Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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Happy Friday! These 2 day work weeks are the worst, aren't they? I'm pooped.

Scott got me a video iPod for New Year's:

Welcome to the podcast generation, baybee!
Welcome to the podcast generation, baybee!

I've been wanting something like this for a couple of years, but have been waiting for prices to go down, or technology to settle, or hard drive space to increase. It was worth the wait. I lurv it!

Pebbles sock yarn

I didn't mention the yarn I had dyed back in August because I was afraid it would look like crap. Pretty lame, hunh? It was dyed in the roaster without measuring anything (shocking!):

blues and purples

I just kept adding dyes until I liked what I saw, or couldn't improve what I had with more dyes. The good thing about Kona - it's superwash. Poking and prodding to get the dyes to migrate does not felt the yarn. 

Due to how I put the skeins in the roaster, I ended up with three skeins, two alike:

blues and purples

Here they are dry:

blues and purples

And wound:

blues and purples

The white was unexpected. The dyes didn't settle to the bottom as much as I expected/hoped. I've had this happen more than once. In this case, I think it adds a nice accent to the yarn. But in general, I'd like to have more control over it. Methinks if I adds more water for the yarn/fiber to swim, that would help.

On the topic of baby knitting

Nothing started yet, though I bought some GGH Java in 2 shades of peach and white from Little Knits to make a little blanket. I knit a tank top from Java a couple of years ago and really liked the sproinginess of the cotton. I'm thinking alphabet squares or something along those lines.

I also have some Debbie Bliss Cotton DK (also from Little Knits) earmarked for another Debbie Bliss knit, but I haven't picked it out or started it yet. There's some irrational part of my brain thinking, "I've got time." Could be related to the fact that it's knitting with COTTON, for gosh sakes (see? cleaning up the language around here, there's a baby due, donchaknow). I did feel guilty after saying I wouldn't knit something fancy for my wee one. You know I would, right? Eventually? Just gotta find the right project.


Beth asked if I'm "allowed" to dye while I'm pregnant. As far as I understand, some dyeing is fine, provided you're taking the usual precautions (dust mask for dye powder, gloves, etc). I did feel a distinct desire NOT to dye during the first trimester, despite being in the middle of dyeing up batches of corriedale for the carder. I followed my instinct and found other things to do (not hard around here). And then I was too pooped to do much of anything.

Recently I did get the urge to throw color on fiber, so I took advantage! My dyes are already mixed into solutions, so I didn't have to deal with dye powders. I threw a whack of finn and romney in the roaster, about a pound and a half total, and threw some dyes on. (Why yes, I did make calculations and measure dyes, so I'm just being glib.)

Luck of the dyepot
layer 1

3 hours in the roaster at 250 did the job. No bubbling or boiling.

I was definitely going for particular results, and I definitely did not achieve them. I wanted rusty reds to appear, and they didn't. Instead, I got a lot of nice greens reminiscent of the primaries dyepot batch. I shoulda had an idea of how it would come out once I added the water:

Luck of the dyepot

But really, by then, it was already too late (4 layers of fiber in there).

Luck of the dyepot
left: 8 oz romney; right: 1 lb finn

No worries, I'll try again and change my tactics. And I am curious to see how it spins up.

At the same time, I tried out my new electric skillet that I bought at Home Depot:

Dyeing in an electric skillet
4 oz superfine merino

I lurv lurv lurv the colors!

Superfine merino in Lagoon

Too much fiber and not enough water meant the dyes didn't penetrate to the lower areas without a bunch of jostling with a chopstick, so the fiber did felt a bit. Lesson learned. (Maybe.)

I spun up a sample on the wheel and lurv it:

Lagoon sample wheel spun

enough to bring to NC and spindle it:

Lagoon on the spindle

Lagoon on the spindle

This may be part of my Twisted Knitters project, but (good grief) I'm STILL undecided.

