The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Victory is Mine! May 4, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 1:49 pm
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You can dye Tencel with acid dyes.


I am a happy person.


I got my sample of Valley Yarn’s Colrain (50% merino/50% Tencel) last week.  I swatched it first to see how I liked knitting with it.  It was love at first knit; so much love that I made an 8” swatch.  That right there is an early warning sign of a dangerous yarn affair.  Then I washed and blocked the swatch.  When the blocking produced excellent results, I hung it up to see about the dreaded stretch.  After 36 hours clipped to a hanger, subjected to the horrors of gravity, the swatch had grown… (dramatic drumroll please)… 0.00”.  This, of course, doesn’t mean that it won’t stretch into a circus tent when worn, but chances are good that it won’t grow to full big-top size.  Maybe just one of the smaller circus tents, if at all.




The swatching having been such a success, I wound some of the remaining skein for dying.  I soaked the yarn in a vinegar/water mix overnight.  Don’t ask me how much vinegar- I have a bad habit of not measuring when dyeing or cooking.  I used the good acid dye, Jacquard Teal, instead of food coloring.  Food coloring works great, but if I’m going to make a whole sweater then a few dollars for a quality dye doesn’t seem that silly.  I added a little more vinegar to the dye bath while I was bringing it to a boil.  I’m not sure if that helped, since I’m sure the fibers were as “open” as they were going to get from the overnight soak, but I don’t think extra vinegar actually hurts anything, so what the heck.


Again, I never measure, so I have no idea how much dye I put in.  I dunked the whole mini-skein in, waited a few minutes, then pulled some out, wrapping it around a wooden spoon to keep it out of the dye.  Every so often, I’d pull some more out.  When the dye was exhausted (the water was clear), I rinsed the yarn, happy to see that there was no real bleeding.  The color wasn’t quite what I wanted, so I repeated the process.  This time, I left each section of yarn in longer.  The last bit was in for almost half an hour before I decided I liked it.  Rinsing again had no bleeding and then it was off to the dryer.




Beautiful, no?  This is after it was re-skeined to a smaller, prettier skein for photos.


Wait until you see this:




My heart be still.  The order for three 250-gram hanks is already being processed by WEBS.


And as an added bonus, it doesn’t even pill that badly!  I beat up the swatch above for a few days.  And while there is some pilling, it’s less than my CPH, so that’s good enough for me!  Now I just have to find time to actually knit the February Lady Sweater.




Also, why is it hailing outside?  Is it May or isn’t it?!



Searching… April 22, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 11:51 am
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I have finished the Internet.  I have wandered far and wide in search of something and have not found it, so I must have finished the Internet.  (The zebra did it.)  And despite Rule 34, I never ran across some merino getting it on with a bit of cotton.


Remember that cardigan that I was kind of thinking about making?  The one that the last two posts have been about?  Well, I have come to my senses.  Somewhat.


I have accepted the reality that I will not be able to make the February Lady by the time I leave for VA.  (First, I spent a great deal of time trying to convince the laws of time and space that they really didn’t need to apply to me.  After all, they have so many other things to do, why worry about one little knitter?  Shockingly, they didn’t go for it.)  But the bright side to that realization is that I am no longer confined by the summer heat of VA in my yarn choice.  Given that it may take me months to finally find the time to start this project, I can choose whatever yarn I want.  Well, so long as it’s not too expensive.  I decided pretty fast that I wanted a wool/Tencel or wool/bamboo yarn, dyed semi-solid.  I am addicted to the shine that the rayon/wood fibers bring to the party.  I think this cardigan will look great with that shine.  Also I like semi-solids way better than solids.  I’m just crazy that way.


So what was I looking for that I couldn’t find on the whole World Wide Web?


Semi-solid or handpainted merino/Tencel or bamboo worsted weight yarn that won’t break the bank in sweater-quantity.  Doesn’t exist.  Plenty of gorgeous fingering weight yarns in those blends.  A few solid-colored DKs.  And an even smaller number of solid worsteds.  A few 100% bamboo yarns that looked interesting.  But no worsted blends that fit my criteria.


