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I Knit Around

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monday Update - Fuchsias, Dyeing, and Marching to the 99's


One of my favorite flowers has always been the fuchsia. Particularly the ones that come in a combination of hot pink and purple, hanging amongst green leaves. There's just something so magical about them, the shape and colors seem so improbable in our often dreary world.

They make me smile.

fuchsia-juella-2.jpg
Fuchsia Photo respectfully borrowed from the web - please visit the source to see more!

Not having a garden of any sort to work with - and precious little indoor space to accommodate even hanging plants - I haven't had any fuchsias in years. When something isn't in your life every day, you can forget how much you like them.

What reminded me of fuchsias this weekend?

This did:

Wilton Food Color Dyed Yarn
Wilton Food Color Dyed Laceweight Wool

When I started working on this, my original intent was to do a blend of Pink-Orange-Yellow. Only I found that my supply of Wilton Yellow paste food color was so old as to be unusuable. So I had to re-group and come up with something different. Little did I know that I was remembering the combination of colors that I love so much in fuchsias!

The reason I was dyeing wool this weekend? The Craft Goddesses are doing a wool dyeing project this Tuesday night, and I'm the "teacher". I put the term "teacher" in quotes because, well - what you see above is only the second and third skeins of wool I've ever dyed. But I'm the only one of us three who has done it at all, you see, and so I'm going to be the guide and helper as the others dye their own for the first time.

I wanted to do mine ahead of time so that I could firm up my understanding of how to go about this - and thus, be better able to guide the other Goddesses through the process. My original dye project, known in this blog as The Electric Kool-Aid Dyeing Test, was done with Kool-Aid dyes, a skein of ecru-colored Merino Oro yarn, and far more bravado than know-how. It came out pretty well, but I knew I could refine my approach - and should, if I was going to teach others.

My yarn this time is two skeins of KnitPicks Paint-Your-Own lace yarn. My colors: primarily Wilton Food Colors (Rose and Violet), with some Kool-Aid (Watermelon-Kiwi for green, Berry Blue for, well....blue).

How I Did It

I started as I had with the last time I dyed - I soaked a skein of yarn in water, then coiled it in a single layer in a Pyrex casserole dish (microwave-safe). Last time, I added water to cover the yarn, then a huge splash of vinegar right into the casserole.I directly dumped Kool-Aid packets into cups and added a random amount of water, then poured it on the yarn.

This time, I mixed my colors differently. I used hot water, measured into glass jars - one cup per jar. Based on some proportions I found on the web, each jar also got 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar. Using wooden craft sticks, I scooped out small quantities of the Wilton paste food colors and stirred them into the jars. For the Rose food color, which yielded the hot pink you see in my yarn, I used about 3 of these little scoops - each maybe the size of half a pea. For the Violet, I used one such scoop.

The violet looked too blue in the jar for my taste, so I added a half-pea scoop of the Rose there as well.

Wilton Food Color Dyed Yarn - Detail
A Closer Look at the Colors

I used Watermelon-Kiwi Kool-Aid for a green note. Again, I measured one cup of hot water and 1 Tablespoon of vinegar, and I stirred in one package of the Kool-Aid mix.

I poured each of these colors onto the yarn in the casserole, trying to keep them in distinctly separate parts of the skein. This was hard, because the way the skein coiled it came into contact with itself at multiple places along its length. After putting all three colors on the yarn, and pressing down a bit to try to spread the dye through, I microwaved the casserole, yarn and all, for about 3 minutes.

While the first yarn was in the microwave, I repeated the process with the second skein of yarn in an 8x8 pyrex baking dish. As you can see from the pictures above, I didn't get quite the same sequence of colors. I also think there was even more of an issue of the color spreading to other parts of the skein that were in contact because of the way it was coiled in the dish. The skein on the left in each picture was the one in the 8x8 pan, and you can see if you look closely that there were some muddy areas from colors mixing.

After placing the second skein in the microwave, I spread out some plastic wrap so I could take the first out of its casserole dish and examine the results. When I turned it over, I was disappointed to find that the color hadn't penetrated to the bottom well. That side was distinctly paler, and there appeared to be areas in the middle of the bundled yarn that hadn't received color at all.

