Thursday, April 30, 2009

Image credits...

...and a Big Feathery Owlhug™ for the inordinately talented Paul Middleton, who took time out from looking after his beautiful wife and his adorable baby daughter to create a banner for the Yarn Owl's blog.

Bear, thank you again. It's a lucky Owl that has friends like you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I had 30g of shredded brazilwood and a few spare balls of white merino. Here's what happened to them:

Boiled up the brazilwood for 15 minutes, left to stand overnight, strained off the liquid into the dyepot, added more water and boiled up again, strained off and added to the dyepot. Added 10g alum (pre-dissolved in a little hot water), simmered two 50g skeins of merino in the dyebath for an hour. Result: salmon pink.

What was left in the dyepot was pretty pale, so I boiled up the brazilwood chips in about half a litre of water five more times to produce a new dyebath and added alum and yarn as before. Result: apricot.

And here are the two shades together:

Logwood, second exhaust bath

After the first dyebath and the exhaust bath produced such pretty shades of mulberry and lilac, I couldn't resist tossing a couple of extra skeins into what was left of the dye afterwards. Here is the result:

pale lilac

And here are all three shades in a row:

three degrees of logwood

My next logwood project will be to dye enough yarn for a sweater.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More chromatic craziness

Along with the pre-dyed skein of merino that had been lying around for a year, I also decided to experiment on some fresh yarn this year once the egg dyeing was done. In an attempt to do it right this time, I attempted to mordant four skeins of superwash merino in a solution of 10% alum and 5% tartaric acid (by weight of fibre), because that was what I'd read on the omniscient Internet. I heated it all up and let it simmer for an hour or so, let it sit to cool, and then did the dyeing thing.

One of these skeins was destined for the turmeric dyebath and behaved as expected. The three that went into the logwood bath... not so much.

This is what came out of the purple logwood brew:

It was a rather nice shade of khaki, actually, but how this colour could happen is beyond me. Also, it didn't seem to be significantly more colourfast than last year's unmordanted skein.

At this point I began questioning the wisdom of combining alum and tartaric acid for the mordanting. Alum is a base and tartaric acid is, well, an acid, and surely the two would react as they did in my high school science lessons, by forming a salt and water, leaving precious little active ingredient to work its mordanting magic on the yarn? I decided to try re-mordanting my dyed skeins in just alum to see whether that would help with the colourfastness. In they went again, with 10% alum by yarn weight, to simmer for an hour.

Ten minutes into the process those khaki skeins had dyed the water a shade of magenta so deep I could barely see the yarn, and the yarn itself now looked like this:

Deep mulberry. Definitely the sort of thing I'd been hoping to achieve all along from the logwood infusion, but how that medium shade of khaki could turn into a shade of purple so rich and dark just from simmering in alum, without as much as a molecule of extra dye being added, is pretty mystifying. (Not that I'm complaining.) But this time the alum seems to have done its work, because after I'd simmered this stuff for an hour and left it to cool a little -- I was too impatient to wait for more than an hour before taking it out -- the water ran off clear after just a few rinses.

What was left in the dyebath -- and note, again, that the only colour in this so-called dyebath was what had bled out of the khaki skeins during re-mordanting-- was still so luscious a hue that I decided to try putting another skein in. I added extra alum as this skein hadn't been previously mordanted, and duly simmered again.

The result is a very nice shade of lilac:

and the skein behaved similarly to the dark purple ones during rinsing, which seems to suggest that doing the mordanting and dyeing in a single operation will work rather well with logwood.

Oh dear. Now I want to dye enough to make a whole sweater!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To dye for

I use natural dyes for my Easter eggs each year. Turmeric for yellow, brazilwood for red, and logwood for a deep blue-purple. The results are invariably so good that, last year, I couldn't resist the temptation to toss a skein of merino yarn in the logwood dyebath after the eggs were done, just to see what would happen.

