Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dyeing for Crochet: An Adventure in Food Coloring

My crochet group came to my house at our last meeting and we learned to dye yarn using food coloring. coloring. We had soooooo much fun! In some of the pictures you can see Kool-Aid packets. Those are great to dye with also.

We used Wilton Gel Food Coloring to do it and here's what you'll need if you want to try it yourself:

• Wilton Gel Food Coloring
Wilton Mini Decorating Squeeze Bottles
• Yarn that was 100% animal fiber. No synthetics or plant fibers since they don't work. Animal fiber includes wool, alpaca, name it. If it was made by a creature, it counts.
• Cream of Tarter (white vinegar works too)
• Measuring spoons
• Glass bowls that fit in the microwave, or plastic wrap
• Some way of winding your yarn into a hank. A niddy noddy, a yarn winder, or something that will work of your own choosing.
• A microwave or steamer.
• Someplace to hang up your yarn to dry when you're done
• Toothpicks or craft sticks (small tongue depressers)
• Scrap acrylic yarn.
• Bucket

Winding yarn on a yarn winder.
First, we wound the yarn into hanks. We used a niddy noddy and yarn winders but you could do it by winding around your arm from hand to elbow or between a couple of chairs. We tied it very loosely with a figure 8 in a minimum of 2 places using some scrap acrylic yarn.

Second, we put the hanks of yarn into buckets of water to soak for 20 minutes while we mixed up our colors.

Beginning to mix up our colors.
Third, we mixed our colors.
• Using some Wilton Mini Decorating squeeze bottles we put about 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tarter (for acidity) and some of the gel food coloring in (using the toothpicks or craft sticks). Don't worry about putting too much Cream of Tarter in since you need the acidity to make the dye colorfast. You want your dye liquid fully saturated with it. Next, put in the food coloring. The darker you want your color the more you want to put in. We tested our colors on a sheet of paper towel before using it on the yarn.
• We filled the prepped squeeze bottles with water and shook them up really well to make sure the Cream of Tarter and food coloring were fully mixed into the water.

Fourth, we took our hanks out of the water and gently squeezed out the water being careful not to accidentally start the felting process. That's something to be careful of throughout the dyeing process.

Fifth, we applied our color and heated the yarn to set the color. There are a couple of options for doing this step.

• You can put the part of the yarn you want to color in a glass bowl that will fit in your microwave. Squeeze on color and mush it in with your gloved fingers until the yarn has no or few white areas. Heat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes then move to the next part of your yarn to color another area with another color. Repeat the color and microwaving until all your yarn looks about how you want it

Microwaving the yarn to set the color.

• Cut a piece of cling wrap that is about 10 inches longer than your hank of yarn. Lay it flat on the table and center the damp hank of yarn on it. Apply the colors you've mixed up where you want them. Fold the ends of the cling wrap over the ends of the hank then fold in one side and roll the hank up in the cling wrap. Next, roll the whole thing up in a spiral. At this point you can put it to heat in the microwave. I have never had problems with the cling wrap melting, but heat it a minute at a time (2.5 minutes total) and check on it to make sure everything is okay every minute. If you don't want to use the microwave you can put it in a steamer and steam it for 30 minutes. Make sure the yarn package is suspended and won't melt to the side of the steamer.

Using plastic wrap allows you to color all of it at once.
Sixth, remove your yarn from the heat and let it cool down completely. When it's quite cool, rinse in cool water until any excess dye is completely rinsed out. Carefully squeeze out the excess water and hang it up to dry.

The finished product.

These are the 3 that I did. The one on the left is a light gray Alpaca yarn. The other two are white Merino.

I would encourage you to have fun with it! Why fuss about not being able to find the color yarn you want when you can make your own?

If you want to try dyeing with Kool-Aid just use half a packet of regular Kool-Aid in one squeeze bottle. Use it just as you would the food coloring with these exceptions. Do NOT add sugar, don't use sugar free Kool-Aid, and you don't need to add Cream of Tarter or Vinegar because Kool-Aid already has citric acid in it.

Estes Park Wool Market 2014

Most years I make a trip to the Estes Park Wool Market. It's always in June and it's always worth it.

I didn't take a lot of photos this year because I was so busy buying. I mean it. My hands got full very quickly. I took two bags for carrying stuff and they were both full when I was done.

I was impressed by the new building. It seems a little bigger than the old one. Or maybe it was the nice new layout of the booths that made it seem bigger. The quality of the vendors was really high too. 

Here's the haul:

I didn't get much yarn. That doesn't mean that they didn't have any, it just means I like to spin my own. 
•There is one hank of green in there. It's from Daybreak Dyeworks and it was a gift for my neighbor. She likes green and was taking care of my cat, Calypso, while we were gone. The colorway was done specifically for the wool market and was a limited edition.
• There are 2 hanks of white from Skaska Designs. That's silk for plying what I spin on my Russian spindles.
• The red braided fiber is Bluefaced Leicester from Daybreak Dyeworks in her Dance Fever colorway.
• The hot pink and blue fiber on the right is superfine Merino from The 100th Sheep.
• The silver gray fiber is Angora rabbit from Midnight MoonSong.
• The brown fiber in the gift containers is Paco Vicuña from Jefferson Farms Natural Fibers. I'm spinning that on one of the new Russian spindles I got.
• 3 new Russian spindles from Skaska Designs. 2 are for spinning and 1 is for plying.
• The brown bag far left is full of Bison down from The Buffalo Wool Company.
• The ball of purple yarn is Yarn Place Graceful Lace Yarn in their Dusty Autumn colorway from Skaska Designs. It is fine enough for my Spring Hope Shawl pattern being published in the Spin-Off Fall 2014 issue.
• Last, but not least is the 2 braided, multi-colored rovings from Dicentra Designs. They're Bluefaced Leicester and Tussah Silk in their Road of Trials colorway.

