donderdag 19 september 2013

It's dyeing day!

Last weekend it was time for another Wool Wench workshop! A little less then a year ago I visited Suzy's 'Find your inner yarn hero' day, which was pretty awesome and useful. This September she organized a new creative meet-up with some fellow fiber lovers, to focus on dyeing techniques this time. I did some experimenting with dyeing fibers myself before (mostly using Kool-Aid), but never worked with chemical dyes so far. I always drool over all kinds of pretty fibers, rovings and yarns in the yummiest color combinations you can imagine. Being able to actually create those mysélf would be a creative dream come true!

By the way...I've been thinking about how crazy it sounds when you say 'I'm going to a dyeing workshop today'. C'mon, say it out loud. Get it? There might be plenty of odd sayings that only make sense to fiber lovers, but this must surely be the most macabre one. No worries though, we had a wonderful and 'lively' day together!

Suzy's collection of dyes, ready to be used by us.

Arriving at Suzy's home I was greeted by her 5 year old son, who immediately started showing me his complete collection of superhero lego figures. I was a complete noob when it comes to superheroes, but I'm totally updated now. Chima-characters, Iron man, every possible name it, I met them all! Actually this little fella entrusted me with the fact that he is turning into the Hulk himself. He already spotted some green patches on the skin of his hands... Good luck with that Suzy!

Soon my bestie Eef and the two other participants arrived as well, and after providing everyone of big cups of coffee, we took place at the kitchen table and Suzy started explaining some stuff about mixing colors, color wheels and color schemes. We all got a big empty piece of paper ahead of us, ready to be practiced on. Everyone took a pencil and started working...we were all super concentrated, it's funny how all color wheels turned out so differently from each other even though we got the same assignment! We could also already experiment a bit with the colors we might want to use later on the roving. This 'try out' beforehand can be quite useful to get a good idea of how specific colors mix up, blend and work together.

The 'easy peasy' dyeing method in sealable plastic bags.

After working on our paper 'inspiration boards' for a little while, it was time to start with the actual dyeing. Suzy had 100 grams of superwash merino roving ready for each one of us, and showed us the easiest way to dye such a piece of fiber: a quick and not-so-messy method using a sealable plastic bag, in which you gently pour your dye. Still a bit scared most of us used some 'safe' color combinations, carefully trying to do exactly as Suzy was telling us. The plastic bags were sealed and put in a pot with hot (but not boiling) water, for the color to set in.

Meanwhile Suzy proceeded to teach us more hand dyeing techniques, in which we also gained a bit more control over the actual process. Slowly we became braver, using more contrasting colors and going a bit more crazy every time. This is actually the fun part of dyeing: going wild, experimenting and trying out new things. You'll almost never really know how it'll turn out! It depends on the dye, the fiber, the heat, the amount of water and vinegar and probably even more things I don't know about (when you think about it, dyeing fibers is totally about chemistry! Chemical reactions happening all over the place...) When dyeing roving, it will be a surprise how it will look when it comes out pot, and then it will be a surprise agáin what it will look like when spun up!

In the pot...keeping it hot!

Most of the participants also took some undyed (homespun) yarn with them. Dyeing finished yarn is in one way pretty much the same as dyeing roving...but on the other hand, the final look is completely different. It just depends on what you're going for! I really liked this part of the day, because I love the look of hand dyed yarns a lot, especially the beautiful gradients they often show. For one of my yarns I really had a 'plan', I even pre-made the color scheme I wanted to use on my inspiration paper. The scheme was based on the beach: sandy colors combined with the different tones of the ocean. Suzy happened to have the perfect colors for this idea and the final result came out just as I hoped. For the other two yarns I just tried things out (although I actually hoped to make a yarn with lots of blank spots in it, I love those! It was way harder than I thought to back down on the dyeing :P). For my 2-ply merino I picked colors I normally wouldn't choose, and this specific yarn was quite a favorite among the final results! Never stick to your safe habits ;)

A basket of rainbows!

Somewhere halfway the day Suzy served us a nice lunch with delightful quiches, while her little 'Hulk' kept on showing us his very best superhero moves, kicks and jumps and told a silly story about a guy who's bum cracked up and who had to pick a new one (huh?!). Plenty of extra amusement for sure!
When the yarns and rovings stayed in the pot long enough, the most fun part of the day began: getting them out of the pot (hot hot hot!), rinse, wash and dry them, and...hang them al together on the drying rack. This rack slowly became a rainbow of colors in Suzy's kitchen, while we were all standing around it, awing like we were looking at a holy grail. One 'ooooh' followed the other 'aaaah', when another finished yarn or roving was added to the rack. Wow!

The drying rack, filled with our results of the day.

