Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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Ever since we got the house just under 3 years ago, we've been bringing in sandwich meat and bread to work and making sandwiches for lunch. At first, it was out of necessity (and felt like punishment). We got used to it. After a couple of years, when we had recovered from mortgage shock, we continued because we:

  • finally knew the cost of eating out and wanted to spend the money on other things
  • realized that making sandwiches meant smaller portions and fewer calories, usually of a healthier nature

Turkey sandwiches get boring after a while, even when interspersed with chicken. So some weeks I get pastrami and heat it up in the toaster oven. Yum!

This week I even brought in some cheddar jack cheese. My tastebuds have been in heaven.

I layer the pastrami on one piece of bread and the cheese on the other:

Pastrami sandwich

then toast for the regular amount of time. Add yellow mustard:

Pastrami sandwich

and mmmmmmm. Tasty.

Last week at the grocery store I picked up a jug of vinegar for dyeing. At the register, my mouth hung open when I saw the price: $2.79. For a jug of vinegar! Hell, no.

I had been thinking about getting citric acid crystals. I heard they were cheaper and allowed brighter colors, but couldn't find any locally the week before (and what a hunt it had been). So, I resorted to the Internet. And picked up a couple of 5 lb bags of citric acid at Plus some spices and snacks. Their flat rate shipping (they call it a $5 "handling fee") made it worthwhile. But dang, we now have enough fajita, taco, and lemon pepper seasoning to last our lifetime.

Ordering was easy and delivery was quick. Wanna know what 5 lbs of citric acid looks like?

Citric Acid

It doesn't look like much, but it's heavy. 5 lbs heavy.

Next up: a better scale for weighing dyes and smaller amounts of yarn and fiber. I'm keen to start dyeing up some triads after my dyeing workshop. Some people like to mix dyes willy nilly to find the right color. I'd rather dye a spectrum beforehand and then pick and choose the ones I want. Potayto, potahto.

I've made excellent progress on That Cute Flirty Skirt. Not crazy progress like all the obsessed Moth ladies zooming towards the flame (go cheer them on!). But progress nonetheless. We've been ironing out some kinks in the first section of the pattern; the rest should be smooth sailings. I've also complicated matters a bit by adding extra stitches to the cast on for a slightly larger waist, and adjusting increases to catch up to the pattern. I'm all caught up now so I can just follow along and knit. Anne's instructions are very thorough and the skirt is coming along nicely. You'll be able to see a lot more detail in the next update (tomorrow?).

Thanks for all the nice comments on my new banner-to-be! I originally had it reversed, in dye-spin-knit order, but changed it at the last minute to match my "byline" - "adventures in knitting, spinning and dyeing". I like it the other way, too. I think I'd like to make a couple of similar banners with projects I've taken through all three stages. Although I can only think of one other... spin-dye-knit-a-scarf. And that one I'd want to put in the project order of spin-dye-knit. Does that make sense? I'll just have to try it and see.

Karen teased me with news of Classic Silk on sale at Herrschners. I rushed over in a tizzy but it was sold out. Apparently, some people were quicker on the draw than I was. As luck would have it, Fabric Place is having a 25% off sale starting Saturday! Classic Silk, you will be mine, oh yes, you will be mine. (Seriously, though, thanks, Karen!)

And the handspun yarn I was going to detail, well, I spent too long on the skirt and I'm not sure where I want to put it. Here? On it's own blog like June? On Etsy? Bah. I'm as indecisive as my brother.

Plus, I do feel weird posting them for sale after Tuesday's post. Honestly, do I expect people to pay full price plus shipping??? Hahahaha! In my defense, I've been preparing the yarns for a week. My mouth flaps and my timing's crap.

Blah blah blah blah blah. Sorry, I'll pull myself together in a minute. :)

Here's a group shot of the yarns, though:

handspun yarns

I'm even including Calico Cat, which is amazingly squishably soft with such interesting coloring. I dyed up some more fiber in the hopes of spinning more. Here's how the original Calico Cat looked:

Purples and Calico Cat
Calico Cat on the right

and here's the new batch:

Calico Cat on BFL

On initial glance, I think it looks pretty ugly, though not as ugly as the original, so I think it's a good first stab. On second glance, it looks more camouflage than the Rorschach of the original. Still could be used as a therapy tool...

I also dyed some pink-purples, to "match" the pink-purples in the original Calico Cat fiber photo above:

pink-purples on BFL

I wanted more pinks and less purples. Also, I think I used black before, which really saddened the color, so much so that I didn't want to spin it. I ran out of pink, so it's pretty purple heavy. Hehe. I hope this batch comes out better.

Thanks so much for the support. I have taken a lot of your ideas, suggestions and advice to heart, and honestly, it's helped. I'm feeling much better about Gram being in the nursing home. I think it's the best place for her right now. The nurses seem nice, and she's in the dementia ward, so they'll know how to understand and help her. We saw her Sunday and she didn't make a lot of sense to us. I'm hoping the transition disoriented her and that she'll bounce back a bit. But even if she doesn't, well, it is what it is. It's part of the process, and unavoidable. She's safe, and cared for, and that's what counts.

Scott and I are planning a trip to Montreal this weekend to take a break, get away and have some time to ourselves. Oh, and have fun! I've been to Montreal a few times. 8th grade class trip... random weekend drives in college... oh yeah, the time I went with some girlfriends for Jazz Fest, on Canada Day, when the border guy asked why we were going to Canada. Me: "To have fun!" Hands in the air! Youthful exuberance! Luckily, I looked young AND innocent, so they didn't search the car for drugs. Heh. It'll be fun.

Last week I brought this to work:

basket o' goodies
goodies galore! sunny day! green picnic table!

