Monday, February 13, 2006

How not to do it

Last night I got a bug up my ass and decided that I wanted to try the self-striping yarn again. Thinking big, I decided to use 4-3.5 oz. skeins of Pattons Merino and the same five colors I used before. I had my mason jars and my big pot at the ready, planning to do it on the stove-top this time rather than the microwave and hopefully avoid some of the disaster that was last time.

First I had to figure out the striping. This was a bit of a challenge because I tend to over-complicate things. After trying to do each skein individually using the peg board I jury-rigged for last time, I opted to do all of them together using just the general distance between my arms. Not as an exact measurement as I would like, but sufficient for my purposes.

I had the pot and the jars already to go when I hit my first snag - the wool for each stripe just fit in the jar. The stove-top method out of the picture, I decided to go back to the microwave method. I got a big mixing bowl and 5 gallon-sized ziplock bags. I put the yarn, 2 cups of warm water and 1/2 cup of vinegar into each bag. I mixed the 3/4 tsp of each color (violet, yellow gold, moss green, copper, and royal blue) in about 1 1/2 cups of water and added it to each bag. I made sure to dip the tails between the bags into both so it would be dyed as well and get that nice blend between the colors.

I put the whole thing in the microwave. I microwaved it on high for 4 minutes and let it rest for four minutes, for five times. At this point, I noticed green dye leaking down the front of my microwave. The leaking was minimal, but I took it as a sign that I should be done. The problem was that while the dye baths were lighter than they first were, they still weren't colorless. The colors with blues in them seem to take the longest amount of heat to absorb the dye, while red and yellow tones seem to go the fastest. This method also caused some wicking between the yellow-gold and the green (although that may have been how the bags were arranged as well), so the yellow gold color is a little muddy where the green splashed on it.

Because the dye wasn't completely absorbed, it meant that there was a lot of rinsing needed. After I actually washed the yarn twice with baby shampoo, I gave it up for the night. All day today, I have messed with the yarn, trying to separate it back into four seprate skeins and trying not to think about the fact that it was still loaded with dye (although a lot less than my last foray). Next time, I will definitely keep each skein separate. It's a bit of a pain to do it that way, but even more of one to separate them after dyeing. The less messing I have to do with the yarn, the better - especially with the softer merino. I can deal with little bits of felted wool while knitting, but it's not something I want present on a product I hope to sell.

After I balled the yarn, I turned them back into skeins, because I knew that I still had to wash the dye out. Last week I tried to felt a swatch of this same yarn in my washing machine and nothing happened. Using that info, I decided to rinse/wash the remaining dye out in the washing machine. THIS DOES NOT WORK.

Well, I have the makings for a very colorful and probably very soft/cozy shawl. I'm going to attemp yet a third try later this week. I'm thinking of getting a big ass aluminum roasting pan and some cooking bags and doing it in the oven (think baine marie). I'm hoping this third time is the charm. It's never going to be easy, but I'd settle for a method the yeilds a usable product.