Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Pickled Sheep

Last year at Yarndale, my good friend Curly Girl Coop surprised me with a course in Yarn Dyeing. It was good messy fun, and I vowed I would do some more at home. You didn't need expensive items - undyed yarn, a microwave, some dyes and plenty of stuff to mop up the mess with! We experimented with a variety of dyes, from acid based to plain old food colouring. My efforts looked something like this...

and here's the actual piece of sheep I dyed. Look at those curls!

It was great to see how different materials soaked up the dye differently. I loved it, and my friend obviously knew this as for Christmas she bought me these beauties... 

Excuse the small hand, but she couldn't help rearranging the packets as I was trying to photograph them! That's a hank of aran weight merino yarn, and four colours of that American drink thing - Kool-Aid. Finally, 9 months later, I got started on yarn dyeing adventures. I took the opportunity whilst Little P was at nursery one afternoon, I most definitely did not need her help here!

I started by reading up on dyeing with Kool-Aid. It is acid-based, which helps to set the colour. Some dyes you need to add vinegar, but no need with this. I did read that some people added vinegar to the water when soaking the yarn to boost the acidity as it helps to keep the colour bright and vibrant. I did just this. 
When wool gets wet, it just smells like a wet sheep. I guess it essentially is that really. When wool is soaking in a mix of vinegar and water, it just smells like a pickled sheep. Luckily, when you burst open the sachets of Kool-Aid, all bad smells are covered up by a deliciously fruity aroma. I used 2 sachets of Kool-Aid in a small beaker of water and mixed it up well. I wanted my colours to be vibrant and not wishy-washy.

All set up and ready to go...

I laid out my hank in a hoop shape and decided to roughly colour each quarter a different colour and blend them at the joins... I toyed with the idea of just using red and orange as they blend so well... but plumped for going all out with the 4 colours. There are plenty of more opportunities for stylish yarn, this was pure fun!

Using a plastic syringe, I squirted the colours on, rubbing them into the yarn and making sure they all soaked in. You could squeeze out the excess liquid, but you would end up with paler coours. So mine was dripping with dye to keep it bright. So far so good. The next part was the tricky part for me. I carefully transferred the dripping yarn to a microwaveable deep dish thing, and covered it well with cling film. This was tricky to do, as I didn't want the colours to touch too much and become contaminated. Alas, with so much dye on it, that was impossible...
Microwaving the whole lot sets the dye. It's dead easy too. I just stuck it on high power for 5 minutes - you want it to boil and the water it's in to become clear. It had a bit longer after 5 minutes, but not too much as the cling film begins to look as if it is going to burst...

After it was cool enough to handle, I gave it a rinse. Phew, no colour leakage! Then I took a look at it. Mixed results - great bright colours, but lots of areas where colours had merged to create 'brownish' splodges...

As you can see, the bottom picture shows some of the contaminated areas. Hmm... On the plus side, there were also some lovely colours in there too... Time to dry it off on the washing line!

Once it was completely dried, I got out the trusty yarn ball winder and balled that thing up!

Now that's what I'm talking about! The dodgy colours get completely lost in the ball and you can't notice them at all.

Love it! Overall, very happy with the results in my first foray into dyeing with Kool-Aid. Would I do it again? You bet! I may like to try with a cotton yarn next time as I use those types much more. I'm not sure if cotton would work as well, but I'd like to try! 

Next question was what would I make with this? I'm not all that good at wearing wool, as it makes me itch, so a scarf or hat was out of the question. But I could probably handle some gloves, fingerless ones at that! I noticed my hands were getting a little nippy on the handlebars when biking Little P to nursery, so that would be perfect!

When I looked at this yarn, I really thought the star stitch may really show off the colours, so I made a swatch... sorry about the quality, but these two pictures are from my Instagram feed...

and here are the finished fingerless gloves, made following this free pattern by Hilah Kellner

I must say they are bright, but I somewhat love them. They aren't too itchy at all on my hands either. It is a very satisfying feeling knowing that not only have I crocheted these, but I've also the yarn, making them totally unique. I really enjoyed my adventures in yarn dyeing and hope to do some more soon, probably not until the New Year now, as it's a busy run up to, dare I say it, Christmas! 
Thanks for stopping by, until next time :)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Adventures of Kiki

