausage, and veggies from my CSA. It was very good.) Without hovering or intervention, the purple struck very darkly in some places and very lightly in others. The blend of colors that come out of the second bath are very interesting to me. Some is white – twice resisted. Some is “pure” green because it was under the resist for the second bath. Some is green overdyed with lavendar or dark purple. Some is pure purple because it dyed white fiber that was under the resist during the first bath.

Don’t the colors get all lovely and complex? It looks like handpainted top, yet I put in only about 5 minutes of work. I didn’t have to make multiple dye stocks, measure weights of fiber or acid, clear out a large table space, or babysit a simmering pot. What’s not to love?

So that’s how I do resist dyeing with plastic grocery bags. I hope it’s clearer now?

For the yarns pictured previously, I did not use any ties for the second dyebath (thus, no white areas). I used previously dissolved, concentrated, liquid dye stocks (eliminating the possibility of chunks of dye powder) and checked those baths frequently to ensure even take up. Unspun fiber is far more forgiving of extreme color values, and I wasn’t as concerned about leaving it undisturbed in the dye pot for a long time.

Anyway, I decided that the project wasn’t finished yet. This wasn’t a particularly nice fiber – despite the “64-count” label, the Merino felt a little harsh (even before dyeing). I thought it might be fun to improve it by blending with silk. I poked around the stash (mmm, advantages of having a big stash) and found some handpainted tussah silk top (from Carol).

A word about color selection – green is a combination of blue and yellow, purple is a combination of blue and red. Because blue was the common color element of the 2 dyes, I selected a blue silk to unite the two. The silk actually is half golden brown and half pale blue. It reminds me of the beach – sand, sun, and water. I chose this fiber for blending with my dyed top also because I hoped the gold would add a little contrast to the green/purple and bring more depth to the combination.

I blended it on the drum carder in a 60/40 ratio of wool/silk. (Hint: a subsequent post will detail how I blend fibers on the drum carder.) Can you believe the transformation?!?

Mmm, it’s like a misty, foggy morning on a lake. The fiber feels lighter and smoother already.

Ties for resist-dyed yarn

I’ve been playing with the dyepots again after spending a previous weekend introducing some children to Kool-Aid dyeing. I went back to resist-dyed yarn to try out a different (and hopefully faster) way of preparing the skeins for dyeing. The last time, I used thin crochet cotton and figure-8 ties. This resulted in very small blips of undyed areas, and the process of tying that many skein ties was time consuming. (I immersion-dyed the yarn in sequential baths, using 2 related colors. Handpainting is a little too slow for Impatient Me.)

For the first attempt, I bought some Velcro ties (used for tidying computer cables) and wrapped them around the yarn instead. This turned out to be a VERY BAD idea for several reasons. First, yarn sticks like a mofo to the hook side of the ties. Yes, I knew yarn would stick to the tie, but I hadn’t anticipated JUST HOW RELUCTANTLY it would release. The yarn was mangled severely in several places. Second, the plastic gets somewhat melty in the dyebath and is difficult to remove.

But the yarn came out very pretty! The tones are subtle, like the semi-solid handdyed yarns that are popular these days. I used Meilenweit sock yarn and Washfast dyes in Deep Orchid and Raspberry Sorbet.




For the second skein (handspun Shetland, the white skein described here), I used strips cut from a plastic grocery bag. They were much faster to tie, didn’t stick or melt, and were easy to remove. Best of all, they worked wonderfully as a resist!

I used Washfast dyes, Maple Sugar and Terra Cotta.


Overall, I think I prefer dyeing fiber before spinning to ensure more subtlety and homogeneity in the results. However, a double dyebath method is a great alternate method if coordinating colors and sufficiently light shades are used.

Alpaca yarn reborn

I combed and spun a small hank of alpaca yarn in the spring of ’06.

I had tossed it into the stash bucket (ha ha, the stash bucket, more like 1 of 16 stash buckets, but anyway) and had forgotten about it. The yarn came up again when I was searching for dyeable skeins for the mini dye day a couple weekends ago.

I still have no idea what to do with it!

I haff bin so bizy

Remember the white alpaca/wool/silk yarn?

I was thinking about overdyeing vs combining different dyes in 1 dyebath and wondered if I could achieve an overdye effect by combining dyes with different time-to-strike intervals. I noticed that the raspberry dye that I used in the resist-dyed yarn took some time to exhaust, and my previous experience with yellow Country Classic dye seemed to indicate that it gets fixed to the yarn quite quickly. Just to complicate things, wool and silk definitely take up dyes at different intensities (anyone know if alpaca reacts like wool?), so I couldn’t predict what would happen with any certainty.

The yarn soaked in the turkey roaster (plain warm water) to prepare for batch dyeing. I took out the yarn, sprinkled in citric acid and yellow and raspberry dyes, and stirred to ensure everything had dissolved. I put the yarn back in the roaster, simmered at 200F for 30 minutes, cooled to RT, and saw just a faint hint of pink in the dyebath when I took the yarn out.

Doesn’t that look awesome!? If you look at the yarn, you can just see a faint hint of yellow under the pink, particularly when the silk dominates the blend. The color is so warm and summery – not too different from raspberry lemonade! It amazed me how the same raspberry dye could result in such a different color when the partner was grey or yellow.

PS. The yarn is for sale.

Resist-dyed yarn

I’ve been playing in my mind’s eye by making yarn that was multicolored but not handpainted or “pour dyed.” I thought I’d see what resist dyeing was like. Probably many novice dyers accidentally have made resist-dyed yarn by leaving skein ties too tight, but what happened when you tied them really really tight?

I started with 4 skeins of white wool, purchased as a conference souvenir the year I presented my doctorate work to a group of my advisor’s colleagues. (Talk about nervous-making!)

I wound the yarn tightly on the niddy noddy and tied each hank as hard as I could in 12 places. (Incredibly, the most time-consuming step of the entire dye job was skein tying!)

Once released from the niddy, the yarn puffed up like little sausage links.

I put it in a light “raspberry” dyebath (more Country Classic dye, aka One Shot – I have such a motherload of that stuff!). After dyeing (215 F, 30 min; cool to RT, rinse, spin dry), I removed the ties. Before untying, the yarn was surprisingly homogeneous.

I hoped to slide the hank ties instead of cutting and retying, but they would not move on wet fiber. All ties were cut, and new ties were made in different locations. I saw that very small regions (1 cm long) had been untouched by dye.

I next overdyed the retied skeins in a light grey to “sadden” the color and give it a smokey overtone. I love red-family dyes over naturally grey fiber, and I thought I’d try to replicate that look. In my imagination, I thought it would be a little more… sophisticated?… to have an overall misty raspberry color with highlights of the original raspberry and a hint of the original grey. I untied the skeins and saw this:

Isn’t it interesting how the grey brought out the purple color and damped the pink? I wouldn’t have predicted that. Yarn was rehanked to distribute color blips and to develop a better overall idea of the yarn color.

Click for big!

That’s pretty nice, I think! Anyway, I think I’m done playing with this yarn. If you’d like it, I’ll send all 4 skeins for $25 (I’ll pay shipping in the US). FSM knows I have enough to knit already – let’s get this out of the house! Specs on the yarn – 100% wool (definitely soft enough for next-to-skin use), 4 x 50 g, DK weight. Handwash cool, dry flat.