The skies continue to mock me, but I did my best taking photos in the lunch room. Oh, and I found out I was hasty in blaming them for my missing drum carder. Turns out it's been delayed a few weeks. 6, to be precise. Man, I got my hopes up, too, got all excited. I suppose there's no harm in telling you it's a Patrick Green 2 speed Fancicard. It's not like I can keep the secret to myself another 6 weeks.

Alright, that out of the way, let's look at some handspun.


No seriously, gotta catch you up. But here's a preview so you don't think me too cheeky:

Spun yarns hanging out at work, waiting for their closeup
hanging out at work

Back in April, I did some random casserole dyeing. I soaked 8 oz BFL, layered it in 2 casserole dishes, added water and vinegar, and then added dyes. In one, I chose pink, purple and black. The dyes migrated more than I expected and it looked pretty dark:

Purples in the casserole

In the other, I chose brown, orange and blue. (Yeah, I know. What was I thinking? I think it I was inspired to add striking contrasts after reading Deb Menz' Color in Spinning.) The orange dye was gloopy and thick. It seemed to just sit on the surface. I wasn't sure what would happen. The brown looked murky and spread a lot, leaving very little white area. I added blue stripes, but screwed up the placement. It didn't look prety.

Calico Cat in the casserole

I added about an inch of water to the roaster, then stacked the casseroles so they were staggered and let it cook for an hour and cool overnight.

The purple/pink roving came out darker than I hoped, but interesting:

Purples and Calico Cat

Drafting didn't inspire me to spin it, though, too dark and flat:

Purples drafted

The other roving shocked me. All I could think was Calico Cat:

Purples and Calico Cat

Only the top half got any dyes, the rest stayed undyed. I was very disappointed. Enough so that I didn't want to post about it. I didn't want to draft it, let alone spin it. I knew I should just try it: you never know how it'll come out. But with so many other wonderful fibers around me (think MDSW), I hid it away.

A month ago, while dyeing the knitted blanks for Dye-O-Rama, I also soaked a pound of BFL. Dyeing Pink Panther wiped me out, so I left the BFL soaking. For a week. Before I finally realized it might have gone bad.

It had that funky smell that water has after flowers have been sitting too long. Stale and murky. A pound of BFL. Wasted. Ugh. So I washed it. Twice. And dyed it anyway.

Into the roaster with stripes of red, blue and yellow and enough water to just cover. Out of the roaster:

Primaries Luck of the Dyepot


Primaries Luck of the Dyepot

Not what I expected. I was somewhat curious to see how it would spin, but again, with so many wonderful fibers around me, it sat.

When packing for NC, I decided to take things to try out, that I wasn't worried about messing up, that wouldn't require the thought or care of a cormo laceweight or a merino/silk. Something I could spin while hanging out with my sister. I took Calico Cat and 4 oz of the primaries dyepot, as well as 4 oz of Ashland Bay merino in Cassis that I bought at Mind's Eye Yarns during their summer sale.

I spun Cassis in the Providence and Philadelphia airports while waiting, and was surprised that just as many guys were interested in the wheel as women. In fact, they were more likely to come up to talk to me. (By the way, the Ashford Joy fits very nicely in the overhead compartments.)

Cassis was spun from the fold without too much attention. I was spinning to be spinning, and to see how the colors would come out. I haven't done much spinning from the fold so it was good to get some practice.

Cassis was soft and fun to spin. The colors dancing were pleasant and vaguely hypnotic. The finished yarn is bouncy and soft:

Ashland Bay Cassis

I think I'm in love.

(Funny story: at the spinning demo, I passed around a small piece of Cassis so the kids could feel another type of fiber. They all remarked on how soft it was. One of the kids asked why I didn't give them all samples of that stuff. My reply: "Uh, 'cuz it costs a lot more?")

Next up, Calico Cat. I was more than surprised. The singles didn't look at all as I expected:

Calico Cat

It drafted nicely and I really enjoyed seeing how it developed. Plied it still has Calico Cat characteristics, but is much more interesting. I was very happy with my plying on this one, though after a bath it looks like it has a slight bit less twist.

