Jobo Designs

Letting the crafty creative juices flow. Knitting, spinning, crafting, dyeing, rabbits, sheep and more!

3. May 2009 12:16
by Jobo

Natural Dyeing Series... Blueberries

3. May 2009 12:16 by Jobo | 3 Comments

Yet another installment of Dyeing with household items...

We had a bag of leftover, quite freezerburnt blueberries left in the back of the deep-freeze... so I thought hey, since we wouldnt be eating them, why not try out their dark purpley goodness for dyeing!

I unfortunately did not measure anything.... I think I had about 2 cups of frozen berries.  I basically defrosted them at room temperature, then added about 2 cups of water and then gently simmered in a heavy bottomed pot for about an hour.  I squished the berries with a wooden spoon to help all the color come out.

I actually had considered blending it, but decided against it last minute (nightmares of tiny pieces of blueberry skin all over my nice Polwarth top) I wasn't sure if Blueberry dye required acidity to set, so I added about 3 tablespoons of Lemon Juice, since I had some in the fridge anyways.  To be honest, the kitchen smelled very much of blueberry pie.  I seriously had to fight the urge to go out and buy a pie and decimate it.

About 30 minutes into the simmering process, the water level looked low, so I added about another cup of water.

To drain the blueberries, I scooped them up into a metal sieve and squeezed as much juice as possible out with the back of a spoon.  I ended up with approximately 1.5 cups of very dark Purple/Black looking liquid (and about a half a cup of blueberry mush)  Looking at the colour of the liquid in the glass, I wasn't sure if I would en up with a more reddish dye than purple.  You can see around the edges where the light shines through the glass it looks almost vibrand red, with almost no blue in it. 

I pre-soaked about 1.5 ounces of Polwarth super soft roving/top by soaking in warm water and lemon juice for about an hour, then squeezed out the excess water and layed it out in a glass pyrex dish in a single layer.  Then I poured the dark liquid over the wool and gently swirled the dish to mix.  Surprisingly, once poured over the wool, the dye looked less red that I had imagined it would.  Notice the little bits of blueberry shrapnel in the wool.  I was very pleased that those bits rinsed away in the wash

I then covered the glass dish with plastic wrap, and nuked in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes, followed by resting for about 2 minutes.  I repeated about 6 or so cycles, swishing the wool around every so often so the dye would take more often.  I would estimate the wool stayed hot enough (just below boiling) for about 60 - 90 minutes.  Next I let it cool and soak in its juice overnight before rinsing in the sink in lukewarm water.

The resulting colour was quite a medium dusty purple! after carefully wringing out the excess water and rolling in an old towel... the wool dried overnight, and I got this:

And it looked so good with the tea dyed wool from the other day... I had to braid them together!

Hmmmm... all this talk of pie and tea... making me HUNGRY!  gotta go!

15. March 2009 11:00
by Jobo

Dyeing Series... Wilton's Icing Colours... to dye wool?

15. March 2009 11:00 by Jobo | 1 Comments

Another installment of Jobo-learns-to-dye-wool... this time with Wilton's Icing Dyes.

I do have more plans to continue learning to dye with natural items, but happened to have icing dyes already at home, and since they are nontoxic I didn't have to worry about using my everyday cooking equipment to do some playing around.  I think I would like to try using some other kinds of dyes, but at this point, I'm not sure if I will like dyeing well enough to run out and buy pots and pans and spoons and tongs etc.  My family is on the lookout for old enamel or stainless pots for me, but until I hit the flea markets this summer I plan on sticking with food item dyes with no major mordants or with things like icing colours.  If all goes well, I might try out acid dyes later on in the year.

