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So now that you’ve had a chance to absorb all the information about the dyeing process, and I’ve had time to take a few more photos I have some dyeing results to show you. Once again there’s loads of pictures.

Since I talked so much about those sock flats let’s see one of those first…

In my opinion this is the most successful gradient dyed sock flat. It does have one stark shift in the middle, but it also has shading and shifts gradually from dark to light except for that one distinct change. It also is made up of colors I love that are soft, but still have depth of shade.

This flat also has the least “heathering” from spots where the dye didn’t penetrate the stitches. So while the colors shift, it appears nearly solid in each section. I’m really looking forward to knitting this one up and seeing what happens.

You can get a different perspective on the transitions by seeing the yarn wound. The cake on the left transitions from light to dark moving outwards and the cake on right is the opposite, with lightest on the outside and darkest on the inside. I really like looking at these particular cakes. I’ve been doing it at least once a day since I wound them. (By the way, these cakes are courtesy of my new ball winder & swift set, which I adore).

Ok more sock flats later on to some kettle dyed skeins…

Although the gradient dyeing was time consuming and exciting because it was new, the real purpose of dying day was to dye these. Liz went to Vietnam after Christmas and brought back lace weight Vietnamese silk as gifts. My Mother and I were both lucky recipients of these amazing yarny treasures. Instead of splitting our share half & half my Mom generously let me take a bit more so I ended up with 2000 yds of the stuff. My goal was to do two differently colored batches, each of 1000 yards, but as I mentioned before they turned out the same. Above is the batch I’m leaving alone & the other batch I will overdye later (you can see it once it’s done). While it was not at all what I had in mind this yarn is really gorgeous. The color is so vibrant, and combined with the sheen of the silk I find it irresistible. I want to cast one with it right away, but I’m so bogged down in WIPs (more on some of those soon) I must wait for a bit. For reference it is not quite as pink as it looks in the photo, it is a bit closer to beet, which is why I have decided to call this color “Beet Out the Purple”.

The two skeins you see above were also dyed from gifted base yarn. My friend Maureen recently traveled to Peru (if only I got to go some of the places my friends go…) and brought back tons of alpaca. She generously shared some with me including some undyed skeins. The blue was supposed to be navy, and I had hoped for a light and dark pair for some colorwork, but I actually love this shades together and might still use them for some subtle colorwork.

Recently I came up with a new Project (with a capital P).  The difference between a Project and a project is that a project is just one thing, and a Project is a series of projects or pieces that have some kind of overarching theme and that fit together in some way.  I want to devote a post to this Project, so I’ll wait to tell you about it, but it needed some yarn & this is the yarn I dyed for one part.  This merino lace weight was the yarn that was supposed to be red and came out pink.  It’s not quite hot pink, although it looks it in the picture, but it is certainly not a red.  I have decided to call it “Better off Red”.  This is mostly for humors sake, I don’t mean to give this poor yarn a bad wrap.  It will still serve its purpose, and I have a feeling it will be appreciated just the same.

Ok back to sock flats…

This is the flat that came out a true half and half.  Not what I had in mind.  One half is quite dark, and the other is quite light & there’s not much variation in each section.  Considering the amount of time that went into trying to make it a gradient this was a bit of a bummer, but I am not the type to be disappointed by new yarn.  Ever.  It took me a little brainstorming to come up with what I might do to maximize the potential of this somewhat surprising result and I came up with this:

I’m not generally a huge fan of stockinette only socks, but I have been really wanting a pair of striped socks lately (erm, ok I have been really wanting a pair of handknit striped socks lately since I have at least 8 pairs of machine made commercial ones).  It occurred to me that if I pulled from the dark end of one ball and the light end of the other I could have a pair of adorably striped tonal socks.  I whipped up a little swatch to decide what I truly thought & I love it.  So add that to this list of things to start soon.

This flat looked very promising after drying.  It was still a bit on the dark side, but it did have a real gradient to it and the color was really lovely.  Then I wound it up and saw just how many white spots there were from those pesky stitches.  I’m learning to love it for what it is, but it doesn’t have the same depth of color that it showed when in flat form.

So all in all, some lessons learned, some experiments started (but certainly not finished) and some yarn stashed. How could one be sad about those results?

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Ok, you’ll have to forgive me for the title. I just couldn’t help myself. It seemed too appropriate.