I finished plying the rest of the rambouillet/silk, and now have 2 empty bobbins! (I was counting my bobbins the other day and was short one. I counted, recounted, searched around, recounted, searched some more. Gave up. The next day, it hit me. It was on the wheel. Doh!) The top skein is the one I showed you before, the bottom is one of the new ones. In all, about 1050 yards over 8.8 oz. I think it's the most yards I've spun for one project. I lurv it.

rambouillet/silk 2 ply
soft and yummy

The first skein bled in the wash so I wanted to see if there were color differences. It's (slightly) noticeable in another photo, but not this one.

Those empty bobbins will be filled by the luck of the dyepot primaries batch, predrafted one sleepless night:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

Because of the random way the top was laid into the roaster, each 4 oz segment is a little bit different. There are the bluer bits:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

the redder bits:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

and the greener bits:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

I could spin each bit separately and have slightly different and somewhat coordinated skeins, or I could alternate between the bits to get 12 more-or-less-matching ounces. Not sure which way to go. I'm trying to spin up 2 matching skeins for someone and the bit already spun may be more green than the green bit above. Ah well, it's been too hot to spin most days anyway.

Sand River has grown and I'm still loving it:

Sand River - in progress

Luscious silk/merino beats cotton blend any day, so Trellis sleeves are slow goings:

Trellis - sleeves started
hey, you can see my feet!

Last, look at the color!

sample cards from dye workshop

These are the sample cards I walked away with from my dye workshop with Linda Whiting. Purty darned cool. I had a really good time, met some new folks, learned a few things. I'll try to put together a few thoughts later this week.

Tomorrow: the CVM fleece. It's sorted, and a bit of it washed. I never figured myself for a fleece processing person, but I seem to be becoming one. I've even reserved a CVM fleece for next year! 8 months from now! I know!

New update on the drum carder: 4 more weeks. Sigh.

The skies continue to mock me, but I did my best taking photos in the lunch room. Oh, and I found out I was hasty in blaming them for my missing drum carder. Turns out it's been delayed a few weeks. 6, to be precise. Man, I got my hopes up, too, got all excited. I suppose there's no harm in telling you it's a Patrick Green 2 speed Fancicard. It's not like I can keep the secret to myself another 6 weeks.

Alright, that out of the way, let's look at some handspun.


No seriously, gotta catch you up. But here's a preview so you don't think me too cheeky:

Spun yarns hanging out at work, waiting for their closeup
hanging out at work

Back in April, I did some random casserole dyeing. I soaked 8 oz BFL, layered it in 2 casserole dishes, added water and vinegar, and then added dyes. In one, I chose pink, purple and black. The dyes migrated more than I expected and it looked pretty dark:

Purples in the casserole

In the other, I chose brown, orange and blue. (Yeah, I know. What was I thinking? I think it I was inspired to add striking contrasts after reading Deb Menz' Color in Spinning.) The orange dye was gloopy and thick. It seemed to just sit on the surface. I wasn't sure what would happen. The brown looked murky and spread a lot, leaving very little white area. I added blue stripes, but screwed up the placement. It didn't look prety.

Calico Cat in the casserole

I added about an inch of water to the roaster, then stacked the casseroles so they were staggered and let it cook for an hour and cool overnight.

The purple/pink roving came out darker than I hoped, but interesting:

Purples and Calico Cat

Drafting didn't inspire me to spin it, though, too dark and flat:

Purples drafted

The other roving shocked me. All I could think was Calico Cat:

Purples and Calico Cat

Only the top half got any dyes, the rest stayed undyed. I was very disappointed. Enough so that I didn't want to post about it. I didn't want to draft it, let alone spin it. I knew I should just try it: you never know how it'll come out. But with so many other wonderful fibers around me (think MDSW), I hid it away.

A month ago, while dyeing the knitted blanks for Dye-O-Rama, I also soaked a pound of BFL. Dyeing Pink Panther wiped me out, so I left the BFL soaking. For a week. Before I finally realized it might have gone bad.

It had that funky smell that water has after flowers have been sitting too long. Stale and murky. A pound of BFL. Wasted. Ugh. So I washed it. Twice. And dyed it anyway.

Into the roaster with stripes of red, blue and yellow and enough water to just cover. Out of the roaster:

Primaries Luck of the Dyepot


Primaries Luck of the Dyepot

Not what I expected. I was somewhat curious to see how it would spin, but again, with so many wonderful fibers around me, it sat.

When packing for NC, I decided to take things to try out, that I wasn't worried about messing up, that wouldn't require the thought or care of a cormo laceweight or a merino/silk. Something I could spin while hanging out with my sister. I took Calico Cat and 4 oz of the primaries dyepot, as well as 4 oz of Ashland Bay merino in Cassis that I bought at Mind's Eye Yarns during their summer sale.

I spun Cassis in the Providence and Philadelphia airports while waiting, and was surprised that just as many guys were interested in the wheel as women. In fact, they were more likely to come up to talk to me. (By the way, the Ashford Joy fits very nicely in the overhead compartments.)

Cassis was spun from the fold without too much attention. I was spinning to be spinning, and to see how the colors would come out. I haven't done much spinning from the fold so it was good to get some practice.

Cassis was soft and fun to spin. The colors dancing were pleasant and vaguely hypnotic. The finished yarn is bouncy and soft:

Ashland Bay Cassis

I think I'm in love.

(Funny story: at the spinning demo, I passed around a small piece of Cassis so the kids could feel another type of fiber. They all remarked on how soft it was. One of the kids asked why I didn't give them all samples of that stuff. My reply: "Uh, 'cuz it costs a lot more?")

