Monday, April 9, 2012

Dying to Dye

Instead of dyeing Easter eggs this year I thought I'd give yarn a try. I know, you're shocked. It was at Gauge, and taught by Doug from White Bear Fibers. I was rather excited about the class - there had been other yarn dyeing opportunities, but the timing had never worked out. I had taken the indigo class, but I hadn’t gotten to play with other colors. And so, when I learned I could bring my own yarn, I took time out of the baby blanket making (pictures coming) to spin up some white superwash merino. As with any crafting project that requires wearing rubber gloves, I was a bit sketchy on taking pictures.

The yarn has to be soaked in an acid bath* before you dye it.
What's in the buckets?
Spaghetti yarn!
The dyes are made up of very small particles that turn your lungs all sorts of different colors, and do nothing good for your health. So, Doug had an apprentice making up all the dyes for the class in a back room.
Dyerista?  No, no let's not call anybody that.
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to make the dyes ourselves, but can’t argue much with safety. Not mixing the dyes meant that we could focus on color combinations and the different possible dyeing techniques.
The table before the dyeing.
Before the class I’d taken some pictures of the wildflowers as reference for a combination of colors for a skein.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any really good shots of the bluebells mixed in.
Hand painting was one of the techniques I wanted to try; I thought it would work best for the wildflower skein.
Almost finished. I added blue for the bluebonnets, even though they weren't in my photo.
If you are hand painting yarn, and using complimentary colors, you want to wrap up your yarn like a sausage. If the complementary colors mix, you get an icky brown - wrapping the yarn keeps the colors from touching.
Not the best lighting; the yarn is actually purple.
If your yarn colors aren't going to make an icky brown mess, then you don't need to wrap it.
Hand spun, hand dyed. Yeah, it's awesome.
Then you stick your bowl, or yarn sausage, in the microwave to set the dye. Use caution, people! According to Doug hot yarn is like hot noodles**, only worse.
Isn't this the coolest rack? When you are done you can slide the sticks back in for easy storage. The yarn is pretty cool too.
The yarns I dyed. Not that I'm proud of them at all. No sir, not me.
I love my wild flower yarn, especially after I reskeined it. It is not like anything I’d usually buy, but I can’t wait to knit it up. I’m dying to see how the color changes work together. I didn’t put as much planning into the other skeins. I dyed one in the dye and highlight technique. The other I dyed the dye and hand paint technique. Those turned out fine. I haven’t reskeined them, but I’m sure I’ll like them more once I do.

Of the three techniques, I preferred hand painting best. It took longer, and I had to remember to flip the skein, but I had more control.

Now the big question – what am I going to knit?

*No, Mr. Yarn, I expect you to dye.
**DH thinks Hot Noodles sounds like a J-pop band. I think of this NPR piece that has scared me away from ever eating instant cup o' noodles again.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Knitting Nest (in Nevada)

We recently went skiing at Heavenly (a resort next to Lake Tahoe). 
It was well named.
While there, we just happened across* a cute little yarn store. There’s a Ravelry iPhone app called yarnphone; it’s been very helpful in discovering the nearest LYS. I do recommend calling the yarn stores first, as I don’t think the app is updated if a store closes down.
The store was a bit out of our way, on the Nevada side of the mountain.
It’s tucked in downstairs of a small, event venue. DH said the rest of the place was nice, I didn't make it that far.
The Knitting Nest, not to be confused with the one in Austin.
It was a two room little shop, but stuffed to the gills with all sorts of lovely yarn.
The view from the entrance.
The lady in the picture above is Lauren. She was sweet and helpful, even though we showed up 5 minutes before the shop was closing, in ski gear. 
I did not buy this book, because it was heavy and I didn’t want to weigh down my carry on. But, I will own it soon!
They had the required wall of needles. It included an afghan crochet hook that I snapped up.
There was a little book nook.
A spot to pick out patterns.
Look, shiny yarn. I love the cabled top.
Lauren had bought fiber for when she thought she was going to be spinning. She has been more focused on knitting, so was willing to sell me some.

I think this will spin up nicely. I had a hard time getting the right color.

Next time: Who needs eggs when you can dye yarn? 

*Read: I searched out and dragged DH and non-knitting friend with me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Needle exchange

I broke a circular needle. I broke it while working on the baby blanket in the car on the way to visit my Grandmother in Houston. I was upset, not surprised; it’s the third (THIRD!) needle to break while working on this blanket. All of them were Addi turbos, and all of them were bought at the same store*. I think there was a bad batch. All the other Addis I’ve owned have stood up to the intense strain I put on needles. (Although, I must confess I knit so tightly I’ve been known to break yarn, so breaking needles is not impossible in my world.) Fortunately, this needle broke just a few miles away from my Grandmother’s house. I’d have been livid if I still had most of the four hour trip ahead of me.

I am under a self imposed deadline to get the blanket done by April 7th, and I was just starting the edging. I needed a needle the very next day if I was going to get enough knitting done that weekend. So, I looked up the nearest yarn store and decided I’d drag DH and Grandmother there with me the next day. The nearest I found (which wasn’t actually close to my Grandmother’s, but there don’t seem to be any yarn stores on her side of Houston) was Knitting in the Loop. And, although I didn’t know it, I was in for a treat.
It's in a cute little house.
When you enter the shop, on your left is a spot to sit and knit.
It is also a good place to have your Grandmother wait for you to finish exploring.
I saw from their website they hold some exciting classes. There was a tatting class being held when we got there. I wish I'd had the chance to take it. I also saw that they were going to have a dye workshop later in the month.
I love all the different possibilities from the washcloth class.
The house is filled with yarn and yarn lovers.

The wall of needles was extensive and wrapped around into another room.

The knitting books took up a rather long hallway.
I want them all.
Sock yarn!
I loved the use of furniture to hold and display yarn.
The dark wood is a great foil for the colors.
And the funky metal sculptures elevate the yarn on display from decoration to art.

While the amount of yarn, books, and design that went into this store was stunning, even more impressive was the knowledge of the ladies who worked there. They were all amazingly friendly, and the time that they were willing to spend talking through your issues was phenomenal. Sandy spent at least half an hour with me talking over the merits of different corners. And then when I presented my needle killing blanket, she asked, “Honey, why are you so stressed?!”

She was fun, witty, and genuinely interested in getting to the cause of my tight knitting. She diagnosed me as an overachiever and said, “After this blanket, you’ve got to loosen up. Pull on each stitch to give it some room, and then they will slide better. It might make you slower, but the knitting will slide easier, and you won’t end up breaking needles.”

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to relax the death grip in which I hold my needles, but I'm still thinking about Sandy’s advice. Once done with the blanket, I’ll try to loosen up. I’m contemplating knitting a hat in continental.

Next time: Another yarn store, this time in Nevada!

*My LYS let me exchange the broken ones for new ones, but I was halfway across Houston with half a circular needle.