My Mom and I have been experimenting with yarn dyeing together in a sporadic way for years. We started with Kool-Aid dyeing when I was in high school. More recently we’ve played around with Jaquard Acid Dyes. Inspired by my friends over in Enablers Anonymous on Ravelry who recently had a dyeing day I couldn’t make it to, we planned our first Mother-Daughter Dyeing Day in quite awhile. Last Tuesday we experimented with new dyes and a new technique (as well as a few old ones). We ended up dyeing yarn from 1pm to 11pm, which truth be told ended up being a very long day.

This was our first time using MX Reactive Dyes. There were some upsides and some downsides. The perceived benefit was the ability to get more range of color. With acid dyes we’d always had a hard time getting anything but super bright colors, even with lots of mixing. This is fun for awhile, but gets a boring after a bit. My understanding was that with MX Dyes we’d be able to get subtle shades up through very rich, deep shades. This turned out to be true, but we didn’t end up having much control over when they were light and when they were dark. This may just be because we’re new to the process, but it lead to some rather unexpected results. Although, the element of surprise can sometimes be good since it forces me to let go of my fiber control freak tendencies from time to time.

One definite downside apart from the surprise colors, was the time consuming nature of dyeing with MX reactive dyes. The process takes much longer than dyeing with acid dyes. This is why we didn’t rinse out the last skein until 11pm. But we dyed a ton of yarn and got some beautiful results (even if they weren’t always what we planned on).

The new technique we tried was Gradient Dyeing. I’m in love with the gradient dyed projects I’ve seen on ravelry, although I haven’t found many. Inspired by some truly gorgeous results I decided to give it a go. After doing some research on possible techniques for achieving the result of gradient dyed yarn, I decided to order some sock flats. Everything I read about gradient dyeing with yarn in other put ups (skeins, balls etc.) seemed super messy and more time consuming than it really needed to be.

I decided that the best plan of action was going a dip dyeing route. Our technique went like this: mix dye on the strong side; prepare dye bath with less water than usual; rig sock flat on old knitting needle with bottom section hanging into dye bath and cook for 15 minutes; add 1.5 or 2 quarts of hot water to dye bath (depending on strength of dye mixture); cook for 15 minutes; repeat last 2 steps until pot is full (usually 4 or 5 segments) letting down slack from rigged up sock flat as you go in order to create similarly sized segments; when pot is full, undo sock flat from knitting needle rig & submerge completely in dye bath.

The level of effectiveness of this technique varied a great deal. The problems are mostly having to do with consistency. One flat is very dark on one half and very light on the other with little noteworthy change in shade other than the stark shift half way through. Another is very dark most of the way through, but shifts more gradually (interestingly this dye was mixed no stronger than the flat that ended up half and half). The most successful flat still has one very noticeable shift about half way through, but does have noticeable shifts from light to dark within each of those halves.

The other major problem turned out to be with the sock flats themselves. Although the dye looks completely solid on the outside, it did not penetrate to the heart of the stitches in the flat leaving white spots that appeared when two of the flats were unwound. This actually gives the yarn a somewhat heathered look when knit up, which I’ve decided to embrace, but wasn’t quite what I had in mind. If I decide to take another stab at gradient dyeing (and I plan to) I will try another technique next time and might try gradient dyeing with the yarn put up in a different way.

We also did plenty of traditional kettle dyeing (and my Mom did a little handpainting). There were also some surprising results in that department, but everything turned out gorgeous. The issue with the kettle dyeing was how much color rinsed out. We had encountered this some with acid dyes, but not to such an extreme degree. My navy blue turned out cornflower after rinsing. My red rinsed out to a color that is much closer to a deep pink (despite my attempts to avoid that by mixing the dye to what the dye company’s directions recommended for “dark” colors). In general the most systematic problem was the blue rinsing out, regardless of the mix. I know this is not uncommon as the blue dye molecule is larger than the fiber molecule (at least for wool, I had trouble finding info on this for silk), but in some cases, it rinsed out to such an extreme degree that little or none remained. Like my aforementioned attempt at navy, or my two tries at purple that both turned the same shade of a beet-like color after rinsing. Both attempts at purple silk were mixed from different dye combinations- one was 90% Ultra Violet and 10% Cloud Grey and the other was 50% Eggplant and 50% Cloud Grey- and looked very different in the dye pot. And yet they both turned out almost identical after rinsing. I plan to overdye one set later so I don’t end up with 2000 yards of beet colored lace weight silk. But in truth I’m happy to keep one set, since the color is actually gorgeous.