What happened was this:

No idea how the same potful of dye that made indigo eggs could produce golden-brown yarn. It also bled like crazy because it was a spur-of-the-moment thing and I didn't mordant the yarn beforehand. I let it sit, not knowing what to do with 50g of yarn that wasn't anywhere near colourfast.

This year, when egg dyeing time came around, I remembered this skein and gave it another rinse or thirty to see whether the bleeding would ever taper off. It didn't... but thirty rinses and a soak in wool wash later, the colour had turned to a perfect chocolate brown:

It was still bleeding as much as ever, but the colour running off had changed to magenta rather than reddish.

I then decided to try mordanting it after the fact, just to see what would happen, and duly simmered it for an hour in enough water to cover the skein and 10% alum per weight of wool.

I now have this:

Yup, that really is black. I have no idea how it could come about that an originally golden brown skein could turn to chocolate brown and then actual black, all without the addition of so much as a molecule of extra dye. There must be something weird in the water hereabouts.

And speaking of water, when I rinsed the skein after mordanting, it ran off absolutely clear.

Oh, and I also did a skein of turmeric-dyed yarn this year, just for the fun of it:

Took a lot of rinsing and a soak in wool wash to stop it from smelling like an Indian restaurant after it came out of the dye, but the colour came up gorgeous.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cashmere sweater

Despite broken circs and several annoying knots in the yarn -- another of my pet peeves, that: yarn manufacturers sneakily knotting together their usually expensive yarn in mid-ball -- I finally managed to finish this sweater, and here it is:

I loosely followed Pamela Costello's Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan, but I changed some of the calculations as I don't like the neck shape in the original pattern and I don't see the point of making the front wider than the back. Here are my changes:

Back stitches = total neck stitches x 0.39
Sleeve stitches = total neck stitches x 0.075

Yarn: 2/20NM soft spun cashmere, held double (works out slightly thinner than standard sockyarn)
Needles: 2.5mm circs
Gauge: 20sts/6cm = 3.33

I used only the four stitch markers at the raglans and didn't bother with the other ones. Began with a provisional cast-on over 64 back stitches and 17 stitches on each sleeve. Did the raglan increases in the regular way until the left and right front sections each had 17 sts, then increased as follows to create a rounded neck shape:

Row 1: incr 2 on either side (= 20 sts)
Row 3: incr 2 on either side (= 23 sts)
Row 5: incr 2 on either side (= 26 sts)
Row 7: incr 2 on either side (= 29 sts)
Row 9: incr 4 on either side (= 34 sts)
Row 11: incr 4 on either side (= 39 sts)
Row 13: incr 4 on either side (= 44 sts)
Row 15: incr 6 at start of row, work to end, join to round

Raglan increases then continued until the raglan measured 25cm, at which point there were 170 sts on the front and back and 122 on each sleeve.

Waist shaping: began in 3rd rd after dividing for sleeves. Kept one marker at each side and decreased 1 st on each side of marker every 3rd round for 33 rds. Worked straight until waist level, then increased again. (Did fewer hip increases and spaced them further apart, every 4 rds I think, but I see now that I wasn't taking notes as I went so I can't reconstruct this exactly. Oopsie.)

For the waistband I changed to 2mm needles, worked 10 rds ribbing, then kitchenered off.

Sleeves: Decreased every 10 rds, starting in rd 11, until 86 sts remained, then continued straight for 24 more rds. For cuffs: using 2mm needles, decreased by 1 st every 6sts (72 sts remaining), worked 10 rds ribbing, then kitchenered off.

Neckband: With 2mm needles, picked up 74 sts evenly from the front and the 98 held back and sleeve stitches from the provisional cast-on (= 172 sts). Decreased evenly to 146sts (1 for every 6 on back and sleeves, slightly less round the front), worked 10 rds ribbing, kitchenered off.

I'm very pleased with the result. But for my next sweater, I think some heavier yarn and thicker needles would make a refreshing change!