Sun Tea Wrap up

Sun Tea Aplaca

Those perfect little nests are dry and somehow I managed NOT to felt them!  Aaaaah, sweet success.

By the end of the day, the dye jars still had not exhausted.  This didn’t surprise me, since, it rained half the afternoon.  It was’t a problem, though.  I brought them in over night, and then popped them back out the next day.  They sat in the sun all day and the yellow and red exhausted quite nicely.  The green and purple, however, didn’t quite.  I’m not sure if they needed more heat, or more vinegar.  I’m still not so great at this.

Once they were in and they were cool, came the REAL challenge.  How do I rinse out the extra dye without felting it?  I really think that this is where I fail as a dyer.  We will ignore the fact that I have never measured in the past, and that I just add “a big glug or so” of vinegar.  I really think that I end up felting my fiber in the rinse stage.  How am I supposed to squeeze out the water over and over again without agitating it to the point of felting?  Inquiring minds want to know!

I tried 2 different rinsing methods.

Method 1: I set the little nests in the sink and let the water run right next to them so that they filled up with water.  I then pushed down on them to squish the water out and repeated.

Method 2: I cupped the nests in my hand, with one hand covering them so the water wouldn’t hit them.  I allowed the water to run over my hand and into the cup of my other hand so that the fiber filled up with water.  I then squeezed my hands until all the liquid ran out and repeated.

I really think that method 1 caused less agitation.  Either way, I was really heartbroken as I started to pull the nests apart to lay them out to dry.  They seemed all stuck together and it was quite difficult to separate the layers.  I was absolutely certain that I had felted them into perfect little ropes.

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Do not fear, dear reader, once they dried, they are still perfect and fluffy.  They are more compacted than they were before dyeing (which given their previous fly-away nature may not be a bad thing), but seem to draft out fine when I tested the end of each section.  Whew.  Big sigh everyone.

It is amazing how a little bit of success can make you a little drunk with power.  Having these perfect balls of colored alpaca sitting on my desk made me desperate to dye MORE!  Luckily, I got a new dye kit in the mail yesterday.

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Sun Tea dying experiment #1

I realize that it has been a while since I blogged.  We won’t talk about all that time apart.  We’re together now.

That’s all that matters. In the last month, I have developed a deep and abiding love for my new Louet mini wool combs.  They are the perfect size for my hands.  They don’t strain my wrists the way that hand cards do, and they produce the most incredibly luscious little nests of combed top.  It is the softest, most lovely thing I think I have ever felt.  I am even more deeply in love with my Alpacas after spinning from hand combed top.  There really are no words.

Hand combed alpaca nests

As much as I love these perfect little nests of fiber goodness, they are well… kinda… white.  And, white gets boring after a while.  I am getting pretty desperate for some color actually.  The problem is, that my previous experiments with dying fiber have… um… not gone so well.  Did I get dye on the fiber? Yes.  Was it easily usable afterwards?  Well… No, not really.  I don’t want this for my perfect little nests.  They deserve better.

When I dyed washed locks, I got a matted, slightly felted mess (I’m pretty sure that I moved things around a bit too much).  I could salvage it to card, but it was not a pleasant experience.  The variegated color that comes out of the dye pot when dying fleece is really pretty fabulous, but when I carded it up it all blended together into a kind of “blah” version of the original color.  This isn’t what I’m going for.

When I attempted to dye roving, I carded up some white fiber, pin drafted it into roving, and tied it like a skein of yarn.  The pin drafted roving came out of the dye pot looking like rope.  This time I had felted it pretty much beyond rescuing.  I still ran it through the spinning wheel adding a silk thread as a binder, but what came out looked pretty much like I had decided to spin some dark green dread locks.  It wasn’t all together unpleasant, but it was totally not what I was going for.

Which brings me to my nests.  I love my nests, but I know that given my dubious dying past some of them are going to have to be sacrificed in the name of science and the pursuit of color.  I’m going to have to experiment.

I have 2 problems, though.  Problem #1 is that it is almost July, and I don’t have central air conditioning in my home.  That means that it is pretty much as hot as sin every afternoon.  Dying by it’s nature requires heat to set the dye on the fiber, and I am loathe to add to my already sweltering house by boiling a big old pot of dye on the stove.   Problem #2 is that  my combed alpaca seems to want to drift apart when wet.  I’m afraid that if I drop it into a giant pot of almost boiling water I will end up with a giant pot of  loose dyed fiber.  As mentioned before, loose dyed fiber and I don’t get along so well at the moment, but also, this will negate the hours I already spent combing the fiber.  This makes me want to cry a little  inside, and no one wants that.

While consulting with Dr. Google about the problem, I found several links that explained “sun tea” solar dying.  In this type of dying, you put yarn in a jar of dye and let the sun’s heat set the dye just like the heat would brew a jar of sun tea.  This sounded promising.  It wouldn’t heat up my house, AND it would contain all my little nests in a jar instead of a big open stock pot.  Perfect!