Using more of the merino top I have hanging around the house... I prepared an approximately 3-4 ounce rope by soaking for about 4-6 hours in a water and lemon juice solution.  (Basically a big glass mixing bowl of water with a couple of glugs of lemon juice.  I decided to use lemon juice instead of vinegar this time after the uncool odour last time (I agree with "Knitting in the Free World", wet sheep + vinegar smell really is a buzz kill) During the soaking, I prepared the kitchen table for the dyeing process:  I laid down newspaper first, then a plastic tablecloth, then 2 layers of plastic wrap.  I was afraid of ruining the oak table, so maybe that was overkill, but I think thats okay :)  I squeezed out the excess water from the wool gently, trying not to overdo it, and then laid it out in a squiggle on the plastic wrap.

Some references I looked at recommended a certain amount of dye per ounce of wool, or weighing things out.  Of course I don't have a kitchen scale yet, so I decided to just wing it and not worry too much about how dark the colours would be, just to go with it and have fun.  So added 1/4 teaspoon of the icing colour gels to approximately 1/2 cup of water in some glass containers and stirred well to dissolve.  I also let them cool to room temperature because my wool was not soaked in hot water.  I really wanted to avoid felting it by brushing on really hot water.  For my colours I chose a basic yellow, and sky blue.  I was hoping for some greens where the two colours mixed. Gotta love that colour wheel theory!  I will have to do a post sometime on colour theory :) 

** note also in the background:  Natural Dyeing, by Jackie Crook (One of the first books I bought on the subject!) **

So, when the colours cooled off I gave them one more stir and then started blobbing them on. (wear gloves!  or you will end up with coloured hands!  I used cheap children's paintbrushes from the dollar store)   It was really hard to tell what the whole thing would look like in the end.  The liquid dyes seemed to soak into the wool, kind of like painting a sponge.  I tried to alternate the blue and yellow, leaving some whiter spaces in between some segments so that the colours could remain pure, and placing them almost on top of each other in other places so that the colours could mingle and make some greenish sections.  I know that when I spin handpainted rovings, I enjoy watching the colours slide by in my hands and meld and mix before my eyes... so I wanted to have all of those wonderful surprises from my own braid.  Some spinners consider white space to be an amateurish quality in a handpainted product, but I kind of like the contrast that a "controlled quantity" of white space can add.  I guess for me the bottom line is:  the white has to look like you left it there on purpose!  not like you just missed a section with your dye. 

** next time I will buy a lighter colour plastic tablecloth... red was hard to visualize your colours on top of **

after painting the wool, which took a surprisingly long time, and 2 refills of the blue dye, I carefully nudged the wool lengths together and wrapped them up with the plastic wrap, sealing the edges as much as possible.  Then I laid out the roving carefully in a glass baking dish (9x9 inch) and then microwaved the wool on high for 2 minutes, then rested for 2 minutes.  I repeated the process about 3 cycles of heat and cooling before the wool looked like it was "steaming" inside the plastic.  I was again worried about felt.... so I let it rest for about 15 minutes and then restarted the 2 minutes heat 2 minutes cooling for 2 more cycles.  This gave me a total of about 10 minutes in the microwave, and took about 45 minutes or so.  I think my microwave might be a bit hot so maybe 1 min 30 sec would have been enough at a time for the heat setting.

I let the wool cool to room temperature (a few hours) then rinsed it in the kitchen sink.  Surprisingly, very little of the colour leeched out.  I only needed 3 rinses and the 3rd was very clear.  I gently squeezed out water from the wool and spread it out to dry on my "sweater dryer" frame... which is great for drying just about anything!

Then the hard part... waiting until the wool is dry enough to play with.  I wish it were summertime and the drying conditions were better :(

2 days later: I got this :) 

Finished braid:  Lemons, limes and blue sky

I'm not sure how lightfast or colourfast wool is after dyeing with the icing gels, but I really had fun :)  and I'm pretty sure that I will be interested in doing some more dying.  Love the vibrant colours, and the process of playing with colour.

12. March 2009 12:19
by Jobo

Hello Noro... Silk Garden

12. March 2009 12:19 by Jobo | 2 Comments

I gave in to all the Hype.  I couldn't help myself...

I mean hey, if Jared Flood was doing it... it must be okay right?  