Calico Cat

You can still see distinct bits of blue and orange:

Calico Cat

And the primaries dyepot, well, not as much fun to spin because all that handling did cause some felting. It was hard to get an even single and I didn't try too hard. I soldiered on and was surprised with how green it came out:

Primaries Luck of the Dyepot

Green with splashes of red and blue:

Primaries Luck of the Dyepot

I don't love it, but it's interesting enough that I'll tackle the remaining 12 oz.

All in all, I was very happy to bring home 3 skeins of spun yarn, and to use up some dyed fibers that had been sitting around. I hope I learned that, even if roving doesn't look attractive on its own, it might spin up in totally unexpected and cool ways. I suspect I'll have to learn it a few more times before it sinks in... I think I'll try the purples again, this time less dark; and Calico Cat as well, perhaps with other unexpected combos.


Finn wool
arrived in my stash...

Dyeing fiber - rolled Food coloring dyed Finn
dyed with food coloring, prepped...

33: handdyed Finn
spun on a spindle...

33: handdyed Finn 33: handdyed Finn

Surprisingly soft, sunshiny goodness. Only 1 oz, wish I'd done more.


Silk/Merino fiber
joined the stash...

34: merino-silk
spun and plied...

34: merino-silk
from the fold...

34: merino-silk
to make yarn.

Not the yarn I would have expected from seeing the top in my pre-spun-from-the-fold days.

Spun with a lot more twist than I'm used to; realized the other day that it takes a lot more twist than I thought to make a ply, and I didn't want a loose twist. Plied to a state of balance, but I would have liked more twist.


If I add more twist when plying to get the look that I want, then set the twist, does this have any "long term" effects? Will the plied yarn remember how it was set and not try to untwist itself? Assuming, of course, that I'm not adding waaaay more twist in the plying.

Also, is it "better" to add the necessary twist when spinning, versus adding extra twist in the plying? It seems that lots of twist in the spinning might make the yarn more "rope"-like, whereas adding twist in the plying wouldn't do that. Does that make any sense?

Let me know your thoughts!

Job hunting is making me crazy. -er. Crazier. So glad it's the weekend.

Stopped in at The Fiber Loft in Harvard, MA after an interview today. Lots of nice yarns downstairs, but I spent my time and energies trying out 4 wheels upstairs: Ashford Traveller DT, Joy DT and Traditional ST, and Louet S10 ST (I'm pretty sure that's what it was). Reba, a non-spinner (or not-yet-spinner?), pointed me in the right direction with wool and a threader, but I was on my own to figure out how to make it all work.

Only one was "ready to spin"; with the rest it was varying degrees of: "hmm, the wheel's not turning... ahh, this tube thing is off"; "hmm, the bobbin's not moving... ahh, this springy thing must need to go somewhere"; and "man the take up is tight... maybe if I turned this knob..." I tinkered and poked around and learned a lot about how wheels work. And without someone over my shoulder I felt no performance anxiety. The "patting your head while rubbing your stomach" thing wasn't an issue; my hands and feet knew what they were supposed to do. They weren't great at it, but I didn't feel that schizophrenic pulling apart and twisting of my mind's attention. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, it wasn't quite so bad before.)

In the end I liked the Joy best. Liked the feel, easier to thread, liked that it has so many ratios, and overall felt most comfortable on it. By then (it was wheel #3) I was comfortable enough to do some experimenting so I made yarn with puffs:

32: First wheel spun 32: First wheel spun

Here are two puffs separated from the flock:

32: First wheel spun

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the puffs were not just thicker bits of fiber; I had to manipulate the fiber to get it to be a puff and not just a "thick" (of "thick and thin"). A bit of the puffiness was lost in the plying. Looking at the puffs now, I'm thinking, not so practical; but it was fun to make! (Man, I wish I could ply as fast with my spindle. PumpkinMama, you are so right, it's like lightning on a wheel.)

