Friday, March 06, 2009

At least it’s cheaper than heroin

Let’s review, shall we?

I am a…

  1. knitter
  2. spinner
  3. harpist
  4. pianist
  5. guitarist
  6. nature-enthusiast
  7. car-lover
  8. animal-lover (big and small)
  9. needlepointer (which apparently isn’t a word but y’all know what I mean, right?)
  10. writer blogger (I suspect to be a ‘writer’, one needs better grammar and punctuation skills than I possess bother with)
  11. candle maker
  12. soap maker
  13. potpourri maker
  14. rose gardener
  15. wanna-be vegetable gardener (but needs to learn not to ‘forget’ about the garden; roses forgive you the occasional lapse of attention, watermelons not so much) (ask me how I know…sigh…just call me the Slayer of Watermelons, Sunflowers and Carrots…) (pathetic…)
  16. mother of four (so, kid enthusiast / collector) (which explains how I keep finding myself with six or seven kids around the table at dinner time, saying, “Hi Mrs. {Eldest, Danger Mouse, Boo Bug}’s mom! Are you going to make cookies after dinner, just wondering?”)

Yeah, so, I’d say that pretty much, when it comes to the hobbies and things, I’m covered. Which is why I’m resisting adding archery back to the list. And dancing. And Renaissance fairs. And…well. The list, it goes on. And on, and on, and on, and on.

So yesterday, I found myself staring at a wad of undyed lace weight yarn (and a few of its cousins) I’d just pulled out from under the bed while looking for something else and thinking, yawn.

Boring. White. Meh. I wanted enough Plain White for one (1) shawl, but I did that thing where you forget what you already have and I bought enough Plain White for one (1) shawl…about twelve times over the last year and a half. Gah.

And then I thought…well, I thought adding some color would be nice. I’ve never dyed yarn before. I’ve dyed fabric plenty of times (a great way to dress up a sadly faded but still awesome shirt or dress from the thrift store is to over-dye it), but never yarn.

This is mostly because there are so many others who pretty much keep my need for fascinating colors covered.

But what the heck, I thought. Better than shoving this stuff back under the bed for another lengthy stay in the darkness. I’d make enough for one full-sized lacy shawl, I said, because Lord knows I don’t have enough projects on my list and adding a futzy-fiddly lace shawl would be just the thing to keep my life interesting. (Shut up.)

This is possibly the laziest yarn-dyeing method ever. First I soaked the yarn in tepid water for a while, while I was cleaning the kitchen and finding my dyes. Then I mixed boiling water with my powdered dye (Jacquard acid dyes, if you’re curious) (old, old Jacquard), with a quarter teaspoon of this and a half teaspoon of that with the goal of being “mostly purple.”

Set the mixed up dye aside to think about things (what does dye think about while ‘resting’ I wonder…also, what has it got to rest from, exactly? Does it wonder how this idiot is planning to misuse it? Or does it excitedly plan a life for itself where it will be added to boring white laceweight yarn and become something glamorous and be worn to the White House to meet the First Lady, who will swoon over it and then it will live in the White House because its owner will be made Chief Dyer of Glamorous Laceweight to the First Lady and the Denizens will get to play on the new swingset with the Obama girls who I totally think would be a good influence on my Denizens because hello, they are not afraid of Weather?) while I got out the ‘crock pot of dubious lineage’ for dyeing.

This is the same crock pot I use to melt the glycerin when I’m making soap, and to melt the wax when I’m dipping candles.

Because LORD KNOWS I can’t just go to the store like a normal person when I need soap or candles. HAHAHAHAHA, ‘tis to laugh! No! That would be simple and possibly even inexpensive! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Why do things the easy and cheap way, when you can spend hundreds on supplies to make them yourself with the hours and hours and hours of leisure time you don’t have because PLEASE SEE LENGTHY LIST OF HOBBIES, ABOVE!

(And note that the word ‘housework’ does not appear anywhere on that list. Lord, how I wish I could suddenly develop a creative passion for cleaning bathrooms…it would make my quality of life sooooo much better…)

ANYWAY. That lengthy digression out of the way, then I poured the dreaming, well-rested dye into the crock pot, added cool water to make a tepid dye bath of the same temperature as the soak water (no shocking the yarn, please, that will come later when I wear the shawl over jeans, the incongruity of which would shock anybody let alone delicate hand-dyed Merino laceweight yarn that had White House aspirations), added white vinegar for my acid (to set color) and left out the salt (which levels the color) because I am a rebel that way and had high hopes of getting something like that Mahogany I got from Lisa at Stitches, with the various ‘layers’ that made up the final color coming through here and there.

And then I did the laziest dye job, ever. Turned the crock pot to ‘high’ and walked away. Worked an hour, came downstairs and turned the yarn, worked another hour, turned the yarn, worked two more hours, collected Captain Adventure from the bus, noted the dye was exhausted (e.g., the water was clear), turned off the crock pot and ignored it overnight.

