: the Dye Pot

Friday, November 12, 2004


One of the odd quirks about the Rat Race of Work, is that even when the Project/Event Merry-Go-Round STOPS one can still spin and spin. It takes me, especially, about a week to get a bead on a *new* horizon - one that's hopefully moving slower and gentler. In the meantime, it's still full speed AHEAD! simply out of habit, and instead of drinking myself to death, becoming a workout freak, or cyring my eyes out, I've been dyeing my pants off...

Good idea? or Fool's Mission - you decide...


This particular yarn falls into the Extreme Category of Barn Yarn. Now, make no mistake, barn yarn is my friend. By BY, I usually mean tightly spun, heavy duty, work horse yarn that I can make sweaters I can work outside in. Sometimes, I've even purchased the yarn in a barn. Other times, the sheep just grew up there and their yarn made it across the Atlantic and on my needles all the same.

The yarn above is the Barniest of all barn yarns I've ever possessed. I performed a Yarn Rescue from eBay on this lot a few months ago. It was advertised as "Wool Knitting Worsted", tan, 15 skeins, peanuts...

AND, it was exactly that. Cheap and well made! What was omitted from the description was that this yarn, in it's orignal owner's storage box, was home to something unadvertised! I giddily took the top couple of skeins off the pile I saw when I opened the box, and LO!! there was a little nest made in one corner of the box, with tufts pulled out of some of the skeins, making a soft bed for, dare I guess, FIELD MICE!

These critters had *left the building* a long time ago but now another sort of Rescue was in Order, in fact, the dyer in me demanded it.

Here's where it gets interesting - I decided this nice stuff would make a great bucket and cowl in what else: PURPLE in honor of its obvious Barney nature. But no cartoon purple for me - give me a deep Ash-Purple Blackberry of sorts and I was off - with mixing cup and spoon.

So I put the BY to its bath and then I got a phone call. A loooong phone call. I got up and stirred the pot once then forgot all about it while I was chatting away until I heard a hissing noise. THIS was the sound of the Simmer becoming a BOIL and I lowered the flame at once!

But witness what happened to my Barney Delight:


AHA! This is what they mean by Kettle Dyeing - you have varying depths of color where the yarn has absorbed the dye in different areas of the heated solution in the dye pot itself. Notice where it's darker = closer to the bottom of the pan and heat source. Lighter Shade? Must've been floating for a LOOONG time at the surface of the liquid and where the skein ties were.

This was not a look I was going for - but after it's all said and done...

I LOVE IT! I actually think it's going to be more of an interesing cowl and cap!

Barney ON, dudes...

Comments (12)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

FLASH from the past...

Once upon a time in a knitting galaxy far, far away, a young woman bought a bag of 1,000 beads...

They joined a bag of yarn, which had traveled from a far place, over mighty water.

These treasures were got at great hardship (~ 759 dinners of frosted flakes and skim milk...), and much scratching...


What's this to my wandering eye should appear! A Bolero! A Beaded Bolero! Hundreds of shiny black beads, all hand-threaded onto yarn and knit into the fabric, marching in swirls and flowers and more! Oui! Oui!

No, NO! One could add a thousand more beads and STILL not recover from the visual impact of the Hideous COLOR of the poor little Bolero!

Our intrepid girl knitter of long ago was so excited by the design and the fact she had finally scored some UK yarn, she forgot all about COLOR! The design, from a group called Artwork for Rowan, (shown only in a Black&White photo in the pattern book) was just too juicy to ignore! She was excited by the beads, the curves, the lone line of light blue edging the entire moss-stitch border.

She was too fresh a knitter to know that that body color suggested by the design group was, perhaps, NOT the color for her in fact might not be the color for most on the planet! She was just too polite to even think, let alone utter, the words: "WTF were they thinking?"

FLASH to the Future!

WTF were they THINKING!!! Hmm, that little knitter is no longer Fresh; (some might even suggest she might be smidge Ripe!). But now she KNOWS that she can substitute color to her heart's content! And she knows, she can sometimes UNDO her Folly! Why should this lovely piece be ignored year-after-year when the Summer Clothes make their grand appearance from their storage state.