Speaking of spindles, yep, still lovin' my hi-lo:

31: merino/silk

That's merino-silk that I spun from the fold. Very different texture and look than spinning straight from the top (see a sample from a different color). I likes it, I likes it! I haven't figured out how to get a good join when adding the next bit of fiber. Fiber ends are easier to sneak in than folds; folds are thicker and produce a bulkier join. Any suggestions?

And finally plied the Winderwood Farms Wensleydale (here it is before plying). Had to add extra twist to get it the way I wanted; I have learned that more twist than I expect is required for plies.

28: Winderwood Farms Wensleydale

One last photo, the pre-drafted food coloring dyed Finn from yesterday:

Food coloring dyed Finn

I just got home from a long day, bombarded by Microsoft and vendor marketing messages, surrounded by a throng of programmers, hoping in vain for free prizes, trying not to ingest too much sugar or caffeine while battling the drowse-inducing dim lighting and technical presentations. Yes, I attended Microsoft's Launch of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, and, excuse my English, it was a long ass day. I went for my free copies (yay!) and info on what's new for web developers (that happened at 3:30 pm; keynote began at 9). My computer needs a rebuilding and new software is a good excuse for getting to it. Lots of knitting and spinning will accompany hours of "Click next to continue".

I bring this up because my brain is mush; I hope this post makes sense.

The dye fest

When I say "dye fest", realize it's all relative. I dyed 4 oz of fiber. Not much for some (most?), but 4 batches and a full night for me. I used those $2 packs of 4 bottle food coloring, plastic wrap and the trusty nuker. I couldn't find easy google guidance on mixing or amounts, so I tried some of the recipes on the back of the box, winged some, and basically used a ratio of 2 tsp of hot water with ~5 drops of dye.

Fiber: first 2 are 1 oz each of Finn; last 2 are 1 oz each of merino. Soaked for an hour or two in water with a glug of vinegar. Squeezed out the excess water before dyeing, but they were still pretty wet.

My first batch: red, "orange" and yellow (forgot to photograph before rolling). I used 2 tsp of each color, which was not nearly enough (it's easier to see in the later photos).

Dyeing fiber - wrapped Dyeing fiber - rolled

Batch 2: Greens and blues, 3 colors. Doubled my amounts, 4 tsp of each, but didn't use all of it.

Dyeing fiber - colored

Wrap and roll, baby.

Dyeing fiber - ready to nuke

While it was nuking (on for 2 mins, off for 2, repeat x 4), started batch 3. "Purple" and the leftovers of the previous batch:

Dyeing fiber - colored

And batch 4: whatever was left over. Nuked batch 3 and 4 for 3 sets of on/off instead of 4; the water looked pretty clear.

Dyeing fiber - colored

Here they are cooling. See the arrow? There was a small tear in the plastic and some of the red got in and made purple. :)

Dyeing fiber - post nuking Dyeing fiber - post nuking

Once (mostly) cool (I'm impatient!) I rinsed in similar temp water; the water was quite clear. Used a towel to remove excess water. Hung on a hangar to dry.

Dyeing fiber - rinsed

Next morning:

Dyeing fiber - dried

There are more patches of white on the reds and greens than expected. Also, though it may not show in the photos so well, the colors are more muted when they're cooked and dry. While they're wet and cooking, they look much more vibrant. Next time I'll use much more solution, though I think the ratio of water to dye is fine. Also, the purple wasn't very purple, more magenta, I think; and the "orange" could be less red. Obviously, need to tinker with mix ratios.

Still, I really like the reds and greens. I stripped and pre-drafted the reds this morning and it looks so purty. And the range of colors is much greater than with Kool Aid (can only get a few colors here). It was fun to mix and play. And knowing it was food-safe made it less stressful. I'm gonna get some acid dyes soon, though. I want more control over colors and saturation. I'm hooked!

PS I lurv my new spindle!