Thursday, February 17, 2011

a brief return from an involuntary hiatus...

Let me explain my current situation, and why I've been away. It's like a series of unfortunate events. Well, maybe not unfortunate just untimely.  So the hiatus started with the holidays. With the cooking and prepping and etc, I've just been too busy to make anything.  Thus, nothing really to put on this blog. THEN... the new year came and I was hoping to have some time to make stuff.  Alas, it wasn't meant to be. The Husband and I moved because of his job, to a smaller town and to an apartment with no spare space for crafting.  Even if I wanted to make stuff, I ran out of projects. I've been so uninspired.  I have crafter's block. ::sigh:: The things I make all have utility.  I hate making things I can't use or won't be used.  Example: I was going to make these new pillow covers; however, I'm scraping that project because I realized that we don't use any pillows on the couch.  Any pillows will eventually find their way to the floor where my dog will snuggle up to it and cover it in dog hair.  ::sigh, again::

Well, I'm hoping things will look better soon because 1) I ordered a new sewing machine with more features I can play with!  I've decided to go with the Brother CE5500PRW because I can't justify getting a more expensive sewing machine with my basic skills.  2) I've also got new fabric in pretty spring colors. I'm hoping the brighter colors will inspire me to make something awesome.  3) I've picked up crocheting again.  Seeing the limited space I have at our new apartment, it is the only logical thing to do.

As this is my first post in a while, I can't just leave without posting something cool.  And here it is.  A lot of the yarn I work with are "recycled" yarn.  This just means that I run around thrift stores looking for old sweaters in good condition to take apart and use the yarn.  This is also the reason why I have a ton of yarn; the price to yardage ratio is so much lower.  One of the downsides of getting my yarn this way is the color.  There really isn't that big of a selection.  So what is a girl to do?! Dye them I say! Whenever I find wool sweaters that are really light in color, I just snag them up because they are the easiest material to dye.  All you really need is Kool-aid or food coloring and vinegar.

So here is a section of the sweater I took apart

 As you can see, it is this really drabby green color, but it has potential.  The yarn is made up of 3 strands of off white color and two strands of dark green.  So when I dye it, the lighter colored strands will pick up most of the colors. But before I can color the yarn, I have to take the sweater apart.  

 And here it is... This is the deconstructed yarn from that section of sweater. 

Next, we'll need to prep the yarn for coloring.  Fill the kitchen sink (or bathroom's or just a bucket) with lukewarm water and stir in a bit of shampoo.  Soak the skein of yarn in the water, taking care that the yarn is completely submerged and all the air bubbles are released.  Stir the yarn around a little bit and lightly wash the yarn.  However, DON'T WORK THE YARN TOO MUCH!!! The yarn will felt together if it's over worked.  

Now, we'll make the color solution.  In a non-aluminium pot, put enough water to submerge the yarn.  For every 2 quarts of water you put in, add half a cup of vinegar (if you're going the food coloring route).  At this point you might be wondering why I putting in vinegar to dye yarn.  The reason is that the acid sets the color.  You can also use lemon juice if you don't like the smell of vinegar.  If you're going the Kool-aid route, then you don't need any acid since there are already enough of that in each packet.  However, do make sure that you use the the non-sweetened, non-carbonated kind (basically the cheapest kind you can find).  Then comes the colors!!!! Mix your food coloring in a glass (you can also use Wilton's Icing Color because there is a wider color selection) and dump it in the pot.  With Kool-aid, just directly dissolve the packets in the pot.  (Side note: you can experiment with the colors by combining these two different methods.  If you add Kool-aid, you can forgo the vinegar.) Make sure the colors are even distributed in the pot.  Then put in the yarn, completely submerging it in the solution.  Let it just sit there for 5 min or before turning on the heat.  

So now turned on the heat to medium low.  You want the solution to be hot, but not boiling.  Easiest way to tell when the water is at the right temp is when you see a bit of steam coming up from the pot.  It is REALLY REALLY important that the water is not boiling because 1) the wool will felt and 2) you might burn the yarn that's sitting at the very bottom.  Check on your yarn every 20 mins or so.  The yarn has absorbed all the color when the water turns clear.  After the water turns clear, turn off the heat and let it cool off.  Do NOT immediately take out the yarn to rinse.  The sudden change of temperature will felt the yarn.  So let it cool off before rinsing the yarn.  

Not sure if you can tell, but the water has turned clear and the yarn is dyed.

Then take the COOLED OFF yarn and rinse it in lukewarm water.  If the yarn is feeling kinda scratchy, add a bit of hair conditioner in your rinse and rinse again in clean water.  Then squeeze, not wring, the excess water and hang it to dry.  

As you can see, here are two colors that I was working on today.  The darker strands of the original yarn and the newly dyed lighter colored yarn has a nice contrast.  I'm loving the transformation from that dark drabby green to these two bright colors.  Only if I knew what to make with them... 

Here are some mistakes that I made when I tried out this method.  So please learn from them and may your first skein of awesomely dyed yarn be awesome!

  • If you don't put enough colors in, the end result may come out splotchy.  
  • When tying the skeins of yarn together, don't do it too tightly because you will end up with a tie-dyed effect... 
  • You might want to wear an old or dark colored shirt because you will splash colored water on yourself... 
  • If you splashed some of the colored water on the floor or counter, clean it up before it dries; it just might stain if you don't


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