I bought 2 balls of Noro, and set off to work on a striped rainbow scarf.  I had seen many many many of these on Ravelry over the last year, in just about every colour combination under the sun.  I figured it was time I jumped on the bandwagon and tried one out.  My plan is to make a couple of these out of Noro Silk Garden to give away as Holiday Gifts for the 2010 Season, so at this point - one down, and one to go :)

I had never worked with Noro yarn before for several reasons...

First - my hometown doesn't really have a Local Yarn Store other than Zellers and Walmart.  Mostly all those places carry is boring acrylic, and a few acrylic blends.  Very restrictive supplies means that a lot of knitters around here are not really exposed to real wool, luxury wool, or new wild and wonderful things that exist out there.  Myself, I have been a knitter for almost 20 years, and up until a few years ago, had only ever worked with acrylic stuff (i.e. Bernat, Red Heart, Canadiana, etc.)  I always thought that "wool" was an itchy and unpleasant thing to work with.  Especially since the only wools I had been exposed to were the chunky mill-spun 100 % Wool yarns my mother used for Rug Hooking.  (Beautiful colours that made beautiful rugs, but no way did I want that rubbing on my skin!  rough and itchy!)

Second - Price.  I remember seeing this at a yarn store on a road trip and thinking... Holy cow!  that stuff is beautiful, but 15 bucks a skein?  whaaa?  I managed to find an online sale one day when I was searching for Berroco patterns, and since shipping was free that week and Noro Silk garden was on for 8 dollars a skein (Canadian of course) I decided to order 4 balls of a couple different colourways and see how things turned out.  Nothing to lose right?


So the envelope arrived, and I was off to the races.  Having never worked with this yarn, the first thing that struck me was the depth of colour.  The skeins I was working with were long runs of Navy, Midnight, Teal, Evergreen, Lime, Olive, Black and Grey - so obviously fun to work with.


Switching back and forth between the two skeins was exciting, and even though it was a basic K1P1 ribbing (with slipped stitches on the first and last stitch of the purl row to prevent curling up on the edges) I was able to keep amused the whole way along.  It was interesting enough to keep my attention, but simple enough to work on whilst chatting on the phone or watching television.


I cast on 39 stitches (a bit narrower than Jared Flood's Prototype - Brooklyn Tweed is a weekly read for me!  Total Yarn RockStar!) but I only had 2 skeins per scarf, and wanted to make sure it was long enough to be worn wrapped around the neck a few times or to look good worn dangling about the neck of a Black felt coat worn unbuttoned (as I think one of the recipients will likely wear it this way)  If I was going to make one for myself, would likely have made the scarf wider and shorter in length because I am less than 5 feet tall, and this one would have been too long for me if I didn't wrap it multiple times around me.


I found that the yarn was fairly soft, but pretty stiff/wiry overall.  I was afraid that the Mohair Content would make it feel scratchy, but it didn't seem to.  Once I had completed a few rows, the finished work seemed to feel less wiry over time.  There were some sections that were thin/thick compared to the average diameter of the overall skein.  It didn't really matter much with the specific project I had chosen, but I can see how that might have been really annoying if it was some kind of garment where gauge mattered.  In fact, some of the thick strand sections were the brightest parts of the skein... so the fact that they were big only made the vibrant colours that much more fun.  (ooh, a little bit of that lime green was nice, a LOT is NICER!)


I will be interested to see how it feels after some gentle soaking and blocking, as some other knitters have said that this blend softens with handling, and loosens up a bit after blocking.


Final Verdict on Noro Silk Garden:

- so-so feel, a little stiff and not as soft as originally hoped, but definetly not scratcht
- loved the colours - especially the effect of the long flowing colour gradations
- thick/thinness might have been a problem, if gauge were integral
- intriguing enough that I really want to try the other products in the Noro Line... maybe sock yarn next?

** please note my pathetic blocking equipment!  a striped towel on the spare bed and yellow plastic headed quilting pins (stainless steel, so they wont rust against wet wool) **

** Check that rainbow of Noro Color! **

ta taa for now :)

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