What I wanted was something like this, in worsted weight:


(MightySock in Iris from Abstract Fibers)

or this:


(Merino Tencel from Wolf Creek Wools)


I used the Wolf Creek one to knit a last-minute shrug for a bridesmaid dress last summer.  I love the yarn and I feel so stupid that I didn’t buy more of it at the time so that I could have made the sleeves longer on the shrug and thus use the shrug more often.

106_5183     IMG_1037


I must have spent days looking for this perfect yarn.  Every ad on Ravelry, Knitty, and Interweave Knits was followed, every FLS project on Ravelry was looked at.  I just couldn’t find it.


Then I realized that this was exactly the kind of problem that I had learned to spin to solve.  There may be no merino/Tencel yarns out there, but there are plenty of pounds of that blend, hand-dyed and all, for the spinning.  And then, of course, I realized that I have yet to produce a yarn that is a) thicker than fingering weight, b) plied well and c) actually knittable.  It would likely take me a year (if not longer) to spin the 1,200 yards needed for this project.  I mean, 4 oz of fiber seems like a never-ending project.  So that was out.  (To be honest, I really tried to convince myself that I could do it and it would be easy.  Apparently, there is some part of me that is still coldly logical.  Who knew?)


So I went back to the metaphorical drawing board and thought.  And thought.  And thought…  WEBS’ in-house yarn brand, Valley Yarns, makes a worsted merino/Tencel blend called Colrain.  It only comes in solid colors and there’s only 109 yards in a ball.  That’s 12 balls to make the sweater- 24 ends to weave in.  But they sell the “natural” yarn in big hanks of 545 yards.  Fewer ends to weave in and I can dye it myself, thus getting the perfect amount of semi-solid.  I’ve dyed small batches of wool often enough, it shouldn’t be too hard to do a huge batch.


Now, wool and other protein fibers (and for some reason nylon) are dyed with acid dyes.  Plant fibers are dyed with reactive dyes.  Tencel, bamboo, Modal, etc, are plant fibers, even if they are manufactured.  This presented a problem.  Can you dye the same yarn in an acid and then a reactive dye?  Will that hurt the plant fiber?


After another exhaustive search of the Intarwebs, I found out that Tencel actually can be dyed with acid dyes.  It won’t take the dye quite as well as wool and will be a muted shade, but it will dye.  I’m not that big on bright jewel tones anyway so muted shades sounds great to me.  But I didn’t know for sure how well it would dye and that’s a lot of money to spend on a sweater’s worth of yarn if I’m not sure that it will work.  What if I couldn’t get the shade I wanted?  What if the Tencel didn’t take the dye at all and the yarn ended up streaky?  What if I hate the yarn itself?  Does it pill?  Wear well?  Does it end up looking dingy after a wash?  Does it stretch and how is the stitch definition?  I was obsessing over the fact that I just didn’t know anything about this yarn and was I willing to buy three 250 g hanks of yarn sight-unseen and then find out if the yarn split or pilled or took dye like crap?


That’s when I realized that I was being an idiot, ordered one 109 yard ball of Colrain for $3.99 and a color card (just in case), and waited impatiently for it to arrive.


Self-Striping Yarn Dyeing December 1, 2008

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 11:26 pm
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I’m fascinated by self-striping yarns, but I don’t like knitting straight stockinette stitch much.  I also rarely find a self-striping yarn that I like on the market.  I keep trying to get ahold of some Twisted Fiber yarn, specifically Angst in Kabaam, but I never get there before they sell out.  I just realized the other day that maybe I should sign up for their newsletter to avoid this problem in the future.  Anyway, I have no self-striping yarn or inclination to use it.


