Wednesday, August 29

The smell of vinegar in the morning

Looking at this photo:

one might get the impression that I've been dyeing today.

No, that's not quite it though. Long time readers of my blog know I started dyeing wool last spring as a lark, encouraged by the great dyeorama swap of 2006. I took to it like a duck to water, just loved the combination of technical details and artistic play. I dyed way more yarn than I could possibly knit, thought about selling some, but chickened out. That process seemed overwhelming and only for those folks who have more self-confidence than I sometimes feel. So, instead of filling my house with hand-dyed yarn, I stopped.

I've knit some, given some away, but still it was nagging me that I didn't take the plunge and sell some. The biggest benefit of that would be that I could dye some more. Well, Erika has seen my yarn, she's even knit socks from it. She got intrigued with the dye bug as well. But Erika adds something I was missing, an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. We talked and talked, we dyed yarn, both together and separately and The Yarn Forest is born. It's an Etsy store for now, if it takes off, it will become a stand-alone store for more convenience for shoppers and sellers. She has "soft launched" the store but we hope to have a variety of yarns and colors available real soon now.

I went through my accumulated favorites getting them ready to list. One thing had been nagging me, though. I learned a lot through trial and error and didn't fully come to understand how to completely set the dye until I had been dyeing for a while. Since I could not remember exactly when I had dyed these skeins, I was nervous about selling it. Especially since I had had a terrible experience with a commercial yarn where the dye had not been properly set. Erika was able to take advantage of my experience right away. Just ask her how obnoxiously I demanded that she have patience and steam long enough and let the yarn cool for a long time before letting her look at her first hand-dyed! It was worth it though, her first skein rinsed completely cleanly.

This morning, I gave these precious babies a bath. As I immersed each one into the water, I held my breath. Would it bleed? A very small bit of bleeding and fading over time does seem inevitable. Even my koigu socks faded. I cannot promise a no-fade-ever yarn. The skeins that only very very faintly colored the water or left it sparkling clear passed the test. I rinsed them, added a touch of vinegar to the last rinse --- just to be sure --- and left them to dry in the sun.

The skeins that didn't pass are all getting a little help. These are immersed in vinegar-water and sitting in the sun. That will set the dyes better.

Next, they dry and get reskeined (they were skeined by hand and now I have a niddy noddy for a more professional and uniform size) and the next big test: how can I photograph them accurately? I've tried a variety of methods, but just am not good at photographing the colors well. See my flickr set of hand-dyed yarns, a mixture of yarns, some that will be for sale, some I have knit with, some in progress. Some photos stink, a few show promise. I just have to figure out a reliable way to photograph them well. Comments would be helpful.

One last thing, if anyone has read this far. What would you like to see in a hand-dyed yarn? I've dyed several base yarns and have my favorites, but what are yours? My signature yarn, the main one I have dyed, is a lovely, soft merino. I love this yarn. It knits up beautifully and feels so wonderful. But, it is thicker than most sock yarns and it is not easy care. It will felt if you machine wash it. But I do like my socks and wrist warmers and sweater and throw. I think this would make wonderful baby clothes for the parents willing to hand wash.

Therefore, I, like Erika, have been experimenting with more traditional sock yarns, mostly superwash. We are liking some of them a lot and will continue to look for more.


NH Knitting Mama said...

Oh, I just love your picture of all those yarns drying in the sun.

Like you, I wonder about the yarn fading/running when I dye, but I think the extra vinegar bath helps a lot. I add some extra during final rinse, too.

I think there is so much hand-dyed stuff out there right now that the world is your oyster. People can't get enough of whatever people are dyeing and selling, though I think sock yarn is a winner. What about trying a sock yarn club? Those are popular!

Kathleen said...

Good for you! I hope you enjoy your new venture... and make a little $ta$h enhancement fund$ to keep you in the yarns you like to knit with! ;)

Kathleen said...

Sr. Alice would NOT appreciate my last post! ;) and you might hear the screech on the blackboard too!

Dorothy said...

I want to clarify to Amanda and anyone else that simply adding vinegar will not do anything to stop dyes from running. Too much vinegar just wastes money and results in a stiffer yarn. If the yarn still runs, the dye is not set properly. It will continue to run forever. The way to set or reset acid dyes is to add acid AND heat. I added a touch of vinegar to the skeins because I was drying them in the sun and that might add a touch of heat. I left them in the sun and even repositioned them over the day so that all the yarn got direct sun.

The skeins in the jars were cooking in the sun which did set them, all the water was completely clear when I emptied the jars and rinsed the yarn.

Treesh said...

They are lovely yarns, Dorothy. Thanks for your clarification about vinegar AND heat. I've done a very minimal amount of dying and have not always had the best success in setting the dye. I'm sure I was not adding heat - or enough heat.

I always like it when others do the dying. It's just not something I get into. I like going to natural dye days - when someone else has set up pots and pots of natural dyes all burbling away over open wood fires outdoors - and I just dunk my skeins in. But I just haven't gotten into setting up the dying myself.

That being said, I really haven't done much with hand dyed yarn but I've spun a lot of fiber that has been hand dyed. If I were to have my druthers, I would want something sturdier and thicker than merino sock yarn. The last pair of socks I made with merino sock weight yarn got a hole in the toe in only a few months. Apparently I have active toes. Also, I do like thicker socks for my birkensocks and I like knitting thicker socks for the speed of knitting.

yarnsnob said...

pickled yarns in a jar!! The do look good!! Yes, I find that heat sets the dye on the yarns very well. Good luck with your etsy store...its fun :)

Sarah said...


Josh said...

From the comments here, it looks like you need help with the heat issue. My art teacher always had us hand-dye cloth. The best way to get enough heat is to take the cloth or yarn from the vinegar bath and fold it onto some alluminum foil and wrap it up sealing the ends and any other openings. Then place on a cookie sheet and into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. No more than 15 minutes. That will heat set the dyes. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

I think that your photos look good. Use sun light, and no flash. I would go with the white background.