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As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was commissioned to dye 34 skeins of yarn for a sock club.  These sock clubbers like their secrets, but as the yarn has been delivered and founds its various homes, now All Can Be Revealed.

The estimable Yarn Haven of Perrysburg, Ohio, (soon to be called Yarn Cravin’) has a fabulous monthly sock club that works with an indie dyer each month to make a colorway that reflects something of regional interest.  Since my yarn is for June, and the local minor league baseball team, the Toledo Mud Hens is having a Stich-n-Pitch then, the wonderful Sarah asked me to dye the yarn in team colors, red and navy blue.  Adding some white space between the colors so they wouldn’t blend into mud resulted in this rather patriotic yarn:

Got Mud?

We brainstormed several names for the yarn and settled on Got Mud?, as the Mudhens seem to have a sense of humor about their name, to the  point of  calling their paraphernalia store the Swamp Shop.

But to get to the above finished product took some work.

As it came preskeined — a real boon as I was working against a tight deadline by the time the yarn shipment arrived – the first step was to wash it


I float . . .

to get out all the spinning oils and make it ready to dye.

All wet

I knew I was going to need more drying space (I usually use the shower rod) but that wasn’t going to hold all that yarn), so I invested $9.99 at Spawn-of-Satan-Mart WalMart and got this nifty drying rack.

It\'s the rack for you, my pretties!

I did a couple of samples to see how much white was wanted between the red and blue areas


and once that was decided on (the smaller white style), started dyeing like a mad thing.  I didn’t get any pictures of the actual dyeing, because my hands were too full!

Steamed yarn

Once the yarn was dipped in dye, it was wrapped in plastic, then steamed.  When the bundles cool, the plastic shrinks around the yarn making  weird cocoons.  If I found those in garden I would be very alarmed.

The problem with white areas on a deeply dyed yarn is keeping them white.  I found that keeping the red and blues in seperate baths and the white out of the water as much as possible helped.

Splish splash, I was taking a bath

But it made for some interesting bathwater!


Then, back to the rack to dry.

Back to the rack

Patriotic woolen bunting does make a bathroom, don’t you think?

The final step was labeling and shipping.

Piles of yarn

And why are there two piles of yarn? Hard to tell in the photo, but one set has warm red and the other set has cool red.  We do aim to please.

Just hanging out

I got a fresh shipment of Sturdy Sheep base yarn and had fun with some of it this morning.

The paler skeins on each level of the rack are from the semi-exhausted dyebaths the more vivid skeins were dipped in. I poured the leftovers into a low water level pot, letting them strike in different areas of the skein. I’m taking these to a knit gathering tonight, but any leftovers will end up in the shop in the next few days.

I’ve been commissioned to do 34 skeins of yarn for a sock club based out of a yarn shop —  I’m keeping the details secret until the finished yarn arrives at the shop  —  and am awaiting delivery of the base yarn today.  FedEx tracking says it left the local warehouse at 3:52 am, so it should be along pretty soon.  While I wait, I’m getting ready by cutting choke ties, 4 for each skein.

Cut string

I do this by putting a 30 inch length of pearl cotton on a ruler, cut it,  build up a pile of 30 inch pieces, and then cut them into 10 inch pieces.

Pile of string

That ought to be enough, and if it isn’t, I’ve got plenty of pearl cotton.

There was a great sounding recipe for halibut in the paper Sunday, and I made it last night.

Just for the halibut

Wowza!  Fresh halibut slow baked in a bath of olive oil, on a bed of seasonal vegetables, then cloaked in a hollandaise-type sauce, made from the olive oil used for baking the fish.  The sauce came out thinner than I would have liked, I think because I scooped up some of the fish juices along with the oil, which no doubt thinned it.  Next time I’ll be more careful.

I’ve been mulling over a sock design for some weeks, and just took the first step to making it a reality. I’ll post here as it moves forward, but be warned, this will be about as fast-paced as watching oil dry up!

First: the inspiration. I pass by a grove of birch trees at least twice a day on school days. I’ve always loved birch trees, so graceful, and the white bark with black streaks so interesting, and fun to peel off. The trunks of this grove were the main show all winter, but now the new green leaves are coming out, delicate and dainty.

The lovely birch grove

The lovely birch grove

I kept thinking, “Wouldn’t knitted birch trunks look cool?” and finally had an idea of a simple way to give that effect, maybe. Take white yarn, dye small sections of black and knit a sock that will have mostly white with black streaks. But then, even better how about purling just the black sections so they’ll stand out more?

Dyeing small sections of black onto white yarn has its problems. Dye moves on yarn, and can separate into its component colors on the edges. With the black I use, it separates into brown and tan, which is not what I want. But, there’s a product that thickens dye, so that may do the trick. I’ve now got my hands on some, and can give it a try.

Take some Sturdy Sheep base yarn

Virgin skein

wind off a small amount, and give it a bath

Time for your bath

in warm soapy water to remove the spinning oils. Note the high tech yarn bathing tub. The Super Clear is the dye thickener, and by the way? If you need any dye supplies, or undyed fabric or garments, Dharma Trading Company is fabulous. Great service, amazing selection, cannot recommend them too highly.

This skein was washed and had somewhat thickened dye applied to damp yarn.

Wet wool

The dye really traveled, so the black areas are considerably larger than I made them, but the dye didn’t separate as much as it would have without the thickener.

I had some dye leftover, so I added more thickener and quickly wound off some dry, unwashed yarn.

Dry wool

The dye stayed put much better, but still separated at the edges some. I can live with this, but on both skeins, the white yarn picked up more stray molecules of dye than I would have liked, so it is distinctly beige. I think what I need to do is be vigilant like a hawk during the rinsing/soaking process, because it seemed to me the white was whiter when I pulled the yarn out of its little plastic cocoons after steaming. So, a quick soak in Synthrapol laden water, a rinse under plentiful water, maybe another plain Synthrapol soak, another rinse, the ammonia bath with more Synthrapol, another rinse, then the final vinegar pH reset… . maybe with a bit more Synthrapol. No lolling around watching Carrier while the dye molecules frolic and find new homes.

Next I’ll try the thicker dye solution on washed and dried yarn, as well as washed and damp yarn again, but planning for the extended travel of the dye.

But first, I knitted up the better of the first skeinlettes

and put it in my birch tree. It’s a Whitebarked Himalayan birch (Betula jacquemontii) so it doesn’t have much in the way of black areas like the European birch trees in the pictures above.’

Still, I think there is maybe a bit too much black in the yarn. It’s a tough call, though, because I do want some areas to pool into larger black sections like you see there. And if there isn’t enough black, then those areas won’t end up being in line with each other every now and then. More sampling is is clearly called for.