That should keep my wheel and spindles busy for awhile.

Honey mentioned to me earlier in the year that he wanted to stay at another Grand Lodge. They're the old, grand accommodations built when the national parks first started attracting a lot of visitors. So, we splurged and stayed at the Stanley Hotel.

It's quite grand and is famous because it's the place that inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining." They give tours that focus on the hauntings and book trivia, although we didn't do that. And we weren't haunted in our very nice room either.

We visited Rocky Mountain National Park the next day, although we didn't have to go into the park to see the elk. This guy was hanging out by our hotel parking lot.

The days were overcast but we still enjoyed the RMNP scenery.

Who can resist a view like that?

Good Tunisian Hooks

I don't like it when my tools don't work the way I need them too. I don't like it when they aren't attractive either. Needless to say, I've been "making do" with my few Tunisian hooks.

• One I inherited from my mom. It's from the 70s when they called it Afghan crochet. It's short and metal and good for simple, small projects. The button on the end should be bigger though.
• Another 2 Boyes that I got from Hobby Lobby when Tunisian started gaining interest again. They're metal tubes that are extra long. They work but they're heavy and don't fit in a bag very well. I'm used to shorter for my project bags.
• A Bates with a cable was special ordered through my LYS last year sight unseen. It's okay, but not interchangeable.
• Then there are the 2 Denise Interchangeables that I got at another LYS last year when I needed a certain size quickly. They're plastic, they work, but I HATE them. The plastic is TOO flexible and "sticky," the hook part is too short, and it has a useless grip dent.

So, when I expressed my frustration to my fellow crocheter one of them gave me the answer.

I present to you Knitter's Pride Symfonie Dreamz Tunisian Crochet Set. These hooks are wonderful.

• They are wooden. Love that!
• The hook part is long enough to grip and not too short like so many Tunisian hooks that have cords.
• The set comes in a range of sizes from E to L. Nice! I like doing Tunisian in a wide range of yarn weights. Not just worsted.
• The transition from the hook to the cord is smooth. No hangups.
• The cords come in different lengths so I can switch to whatever I need. The set comes with 3 lengths to choose from.
• There's no useless grip dent to confuse me.
• They come in a clear plastic organizer sleeve. An individual pocket for each hook and a pocket behind them for the cords and buttons.
• One of my local yarn shops had just gotten them in and so I had instant gratification!
• And last but not least, they're pretty. I know, color doesn't affect function; however, it does make me enjoy using them more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Classes

I've got new classes listed under "Class Information" in the right hand column.

Please contact me if you're interested in any one on one instruction. Even if it's not listed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

News Flash! Pattern in Spin-Off

News Flash!

I'm going to have my Spring Hope Shawl pattern published in the fall 2014 issue of Spin-Off magazine. So start watching for it in September and get your copy.

All I can tell you right now is that it is a lace shawl pattern using some of my handspun gossamer weight lace spun on a Russian spindle.

For those who aren't spinners or don't know how to use a Russian spindle, don't despair. When the fall issue hits the news stands, I'll let you know what commercially spun yarn you can use to make the pattern. I don't want to leave any of you out.

This news flash is a little delayed due to the fact that, in getting the pattern and copy to Interweave I was rather busy and am just now finding time to blog about it.

If you want more, up to the minute information, you can follow Unyunga on Facebook.

Great Western Alpaca Show and Denver Fiber Fiesta

This post is a little late, but better late than never...right? Life has been busy.

At the beginning of May I went to the Great Western Alpaca Show and the Denver Fiber Fiesta. It was easy to do both since they were held in the same location, the National Western Complex.

I started out at the Denver Fiber Fiesta. When I entered the building it was up the stairs in a big wide open space. There were a lot of vendors and I had fun looking around. Not many people were visiting right then, so I was free to look without jostling or competition.

Denver Fiber Fiesta
The vendors had some really nice things to offer. Fiber, yarn, and finished goods such as garments, rugs, felt, accessories, and other related items. They had a handspun contest that I didn't get to look at since it was being judged when I was there.

I bought some Merino from this vendor, Daybreak Dyeworks.
I came away with some nice merino and alpaca fiber for spinning.

Here's the superfine merino from Daybreak Dyeworks all spun up. It's her ¡Fiesta! colorway. She's going to be at the Estes Park Wool Market next weekend, so I'll look for her there and get some more fiber from her.

Next I went to find my friend, Mary, of Autumn Sun Alpacas in the barn. I had fun looking at all the animals as I walked the aisles.

I had to wonder how well this guy could see through the fluff around his face.
I eventually located Mary and we had a great chat.

After that we both ended up sitting together to watch the judging of some alpaca classes, one of which her husband was showing in with one of their animals.

It was good to spend some time with her since we hadn't seen each other in months. It was nice to do some catching up.

My one complaint about the day was a serious lack of information available and a lot of miss-information.

The Denver Fiber Fiesta site hadn't been updated for the show from the pre-show information. That was a little frustrating, but I managed in spite of it.

The National Western Complex was another matter. Due to lack of good signage and traffic I ended up parking in a paid parking lot on the complete opposite side of the complex. If I had managed to see the one sign that was poorly placed as I came in I could have parked for free near my destination. When I figured out the general direction I needed to walk, I literally walked in a big circle. Their signs were placed so that I walked about 3 times as far as needed to get to the door I needed to get to where I was going. After talking with vendors at the Fiber Fiesta and my friend, I found out that they had experienced similar frustrations that morning since the parking locations for both vendors and visitors had been changed that morning. I would say that the National Western Complex is not managed with good customer service in mind.

That said, I'm glad I went.