Kettle Dyeing at Home

My Flaming June is finally done! The knitting’s actually been done for almost a week, but I’ve been putting off dyeing it because I had other projects with deadlines breathing down my neck, not to mention a whole bunch of late nights at the day job. Then I tried a new dyeing technique over the weekend that utterly failed, so I turned to my old standby of kettle dyeing to fix it. It turned out lovely, as kettle dyeing tends to, and there is no evidence of the abomination my sweater was after the first dye job. Want to learn how to kettle dye at home? Read on.

soaking

Yes, this is the pre-bad dye job soak. No need to soak twice, in my case.

First, soak your FO or yarn for a few hours in water mixed with 3/4 cup of white vinegar. The vinegar acts as a mordant (any acid that helps dye “stick”) to improve color absorption. If you want more muted colors you can use less mordant than that, but I would be cautious about using more vinegar. Too much can make your pigments (in this case, blue and red) soak in at different rates and create some seriously bizarre looking yarn. Note that if your tap water tends to be high in minerals or have a distinctive smell or flavor, you’ll want to use filtered water as well. Random extra minerals can also do funny things to your color.

materials

While your project is soaking, gather your materials. I don’t have separate dyeing equipment, so I am careful to only use food-safe dyes and mordants – usually food coloring and vinegar. For kettle dyeing I prefer to use a crock pot, but a carefully watched stock pot will also work. It’s just a slightly less lazy process, and I’m all about the lazy. You will also want a large spoon, spatula, or tongs for pulling your hot, dripping mess out of the pot when it’s done dyeing, and a pan or bowl large enough to hold said mess so it doesn’t drip all over your kitchen. I like to use metal and glass because you can clean the color off of them, but since we’re using food-safe chemicals this is optional. Keep in mind that food dye might not be permanent or even long lasting on plant fiber or synthetic yarns, but it is definitely permanent on your wooden spoons and many plastics. You’ll also want to cover as much of your work space and yourself as you can with something you don’t mind getting splattered with dye.

dyeing

After your yarn or FO has had a good long soak, heat a cup of water to boiling. I’m lazy and do this in the microwave because it’s fast. Add as much dye as you would like to the boiling water (I used about a teaspoon and a half of Wilton’s for this cardigan) and stir. Keep in mind that the color will be much deeper in the pot than it will be on your yarn. Then drain off as much of the water/vinegar mix as possible into your crock. If your yarn isn’t superwash, be careful not to get too aggressive here. Add in the boiling dyed water and as much extra water as needed to fill your pot about halfway. Set your crock pot to low (with the lid on) and wait a few minutes for it to start steaming. Give it one last stir to make sure your dye is well mixed, then add in your project. Make sure it’s spread out as much as possible and that all parts of the project are covered in colored water. Put the lid back on and go away. Seriously, just go do something else for a few hours.

cooling

Periodically check on your dye pot. When the water looks clear and there is no more dye in it, you can pull it out of the pot and into the pan or bowl you set out. Let it cool to room temperature and rinse thoroughly with room temperature water. The temperature is extra important if you’re not using superwash. Some colors and dye types will bleed more than others, but the vinegar and prolonged exposure to heat should have set your dyes well enough that not too much color should run off. When the rinse water runs clear, dry your piece as recommended by the yarn manufacturer.

rinse

Clean up is pretty simple. Since you’ve used up all the dye in your pot, and you’re carrying your dyed fiber goodies in a pan or bowl, there’s not too much risk of dye winding up on your floor. Hooray! Glass, metal, and crockery should return to their natural color if you clean them with bleach. Be sure to follow with a soap and water cleanse afterward to make sure they’re safe to eat off of! Wash or throw away whatever you used to cover your counters and yourself. That’s it!