If I am going to sacrifice my perfect fiber then I’m going to do this experiment right.  I’m not going to wing it.  I’m going to write things down.  I’m going to be uniform.  If you want to experiment along with me, please see the instructions at the bottom of the post. Processing went off without a hitch.  My kitchen did not get covered in brightly colored dye.  My alpaca nests stayed all coiled up inside their jars, and my list of carefully controlled variables made me feel quite grown up and accomplished.  When I was all done, I set my happy jars of fiber out on the super hot west facing porch to cook.  That was about noon.


An hour later, the sky looked like this, and I could hear thunder in the distance

. Stormy Sky

A quick tilt of the jars told me that 1 hour is definitely not enough to exhaust the dye. 20140627_133531

I don’t know if it will be hot enough to cook my fiber this afternoon, what with the rain and all, but I can always set my jars out again tomorrow if it doesn’t work out today.  Solar dying seems to be flexible like that.

Solar dying experiment #1

Materials for each jar of dyed fiber:

1/2 oz combed alpaca top

1/4 tsp acid dye of choice (I am using country classics powdered acid dye)

1 large mouth quart mason jar

Materials for boiled water solution: (this produces more solution than I needed.  Next time I will adjust)

1 cup  vinegar

1 large stock pot dedicating to dying filled half full with water



1) Fill the stock pot half full with water.  Add 1 cup vinegar and bring to a boil

2) Put 1/4 tsp of your dye of choice in the mason jar

3) Add 2 cups of the boiling water mixture from the stock pot to the mason jar and mix up the dye.

4) Add the un-soaked (dry) fiber to the mason jar, squishing it down until it is all saturated with the dye

5) Screw on the lid and set in a very sunny spot to “cook” until the water inside appears clear. (the internet tells me this should take 4-8 hrs)

6) Allow the jar to cool to room temperature (or just leave it out all night to cool).

7) Pour the fiber out and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear (DO NOT let the water run directly on the fiber.  It will felt.  Trust me)

Friday Finds ~ 11-13-09

Not Another Brown Bag $5.00

Pleats Purse $5.00

Ballerina Bear $3.50

Tom the Turkey $3.50

Squares on the Roll FREE

A List of Things $4.95

Mountain Flower Cap $5.25

High Desert $5.00

Purple Sweater 2.50 EUR

Entrechat $6.50

Colorwork construction

I have always admired colorwork.   I love the way that the colors blend together in fascinating shades.  I love how something so complex and beautiful is made up traditionally of all knit stitches.  I love how it makes me thing of mideval tapastries and inflame my romantic side.  I do not knit a lot of colorwork projects, however.

It is true that all it requires is following a chart and knitting (most patterns are worked in the round, so you never have to purl).  I always seem to have to rip out as much of the project as I knit, though.  It seems that I am incapable of following a chart without screwing something up.  Often times repeatedly.

2 years ago, I knit all my my children mittens for Christmas.  I knit my son a pair of spiderman mittens in a simple chart.  I have to tell you I hated those mittens by the time I was done.  I ripped out the first one about 3 times because I kept screwing up the simple chart.  Then to make matters worse I knit the second mitten exactly like the first, giving me 2 left mittens.  All in all, I knit 3 spiderman mittens and I think that was the last colorwork I have done.

A month or so ago was National Alpaca Farm Day.  My Grandma came with me and my children to visit a local alpaca farm and to learn a little bit more about the animals.  I asked a lot of questions,I must admit, not because I needed to know, but because I wanted my Grandma to know.  As a spinner (al be it a novice one) I have done my research and know quite a bit about our wooly friends.  My Grandma, though, needs some education.  When we first moved in next to her, I talked about sheep, or alpacas and I got the dirtiest look from her.  My Grandma is a horse girl.  True blue, through and through.  I don’t know if she even really acknowledges that other animals exist.  She runs a horse boarding facility.  Apparently she is concerned that any fiber animal I may decide to raise will not get along with her horses.  “Horses don’t like sheep” is all she said.

Today she brought me over a whole fist full of clippings she made out of the National Geographic catalog.  “Every one is alpaca!” she said.  “They’re really pricy, but so pretty”  Before I started knitting, I might have agreed with her, but seriously, $169 for a hand knit fair isle type alpaca sweater?  Totally reasonable.  After all, it might cost you close to $100 for just the yarn!

I am a knitter, though.  I have no intention of purchasing these lovely sweaters.  I want to knit them!  That’s where the ambition comes in.  All of a suddon I have the urge to make a knock off.  I want to chart out the patterns and to figure out the construction.  Which since I have read Knitting in the Old Way is not too hard.