Two boxes of Teal Rit dye later...


...and we have Lift Off!


...still not perfect - the color is a little striated - I washed the sweater before dyeing, but it still absorbed the dye a little unevenly (the story of my Dyeing Life thus far...) I was totally amazed by the finishing job I did (almost as hideous as the original mustard color!) and on the next rainy day, I will remove the sleeves, take in the side seams, and re-seam those sleeves...

Comments (40)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bonne Marie & the Half-Blood Prince, part I

That's me in the corner.
That's me with the cauldron.
Stirring up my Potion...

That's right, Professor Snape!
That dark swirling liquid you see NEEDS no flame!
You don't see any steam because my potion doesn't HAVE any vapor!

I've found some new and crafty magic and decided to give it a try - my original stylings were a 50/50 mess and it was time to aim for some SKILL!

My most delightful finds from the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool field trip were two books on dyeing AND a differnt type of dye.

My friend Rachel and I decided we were going to try and *rescue* some fiber she had that was the wrong color - so to get my feet wet, I picked up some Procion MX in several shades to experiment with.

Now this dye is different than the Sabraset Acid dyes I've been using in several ways - it needs no heat (when dyeing with cotton), and can work on cellulose or animal fiber, depending on the pH of the solution used. WOOT!

The other difference this time with my dye trials was that I followed the directions, to the letter.

Advanced Potion Making, by Libatius Borage

1. I weighed the Garment so I'd know exactly how much of the other ingredients to use.

2. I wore a Face Mask and used Rubber Gloves (very good!)

3. I found a beautifully marked container already in my cupboard and measured my liquids to a T.

4. I washed the garment with Synthrapol, rinsed twice, then let it SOAK while I was preparing my other stuff.

OOps - did you say GARMENT?

Why, yes, I did! I decided to experiment on a couple of pieces that were not hitting the runway anymore so if they went up in smoke, it would not matter.

Remember THIS?


a fun color for a season but curiously like a
Love Potion that's faded away...

after a session in the Remedial Dyepot, we have


YIPPEE! OD Green, in a very palatable, clear light shade! This yarn is by Reynolds, called *Navy*, and is a veritable Half-Blood Prince of 50/50 cotton/microfiber. I was really throwing the dice on this - cotton might absorb the dye deeper than the acrylic but it came out clear as a bell...

How about this?


a deliciously tempting shape executed in an infantile shade...

but now, after a Dose of 2xOlive+1xBrown, we have:


a more User Friendly Medium Olive!

This yarn was another 1/2BPrince: Cotton/acrylic blend (Filatura di Crosa *Spongy*) wrapped in a shiny thread. It dyed an even color on the yarn, and a slightly darker color on the thread. Tweedy goodness reigns!

Comments (17)

Wednesday, October 25, 2005

the Stitches of EastSox

Going through my winter hats yesterday to get ready for the Big Chill ahead, I found a dirty, crushed up gem. It'd been laying fallow all summer, waiting for the fallish rains to wake it back up. It's Black and is just too hot for summer duty but perfect for the low grade sun of Autumn.

SO on it goes. And Stays. Through Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Ball game.

Ball Game? Oui! At 7pm at night, it is still on my head because said hat, dear friends is a WHITE SOX hat. For some reason during the day, this dirty number has distinguished me from other Chicagoans - those who the South Siders are calling casual observers, johnny-come-latelies, fakers! or worse. Who knew that perhaps the greatest rivalry between ball teams wouldn't be with the team actually in the World series but a team in the SAME TOWN! A guy hissed at me the other day, "You're a Cub fan aren't you, I can tell..." like it was branded invisibly on my head.

My Answer: "DUDE! I'm a CHICAGO FAN!" And I've got the hat to prove it..." Not for me the ridiculous boiling rivalry between the boys above and below Roosevelt Road!

This magical Chapeau did not protect me from the game itself - a WHOOPER! It started late and went ON and ON and ON and my nerves could not take it - here in the chilly night on a Tuesday! a *school* night a night without excuse for the boss for showing up hosed in the AM because of those PM deeds of bravery and excess damn the consequences - I'm a FAN! But I'm a chick for chrissake and that just don't FLY...


