Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
Welcome to Two Left Needles Sign in | Join | Help

Happy Friday! These 2 day work weeks are the worst, aren't they? I'm pooped.

Scott got me a video iPod for New Year's:

Welcome to the podcast generation, baybee!
Welcome to the podcast generation, baybee!

I've been wanting something like this for a couple of years, but have been waiting for prices to go down, or technology to settle, or hard drive space to increase. It was worth the wait. I lurv it!

Pebbles sock yarn

I didn't mention the yarn I had dyed back in August because I was afraid it would look like crap. Pretty lame, hunh? It was dyed in the roaster without measuring anything (shocking!):

blues and purples

I just kept adding dyes until I liked what I saw, or couldn't improve what I had with more dyes. The good thing about Kona - it's superwash. Poking and prodding to get the dyes to migrate does not felt the yarn. 

Due to how I put the skeins in the roaster, I ended up with three skeins, two alike:

blues and purples

Here they are dry:

blues and purples

And wound:

blues and purples

The white was unexpected. The dyes didn't settle to the bottom as much as I expected/hoped. I've had this happen more than once. In this case, I think it adds a nice accent to the yarn. But in general, I'd like to have more control over it. Methinks if I adds more water for the yarn/fiber to swim, that would help.

On the topic of baby knitting

Nothing started yet, though I bought some GGH Java in 2 shades of peach and white from Little Knits to make a little blanket. I knit a tank top from Java a couple of years ago and really liked the sproinginess of the cotton. I'm thinking alphabet squares or something along those lines.

I also have some Debbie Bliss Cotton DK (also from Little Knits) earmarked for another Debbie Bliss knit, but I haven't picked it out or started it yet. There's some irrational part of my brain thinking, "I've got time." Could be related to the fact that it's knitting with COTTON, for gosh sakes (see? cleaning up the language around here, there's a baby due, donchaknow). I did feel guilty after saying I wouldn't knit something fancy for my wee one. You know I would, right? Eventually? Just gotta find the right project.


Beth asked if I'm "allowed" to dye while I'm pregnant. As far as I understand, some dyeing is fine, provided you're taking the usual precautions (dust mask for dye powder, gloves, etc). I did feel a distinct desire NOT to dye during the first trimester, despite being in the middle of dyeing up batches of corriedale for the carder. I followed my instinct and found other things to do (not hard around here). And then I was too pooped to do much of anything.

Recently I did get the urge to throw color on fiber, so I took advantage! My dyes are already mixed into solutions, so I didn't have to deal with dye powders. I threw a whack of finn and romney in the roaster, about a pound and a half total, and threw some dyes on. (Why yes, I did make calculations and measure dyes, so I'm just being glib.)

Luck of the dyepot
layer 1

3 hours in the roaster at 250 did the job. No bubbling or boiling.

I was definitely going for particular results, and I definitely did not achieve them. I wanted rusty reds to appear, and they didn't. Instead, I got a lot of nice greens reminiscent of the primaries dyepot batch. I shoulda had an idea of how it would come out once I added the water:

Luck of the dyepot

But really, by then, it was already too late (4 layers of fiber in there).

Luck of the dyepot
left: 8 oz romney; right: 1 lb finn

No worries, I'll try again and change my tactics. And I am curious to see how it spins up.

At the same time, I tried out my new electric skillet that I bought at Home Depot:

Dyeing in an electric skillet
4 oz superfine merino

I lurv lurv lurv the colors!

Superfine merino in Lagoon

Too much fiber and not enough water meant the dyes didn't penetrate to the lower areas without a bunch of jostling with a chopstick, so the fiber did felt a bit. Lesson learned. (Maybe.)

I spun up a sample on the wheel and lurv it:

Lagoon sample wheel spun

enough to bring to NC and spindle it:

Lagoon on the spindle

Lagoon on the spindle

This may be part of my Twisted Knitters project, but (good grief) I'm STILL undecided.

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).