Next up, Calico Cat. I was more than surprised. The singles didn't look at all as I expected:

Calico Cat

It drafted nicely and I really enjoyed seeing how it developed. Plied it still has Calico Cat characteristics, but is much more interesting. I was very happy with my plying on this one, though after a bath it looks like it has a slight bit less twist.

Calico Cat

You can still see distinct bits of blue and orange:

Calico Cat

And the primaries dyepot, well, not as much fun to spin because all that handling did cause some felting. It was hard to get an even single and I didn't try too hard. I soldiered on and was surprised with how green it came out:

Primaries Luck of the Dyepot

Green with splashes of red and blue:

Primaries Luck of the Dyepot

I don't love it, but it's interesting enough that I'll tackle the remaining 12 oz.

All in all, I was very happy to bring home 3 skeins of spun yarn, and to use up some dyed fibers that had been sitting around. I hope I learned that, even if roving doesn't look attractive on its own, it might spin up in totally unexpected and cool ways. I suspect I'll have to learn it a few more times before it sinks in... I think I'll try the purples again, this time less dark; and Calico Cat as well, perhaps with other unexpected combos.

Coupla things I forgot to mention yesterday:

Thing 1: I used more pink than calculated (9 mL instead of 6) because it didn't look as dark as I would have liked. Of course, it migrated a good bit, so that accounts for the larger pink sections.

Thing 2: I chose 1" and .5" bands because I guessed that socks were usually knit over 72 stitches, so 30 loose stitches would be roughly half that. Ergo, 1" stripes would actually be .5" stripes, and so on. In practice, I think I was on crack to think that you'd knit 72 stitch socks with Kona. The socks I'm knitting now are over 52 stitches, and while my feet are small, maybe, perhaps, one might work over 60 stitches, max. Max. Despite my inability to think straight, the calculation ended up being pretty close. The knit stripes are roughly half the depth of the dyed stripes:

Comparing stripe sizes

Also, I mentioned the yarn fluffs up when washed/cooked, I think you can see the difference here:

Comparing dyed and undyed Kona


Because of the way the first batch dyed, there aren't grey and light pink sections, so much as black and pink separated by the littlest bit of white and off-whites. As I mentioned yesterday, the dye migrated quite a bit. The initial black stripe was skooshed within the 1" section, but migrated about half an inch beyond that. When I added the "grey" dye (diluted black), there was already so much black that it just made the slightly fainter black more black. Same with the pinks.

Goals 1 and 2: I wanted to eliminate as much of the black drool as possible, and get a little more definition in the greys and light pink, as well as white sections.

Things I changed:

Thing 1: I eliminated the grey and light pink dyes completely, figuring the migrated dyes were enough. I think this was about right - you can see more greys and light pinks in the second batch, and you can definitely see it pre-nuke:


Also, this meant there was a LOT less liquid on the blanks so that meant less liquid to carry the black dyes around. This decreased the black drool considerably. It also meant less dye, which meant less migration and more distinct white areas post-nuking. Excellent.

Thing 2: I also remembered to spritz the vinegar BEFORE nuking. This meant not having to unwrap and possibly contaminate the non-black sections.

Thing 3: I carefully folded up the packet accordian style with black at the edges and put a small glass jar under the pink section to keep it elevated. I figured any black dye that wanted to roam would stick to the lowered areas and stay away from the pinks. I think this helped.


Thing 4: I had to nuke for smaller amounts of time because, as the temperature went up, the packet started inflating and falling over. I nuked until it was about to fall over, and then let it cool a bit before repeating. I think I had 4 nukes instead of the usual 3, so this wasn't too bad.

So, what do I think?

I think, no matter how you look at it, making self-striping yarns is time-consuming.

I think this method means a lot less winding for self-striping yarn. That's a definite plus. No walking around chairs or keeping track of peg boards.

I think if you know how to use your knitting machine, it's not bad making up the blanks. If you don't, you may curse or sweat.

I think applying the dyes is not difficult but probably less mindless than the usual ways.

I think the mottled and unpredictable transitions between stripes is very interesting and fun to watch.

I think carrying around a dyed blank is less fiddly than a skein of yarn: no tangles or knots.

I think intentional frogging of dyed blanks as you're knitting up socks is fun and satisfying. Frogging is not fun when it's endless, when it's because of a mistake you made, or when it means you're negating hours of work. None of these apply!

I think I'm done with self-striping socks for a while.

My Dye-O-Rama yarn is finally dyed and dried and ready to go out! Wanna see?

In the knit:

Pink Panther

Skeined up:

Pink Panther skeined

A light steaming and a bath did not entirely remove the crinklies, but I don't think it'll be an issue in the knitted item. I wonder if the cooking or the cooking and drying in knitted form made the crinklies so pronounced.

This time 'round I made several changes in hopes of having clearer color bands. Overall, the changes worked great. But first things first... How I did it the first time.

Knitting blanks

Here's my knitting machine (one of them):

knitting machine

It's a Studio SK860, I think, bought new several years ago. Suffice it to say, I had grand plans.

And me using it:

using the knitting machine using the knitting machine

Scott took them, despite protestations of unwashed hair and grubby clothes.

This machine knits primarily dk to light worsted weight yarns. I'm no machine knitter so don't hold me to that. But that's a rough range. I "cast on" with grippy waste cotton over 30 needles at dial setting 6 and knit about 8-10 rows. Then I switched to the Kona superwash and knit 200 rows (I weighed as I went; 200 rows = 2 oz). Back to the grippy waste cotton for another 8-10 rows and then off the bed. Rinse and repeat for the second skein.

knitted blank

Note: this made a very loose fabric, which worked out fine. The yarn fulls when washed and dyed, and you don't want a tight gauge getting in the way of dye penetration.


