Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Hmm. Dye lots. So I kind of think they matter and I kind of think they don't. When companies dye a big batch of yarn together they call it a dye lot. The take up of dye can be affected by the yarn base used, the weather or atmosphere on the day, minute changes in the amounts of dye/water, the way the dyer feels. All sorts of things. Companies often tell us that dye lots don't matter because it's all done by machine but one lot of wool from one lot of sheep will be very different from another lot. Imagine a sheep living in Australia versus one living in the Cotswolds. Not that the fibre for our wool is from Australia or the Cotswolds, that wouldn't be Knit Nottingham prices, but of course a sheep living in a dry, arid, desert-y type area is going to produce different fibre from a sheep living in lush, leafy, green England even if they're the same breed and even if they come from the same stock originally. It just makes sense. Think about how much lovelier your hair is when you eat well and treat it right (note to self...).

I know embarrasingly little about the way that yarn is sorted and processed on a commercial level but it's my understanding that it's basically graded by the wool board and then the yarn is mixed together within it's grades. So you wouldn't, unless that was your USP, buy yarn from a specific farm or flock or even area but wool within one category. Which means that the fibre is much more standard than my Australia/Cotswolds example above - slightly variations such as from a wet summer or a hard winter in a specific area - are kind of ironed out. But of course there are going to be variations. Same with cotton, bamboo, alpaca - anything natural. I'm trying to think about what might cause variation within an acrylic fibre but I can't. I'm no expert.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, even if the dying process is automated there area always going to be variations in the fibre. Which is a long winded way of saying that dye lots matter.

Sometimes different dye lots look and work the same. Sometimes they don't. Mostly you can see that in the ball but sometimes you can't. My advice, if you have an errant ball, is always to try and use it for edging or something separate. For a baby's cardi you'll probably get the fronts or sleeves out of one ball. The seams in the garment, between the bits knitting in different dye lots, make any differences look like shadows. It really works. The other trick, if you have about half and half different dye lots, is to work two rows of one dye lot and two rows of the other alternating for the whole thing. The two rows mean that you don't have to break off the yarn each time so it's really no extra sewing in ends and if there is a difference in dye lot, the stripes carry on throughout the thing so they look like a design feature. Ahhh! And finally, if you have just the one ball and you're not sure it's that different, then wait until you have about half a ball of the last stuff left and then two and two stripe as before with the new ball until the old one has gone and then you can carry on with the new one. Yes?

They're my tricks anyway and they work. And lots of you have tried them and they work for you.

All of this depends on you actually checking dye lots (the general you... it's usually me that ends up checking them for people). This is something that I did do on the project in question and then I carried on using the one ball in the markedly different dye lot anyway. Because I'm an idiot and I don't care about making two shawls exactly the same in less than a week. Why would I!?!?

Remember I talked about how a customer had given me my next project in this blog over here? Well, it was a commission really. I'm making one of the lovely Sues a shawl for a wedding that she's going to in a couple of weeks. With my holiday looming, the Love Your Local Yarn Shop Day coming up and a to-do list that I've made myself as long as both arms and Boyf's too I knew I wouldn't be able to knit her one so I offered to do a Fantasm like the one I made in Verity's Yarn:

It's nice isn't it!? And I got that one done in less than 24 hours. But probably only because I LOVED the yarn and couldn't wait to see it worked up. But I knew, even if that kind of mental obsession wasn't there, I could get one worked up in a week with time to spare to block. We decided on the beautiful Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4ply in the Dove Grey and she wanted it just a little bigger than the one in the window - a proper shawl. So I started on Thursday evening with a 4mm hook. And it was good. I took no photos of the process because it was one of those ridiculously quick I don't want to stop I just want to make kind of projects. And then on Friday, as I was travelling home, I started a new ball. Did a few stitches. Stopped. Carried on. Stopped. And finally, accepted the inevitable. The bloody dye lots were different. I'd done so much on the first ball that I couldn't rip out but I also couldn't give her this as a commission. So I carried on. Thinking that I could over-dye in a mixture of blues and greens because the flowery bits kind of look like a peacock tail don't they? I thought I might pass it on to Verity to dye but then I thought about how much fun I'd had when I dyed the yarn for this shawl:

It's the first version of Elise Shawl that I did and it started my love affair with quick, simple and effective crocheted shawls. 

So I decided to give it a go myself. I think I finished the shawl that night and started the next one the day after. That still looks like this:

It needs to be done for Saturday but I'm just about half a row away from finishing the final repeat of the 'pattern pattern' and then I'm just going to finish the rest of the ball with ch5, dc into the chsp all across for ever more. So that'll be quick and easy and I'm planning to introduce Boyf to the joys of blocking tonight. He will LOVE having a wet thing and loads of pins in his bed! LOVE! Haha. 

