Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Sweater Knit from Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn Part 2

The sweater knit from Kool-Aid dyed yarn is a big success. I used the pattern Whisk Cardigan, from the Fall 2010 Knitscene magazine. It's a basic A-line cardigan. The only change I made was to add 2 inches seed stitch hems all around.

When I knit the pieces, I alternated skeins every 2 rows so that lighter and darker parts of the yarn blended pretty well.

That was Cleo's opinion anyway. This worked well with the fronts, but when I knit the sleeves, the color difference between skeins was more dramatic.

I got a definitely stripe pattern going on one sleeve. If I hadn't injected extra dye into the centers of the balls, the color absorption would have probably been more uniform.

My solution was to over dye the sweater pieces after I'd knit them. I dyed the back, the fronts, and the sleeves in separate batches in the turkey roaster with the same amounts of diluted kool-aid. Here you can see that I also over dyed some extra yarn to knit up the collar, and that I made myself some eggs while I was working.

This is the nicest softest sweater, and I like the color gradations. The over dying evened some of the striping out, and I finally used up that yarn.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kool-Aid Dyeing a Sweater's Worth of Wool Pt. 1

When I was a newbie knitter in the early 90s, I bought a bag full of this yarn through a catalogue. I intended to make a specific sweater I'd seen in Vogue Knitting, but once the yarn arrived I realized that it wasn't going to work for that sweater. I never did make the sweater, and the yarn has followed me from one end of California to another in the intervening years.

It's 100% wool and worsted weight, but it's slubby and has a big halo. The color is also one I never wear.
And did I mention that I bought a lot of this yarn?

On Ravelry, there's a group devoted to dyeing yarn with kool-aid and with other food colorings called What a Kool Way to Dye. After perusing their forum and their pages of helpful links, I decided to see if I could change the color of this yarn into something I'd want to use.

I also decided to see if I could dye this yarn without re-skeining it. Usually to kool-aid dye yarn, you skein it and tie it in several places so that the dye will reach all the fiber. I decided to dye my yarn in its original balls. Since this yarn had already been sitting around for almost 20 years, I figured I didn't have much to lose.

I soaked all the yarn I was going to dye in water for a couple of hours so that it was well saturated. Then, using the smallest amount of water possible, I put it on the stove in my turkey roaster. Since these are food colorings, it's fine to use your regular pots and dishes.

I dissolved 20 packets of black cherry kool-aid in water to dye my 10 balls of yarn. I added this mixture to the soaking yarn, and on the stove, gradually raised the temperature to just under boiling.

Lots of kool-aid dyed yarn is done in multi-colors for socks and other small projects. It's also possible to over dye yarn to alter the color.

Um, wear gloves when you do this.

When the yarn approaches boiling, it will have absorbed all the dye.

It's miraculous, but the water will be clear or nearly clear once the yarn has taken up the dye.

Contrary to what you might think, subjecting wool to hot water will not make it felt. The combination of agitation and rapid temperature change are what make wool felt.

When your yarn is dyed, turn off the fire, let the water come back to room temperature, and then rinse the yarn well. I put mine on the back porch to dry.

This is what I got: ten skeins of kettle dyed wool. Parts of the balls were darker than the rest. You can play with adding the dye to the water before you put in the yarn to see if your results are more even. I used a turkey baster to place dye in the center of the balls, but this made dark splotches wherever the dye hit first, and didn't necessarily darken the yarn at the center of the balls. Exposing the yarn to hot water made it bloom: it was softer and fluffier that it was in the original state. This yarn is color-fast, though if you were to expose it to lots of sunlight, it would likely fade.

Next: Part 2: The Sweater I Knit from Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn

Monday, September 06, 2010

Another New Old Toy

I always wanted a treadle sewing machine, and now I've found one and it's taken up residence in my kitchen. I wanted one because it reminds me of my grandmother's treadle, which we used to keep in the dining room of our flat when I was growing up. A favorite childhood pastimes was making that treadle go, which is why my mother kept the belt off the wheel when she wasn't using it.

I also have a reoccurring fantasy of living someday in My Cabin in the Woods. A quiet retreat with a large garden where I'll live off-grid, sewing and knitting and growing things. The treadle machine is a key component to that dream.

This machine came my way in the same thrift store where I recently bought my Singer 185J. It's a Singer 15, according to the serial number, made circa 1903 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The decals are sometimes called the Tiffany pattern.

It's in great shape, except that it was a little grimy. I've seen few treadles around here, and most have been real fixer-uppers, but this one is solid, and has all her parts, including the key to the cabinet, and all the extra attachments. I've been cleaning her up, oiling her, and getting to know how she works. There are great web resources for vintage machine fans, including an active Vintage Sewing Machines group on Ravelry, and there are helpful YouTube videos on various aspects of machine repair and operation.

Although this machine appears to have been made in the U.S., the manual that came with her is in German. They did make Singers in Germany, but perhaps a German-speaking sewer acquired a German manual for her machine. Or maybe the serial numbers are wrong, and the machine was made in Germany, and has traveled a very long way in 107 years.

The machine accessories came in these two tins, which to me, are as beautiful as the machine. One is a cigarette tin, and the other is for some kind of stomach tablets, and the labels are in German. I've got a German-speaking colleague I'm going to ask to look at these for clues to the story of the machine.

I'm getting close to an actual sewing test with the machine. I've got to adjust the belt so I can wind some bobbins and thread her up. There's nothing like the sound of a treadle sewing machine.

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...