I soaked the blanks in hot water with a bit of dish detergent and rinsed gently before using. When ready, I laid out my protective plastic drop cloth and plastic wrap and unrolled the blanks onto the plastic wrap (stockinette stitch, as you know, wants to curl up something fierce, so I did my best to lay it flat).

blanks laid out

Dye calculations

I based my numbers on Deb Menz's Color in Spinning, past experience and guesstimation. Good old guesstimation. Here's how it went. (If you really hate numbers and would rather skip to the fun part, jump to the Aside).

My color pattern was:

Pink Panther - color repeat

To figure out how much dye to use, first I figured out what dye intensities I wanted. I knew I'd get good saturated colors with 4% dye solution, and then I figured 1% ought to do it for the greys and light pinks.

Pink Panther - color repeat

Next, I figured out what percent of the whole each band was. The total was 6", so each (non-white) color was 2/12 of the whole. Here's where it gets a little interesting. If you like math. If not, maybe the opposite.

If I were doing a straight 4% intensity calculation, I'd have:

     4 (percent) x 2 oz = 4 x 56 g = 224 mL of 1% dye solution

But, since we're only looking at a portion of the whole, say the black band:

     4 x 56 g x 2/12 = 37.3 mL

because the black takes up only 2/12 of the whole. Right. And for the 1% bands, I decided to dilute the 1% dye solution to .25%, so that the calculations would be the same as above. Same amount of liquid, different amount of dye.

Last step (are your eyes glazed over?) -- my knitted blank ended up being 36" when laid out, so I was able to fit exactly 6 full repeats in there. What luck. So for each 1" stripe (or set of 1/2" stripes), I used:

     37.3 mL / 6 = ~6 mL


To be honest, you can just wing it and put as much as looks right to you. If you want consistent stripes, then use the same amount for each stripe. It's that easy.


I laid out measuring tape next to my blank. Following the color pattern, I added the dye and skooshed in to make sure it got all the way through to the other side. I started with black and did all the black stripes, then did the pink stripes, then the lighter colors.

dyed blank

Above, the black bands were placed and skooshed between the 6" and 7" marks, and 12" and 13" marks. The grey was placed over the migrated black sections. I used more pink than calculated because I wasn't happy with the intensity. Hence, it migrated more.

dyed blank

I spritzed a nice layer of vinegar over the whole shebang. After nuking and forgetting. Doh!

Time to fold the plastic wrap in to the middle to seal it up and then carefully roll:

wrapped and ready to go

Nuked for the usual [~2 mins on, several mins off] x 3.

I was worried that the black would run, so I unwrapped fairly soon after and soaked in hot water with a bit of dish soap. (Ideally you'd let it sit and cool so the dyes absorb in, yada yada. Also, Kona is superwash so I knew the temperature change wouldn't felt it.)

cooked and cooling

You can tell there is much less white here than before nuking.

ready to dry

Also, there are a bunch of areas where the black drooled, plus one section where I accidentally spattered black... I wasn't quite happy with how it turned out so I made a bunch of modifications and tried again. That's the photo at the beginning of the post! Details on that coming up.

Thanks so much for your words and thoughts. Just. Thank you.

This week I'm at a technical conference in Boston so posts will be spotty, but I've been dyeing and it's been fun so I hope I can squeeze something in here and there.

I tried a new method over the weekend:


It's about time I got started on my Dye-O-Rama sock yarn! I knitted up some Kona on the knitting machine and then dyed stripes of pink, black and white. The results were a little unexpected with some bleeding of black dulling the pink, a few black splotches, and a lot less white than expected from dye migration. But, overall, I got the effect I was looking for, so with a few tweaks I think it will suit my purposes. I'll post more details on the whats and the hows soon (you know me, there were plenty of calculations flying around, some useful, some not so much).

I'm sick. Flu, I think. Blech.

Here's the leftovers dyepot predrafted:

leftovers dyepot

and half of it spun up:

current projects

It's been a while since I spun bluefaced leicester and I miss it. I miss the springiness and softness of the finished yarn. Nice stuff.

Also pictured:

  • Picovoli, almost done. I want to finish but I know I won't be able to wear it for a while so I'm lacking motivation. However, I do want to start on the next summer knit so I best get cracking.
  • Yarn for my Sockapaloooza sockpal! It's Danette Taylor superwash merino in ... I don't know ... seaweed, maybe? Sockpal likes jewel tones so I think it's a good match! I looked for clues on their blog and decided to take an aspect of something they're interested in and use it for design inspiration. I don't know how it will work for socks, it might be one of those "cool concept, not so interesting for socks" kinda things, but I'm hoping it will be "cool concept, interesting socks". Or maybe even, "cool concept, cool socks!" Wouldn't that be nifty?
  • Stripey superwash merino in my continuing attempts to get a decent color representation. Here's another try:

stripey number

and another:

stripey number

Actually, the last one is pretty close!

Last night's dyeing yielded:

more stripes

Alpaca on the left, 100's merino on the right. I love how the colors came out! I couldn't wait to try some out, so tonight I spun up some of the alpaca, and man, was it tough! Not to mention a big mess. Had Scott running scared (though he braved the mass of shedding fibers and gave me a peck on the head). From what I understand, the trick with alpaca is to put just enough twist to hold it together; too much twist and it gets wiry and loses its softness. It's a slippery fiber, too. Well, I was doing fine until I started plying, and the second singles kept breaking on me. Guess "just enough twist to hold it together" is not quite enough if you're plying. It made a beautiful looking skein, though. I love the way it looks! And it's actually quite soft. I don't know what it would be like to knit with it, seems kinda hairy and like it would shed. I guess I'd better do a swatch. I know I need to knit more of what I spin to learn what makes a good-for-knitting yarn, ya know?

