Archive for the ‘dyeing’ Category

One of the problem projects I mentioned last post was particularly disappointing to me, because I loved the yarn, I love berets, I was excited about my idea for the pattern, yet when all the pieces were put together… yikes. I’m calling it the Ridiculous Rasta Hat (or the Bob Marley Beret– what do you think?).

It all started so innocently, with two skeins of Plymouth Boku (95% wool, 5% silk), purchased at Yarns Etc… on a whim.


See, I really like purple, green and gold. And I adore tweedy yarns, though because tweed yarns tend to be pricier, you won’t see them much here. So a tweedy yarn in purple, green and gold seemed tailor-made for my fantasies. I bought two skeins and dreamed about a hat for a while.

Finally, last week, I decided to go for it! I cast on for a beret. I’ve been trying to engineer a good-looking, nicely shaped beret pattern for almost as long as I’ve been knitting. The first few tries were disaster– I increased too much, too fast, and was left with a crumpled acrylic monstrosity that looked more like a shower cap than a beret. My next try ended up as a skullcap, go figure. But now…

Shape-wise, third time was the charm!


That looks pretty beret-like to me. (Size 6 dpns, then size 6 circs, in seed stitch.) But…

Well, that color’s looking pretty stripey. And is that… rose, in the middle of the gold sections?

Uh oh. Despite being attractively shaped:


And fitting perfectly:


It’s just not good. We’re definitely in Rasta territory:


My elegant purple, green and gold beret has become a four-colored, striped, clown-like monstrosity. I was hoping for a gentle, sophisticated gradation of colors, and instead I got stripes.

How could I have avoided this problem?

Well, with two balls, I could have alternated drawing from each ball as I knit. This would have at least made the stripes thicker. I could also have cut out the rose-tinged sections of the gold color and knit only with the colors I liked. I had enough yarn to do this.

I could also have checked online before I bought the yarn and seen a swatch of it knitted up in that colorway (#4). I would have seen the striping AND the hidden rose, and I could have prepared.

What do I plan to do with the hat?

I’m really not sure. The yarn has a great rustic feel that I like, and it fits me quite well. On the other hand… rasta stripes.

I might give it away when I travel home to the Frozen North for Christmas. I’m sure someone I know has a personal aesthetic that embraces brightly colored stripes.

Or I might overdye it. If I were very careful and mixed a dye color that was about the same as the shade of green in the hat, I might be able to overdye the gold and rose without reducing the green and purple all that much. In a perfect world, I’d end up with a purely green and purple hat, with colors muted enough that the striping isn’t obvious. In an imperfect world, there’s a large risk of ending up with a solid brown mess.

Or I might frog it and try one of the techniques I listed above to improve things. I’m not inclined to do that, however– this yarn doesn’t frog well. Also, I’m enough of a process knitter that, having figured out how to knit a good beret, I don’t feel any particular need to do so again.


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Back in the day, when I was a newbie knitter, I decided to try lace. I grabbed my trusty size 8 Susan Bateses and some Knitpicks Shimmer in the now-discontinued color Grape Hyacinth, found a few lace patterns I liked and confidently cast on.

Two years later, the shawl was finally finished and I had learned a few things:

  1. Knitting rectangular shawls with no change in pattern throughout is really boring.
  2. Casting off loosely for lace is a requirement, not a suggestion.
  3. Blocking is harder than I thought.
  4. Purls in lace rarely show up when you’re knitting laceweight yarn on size 8 needles, so don’t bother.
  5. And finally, most tragically: Yarn with three distinct colors will not show lace patterns.


Profoundly depressing. I still wore it occasionally, because it was warm and soft, but I was filled with regrets.

Soon after, I was gifted with the set of yarn dyes I mentioned in my last post, and I decided that I was going to fix this horrible shawl. What’s the worst that could happen? I suppose the whole thing might felt and be ruined forever, but at least then I could throw it away instead of being confronted every day by this disappointment.