Except that I am going to be traveling and there’s something very handy about having a simple sock on the needles to keep the hands busy while chatting with people or just for therapy.  Of course, I’ll be bringing other projects because there’s no way I’m working on a “simple sock” on the 5-hour plane ride!  But I’ll need a project to work on during coffee trips with my dad and after dinner chats with my mom and maybe to work on while hanging out late at night with my sisters (bad lighting + after midnight = bad for charts).


I’m going to dye my own self-striping yarn.  And I’m going to show you how to do it too!


If you’ve never dyed your own yarn before, you’re missing out.  It’s not something I want to do all the time, but it’s fun occasionally and especially with some friends.   I like to use food coloring dying methods instead of chemical dyes because, well, it’s so much easier to clean up!  And cheap and easy to find the supplies.  I suggest reading up on the basic technique in these Knitty articles: Kool Aid Dyeing; Food Color Dyeing.  Kady and I have dyed together two different times.  The first time we both did the cold pour method.  The second time I did the hot pour and Kady stuck with the cold pour.  I dyed some Cascade Superwash with the dip-dye method by myself. All had pretty good results!  There’s a lot of set up to dye self-striping yarn, but the results are worth it.


Self-Striping Yarn Tutorial


  • Enough wool yarn to make your desired project, in this case 420 yards undyed superwash wool
  • Needles for project, in this case Size 1 (2.25mm) DPNs
  • Yardstick/ruler/tape measure
  • Space to wind a long skein of yarn
  • Light colored, smooth waste yarn to tie skein
  • Food coloring/Kool-Aid/chemical dyes
  • Vinegar
  • Pots, measuring spoons, stove


Swatch 1

First, as with any knitting, we have to swatch.  Pick your yarn, in this case Knit Picks Undyed Essential, and your needles, in this case Size 1 (2.25mm) and knit a swatch.  If you’ve knit a plain sock with this yarn/needles before, you can skip this swatch.  Figure out your stitches per inch (and rows, if you want).  Multiply your sts/inch by the circumference of your ankle or middle of your foot.  For me, that’s 8 x 9″ = 72 sts.  Socks have negative ease so that they cling, so take that number and multiply it by 0.9.  (That’s an easy way to subtract 10%.)  For me, that’s 72 x 0.9 = 64.8.  I’ll round that down to 64 stitches.

Swatch 2

Cast the number of stitches from the end of Swatch 1 (for me, that’s 64 sts).  Join in the round.  Knit 1 round.  Using a permanent marker, mark the first stitch of the second row.  (You can see I’m swatching with Essential Tuscany, instead of the Undyed. Same yarn, just a different color.)  Then knit 2-8 rounds.  I knit 8 rounds, I’m not really sure why.  At the end of the last round, mark the last stitch.  I marked the yarn close to the last stitch instead.  (Advice: be careful not to get Sharpie on your needles.  Let the marked yarn dry about 10 seconds before knitting with it, it’ll bleed Sharpie on the needles.)

100_3968   100_3973


Unravel and Measure

Unravel Swatch 2.  Find the two marks and line them up.  Trim off the cast on/round 1 yarn if you want.  Fold the yarn between the marks into as many rounds as you knit.  I knit 8 rounds, so I folded the yarn between the marks into eighths.  If you only knit 2 rounds, just line up the marks.  If you knit 4 rounds, fold the yarn in half once to make fourths.

100_3974   100_3976


Lay the yarn against a yard stick or ruler and measure.  Don’t worry if the yarn isn’t completely straight.  This project involves a lot of math but isn’t an exact science.  This tells you how many inches it takes to knit one round of your sock.  It takes me about 24″ of yarn to knit one round of my 64 stitch sock.



Figuring Out the Stripes

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what colors you’d like to use and how many and thick you’d like your stripes.  I’m going to use a dusky green and deep violet (hopefully) as well as leaving some of the yarn undyed/cream.  I have decided to have 3 rounds of green, then 3 rounds of cream, then 2 rounds of violet, then 2 rounds of cream again.  That means I need 72″ of green, 72″ of cream, 48″ of violet, and 48″ of cream in each stripe repeat. (3 rounds x 24″ per round = 72″; 2 rounds x 24″ per round = 48″)

yarn chart

Adding those lengths up, I’m going to need to make my skein 240″ around. 