I'd like to do some more dyeing, but I'll need a new color combo. I think we've all seen enough turquoise, blue and violet to last us a while, eh? Not to mention all the turquoise, blue and violet we'll continue to see as I spin up the rest of the last 2 batches... hehe... any suggestions? :)

Our TiVo arrived today and Scott already likes it. We can pause, we can record, we can rewind, we can make the TV wait for us, instead of rushing for it. Not that we watch that much TV. He's busy playing WoW, I'm busy spinning or knitting. But there are a few shows we like to watch, and it's nice to know we can watch them on our schedule.

Boy, I sound like an ad, eh?


Picovoli is oh-so-close to being done. The bottom and top picot edges are complete, just need to do the armhole edges. Sewing up the picot edges was very time consuming, surprisingly so. Picot edges in crochet are a lot of work for a pretty, dainty effect. I never liked doing them and probably avoided patterns with too much picot edging. In knitting, it's not so different. Creating the picot effect is very easy, but sewing the edge down is tedious. Well, all the more so when you have to redo it several times.

The picot edge won't lay flat, either. Steaming helps some, but I wonder if a plain edge would have been better? I wanted a slightly dressier look, though. We'll see how it steams up.

Roaster action

The merino, alpaca and last of the tussah silk were still soaking from the weekend so last night I cooked 'em up in the roaster:

more stripes

Hmm, look familiar? Yup, same colors as the stripey number. This time, simple repeating stripes and no exact measurements. I think the merino may have felted some, boooo. The roaster didn't seem hot enough so I turned it up. And then it was too hot. Booooo. The dye didn't penetrate far into the silk (thirsty stuff) so I'll have to overdye it. There are some white spots in the merino and alpaca, which is fine. The merino took the color flatter than the superwash did. Interesting to see how the different fibers behave.

Note to self

10 minutes in the morning is not enough time to rinse out dyed fibers. I know it's hard to resist, but self, you're better off doing it after work. It doesn't affect when the fiber will be dry (either way you wouldn't get to spin it until tomorrow night), and you won't have to rush to work. Just sayin'.

It's not April 1st, but we got snow anyway:

April snow

It came down hard from morning til mid-afternoon, and then melted away. It's been warm enough (thank goodness) that there was no accumulation on the roads, and actually, it was quite pretty and pristine. Still, I'm so tired of winter this year! Maybe I just haven't been getting out enough, going straight from work to home, and staying in much of the weekend as well. And before that I was home job hunting and didn't even go out to work! I am very ready for spring.

It's not just the weather that's got me down. One of the big things on my mind these days is Gram. Every week we go to see her she's doing a little bit worse. She used to take care of us each week, cook us meals, pick up groceries for us to take home (including things Scott didn't have the heart to admit he didn't like), give us pocket money. Now we take care of her; first it was bills and mail, now it's groceries, necessities, dinner, and of course, chocolate. Gotta bring the chocolate.

Last week I noticed her fingernails were really long. I sat on the floor and did my best to trim them with crappy clippers, the only ones I could find. I tried to get Gram to find another pair but she kept getting distracted and forgetting and I just had to chuckle to myself and remind her to look again. As I clipped she kept twitching so I was afraid I was hurting her. I figured those salon ladies chatted you up to distract you so I did my best to do the same. Later Scott told me she was falling asleep and every time I said something she woke up. He kept trying to signal to me but I was so focused on not clipping her finger that I didn't notice at all. In fact, I was sweating. Literally. I felt like I had tunnel vision. It was pretty stressful. For a moment I stepped outside the situation and thought it was a sweet picture, Gram in her easy chair, me on the floor giving her my best manicure. Hehe. Me sweating, Gram napping.

Last week Scott called me during the day, left a message; he sounded out of breath or upset, and told me to call him. All I could think was "something's happened to Gram" and I started to panic and think the worst. Turned out he had gone for a ride and was winded. Nothing special.

For the last few years, I've been waiting for that call about my grandmother. Every time my mom called, I waited for some indication that everything was fine before I could breathe easy. Any time it seemed like "something was up" I tensed and prepared for the worst. Once I got the call that my grandmother no longer recognized family, it was a sort of closure. I know "the call" will come some day and it won't be easy. It will probably take a couple of days for it to really register. Shock. She's so far away and not part of my every day life... not like Gram is.

Anyway, the fibery stuff is a good distraction.

Here's the leftovers dyepot from the other night:

leftovers dyepot

Mostly teals, which settled in the bottom of the dyepot. I predrafted tonight and there were bits that were a little felted, so I still need to work on that. It was definitely better than the last immersion dyed batch. The colors softened up in the predrafted bundles, too.

The sunfires were a little hard to photograph:


Below, left to right: tussah silk, superwash, bluefaced leicester:


I actually really like this photo of them. Vivid. Nice Project Spectrum shot, eh? And the darker half, really hard to photograph:



And continuing in the hard to photograph category, the stripey superwash:

stripey number

The colors are darker than shown. It's surprisingly silky and very soft. Should I ply it now to sample it?...

No finished Picovoli, but there was dyeing.

I lamented not having a microwave I could use for dyeing because of the speed and convenience with which I could dye a batch. Recently, I realized that I could achieve nearly the same results using my pasghetti pot or roaster as a steamer. 20 minutes of steam and done, quick as you please. The arrival of a bundle of undyed fibers from Little Barn (March Madness sale, bought with proceeds from stash sales, yippee!) was the perfect occasion to give it a try.

Friday night I pre-soaked 8 oz of superwash merino, 8 oz of bluefaced leicester, 4 oz of 100's merino (so excited to try this), 4 oz of superfine alpaca, and just under 2 oz of natural tussah silk. A lot, eh?