So I was driven by the 4th inning to do what any sensible person would: I pulled out the Dye Pot. I decided to brew us up a victory! I could adjust the color temperature of the cotton Ribby I was working on. Its green was not the GREEN! I wanted to wear and it was going on and on lanquishing in the work basket mocking me like that Cub Fan from the North...

Grinder Ball Ruled as I stirred and stirred hovering over the pot for the first 20 minutes of the immersion effect. My nerves were such that when the SOX pulled away and started handing out whompass in droves in the 5th, I was standing in the kitchen, knitting an actual SOCK! while watching the TV in the living room, stirring my sweater every 5 minutes.


And the game went On and On and ON!

And I turned a Heel!

And I Blocked the GREEN! Ribby!


And I fell asleep in the 9th when the score was tied!

But indeed, the hat was still on my head this morning when I woke up and read:



Ode to Geoff Blum: All over the city, The People are taping White Sweat Socks in all their windows...

na na na na hey hey hey....

"The 5-hour, 41-minute game was the longest by time in World Series history and tied for the longest in innings."
...Chicago Sun-Times
It ended after 14 innings, with a Blum homer,
at around 1AM this morning...

Comments (11)

Thursday, January 19, 2006       KIPKIPKIP Letizia's 2144 W Division 7-9p

Now that my color train is of the one track kind,
not even my Stash is safe.

Lurking in the mulitude of skeins and balls is POTENTIAL. Potentially Green. Potentially fine...

This yarn was a little something Santa left for moi last year.

This is wet Plymouth Baby Grande Alpaca, color #1830.

I used a little of it to make a cowl - then lost interest in it. QUE? The Color was fabulous but just not too flattering on me. It was a Fuschia that was too blue.

It needed to go green...


What could possibly make that brilliant pink a subtle green? Well, I needed to subract some of that blue out of it - (I tried this successfully before using Procion dyes on a cotton/acrylic blend. That result was a little more subdued because of the fiber content. Alpaca saturates strongly.) So when I mixed up the Sabraset Dyes, I used 20% less of the blue that would be required for the color I was lusting after. The end mixture was 20% Royal Blue & 80% Yellow Gold. The gold color toned down the pink as well, making it behave towards a more calm color space - a color space where it's easy being GREEN...

...I washed and soaked the skeins thoroughly before dyeing - most important, I believe, for good dye penetration when you are *overdying* yarn or a garment that is already another color and not virgin fiber. Then, I used my big pot to dye the skeins in so there was plenty swimming room...

[miniHAHA: Too tired to knit or even WASH YOUR SOCKS? As seen in the London Edition of DAILY CANDY: sock subscription service...]

Comments (10)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

: the Dye Pot

Awhile back, my friend Rachel picked up some luscious yarn. Problem was, the color was not so wonderful - or at least what Rachel needed.

Emboldened by my garment over dyeing, we decided to transform the color of that yummy yarn.

Enter the Dye Pot...

Here's the original yarn in all its glory - Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere in a rather glorious fuchsia. However, lurking beneath the surface of that color was the Soul of a Jazz Purple.


Rachel sent me these two samples of Purple to peruse...

But wait - this yarn is 85% Cotton & 15% Cashmere - and here's where the dyer stumbles. What to do with a combination yarn?

Get out ye olde calculator and pencil, that's what. Following the directions given by the dye manufacturer for immersion dyeing using Procion MX dyes, I first figured out a factor to convert the quantities of materials used. They give all directions relative to 1lb. of dry fiber. I would only be using a *sacrifice* 50g skein of yarn.

So I went through the list and converted all the quantities as needed - but still there was a question tickling my brain.

This yarn is a mixed protein and cellulose. How was the dye going to react since each fiber needed different handling?

The Cellulose (Cotton) needed Alkaline (Soda Ash). The Protein (Cashmere) needed Acid (White Vinegar) AND Heat.