Wow, it's been another age since I last dropped in here. I have so many good intentions, and with Little P at nursery every afternoon for a while, I thought I'd have more time for things like this - but I seem to have less if anything! How does that work?
It's been another busy few weeks, settling the Little Lady into nursery routine, which she has finally got used to just as half term arrives! Also, adopting a 4 month old kitten from the RSPCA has eaten up a fair amount of my time. She is so lovely, such a nice temperament and great fun, but definitely scatty and crazy and keeps me on my toes. It's like having two children. I know there is a big cliche of cats and wool... but I guess I didn't entirely think that through when adopting Kiki! She goes crazy for it, absolutely nuts. she loves grabbing the balls in her mouth and making off with them. She looks as pleased as punch with herself too. It's made crochet difficult at best - I have scratches all over my hands from fending her off! I even designate a small ball of wool for her, but it's not as interesting as the one I'm currently using! And then there is batting the hook. Catching the dangling stitch markers. Emptying the stuffing all over the floor. Crochet is now a battle of wits with the cat, but it is also very funny I have to admit. My Instagram feed is mainly full of Kiki related catastrophes and woolly disasters at the moment.
Meet the Kiki, A.K.A. 'Squeaky' ...

There has been crafting... mainly crochet. First up, I finally managed to finish the 'As We Go Stripey Blanket' (pattern here)

As I have said before, it was a love-hate blanket. Love the pattern and colours, do not like the wavy edges. It is a well written pattern, and I'm glad I went for it, but it's not one with a 'flow' that you really get into and can carry on watching the telly whilst making, as you have to swap pattern every line almost, and do lots of counting and checking. Now it's finished, the wobbly edges bother me less as it is rarely laid out completely flat, but crumpled on the sofa, usually with a child or a kitten on it! It's had a lot of use already, in fact, the kitten is laid out on it right now.

I also made a few hats, as it is getting a bit cooler now, especially when I whizz Little P to nursery on the back of the bike. I had my eyes on a pattern for a while now - The All Grown Up Slouch Hat by Moogly and just needed to find yarn to go with it. I don't get on with wearing wool, I just itch, so wanted a cotton based yarn. I suddenly remembered a certain yarn I had squished in a John Lewis haberdashery once before - Rowan Softknit Cotton - an aran weight cotton blend which is super soft, non-itchy and in some yummy colours. After playing around with a colour palette, I settled upon these...

It's hard to get a picture that does it justice, as it looks very different when it's slouched on a head! I love love love the way the back-post double crochet makes 'ridges' around it, almost like rows of surface crochet...

I really love wearing it! Super snuggly! May have to make a snood to go with it. I would make everything out of this yarn if I could!
On the topic of hats, Little P brought two little friends home over a weekend from nursery. We had to do the usual - write in a little diary what we did with the cuddly toys and take pictures of the fun we had with them. First thing the Little Lady asked for was for me to make little hats for them... so obviously I did!

Two miniature MyBoshi's for two little nursery friends! When we returned them to nursery, I was commissioned by one of the staff to make a pink hat for a little girl who is undergoing chemotherapy and has lost all her hair. I was more than happy to do so, in fact I made 2. One earflap hat to keep her warm in winter, and a prettier one made from the super-soft leftover Rowan Softknit Cotton I used for my hat...

The top one is made from MyBoshi yarn and is a pattern I made up as I went along... I did take notes as I think Little P wants one too now! And the bottom one is made from Rowan Softknit Cotton and is from a pattern called Perenni and is available as a free Ravelry download. It's the second one I have made, and it's a lovely little hat. I really hope these fit the little girl they are going to, as it's not easy guessing sizes!
One of Little P's good friends turned 5 earlier this month, and I made her an 'E' shaped cushion, to match her sister's 'A' shaped one I made her earlier this year. I do like these chunky letters, but they are a bind to put together nicley! The instructions are so well written and diagrams help loads, which makes it a bit easier!

That's my Little Lady modelling it! They are fun things, and would love to make more, but I just can't do them too close, as they do test my patience a bit! If you fancy a go, patterns for all letters can be bought through Ravelry in the CAROcreated store.

I have been designing amigurumi again, in the form of a monster. My friend had a little boy earlier this month, and after a flurry of girl babies it was fun to make something boyish. I drew a few monsters in Little P's colouring book with wax crayons one morning and decided I would make one of them. I love making monsters, so much fun. I made up 'Spike' as I went along, (named Spike as that's what my friend would like to have called her little man if she had no boundaries!) and he turned out something like this...

I rather like him, although I think I would tweak his bottom a bit so he sits flatter and not so pear-shaped. That monster took ages due to the amount of time spent recovering balls of yarn from a certain kitten. Oh the joys!

I am conscious that this post is getting lengthy, and I'm getting tired, so I shall leave the second part for tomorrow. That is my adventures in yarn dyeing. Seems like ages ago, but only just got around to uploading photos and sorting them all out. So watch this space... yarn dyeing coming this way very soon!