Saturday night I couldn't find the motivation to get started. I sat reading Color in Spinning, which I borrowed from the BASD library. If anything, I felt overwhelmed and confused. Scott even came in multiple times to find out why I was sitting around not dyeing. Simply, I didn't know what I was doing. I had no clue! I've done a few dyeing experiments but either I was using a single color in varying intensities, or doing a "luck of the dyepot" mix without really knowing how it would turn out. Well, this was no different in that I still didn't know how it would turn out, but since I was painting, I had to pick colors to paint, and figure out how wide I wanted the strips, and and and...

Scott reminded me to have fun and go play. Yup, play. Go make some mistakes and learn. Okay.

I wanted to work with the same colors from the last leftovers dyepot because I loved the way it turned out and I wouldn't have thought to combine those colors before. That was a good starting point. I set up the little bit of counter space with mixing jars and tubs of dye, grabbed my syringes, and started mixing up some combinations. A bunch of them. Which was fun, but brought me no closer to getting dyed fiber!

Mixing in cramped quarters

So I decided to focus on the three colors in 2 different intensities, and made lengthy calculations based on information in Color in Spinning to determine the amount of dye and water and vinegar to add to each of the six mixing jars. 3 dark stripes separating 3 lighter sections. My brain was pretty pooped by then.

Once they were all measured out, and my floor space set up, I started placing the colors. And made a series of mistakes and tactical errors.

My dyeing "pattern" was based on a repeating 9" length. The fiber was continuous, so had to be folded back and forth; which meant at the folding points the pattern would be a mirror image. Tactical error number 1. Wet fiber does not pull apart easily (or at all?), so I adjusted my pattern to work with the mirror imaging. But, when I started adding the first series of stripes, I placed them as in the original pattern. Mistake number 1. I mixed up some more of the same dye and had to swap out one of the darker stripes. But in adding those stripes, I got confused and added some at the wrong location. Mistake number 2. I added the rest of the dyes without much incident. It was hard to get the colors to spread uniformly, the dye just stuck wherever it was put and mooshing made little difference. Also, I looked underneath and noticed a lot of the dye did not soak through to the other side. Tactical error, or mistake? I flipped the whole thing over (which was not easy) but didn't have enough dye to saturate the colors. Oh well.

Here it is painted on superwash merino:

Superwash stripes, painted

My notebook is right there, fat lot of good it did me. And a close up:

Superwash stripes, painted

The inbetween sections are supposed to be at .5% intensity, but it looks much stronger. The book said painting takes twice as much dye as immersion dyeing, so I doubled up. I don't think this was the right thing to do. Again, tactical? Mistake?

I had enough of that. Haven't you? Too much work, too time consuming. Too many mistakes. Though the steaming was quick and easy:

Superwash stripes, cooling

So I switched gears and did some red/orange/yellow gradations. I figured those were nice and easy, just 2 dye colors, and they're the April Project Spectrum colors. Oh yeah, I also took inspiration from one of the photos in The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook.

Again, mapped out the pattern, mixed up some colors and calculated amounts of dye and all that. But this time I decided to go with the Twisted Sisters method of spritzing the vinegar at the end (though I was skeptical this would be enough vinegar). I hoped this would make the dye mooshing go easier. I'll spare you the details of tactical errors and mistakes, suffice it to say, the tone of the evening had been set.

Here is the superwash merino packet all ready to be steamed:

Superwash sunfire, painted and wrapped

And shortly thereafter I realized I forgot the vinegar. Good thing I remembered before the steaming!

And the same colorway on bluefaced leicester (and this time I didn't forget about one of the jars):

BFL sunfire, painted

BFL sunfire, painted

BFL sunfire, painted

Rinse and repeat on natural tussah silk. Besides not wanting to do more calculations and come up with more color combos, I wanted to see how the same dyes and sequence would look on different fibers. I'm calling it sunfires.

Steaming was, again, quick and easy. All 3 packets steamed at the same time, in only 20 minutes. Ahhh. And ready to cool:

Superwash, BFL and silk sunfire, cooling

I was ready to fall over by then but thought I'd do another leftovers dyepot on some more bluefaced leicester:

BFL leftovers dyepot

I kept throwing in this and that until I was reasonably satisfied.

Steam setting is very quick and efficient. Painting is very time consuming! I suppose if I didn't go to the trouble of calculating everything out, it wouldn't be so bad. But I wouldn't be able to reproduce it. Also, now that I've figured out the numbers, I could do it again relatively pain-free. And, I even mixed up some extra sunfire colors for next time. I still feel like I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm glad I finally just got started. You gotta start somewhere, right?

Also, mooshing was much more successful in sunfires than the stripey number. It could be coincidental, it could be the higher dye intensity, maybe the lack of vinegar in the dye solutions, who knows. Maybe painting lighter colors is harder?

Here's sunfires post-rinse:

Superwash, BFL and silk sunfire, rinsed

From top to bottom, bluefaced leicester, superwash merino and tussah silk.

Superwash, BFL and silk sunfire, rinsed

And the stripey number, mostly dried (I rinsed it last night; the others I was good and let sit overnight):

Superwash stripes, dried

Superwash stripes, done

The good news: the stripey number is so soft! I didn't overcook/handle it so I think spinning will be smooth sailings. The other fibers are still wet but I think they've also been gently treated. Yay!

And finally, in non-fibery but very exciting news, we may be getting TiVo! Amazon is having a good deal and I've been wanting TiVo ever since I visited my sister.