So I decided to Start the process with heat and a little acidity to welcome the Protein, then finish the session with alkaline and a cooled down temperature. There was no guarantee this would work - but what I've noticed and learned in my other dyeing attempts is that if I follow the basics, I have gotten great results. So I decided to just go for it.

I added the needed water to the pot and brought the temp of the liquid up over a flame. Usually with cotton, you would just use warm tap water. I watched the liquid closely so it was just giving off a little steam on the surface, not simmering, not boiling.

After I added the salt and mixed dye (1 part Raspberry; 2 parts Lilac; and 1 part Midnight Blue), I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, and mixed well. Then I added the yarn, reduced the gas flame as low as it would go and stirred constantly for 10 minutes. Then I turned the flame off and followed the manufacturer's instructions for the rest of the process (20 more minutes of constant stirring; remove fiber; add soda ash; repot fiber; stir every 5 minutes for another half hour) with one exception.

Big Difference: I added 1.5 times the amount of soda ash that was recommended to neutralize the acid of the vinegar. If I was dyeing a larger amount of fiber, I would make the percentage of the alkaline even higher.

Voila! The color Purple! I am a Lucky Dog - I must say, I am so totally amazed that this worked - the color is clear and deep. The surface and texture of the yarn seems unaffected by the process and is still soft and *new*. Now let's see if we can pull it off on a whole batch of yarn... :)

Comments (30)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

yeah baby...


The little purple skein begat 14 more purple skeins.

Taking it to the Dye Pot this Sunday, Rachel and I jumped in feet first and just held our breath. Two hours later, we had:


Glorious Purple Yarn!

The bright sunshine of high noon illuminates the skeins - they are rinsed and ready for washing here. The color looks a little different because of the high contrast light source and the fact they are WET! It was a very close replication of the sample skein -


- total weight: 25.3 oz

- 5 gallons water

- 3.5 C salt

- 1T each, Rasberry & Marine Blue & 2T Lilac - Procion MX dye by Jacquard

- 1/2 C Soda Ash

- lots of heart (thanks Rachel for all your patience!)


What I learned:
- skein management is really important - limit length to ~26"

- be sure to secure initial end when making skein

- tie in Figure 8's in at least 4 places (see Fig. 12.)


Overall, the process went smoothly and quickly. The only downside was the tendency of the wet cotton to want to knot itself on other strands. Think wet shoelaces - we spent a little extra time untangling some scary looking snags at the very end. I had to take a deep breath and listen to some Jimi Hendrix (Voodo Child) before continuing...

A little judicsious teasing, shaking and rinsing, made everything smooth out and become quite lovely...

Comments (18)

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

oh for the love of Red...


Everybody has 'em. Most probably deny 'em. But I've noticed, walking with people in the city, almost no one steps on a crack.

Almost no one walks under a ladder (at least without thinking twice).

Mine are of another type, peculiar to living Urban Style. You probably share some of them.

Yes, I always wink at the big black cat that is perpetually lounging in my front yard. I do not know Senor Gato, but I smile at him - with a grin on the outside that almost matches the huge grin on the inside as I chuckle and think I've made some kind of cosmic bank deposit I'll be withdrawing later when I need it.

Yes, whether walking or riding anywhere in the Windy City, if I happen to pass under the El tracks, I make a wish. If the train is particularly LOUD, I make two. Always. And if you are with me, you must wish along (or at least pretend to - and if crunched-up closed eyes are any indication, most do...)

Yes, when one of the top 3 superstitions in my urban list appeared in front of my Jeep, I lunged. I'd scored a Parking Place Right In Front of The Building I Wanted to Visit! In a Loading Zone - where the tariff for 15 minutes of doing business in the art supply store was mere flashing hazard lights.

But wait - this Parking Superstition is two-pronged; not only do I get to enjoy a pass from the parking pirates (up to $33.00 to park anywhere near downtown) BUT the Easy Empty Space is a clear indicator that I'm Supposed to be where I am! SHOPPING!

And this is no regular shopping - I am on the Hunt for Dye Stuff. Tomato Red Dye. This is the catalyst that will transform some peculiarly tepid lavender yarn I have that is calling out to be something else. I am, but of course, in thrall.