Men's Grecas Alpaca SweaterThis one looks like it could have come straight out of the book.  The construction is easy.  Knit in the round, steek for the sleeves and the neck.  Simple.  DH likes the colors and I could see it on him with his sandy blond hair.  In reality creaing a knock off hardly presents a challenge (if you ignore my inability to follow a chart), just time consuming since it should probably be knit in fingering weight yarn.

Amazonian Flower CardiganThis one, though, I covet.  I LOVE it.  I have not wanted a sweater this much in I don’t know how long.  The construction of this one is exactly like the other, knit in the round, steek the sleeves and the front zipper.  The description even says that the blue is duplicate stitched on afterward.  Simple.

You’ll notice, though, that there are large white patches at each side.  Those beautiful white patches present a problem for me.  I can knit in the round, tacking the other colors every few stitches like the philosopher’s wool people teach you, but, well, that is usally visable on the front side in my experiance.  I suppose that front panel could be achieved in some form of intarsia, but that is REALLY difficult to do in the round.   In my mind I am invisioning some form of a sideways knit sweater.  It would be knit in the round with the top and bottom steeked for the hem and neckline.  The sides would be sewn up to the armpits and then the sleeves sewn in.  Obviously the knitting would hang differently than the one shown since it is oriented differently, but I think if you ignore all the cutting (shudder) it would actually make the whole thing much easier.

Of course, I could also just knit it back and forth in traditional sweater panels which would eliminate the need for all that steeking and would solve the intarsia problem, but then you have to look at the backside and remember to read your chart backwards…

I think I’m overthinking this.

Wordless Wednesday ~ Sunrise on the Farm

Sunset on the Farm


Knitters May Be Wrong

Now, I hate to admit this, but Knitters may be wrong.  I know, it is sacralige to even think that the collective wisdom of thousands of meditative knitters may be incorrect, but here me out here.

It is not always the best policy to bring your knitting with you.

It is a long standing philosophy that a knitter should ALWAYS have something to knit with them.  Often times, choosing the project to take along takes precidence over anything else that goes into the bag.  Always having a small project to work on no matter where you are ensures that you will never be bored.  Unexpected waits at the doctors office, are nice surprises since you can finally get some work done on that sock.  Truly obnoxious people in can be reduced to mildly anoying with the zen powers of garter stitch.  It is much easier to get excited about going out on a cold day to the park if you know that you will get to sit and knit.

Here in lies the problem.  I have adhered to this phillosophy religiously for several years now.  I have found though, that the when knitting in public is combined with my children, the zen just doesn’t kick in.  Rather, it makes me more irritated.  Why oh why won’t my toddler go play with the other kids and let me knit?!  I have begun to realize that while knitters, in general, are enormously giving and nurturing people, that knitting in public when your children are in involved is not loving and nurturing.  If I take my knitting and attempt to knit, my children will interrupt me and I will be annoyed.  If I never take the knitting out (but know that it is there) I will be annoyed because I never got to take it out.

In an effort to be a good momthis morning, I spent the 30 minutes required to bundle up a 3 yr old and 1.5 yr old twins to go to the park.  It is autumn and while not too cold, it does require some preparation, such as making sure that everyone involved is wearing pants, and shoes, and hopefully a coat.  Considering how much my little boys love to go to the park, one would think that they would help this process along.  The frustration of it all is enough to make me want to hide in my room with some nice safe garter stitch.

Normally when we go to the park, I will sit on the bench and read, or knit while the kids play either with the other kids there, or with eachother (that’s why you have more than 1 kid right?).  This produces a half-hearted attempt at play for the most part that inevitably leads to bickering.  Since I have toddlers, anything I try to do while sitting is frequently interrupted while I have to chase them down and tell them to please not eat that, it’s icky.  Lately, though, I have been experimenting.  I don’t bring a single thing for myself to do.  My only goal was to play with my boys.

It is amazing how that simple act (even divided by 3 small children) changes the whole outing.  We all have a great time.  Giving my children my full attention for the hour that we are there works wonders on the attitudes of my children towards me and my attitude towards them.  Amazingly enough, I find that I like them.  Their little faces are absolutely adorable when lit up with the knowlege that mommy is playing with them.  You know what else?  They are more likely to allow me some time to knit when we’re home.  Amazing.

So, I would say to all my knitting mommy friends out there that there are definitely times when the knitting should be left at home.  This is not limited to work meetings, but may just include the most common time for mommy knitting.  Park time.

Friday Finds ~ Something for Everyone

Glacier Hat 1.00 GBP

Zportz Hat FREE

Alice Top 3.50 GBP

Temptress $4.00

Sky at Night 3.00 GBP

Viking Hoodie $9.00

The White Bunny

The White Bunny $4.50

Gollum FREE

Harvest Blanket $5.50

Betty $3.95