This morning after the kids went to school, I removed it from the now-tepid water, rinsed it with tepid water, washed it with tepid water, had no problem with the whole ‘do that until the water runs clear’ part because it ran clear from the get-go, and then I rolled it in a towel and then I hung it up to dry and then I fell in love with it so I’m divorcing my husband so I can marry these two skeins because they are…so…


purple-blue love

purple goodness

About the point infatuation was really setting in (and I was contemplating larger dyeing vats and whether or not I could dye enough to make a whole sweater all in one go for dye-lot compatibility), I thought…oh crap.

Because you know, seriously…this I need. Another obsessive hobby. Which undoubtedly has tools I will discover I can’t live without because this always happens. I’ll probably need…scales. And special thermometers. They’ll probably make a special pot with climate controlled everything where you can get a precise result so that if you wanted you could get a black-black-and-nothing-but-black dye lot of yarn.

Gah. Why don’t I just go ahead and cut to the chase. Buy myself a yarn mill with dye vats the size of pickup trucks and get into the international wool market?! Send out an email to all the sheep farmers in California: Buying wool! Buying wool! Send me all 3,000 pounds, I’m that obsessive about it!!


Oh well. All kidding aside, in terms of spending your life buzzing from one high to the next? I could be making worse choices. Sniffing freshly washed hand-dyed wool never got someone pulled over for being under the influence; riding a cuddle-high never put anybody in prison; hand-dipped candles aren’t illegal in any state that I know of, and of course, nobody is going to call the police because of the racket from my harp.

Unless I hooked it and my microphone up to the old amplifier and started blasting Danny Boy at the top of my lungs for a couple hours in honor of St Patrick’s Day.

I mean, there are limits.


PBear said...

Can I interest you in some glass? It starts much the same way - you make some jewelry, then you buy some beads, then you buy more expensive handmade glass beads, then you think it would be cool to make your own.... so a torch, O2 tank, kiln, hundreds of tools and pounds of glass later, you produce some beads... then think you could use the kiln to make dishes.. so you need sheet glass.. more tools... molds... and then a bigger kiln because wouldn't it be FUN to be able to make bigger dishes? And of course along the way, you know it would be nice to do your own silversmithing to dress up the beads and such... more tools... more supplies... and let's do some stained glass too while we're at it, because some really really pretty glass just doesn't take heat well....

The yarn lives in the same room, but it gets to leave the house with me since it's a bit more portable than a torch. Haven't dyed any yet, but have two books on it and a large bag of plain white sock-weight yarn to start on.... :-)


Louiz said...

mmmm, that is lovely:) Not surprised you can see a whole new hobby there.

Jeanne said...

No, seriously, all you need is the six primary colors (the warm RYB and the cool RYB) and black, some vinegar, and a couple of big stock pots from Big Lots and maybe a canning pot with rack and some quart mason jars, and a bit of space in the kitchen. I mean, look at what I've been doing with the same setup:

My Yarns

Not that I'm an enabler or anything.

Lovely purples, btw.

Another Joan said...

Cut to the chase indeed: how much for one of those dyed skeins?? Looks just about perfect for the Ink-Spot I want to knit.... Hmmm: does that count as enabling??

RM Kahn said...

Beautiful! Can't wait to see you wearing it.

Fibra Artysta said...

Have you seen the latest issue of The Twist Collective? It has an article for dye painting knitted lace. Might be of interest:

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Oh yeah - dyeing. It be fun. I don't do it often but I LOVE it!

Anonymous said...

Top to bottom, I thoroughly enjoyed this post....a great read to pair with my Rice Crispies :-D

And that yarn - WOW. Looking at it, you'd never know that you didn't have years of dyeing experience, classes, and fancy doohickeys.

Anonymous said...

I think that colur is going to be gorgeous with jeans.

Anonymous said...

'Ware, Mistress Chaotic. You are one tiny step away from making an extremely rational argument to Husband about the advantages of a small flock of sheep. ("Hey, we could sell the lawn mower and never buy yarn or compost again. It's practically FRUGAL! In fact they'll pay for themselves...")

Anonymous said...

Dying yarn is a lot of fun and your "lazy" way turned out beautiful!! I do have a question though, you mentioned adding salt "levels the color". Does that mean it would come out all one shade? How much salt do you add? I haven't heard about that and I can't get my yarn to be consistantly one color when I want to!

PipneyJane said...

Oohhh...... Don't tempt me, Tama, please don't tempt me!

(I've made a mental note to self to keep an eye out for a crockpot of dubious origin next time I'm near a charity shop. Just in case. You never know when you need one.)

Actually, I have a couple of questions re the dye-ing process: how much vinegar did you use as mordant? And how much salt would you suggest? DH has a beloved t-shirt that was deliberately "destressed" by the manufacturer and I want to stop it fading further.

- Pam (you're inspiring me to make my own list of hobbies)