How I Fixed The Problem

A different attack was called for - but what? Remembering all the many different methods for dyeing that I'd read on the web, I decided to apply another round of color directly to the yarn on the plastic wrap, using a turkey baster.

I mixed up another cup each of my colors, only this time, having decided that the Watermelon-Kiwi green was a little too bright and yellowy-green for my taste, I used the Berry Blue Kool-Aid as an overdye for that portion of the skein. With a turkey baster, I squeezed (squoze?) the second round of colors over the back, paler side of the skein, carefully lifting some portions with my hands to make sure color got into all parts of the yarn. The Berry Blue was applied over the green areas, yielding a nice green-blue color.

I then folded the long edges of the plastic wrap over the skein, and folded the whole skein in thirds to form a compact package. By this time, the 8x8 pan was long out of the microwave, and that yarn was ready to get its second round of treatment with the turkey baster to make up for pale spots. I laid out skein #2 on a layer of plastic wrap, put the skein #1 package into the 8x8 dish, and put it into the microwave for 2 minutes.

The End Result

As you can see from the pictures, both skeins wound up with good, vivid color. Skein #2, from the 8x8 pan, did have some issues of colors mixing and muddying, but the patches are small and the brown color that resulted isn't entirely incompatible with the rest.

If you look closely at the purple areas of the yarn, you'll notice that I didn't get a solid, even purple color. This is because of a known phenonemon with some food colors called "breaking". What happens is that under certain conditions, the color actually breaks down into its component parts - in the case of purple, you get a little break-out of the blue components. Because I had mixed some of the Rose food color with my Violet, I wound up with even further breaking - my purple is actually 2 shades of purple with some blue notes.

I've seen suggestions on the web that there are ways to avoid this if you want a strong solid color, so if that's your goal, make use of Google and see what tips there are to be found. Me, I like my colors with a little depth, and the way the Violet-Rose mix broke here works for me.

It was only later when I tried to think of a name for this "colorway" that I realized that I'd come up with the colors of my favorite fuchsia flowers. And so this yarn color is "Folkcat's Fuchsia".

What I'll Do Differently Next Time

And there will be a next time, I promise you! I think I'm addicted to trying different colorways now, and I like working with dyes you can get at the grocery and craft stores.

Next time, for better control of the color placement and better penetration, I'll definitely go directly to the plastic wrap and direct application of the color method. It worked so well on the second round of color this time, I just won't mess with the other approach.

On the other hand, if I decide I want a solid color, I'll probably stick with the casserole dish method, only I'll make sure I turn over the skein of yarn in the dish and get the color all the way through.

Now I just have to find the funds to order more dyeable yarn...<g>

The Weekly 99:99 Report

Last week's goal was to march in place for 5 minutes, once on each of three days - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And that's what I did. Adding in five minutes of marching in place in the living room, while I watched TV shows that I would have watched anyway, I actually accomplished 15 minutes of deliberate exercise over the 5 days.

That may not seem like much, but remember, I'm a woman who has done no exercise ever in her life. I resent most ways of going about it as interruptions that take me away from what I would rather be doing. I've tried exercise videos - I find myself wishing I were watching the television programs and movies I wanted to see, and I resented the time away from those. I've tried exercise equipment, but have trouble finding space in my tightly-packed living room to put them in front of the television.

Makes me sound like a television fiend, doesn't it? Not really, just an afficionado who, since she's home all day, prefers her video input to be of her own choice. And I do prefer to have video input as I craft and do other things, it keeps my mind active and interested.

Marching in place in front of TV that I'd be watching anyway means I don't feel like it's interrupting the rest of my life. I actively want to take breaks from the sitting and knitting anyhow, and this is a way to do that without just moving my body to a different chair in front of a computer and doing nothing physical there. So the marching in place sessions, so far, are integrating fairly seamlessly into my days.

99's in The Week Ahead

In the interest of baby steps, my goal for this week is to march in place for 5 minutes on each of four days - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Stay tuned to see how well I do, and thanks for visiting!

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