Another Crochet Cast-On

Previously I shared with you a provisional crochet cast-on, but today I’m going to share an easy everyday cast-on which also uses a crochet hook. I like this particular cast-on (there really isn’t a synonym for that word, is there?) because it looks identical to the knitted bind-off, and I can be a little obsessive about having matching ends sometimes. It also saves me from the pain of having to estimate how much yarn to use for a long-tail cast-on with sometime big like a sweater or rectangular shawl, only to be a half yard short at the end.

Step 1

slip knot

Choose a crochet hook roughly the size of your needle (exact size is not important, but if the difference is significant, go bigger rather than smaller) and make a slip knot on it. Hold the working yarn behind your left needle.

Step 2

pull through

Reach the crochet hook over the left needle and scoop up the working yarn. Pull it through the loop on your crochet hook.

Step 3

loops

Now you have a loop on your left needle and a loop on your hook. Move the working yarn back behind the needle again.

Step 4

reach over

Repeat the process as many times as necessary, until you have one less than the called for number of stitches on your needle.

Step 5

final loop

When you have one less than the needed number of stitches, slip the loop on your hook to the left needle to serve as your final stitch. Knit away!

Messy Sleeve

Pretty sure I can blame this one on the dog, actually. Too much slobber and fluff for the usual suspect… unless he’s been teaching her. Sigh.

IMG_0620

Puck Drop

It’s finally hockey (pre)season! I’ve been waiting for this day since June! In celebration, I’m releasing a new hockey-inspired pattern. My latest sweater Puck Drop is inspired by the hockey sweaters of the early league, but updated and tailored a bit to better suit today’s women.

puck drop

This sturdy game-time pullover features classic striping at the elbows as well as color changes around the neckline and placket which, in my personal favorite feature, laces up like a jersey. The tri-coloration lends itself nicely to the three dominant colors of most NHL teams, but it wouldn’t be hard to adapt for a two- or four-color team either.

puck drop detail

Puck Drop is a raglan that lends itself well to just a little positive ease. In the photos there’s about an inch of ease, which is just enough to wear a tank top or layering tee under it comfortably. Anywhere between .5 and 3 inches of ease will preserve the look and the layering ability.

puck drop full length

Puck Drop is knit in the round from the neckline down, with no seaming. This and the primarily stockinette body make it ideal for someone who has knit a sweater or two before, but isn’t interested in something especially challenging right now. It’s a great, spirited top perfect for easing you back into heavy duty winter knitting, and into hockey season! Anyone think they can get one done by the start of regular season? Three weeks to go!

A Surprise Weekend Treat

The Husbeast was unexpectedly offered free last-minute tickets to see the Redskins game on Sunday, and being the awesome husband that he is he took me along. While I am not as big a football fan as hockey or soccer, I do enjoy football and I was definitely down for a chance to sit in a fancy-pants suite and watch it live.

ticket

So I stuffed a nice half-finished sleeve in my little purse (in case the Skins lost as badly as they usually do), we left the house rather impressively early, and made the long trek into Maryland and through the game-day crowds. I got lots of knitting done on the long train ride in, but definitely never thought to take a picture of it.  We fought our way (okay, maybe drifted is a better term for it) through the crowds to the stadium entrance only to be told that the “no large purses” rule was really more of a “no purses” rule, at which point they made me throw my purse away and a mad scramble ensued to stuff all its contents into a Ziploc. Luckily it really was a small purse and most of my things fit – there was just a bit of concern about the dpns poking through the plastic. Plus of course the concern that I was throwing away a perfectly good souvenir from my trip to the Alps. It was all worth it though when we got to our seats.

suite

I’ve never seen a game from a suite before, and I have to say it was quite an experience. You can see from the photo above a that there was certainly more space than typical (!) and a nice spread of pregame munchies. What you can not see in that photo is the sheer volume of beer and soda in that mini-fridge, or the hot bar set up to the right with heavy duty “football food” for during the game. Towards the end of the game an amazing dessert bar also magically appeared. There were about a dozen of us in the suite and we all went home embarrassingly stuffed, I’ll bet. What you also can’t see in this photo is the view of the game.