I must grab the dye, quickly return to the hut, and stir. When I jump in the car, and hear a click-click-click, I cannot believe my ears - and my hand goes into the pocket of my coat. Finding no cell phone, I know I'm hosed - I'd run down to the store, no purse, no cards, and am now left holding just a bagful of dye.

So, taking strength from the Brown Line Tracks almost overhead, I do what any sane person would do - I beg for a jump start. 3 tries later, no one with cables can be found (although all were willing). I move on to an Illinois Highway Dept. Truck driver (they almost always have cables). He snorts and tells me to call 311. Indeed!

An icy rain propels me into my pocket where I finger a Twenty Dollar Bill and start waving down cabs. 3 tries later, I am jumpless (although all were Very Willing).

Desperate now, looking like a drowned rat, I pull all my luck to me and promise Never Again will I leave the house to run to the store wearing only what looks like pajamas topped off with my infamous Midnight Cowboy cordouroy jacket, and I start on my last helper class of fellow drivers - the Delivery Man.

One try and a double sawbuck later, with his cousin's cables thrown in for good measure, my car is revived and I am enjoying the most wonderful Superstition of All: the Good Neighbor in the Big City! KAching...

Comments (12)

Wednesday, April 5, 2004

high on dye

Before there is Red, there had to be Brown...

Years ago now, I knit a foxy little number from my favorite, All Seasons Cotton by Rowan in a color called Boudoir. Like most of my stash, I got it on sale - but the color always left me a little BLAH.


But this is one of my favorites and since I wear it all the time, I thought I'd try a Dye Intervention...

Now, I must say that I entered into this with not a little trepidation. But, in the interest of Science and Fashion, someone had to take the plunge.


Once again, the Procion MX dyes were called into service. Using equal parts of Brilliant Orange & Midnight Blue with a tsp. of Bright Golden Yellow for tops, I mixed what I hoped would be a soft Sienna Brown. The nature of the base color of the yarn was a light reddish brown to begin with and I wanted to take its saturation down as well as the tone.


Here is the final, washed result with the original color shown in the tiny ball on top - that is how much yarn I had left from this project - not enough to test run the color mixture - a most important step that fell by the wayside in my lust for Brown! I love this brown - it is very close to the very first sweater I ever knit - when I was 10yo - a cardigan for my Barbie Doll out of fingering weight wool...

NOTES --->

- Weigh the garment

- Remove buttons before washing

- Soak in soapy (alkaline) water for at least an hour (preferably overnight) - do not rinse out

Comments (30)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

to be RED!    


Calling all Photoshop CS Gurus: This morning I used the Web Gallery feature to create the album you get when you click on the above pictures. One of the options was for a pop-up info window below the main window. I tried to enter Meta Data Info for each picture, but it wouldn't save it. Does anybody know how to do this?

This would be a great project scrapbooking feature - I wanted to record all the steps I took to get to the finish line.

I found some time this weekend to perform a Yarn Rescue of some yummy Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece. I've had this yarn for a few years now - it's a dusty lilac color (was I on a lavender bender or what?!) that I'd worked up as a cardigan front and one sleeve before I *Frogged & Forgot* it in the X-Files that make up some of my stash.

I'm wrapping up a little pattern for Spring and as I finish one sample, I realized I wanted another one right away - but this one just for me to wear - in RED! WOOT!

Even though Red is NOT a traditional Spring tone, I visualize myself wearing this alot - it combines well with light blue, white, black, kiwi (!), aqua, jeans, linen, and cotton. Funny how a favored color suddenly becomes a *neutral* when you just Wear It.

Comments (17)

August 23, 2006


CLOSE! but no cigar, m'lady...


Now that the dyein' is over, the cryin' begins? WHO would squeal when they get almost the exact result they were going for?


[It reminds me of the time I nagged and nagged a boyfriend to shave his beard. He presented his soft new face to me and suddenly I realized he had no chin! Whodat man?]

Now that I see it, all dry and mighty, I realize I would've liked it a quarter tone darker. Yeah, splitting fractions here, but when you are doing this it is a Measure Fest and fractions are indeed your friend...