Re-skeining the Yarn

I took the skein from Knit Picks and balled it up on my swift. Ask me about the time that I tried to re-skein directly from the Knit Picks skein.  Go ahead, ask me about the 4 hours I spent untangling the yarn.  I dare you.


Measure out a track using whatever’s at hand that measures the desired length of the skein, in this case 240″.  I used two chairs, 19″ wide, and placed them a little under 8.5 ft apart, making a 240″ circle.  (240″ – 19″ – 19″ = 202″; 202″/2 = 101″; 101″/12″ = 8.4 ft)  Remember that the yarn is going in a circle when planning the track.  (I don’t know why the pictures all turned out so blurry… next time I do this, I’ll take better pictures!)

 100_3982    100_3984

Using the light colored scrap yarn (dark colors will bleed; I used some left over Mist Palette) tie the skein in as many places as needed.  Wrap the ties loosely when tying; if you tie them too tightly, the dye won’t absorb the same as in other spots.  I’m paranoid about my yarn getting tangled, so I tied the yarn in 8 places.  I didn’t think about taking pictures though; the light gray yarn doesn’t show up in the pictures very well!

Using a different color yarn and the same technique, mark the color segments on your skein.  I was stupid and used the Mist for the whole thing.  I got very confused later on.  Trust me, use a different color yarn for each color segment!  This is how I marked my skein, measuring along the yarn and tying markers as needed.  Tie your color markers loosely, but not so loosely that they’ll slide around.  I might have tied my markers a little too loose.  Oh well.

Yarn Diagram    100_3986


Soak the Yarn

Soak the yarn in a cold water bath with a 1/4 c (60 ml) of vinegar for a few hours or overnight. (Remove from your skein track, obviously.)  I don’t know if this is completely required, but I do it every time anyway.


Ready the Dyes

Mix the dyes as needed; I refer to this article in Knitty when mixing up my dyes.  I used Wilton’s Juniper Green and Violet for this skein.  I dissolved the dyes (quite a bit of dye… more than I needed, I think) in big pots of water and brought to a simmer.


Dyeing (Finally!)

Drain the yarn and squeeze lightly to get rid of the excess water.  Find your color segment markers and put the yarn in the right pots based on that.  You can see my undyed/cream sections are carefully held up and out of the way by the strategically placed pot handles.  If you had more colors, obviously the yarn would be in more pots or jars, etc.

100_3990    100_3991


Let the yarn soak until the color is just right.  I think I left the green in a little too long, but I’m really happy with the purple.


Carefully remove the yarn (it’s hot!! Use tongs!) and rinse in cold water.  The purple didn’t bleed at all, but the green did quite a bit (probably because I put too much dye into the pot) so keep the color segments separate until the rinsing is complete!


Squeeze the yarn gently to remove the excess water.  You can hang the skein up somewhere to dry, or you can use my favorite cheat.  If your dryer has a shoe/sweater rack, stick the yarn on that and set on med/low heat!  Only takes about an hour instead of the hours it could take yarn to dry.  And it’s safe from children and pets, which is a nice plus.


Re-skeining Part 2

Put your dry yarn back on the skeining track from earlier (or anything similar that will keep the skein from tangling.)  Remove all the ties and re-skein the yarn into something that will fit on your swift (I don’t have a niddy-noddy, so I used a piece of cardboard) or wind into a ball directly.  Admire the pretty new yarn!

100_3996    100_4060

Oh yeah, I saved some of the undyed yarn and made a little mini-skein to dye at the same time for coordinating cuffs/heels/toes.


000_0024    000_0023

Check it out, stripes!! (As you can tell by the lack of ribbing, this is just a test swatch, not the actual sock.)  Tip: Start your project at the beginning of a color segment (this swatch starts halfway between cream and green) so that the stripes line up correctly.  I’m so excited to knit these socks!