view

Pretty excellent. We got there in plenty of time to watch the warm up, and also had a prime view for a rather decisive win!

warm up

I actually did wind up knitting quite a bit during the game, since there’s an awful lot of stopping and waiting in the NFL today. Knitting in public of course sparked plenty of conversation and an awesome mimed ode to the amazingness of my sleeve from a woman in the next suite. I wish I could have recorded it; she was adorable. By the 4th quarter I was working on the sleeve cap and people were going home because the winner of the game had clearly been decided, but the team wasn’t done scoring.

4th quarter

Clearly my presence in the suite was a good luck charm, and I should be invited back for every game. Right?

A Sweater for My Man

I promised last week that I’d share the whole sweater-picking process Hubby and I went through, and I am absolutely a woman of my word. First we talked about the sweater he’d seen on vacation and I tried to figure out what it was he liked about it. Eventually we came up with a gist – he wanted a light weight sweater with “not too much” texture, especially on the lower half, and a “thing” near the neckline that could have been a shawl collar or modified shawl collar or even a henley neckline. He also definitely wanted a pullover and not a cardigan.

With that in mind we went to the miracle that is Ravelry’s advanced pattern search. I keyed in fingering weight, since that seemed to be about the heaviest of any of the things in our closet he thought would be acceptable, and I’d really rather not knit a man’s sweater in anything lighter than that! Then I checked “pullover”, “male”, “adult”, and “has photo”.

options

While 105 options is significantly fewer than the same parameters would’ve given me for a women’s pattern, it’s still a rather overwhelming number. Luckily Hubby was feeling brave and plenty patient, not to mention totally unembarrassed to eliminate most of them out of hand (honestly I’d have done the same). We eventually discovered that he has a taste for Brooklyn Tweed patterns, which helped narrow down the choices significantly.

brooklyn tweed

There are 7 men’s tops currently published by Brooklyn Tweed, but the Husbeast has Strong Opinions about appropriate sweater weight and the acceptability of things like ribbing on sweaters, so none of them was quite right. We decided we would use a few of his favorite features from the sweaters for inspirations and I would design the perfect husband sweater just for him. Then I dragged him out to multiple yarn shops and craft stores to fondle yarn. I swear I had no ulterior motives. ;-)

It is frequently difficult to find sweater quantities of a yarn in an LYS, especially man-sizes, but I wanted him to at least see colors and touch fabrics in person before we ordered the necessary amounts. He was still surprisingly hard to impress, as everything was too bright or too fuzzy or too “They want you to pay what for that tiny little ball?” for our purposes, especially in sock weights. Much to my surprise, in spite of his initial “Ew, acrylic” comment we wound up with a synthetic yarn. It turns out Woolike is much softer and nicer than his original conception of acrylic. The fact that he won’t have to worry about hand-washing or accidentally destroying it was appealing too.

woolike

It helps that it also comes in a nice, deep navy that we both liked. It’s almost unnervingly inexpensive as well. Good thing, because it turns out you really need a truly stunning amount of yardage to make a fingering weight sweater in a men’s large! I spent most of my (very limited, sadly) free time this past week doing up the math for the pattern, and may actually be able to get to knitting in the next few days if I find some time between yarn shipments for my actual paid knitting (and of course, the day job). More details to come!

An FO, a WIP, and a Plan

I finished the green purse socks after a day of visiting up in Maryland:

green stripes

 

Thanks to a delay in yarn support for an upcoming design I’ve also had some time to work more on the Flaming June I started on vacation. I’ve got the body done now and am hoping to finish the collar before yarn arrives. Sleeves and dye will no doubt have to wait.

flaming june body

 

Hubby and I have also come up with a plan for a sweater he’ll actually wear. More on that in a future post, but here’s a tantalizing (read: boring, stockinette) swatch of the yarn he chose!

yarn

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