I surely learnt a lot about dyeing this day, although I also realize we only focused on one way of coloring yarn and roving, which Suzy simply called 'hand dyeing'. Other methods are for example dip dyeing, kettle dyeing, tie dyeing, etc. There are so many more possibilities to explore! But, today's method is a good basis, it gives the dyer a lot of control over the final results and is not too difficult to execute. Eef and I already made plans on buying ourselves some chemical dyes and organizing some experimental afternoons. I can't wait to try out more color combinations! I had fun naming the yarns I dyed during the workshop, heheh! Glacier Tales, Strawberry Lemonade and A Day at the think they're suitable?! I decided to put them in my shop (I'm not able to knit/crochet évery yarn I make...even though I wish I could!). Go take a look if you're interested!

My own results! The 3 yarns on the left are available at my Etsy shop :)

Thank you Suzy for this nice day and for sharing your knowledge with us. I am inspired by al the pretty yarns that are hanging around in your's like walking in a fiber enthusiastic's museum :) Keep up the good work!

dinsdag 10 september 2013

Handspun for me!

Lately I realized I never really made something for mé with a yarn I spun myself. Most times I put them in my Etsy shop, while scraps and leftovers are used for dolly hats and beanies. So...wasn't it time to try out some of my handspun for myself? Actually, putting it that way...using my own yarn might even give me some useful information on how I can improve their usability!

Being a real lover of scarves and cowls, the decision for a neckwear piece was quickly made. A little while ago I already made a little girl's cowl with super bulky thick-and-thin thread, so this time I wanted to go for a thinner yarn to work with. It would again be a knitting project though, just so I'd get more practice (my crochet skills are way better!). I am really fond of the look of single yarns for projects like these, but I knew that wasn't the easiest way to go. Every spinner knows that it's not easy to get a single, non-plied yarn balanced (for non-spinners: this means that the yarn doesn't twist around itself anymore). And working with an unbalanced yarn means trouble! Your final work will crook and twist, it's impossible to make it equal and straight if your thread is not balanced. But, again...creating a balanced single yarn is quite a challenge!

To make a long story short: this project was an excellent chance for me to get more experienced with single yarns and setting their twist. I learnt new techniques like using steam and even smacking! (Imagine a girl smacking a hank of yarn against the floor like crazy and now try to convince yourself she's not a lunatic...even my cats looked quite astonished :P). Since my plan was to make a loose cowl that could also be worn during the colder summer days, I wanted to go with a bright color. I ended up with Bonfiber's "Pretty in Peach", it actually was exactly what I was looking for! I ordered 6.5 oz and used all of that for this project. 

I also ordered new circular needles, since I grew sick of my old cheap ones and also needed a longer string. I picked the KnitPro Nova needles (4.50mm), and did not regret my choice. In fact, I even already ordered more of this series...they knit so smoothly! Finally, I also used some blank, undyed merino roving, I think about 0.5 oz. So...for anyone who feels inspired by this project and would like to make something similar, here's a little necessities list:

- 6.5 oz (superwash) merino roving in any color you'd like
- 0.5 oz (superwash) merino roving, undyed
- circular knitting needles, about 4.50mm (depending on your preferences), at least 80 cm string
- spinning wheel (duh!)

I spun quite an even single, though I did intentionally put in some thinner and thicker parts to get a nice structure in my final project. I set the twist using different methods. I'm not gonna describe them extensively here now, I still have way too much to learn on this area! Maybe one day I'll feel experienced enough to write a blogpost about balancing, like, a hundred years or so :P Anyway, there are plenty of good advices, video's and tutorials on the Internet, so just google ahead!

I wound my newspun yarn in two balls: a big peachy ball and a small blank ball. I casted on the amount of stitches I thought I would need for a loose cowl, and knitted one row with the undyed yarn. Then I switched to the peachy yarn and knitted 10 rows. After every 10 rows, I'd do a blank row again, until my cowl was big enough and my yarn was all used up. Simple as that! Of course you don't have to do a blank row after every 10 colored's whatever you prefer, I just thought it would make a nice variation!

Since this project was so super easy (only knits, round after round after round), I think every amateur knitter can make it. Even if you don't spin your own yarn, you can order a similar thread (go support all the indie spinners on Etsy and buy one of their special handspun yarns to show off in your project!) and work on this cowl while watching tv, sitting in the car, or on the needs no counting or extreme attention, it'll just give your hands something to do!

After finishing my cowl, I noticed it had become a bit fuzzed. This was probably the result of often bringing the work-in-progress with me in my bag and having it in my hands over and over again. To solve this, I asked my mom to bring her fabric shaver over. It was the first time I used this thing, and I was actually pretty careful at the beginning, not sure if I would harm the yarn. But, it worked like a charm! Those fabric shavers are also known as lint/fuzz/pill removers. I'm afraid my mom won't get hers back soon, I've used it a lot after discovering it's usefulness!

My cowl ended up loose enough to be worn during Spring or cold Summer days. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, I think it makes a colorful and comfy accessory, and having made it myself gives it an extra special feeling. Feel inspired? Go ahead and use this post as a guideline for your own next knitting project, if you like! I'd love it if you'd let me know...any thoughts, comments and advices are welcome!

Follow me!