I'm working on a cool new dyeing project. I'm taking an existing Debbie Bliss wristwarmer pattern that is knit in stripes and eliminating the ends-factor by making the yarn self-striping. 3 of the 6 colors I thought matched pretty closely to some of the red and blue color study results, but for the rest... I didn't know where to start. I had some not-yet-mixed dyes, and a few colors that had not been sampled yet, so I focused on that instead.

All are on 5g skeins of Kona superwash (see? the sample skeins are getting smaller and smaller...) and were dyed on the stove using my newly requisitioned pasta pot with steamer insert, trusty salsa jars and plenty of stream.

Dye intensities are .25%, .5%, 1%, 2% and 4%. Except the Brilliant Blue, that one went from .5% - 8% because the dye solution looked so weak.

(Some of the colors were hard to photograph so I included photos from two different attempts.)

Pink on white

Pink on natural

Turquoise on natural
Turquoise - very hard to photograph, very vibrant; reminds me of the Caribbean

Turquoise on White

Violet on natural
Violet - also very hard to photograph, actually deeper and more vibrant

Brilliant Blue on natural
Brilliant Blue - reminds me of denim

Pink and violet
Pink and Violet

Turquoise and Brilliant Blue
Turquoise and Brilliant Blue

Except for the Pink, the lower intensity skeins are irregular/splotchy - you can see it on the Violet the most. The pinks were done first and I let the skeins steam in the dye solution before adding vinegar. With most of the others, I reused the vinegared water and added the next color. On those, the dye struck more on the outside of the yarn and didn't seep evenly throughout the yarn. Something to remember for next time.

The Turquoise and Violet did not want to exhaust. And the Brilliant Blue, since I effectively doubled each jar's dye solution, the higher intensity jars did not exhaust. I saved the top 2 intensity jars of each and did random dyeing over 4 oz of fiber (some more Romney/Corriedale). They were leftovers, and not colors I would have thought to combine. I added a little more of each dye in the end (the darker spots), squirt squirt. I love the results.

leftovers dyepot

Last week I decided I needed to try immersion dyeing on the stove. Electric roaster dyeing is great but time consuming. Plus, it's on the floor right now and my back is not so happy, what with the squating and hunching over. Hehe, not really, my back only minds for a little while.

I took a good long look at our pots and pans and picked the stainless steel Calphalon pasta/steamer set that I bought for pretty cheap on a few years ago, and which we've used maybe a half dozen times. Hubby agreed to sacrifice it to the dyeing gods. Yay!

The process was pretty new to me, so I split the 8 oz batch into two 4 oz batches. Still enough to make something with, and twice the dyeing opportunity.

Based on the previous experiments I figured equal mL vinegar to weight fiber, so in all I used about 250mL or a cup. I'm still trying to figure out what is a good amount; maybe I just need to get some pH papers. I also let each color exhaust before adding the next.

Batch one I figured I'd go primaries and see how it differed from my first primaries batch in the electric roaster.

I calculated a 4% dye concentration, which came to 454 mL, or just under 8 x 60 mL syringes. I remembered reading on fibernation that she liked adding lots of yellow because of how it changed the reds and blues, so I decided to start with 4 syringe-fuls of yellow:

Romney/Corriedale 1: lotsa yellow

and then thought, damn, that's a lot of yellow. Scott said it looked like a dog had peed on snow. I agreed. It was pretty downhill from there.

I added some blue, but it looked mostly green:

Romney/Corriedale 1: adding blue

and a seasick green at that. Look, the one spot on top that was still white!

At that point, it was "abandon all hope" so I added dots of red:

Romney/Corriedale 1: circles of red

and as the dye seemed to fade/lighten (like at the bottom), I kept adding more red to those same spots. What was I doing? Who knows. I poked underneath every now and then to see if the dye had exhausted, and eventually it looked like this:

Romney/Corriedale 1: what a mess

A mess. I was pretty disheartened, but chalked it up to experience.

Less is more. Less is more.

Enter batch 2. (And I moved to the left stove element, which was directly under the light. A-ha moment there.)

I started with blues this time, first a syringe-ful of Brilliant Blue:

Romney/Corriedale 2: starting with blue

and then a syringe-ful of Sky Blue:

Romney/Corriedale 2: another blue

and then marveled at how they looked the same! And so faint. So I doubled down:

Romney/Corriedale 2: double down

Less is more. Less is more. I added 5 mL of red on either side:

Romney/Corriedale 2: a bit of red

Only 5 mL made such an impact! I ended with just a bit more blues:

Romney/Corriedale 2: more blue

I let the rovings cool in buckets and then washed and rinsed. And something unexpected appeared.

Here they are dry:

Dyed Romney/Corriedale: Final results

Look at all those rust reds! Where did they come from? All that red I kept adding sank to the bottom of the pot. Where it mixed with yellow it became orange-y, and where it mixed with the blue-yellow (aka green) it became rusty. I suddenly loved it. What a surprise!

And the blue-reds? "I liked it better when it was Blue Moon Berry and Strawberries on merino." Hahaha. Um, are we over that yet? Can we be over it, please? Been there, done that? Hahaha. With so much less dye, though, the blues and reds struck pretty much where it was skooshed (what else would you call the syringe action?) and didn't take much time to exhaust. In fact, both sets were complete in less than the time for one set in the roaster. But, the pot is not huge (tall but not so wide), so I don't know what kind of results I could get with more fiber, too many layers I couldn't see. It's a trade-off. But it was fun!

I wanted to explain the idea behind The Red and The Black (anyone read that in high school?).



Solid colored ends that bleed into lighter shades, separated by white. I thought that would be cool.

I figured each end was about 30% of the total, and would be at the full 4% concentration. The shady area I guesstimated another 10% at 4% (in other words, averaging out to about that amount of dye). So I measured 40% of the total weight at 4% strength for each color and added the dye to the very ends only. I figuring the dye would bleed into the middle areas. And I worked with 2 layers of fiber, 4 oz each.