Beth S. writes: "It seems like it would be hard to mix dry powders together without raising a toxic cloud in your kitchen. But you must have figured something out!"

Beth's right! This stuff (including Kool-Aid) is not user friendly - there's the possibility of lots of fine particles flying around. So you need to practice good habits when measuring the dry stuff. I bought a box of face masks and use 'em. I measure slowly and carefully.

This was a very interesting session. I used Sabraset Dye (from ProChem) and did exactly what their instructions recommend.

After the yarn was fully submerged in the dye solution with the heat brought up to a simmer, I stirred it every few minutes and noticed something that had not happened other times I dyed with these acid dyes.

One color was uptaking faster than the other!

The water was purple. The yarn was turquoise.

I panicked!

What to do? Pull it? Add more Magenta (gaack)? Go online and SOS?

Google to the rescue! I searched [phrase: *dye won't exhaust*] and found out that sometimes it takes more than the recommended (about an hour to an hour-and-a-half) time to exhaust the dye solution. [Exhaust: all dye is absorbed by the fiber and the water is CLEAR! I love that part!]

I left the batch, at the lowest gas flame I could manage on the UberPot, stirring every few minutes, for a little over 2.5 hours.

Then suddenly, It Happened.

The yarn was Bijou Blue at 50%.

All the Magenta flew into the yarn.

Whine & Cheese: What I would do differently next time? AHA! Looking at the yarn I used for the figure 8 ties [a light taupey grey] I would maybe start with a different base color. This would give a duller, more sophisticated cast to the whole shebang...


The Scale: I got mine on eBay (from my sister's recommendation) - search on *Escali Digital* and shop til you drop...

The Enabler Button: Marji writes - "I just love the BFE icon! Is it available to use?" WOOT! Thanks so much! Please take it and use it to spread the love!

Comments (22)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yup. It was the weekend and even though there were a million things to do,
only one was the surefire cure for boredom: bring out the DyePot.

A couple of ideas were spinning around my head and only one had the fiber to begin. After a mind boggling stash dive that left no box, bag or shelf unturned, the only real candidate was no candidate at all.

It was boring. It was dirty. It was old.

No my friends, we are not talking about moi, we are talking about some eBay yarn I got last year (?), delivered in, of all things, a liquor carton for Chivas Regal. [Now, these types of boxes have been the Moving Boxes of Choice for years at Chez Chic, so I figured I was in for a treat.] Inside, 14 skeins of worsted weight English Wool - with a simple Union Jack label.


Anybody ever see this Brand before?

The color I was craving was an ashy purple - a little lighter than what I'd done on a Ribby Cardi before - less brown, more subtle. This is the result of a Yellow Gold + Royal Blue + Magenta Lanaset dye mix:



The original Purple seen in this Ribby Cardi used Turquoise instead of Royal Blue. That little bit-o-yellow in the turquoise made the end result browner. Royal Blue brought it back up to a clearer tone - although because of the depth of dye used & the orginal slightly taupey color of the yarn base, it is subtle - smokey - sophisticated...

You can also see that the Ribby Purple has light and dark areas in the yarn itself. When I dyed that yarn, I only let it soak in a sinkful of water long enough to wet it.

These days, I fill the sink with hot water (for wool), add a couple of small squirts of Dawn dish soap, swish, add and SOAK for about an hour before the dyeing begins. This really cleans the yarn (I will use two passes if the yarn is really dirty like this Union Jack stuff) and opens its scales to accept the dye. I also have been using a kitchen timer to remind myself to stir the pot every 5 minutes or so...


End Result: clear color, clean yarn. :)

...read more Adventures in Dyeing HERE

Comments (21)

      ©2001-2006 Bonne Marie Burns
All Rights Reserved

Unauthorized reproduction in any form prohibited.

"ChicKnits" and "Chic Knits" are Trademarks of ChicKnits.com and are owned by Bonne Marie Burns of Chicago

Powered by
Movable Type 2.64

Chic Knits Pattern Who's the Boss! Chic Knits Links Page Chic Knits FREE Knitting Patterns Contact Chic Knits Chic Knits Home page Chic Knits Blog