In spite of all the surprises and the unexpected results, I am really pleased with what I walked away with. I think every skein is lovely, even with some imperfections. I have thoughts on how to work with the unique qualities of each one, to highlight their beauty, although some of these ideas are different than what I had planned on my way into dyeing day.

So I’m sure after all this you’re probably waiting to see the results. And I’m quite looking forward to showing them to you, but this post has become quite long & I’m still trying to get better pictures of one or two skeins, so you’ll just have to wait another day or two to see how things turned out. I promise I’ll try not to draw out the suspense too long.

I finished my Hemlock Ring Blanket back at the end of January, but was having trouble photographing it in a way I was happy with.  So I called in reinforcements.  Conveniently my favorite picnic partner also happens to be a fantastic photographer.  The results were so great this post will feature more photos than any other in knittingprettyindc history.  I love them all so much it’s just too hard to choose.

Pattern: Hemlock Ring Blanket (ravelry)

Source: Brooklyn Tweed

Yarn: Cascade, Eco Wool

Needles: US 9

Started: December 24, 2008

Finished: January 31, 2009

Find it on Ravelry here.

There are some knitting patterns that are so incredibly popular and seem to turn out so well so often that one can’t help but want to make it for oneself.  The Hemlock Ring was like that for me.  Every time I saw one I’d think “I need that for myself”.  So it became my post Christmas knitting reward project.

I balled the yarn and cast on Christmas Eve at my parents house.  I finished up the last day of January in a mad rush to get yards out in the KDAL I was participating in at the time.  It knits up very fast, and I might have finished sooner if not for all the traveling I did in January.  It’s not a great portable project.

The genius of the Hemlock Ring is it looks a lost harder than it really is.  Whenever a non-knitter sees it I receive endless compliments, but, as I explain to them,  in truth the pattern itself is not hard.  The most trying aspect for me was that towards the end all that feather and fan gets a bit tedious.

There were a few moments of incredible frustration, where after finding a mistake in one of the pattern rows that had gone unnoticed through the five rows of plain knitting, I was forced to rip back what had taken hours.  But thankfully not too many.

And for my trouble I have a lovely throw to decorate my couch and something to snuggle up under when it’s chilly.  And the Eco Wool is very warm.  No need for slippers when you’ve got this to tuck around your toes.

The blanket also made the perfect accompaniment for a picnic on a slightly chilly day.  It was much appreciated as we napped off our nibbles as the sun started to set and the breeze blew around us.

Oh and it makes quite an interesting play thing as well.  For a few photos of the pre-nap “ring toss” see here

So this is it.  I have promised myself that this is the last yarn I will buy before Maryland Sheep & Wool.  So that means no yarn for a month.  Good thing it’s gorgeous.  That will help tide me over.

Yarn: Fiberphile, Alchemy Super Squish Sock

Color: Just Peachy

Dye Lot: 09-0327

Amount: 1 skein at 440 yds

Purchased at: fiberphile etsy shop

stashed on ravelry here

I recently stumbled across fiberphile yarns while  perusing ravelry.  I was a bit of an instant addict.  I only ended up ordering one skein (I don’t have the sort of yarn budget where I can go crazy ordering multiple things at a time just because there’s , an update), but I worked hard to get it.  As soon as I encounter fiberphile I added myself to the email list.  I missed  a few surprise updates and then a scheduled one because of work, but then found out about the reserve system.  I hopped onto flickr, reserved this beautiful skein, and didn’t have to worry about the fact that customers were in the store looking for help during the next update.  I got myself some beautiful yarn none the less.

I’ve slowly been making progress on a number of different projects lately, but due to a bout of endless grey days with brief sunny breaks I never seem to manage to take advantage of, I don’t have much to show you there. So instead I’ll show you and older FO that I finally was able to get decent pictures of.

Pattern: Give a Hoot (ravelry)

Source: Kelbourne Woolens

Yarn: Garthenor Organic Pure Wool, Organic Hebridean/Manx Blend Aran

Needles: US 4 & 6

Started: February 2, 2009

Finished: February 17, 2009

Find it on Ravelry here.

This has been a popular pattern lately and with good reason, it’s simple and sweet. It’s a very straightforward mitten pattern in a relatively heavy weight yarn that knits up fast. To keep things interesting it features the ever-loved owl and a unique thumb gusset. And the end result is great. I love wearing these mittens, because they are both cozy and adorable. Not to mention the response once people figure out they are owls. I wore them daily for that last batch of cold days we had and I know they’ll be featured regularly on my little mitts next winter.