Now, usually I'd want to split that part of the blog and the next part of the blog into two but I have things to write about for the rest of the week and I'm dead excited about this so I'm going to carry on. Apologies for the essay... 

So, I messaged Verity who gave me all sorts of advice about how to dye with food colouring. You can find all sorts of info about it on the web but she's done it a lot and she's my friend and therefore I get a free load of brill info from the horse's mouth as it were. She told me about vinegar. You need to soak the thing in vinegar before you dye it to help it take up the dye. I didn't have a lot of vinegar so I used this stuff:

Well diluted. I guess you're meant to leave it for half an hour or so, so that all of the fibres are properly soaked but I didn't have the patience for that. Oh no. I'm guessing I left it for about 15/20 minutes whilst I emptied the dishwasher, filled it and then searched for the cake dyes... This is all we had:

I really was hoping for some blue and green but we work with what we've got don't we? Therefore I used the red, as there was the most there. In my head I was going to put a stronger solution on the flowery bits and then a weaker solution on the rest of the shawl to make those pop but that just didn't happen. I ended up pouring the whole solution, diluted, into a cake tin to wiggling the shawl around a bit. It looked like this: 

Which was a portent of what was coming - deffo no bright, blood red which is kind of what I hoped... Then came time for the 'saran wrap'. When I was dying first time, I came across that phrase, which is the American way of saying cling film and assumed it meant like a thin gauze-y material. I've no idea why. I've also no idea why I didn't just google it seeing as my instructions were from the internet. I ended up using my hair dying towel then and half of the colour went on there rather than the yarn... but this time I had Verity to remind me that it was cling film. It's harder to wrap a shawl in cling film than you might imagine and it ended up looking like a blood bath in my utility room...

But I did it. And then it was time to put it into the microwave. Vezza said about three 4/5 minute bursts but I didn't ask what heat level or whether to let it cool in between. So I watched for the first four minutes:

That's my casually interested face. And then for the second four minutes I did some crochet in another room. Then I head a bang and this happened: 

Cue frantic whatsapping to Vezza. All was fine but it did look like a placenta. I put it in for another two minutes and then took it out and put it in the fridge to cool for a bit before rinsing until the dye (kind of) went clear. I'm far too impatient for all of this. Dying deffo isn't for me.

Then I went upstairs to block it, hoping that it would be done for this morning. I tried a slightly different style this time. I put the bottom point at the corner of the bed and slowly pinned the edges to their side of the bed, bit by bit, and then afterwards I came to pin the middle bit and across the top, stretching gently. It worked much better than my usual way which is to start with the top and then stretch the point to within an inch of it's life, working and stretching towards the pins already in place at the top. I find that the original pins often pop out of place and I can't stretch the point into a proper triangle at the bottom, it's kind of longer and pointier whereas I like a corner of a square kind of effect. Does that make sense? Anyway, this is what it looked like:

Which is probably the worst photo ever in terms of colour, composition and focus but it does show what it looks like. And how I'm a sloppy blocker in terms of getting the points even but they'll relax a little anyway and if anybody notices then they're too close - step away. 

This is a pretty good representation of the colour. It's maybe a little dark but it's like amethyst isn't it? Which is deffo not a colour I would ever make a shawl in but it certainly is one that I appreciate and I'm glad I've now got a shawl in it. :) I kind of didn't think of the effect of working the red over the grey. I assumed I wouldn't get a bright bright red but maybe more cherry-ish. Dee will be laughing at me here, I really have no idea when it comes to colours (but I'm still right about kingfisher/teal...). And this is what it looked like this morning: 

Love! Apart from my tired face. I need some make up desperately. Blurgh.

And now we come back to the do as I say, not as I do. The dye lots still show. I can't photograph it very well but I've tried. It's less about the colour I think and more about the texture which means that one of the dye lots (the original) has taken up the dye in a much nicer way, it much more blue-y purple whereas the second dye lot has an almost orange tone which doesn't work that well with the amethyst. I do think that if I'd have managed my blue and green higgle-de-piggle-de idea that that would have been much better hidden. However, I also know that nobody's looking at dye lots and if they are, again, they're too close and need to step. away. thank. you. very. much. 

Can you see how the one further away is much less hairy? Texture deffo shows up better in the photos but I guess that the colour is affected by the texture so maybe that's actually the same but the texture makes it different? Ooooooh, I don't know. And I don't care. 

So - so as I say, not as I do:

Dye lots matter. 
Over-dying won't change that. 
When you've got it wrong, stop worrying about it, they're all just too close.

And that's my lesson for today over folks.

Love, Eleanor. xxxxxx

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