I decided to overdye with the cool blue. I followed the procedure I described in the previous post, holding my breath when I added my hours of painstaking lacework to the hot water. Yikes! After the deed was done, I blocked the shawl again, using some waste yarn threaded through the garter bumps on each side to get a more even, more aggressive blocking job.

The result was Atlantis, now a sea-themed shawl with subtle purple, blue and green variegations across lace patterns of waves and seaweed.

I definitely consider this my biggest and best knitting recovery ever.


If you want to do something similar, here are two suggestions:

1) Choose an overdyeing color that is complimentary to the colors already in the yarn, rather than a contrast to that yarn. In this case, I started with cool purple, cool green, and white, so I chose blue, which falls between purple and green.
2) Err on the side of too little dye rather than too much, especially if you want to preserve the variegation of the original yarn. You can always overdye again.

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You can go from this:

To this:

And a lesson in saturation. While the hat started as gray, this swatch started as white:

Both were added to the same dyewater, though the swatch was added a bit later. I think the blue absorbs a bit faster, thus the overall yellow tint here.

More on dyeing next post.

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Dyeing FOs

I have a tendency to ignore color. I choose yarns like I choose clothing, with attention to feel, quality, drape, etc, only considering color after I’ve decided all the other qualities are right for my desires. Sometimes this can be very disappointing, when it turns out that the yarn or shirt I was busy falling in love with for its beautiful drape and soft hand only comes in mucuous-green or goldenrod yellow.

The solution for people like me is to dye your own yarn! Last Christmas, I was gifted with a starter set of Jacquard Acid Dyes. I have a warm and cool red, a warm and cool blue, a yellow and a black. I have mostly used these dyes to dye over already-colored yarns. In this way, I’ve saved lace patterns from too-busy yarns and brought texture and color into harmony. I’m more likely to dye FOs than yarn itself.

Generally, I dye yarns on the stove and produce a kettle-dyed effect. In this particular case, I’m dyeing a hat I knit in grey, 100% wool, sport-weight Peer Gynt yarn. The yarn is perfectly nice, but the stitch pattern I chose (Japanese Feather Lace, modified slightly) was too delicate for the dull grey color.

Clearly, it was time to dye.

My dyeing equipment: A pot full of hot water on the stove, white vinegar to set the dye, powdered Jacquard Acid Dyes, a 1/4th tablespoon and a thermometer.

I start heating the water.

I’d like it to stay between 170 and 190 degrees throughout the dyeing experiment, to ensure all the dye is dissolved and permeates the yarn. I’m using yellow and the cool blue, so temperature isn’t too important. If I were working with either of the reds, it would be more important to keep the temperature high. Red dyes are temperamental in all mediums (I’m sometimes a redhead myself), and higher heat is needed to get a good effect.

First, I add the yellow. Always add the lighter color first when making a color combo; in this case, I’m going for green. I use the white teaspoon to create contrast so I can see what the color I’m making looks like. Of course, the hat itself is grey, so I won’t get the same effect, but this at least gives me a feel for where I’m going. This is about 1/4th tbs yellow dissolved in the hot water.

Then I add a little blue, and keep stirring and looking until I like the green I’m getting.

In goes the hat!

After the hat sits for a few minutes and absorbs dye, I pour in my 1/4th cup of vinegar. This will open the proteins in the wool (Jacquard Acid dyes only work on protein-based fibers), causing the dye to be permanently absorbed into the wool. I get my kettle-dyed effect here by pouring the vinegar directly onto the hat. The places the vinegar hits first will absorb more dye than the places the vinegar reaches later.

The dye is starting to exhaust; Most has been absorbed by the hat, with only a little still floating in the water. The lighter green swatches are lace swatches that I thought might show their pattern a little better if they were a color.

After letting the pot sit on the stove for 30 minutes (never simmering or boiling, since that could cause felting), I poured off the dye water and washed the hat with some shampoo. After two rinses, the water came out clear– no bleeding on MY dyejobs. I then squeezed the hat dry and pinned it out.

Want to see how it turned out? The hat is currently being blocked and drying on my living room floor; I’ll post the final picture tomorrow!

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