So. What happened?

Well, I didn't add the vinegar to the dye or to the liquid already in there, so I had to either:

  • add the vinegar directly over the fiber, which is not great because of felting and because it won't migrate where it needs to go (will it?), or
  • add the vinegar to more water and pour along the edges

I opted for a combination of plans A and B. Which is to say, I started with A, then realized its limitation and switched to B. And while I was executing B (cut me some slack, I've been programming all day, I say executing), I realized it was not so great because as I added liquid to the ends, the dye started to migrate and dilute at the ends, which is so not where I wanted it diluted.

None of which mattered, ultimately, because the black was soooo strong. What I ended up with was more like this:


Still interesting, but not the original vision.

Lessions I learned:

  • Add the vinegar before the dye, or with the dye.
  • Use less black. Black is Strong.
  • If I really want to control placement, maybe cold pouring and plastic wrapping is the way to go.
  • If I already have 60% at 4%, and I want to split the remaining 40% between shade and white, then having an additional 20% at 4% makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. How about 20% at 2%? 20% at 1.5% What is wrong with my math these days?? I was a frickin' math major in college!***

I've almost got some free bobbins to start spinning it, because I plied some Finn:

Dyed Finn

Man, I suck at plying. (To be fair, I haven't done much of it yet.) It's hard.

These were done from left to right, and by the last one, I had a pretty good rhythm down. I wanted to keep the twist really loose to keep the yarn soft. The middle one is considerably more overtwisted, while the first and last are almost balanced. I might be one of those that has an easier time spinning than plying.

The plan for spinning The Red and The Black is to for half to be navajo plied, and the other half as either a 2 or 3 ply with each spool spun in matching order so that the plies mostly match up with slight variations. We'll see if this plan works better than the dyeing plan did.


Man, it takes so long to get anything done! All the spinning, all the dyeing, all the knitting, it all takes time! The crazy thing is, I have the luxury of time now, my commute is nigh nil. I'm so impatient to learn all I need to learn to make things I want to make. I want to dye the undyed yarns I bought and make some cool sock yarns (what? didn't I mention the undyed yarns? hmm, I guess I didn't mention the box o' imitation Malabrigo, either, hunh? no? the dyes? syringes for my addiction? stop that, my dyeing addiction, hmph). I want to knit the yarn I spun into socks! I haven't even cast on my Socks That Rock, and my WIP pile is going nowhere. How long before I know enough to do what I want?

I was the same way with programming. I spent the better part of 3 years learning everything I needed to know to create data-driven web apps, and at every step realized I needed to learn something more: VB.NET, ASP.NET and ADO.NET led to OOP and SQL Server which led to SQL; and along the way there was CSS, XML, IA, BLL... lotsa acronyms, eh? I was so impatient to get to the point I could pull it all together to create cool web apps utilizing best practices. Which is where I am now. Pulling it all together and doing some really cool things. Well, cool to me. ;)

So when does that happen with the dyeing? How do I even figure out how to get where I want to go?


Hehe, I meant my aside to be an FYI, not a busting at the seams. So here's the FYI:

The Fabric Place is having their bi-annual Knitters Breakfast this Saturday at each of their locations. It's at 8 am and they give away a LOT of yarn. I mean. A. LOT. Of. YARN. My luck is such that I never win in drawings or games of chance, but I figure I'm pretty lucky in life, so I'll be happy with that. And try not to be too jealous of the bags of yarn leaving in other lucky hands. Ahem. It costs $5, which is applicable to any purchase. And it comes with breakfast, fruit and pastries and coffee and stuff, which is worth the price of admission. So if you're near one, go! And if you go the one in Framingham, come say hi to me!

*** I was a theoretical math major for 1 1/2 years before I switched to theatre arts. Oh the stories. Oh the horror. Which reminds me, Cat tagged me for a meme! I've never been tagged before. Thanks, Cat, it's coming up soon. :)

I have to say, I'm in awe at the power of the Harlot. I mean, 4000 Knitting Olympians should have tipped me off... thanks to all who stopped by and thanks for saying hi!

Is anyone else having post-Olympic-what-the-hell-now-itis?

Nah, me neither.

This morning I caught sundrops on the walls:

Dancing Lights

courtesy of this unassuming porcupine that once belonged to Gram:

Porcupine Light Splitter

It lasted barely long enough to attempt photographs and was gone.

This afternoon, driving home, I saw 20+ wild turkeys in someone's front yard. And smiled.

Night before last, as with any night I've been dyeing, my mind danced over images of the dyed fiber, imagining what it might look like, resisting the urge to get up and rinse it, dry it, admire it while it dried. Yesterday morning I took a few photos of it wet; this morning, dry. Remember how I was excited to spin up the Finn? Doubly so The Red and The Black.

I had plans, measured dyes, squirted. But, well, ran into an array of problems. By the time it was ready to cook it looked like this:

Dyed Romney

Double, double, toil and trouble...

Exhausted, cooling for the night:

Dyed Romney

Rinsed in the morning:

Dyed Romney

Here's where we run into more trouble. I had the bright idea of using a dryer mesh bag and spinning in the washer. I even tested with a towel first and prevented water dropping on my fiber. But, well, I have a front loader. Front loaders kinda start out really slow, and that means everything in the washer, even fiber that has been oh-so-carefully tended to prevent felting, goes a-tossing and a-tumbling over and over and over. It took too long for the realization to sink in. Felted. Not complete unusable ropes, but man, I had been so careful!

It's still purty:

Dyed Romney

Come on, don't you want to spin some?

Dyed Romney

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