Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stripey Goodness

Oh yes... another sock blank.  I took the plunge and tried a slightly different dyeing technique than my first sock blank I blogged about here.  This time I knit my double stranded sock blank (using my knitting machine) approximately 90 stitches wide (instead of 60) and added a turquoise blue stripe all down one side.  The other 2/3 of the blank was dyed in various shades of pink and lilac.

I also decided that I didn't want to knit straight from the blank, so I placed two chair backs on either side of my blank, and reskeined both strands of yarn at the same time to avoid tangling.  It worked out very well, and I only had to let the blank dangle a couple times to avoid excessive twisting. 

I wound both skeins into center pull balls using my swift and ball winder, and then cast on for 2-at-a-time Magic Loop socks (64 stitches on size 1 needles).  I used the AfterThought Heel Socks by Laura Linneman pattern, and ended up with these beauties!

I love, love, love the way that the blue is carried as stripes through the whole of the sock, as well as the gradual shifting of the pink stripes to the purple.  It is so much fun to see how the blank will knit up after it is dyed that it is hard to put these down!  Here they are again modeled by my lovely daughter.

Next on the docket?  I'm thinking RAINBOW socks... dyed blank style!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From Blank to Sock....

Look what I got :)  A new-to-me knitting machine!!  After a couple days of threading it wrong, and messing with the tension, and watching countless YouTube videos, I finally managed to knit up a two-stranded sock blank with some Cascade Heritage sock yarn.  I weighed the skein, and cut it into 2 identical balls, and just knit the two of them together at the lowest tension I could get away with.  This particular blank is 60 stitches wide, and I just knit until I ran out of yarn (took about 15 minutes, start to finish).  The red yarn is some waste acrylic to keep my live stitches from unravelling until I was ready.

Why am I so excited about a 2-stranded sock blank, you ask?  Oh.... because I wanted to use some of THIS!  Oh yes... let the dyeing COMMENCE!

Here's the whole process!  I soaked my blank in a mixture of tepid water and vinegar for about 3 hours (while I put all the kiddos down for nightime, lol).

While it was soaking, I mixed up my dye solutions in some small squirt bottles.  I used Wilton's icing gels for the color, and added a small amount of brown to each base color to deepen the undertones.  When I had my dye solutions prepared, I prepped my work surface by laying out several large white plastic bags, and then stretched a large piece of plastic wrap and layed out my blank (after spinning it in my salad spinner to remove excess water).  Then, THE FUN PART!  Using foam brushes, I painted on my chosen colors in chevron shapes (this helps the colors to blend as you are knitting).  To avoid white/uncolored spots in the yarn, it helps to stretch the blank slightly to get in between stitches, and also to mop up excess liquid to keep the colors from running/bleeding too much and becoming muddy. 
Once my design was complete, I used an old towel to mop up any leftover liquid (although, because I was using superwash yarn soaked in vinegar, all of my leftover liquid was clear as the dye was all in the blank).  Then, I wrapped my blank with the plastic wrap to make it into a tube, and coiled it into a into a tidy little package. To set the color, bring 2" of water to a simmer in a large pot with a vegetable steamer (or in my case, a piece of aluminum foil with holes poked in it) in order to keep your sock blank out of the water. Place your plastic-wrapped sock blank bundle in the rack and steam it for 30 minutes, timing from when the water reaches a boil. (I did have a lid on the pot, but took it off for photographs in the picture below)

After steaming for 30 minutes, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat.  At this point, you should let the sock blank cool in its plastic wrapping right in the pot.  If you open the hot plastic wrap before it has had a chance to cool down, you could get a steam burn (and those REALLY hurt). If you are like me, and want to cool your bundle a little more quickly, you can add it (still wrapped) to a bath of tepid water, and wait for it to cool.  At this point, open the plastic wrap and remove the sock blank in order to rinse it with lukewarm water until the water runs clear. I like to wrap my rinsed sock blank in a towel and then step on it to remove excess water, but you can also use a salad spinner, or your washing machine’s spin cycle to spin the remaining water out of the blank. Place your sock blank on a hanger and allow it to air dry. (It is best to do this over a towel, because water will wick to the bottom of the blank and drip off).
When your blank is dry, you can knit socks 2-at-a-time (I prefer top-down magic loop) directly from your blank:

And then be prepared for it to be hard to put this project down as you keep telling yourself, "Just one more color.....".  It really is quite fun to see the design unfold!  Here are my finished socks (with my first afterthought heel, nontheless, as I was trying to preserve the color striping -- I used
this tutorial by the KnitGirrrls)

I've got several more blanks waiting to be knit up, and I will be sure to share those as well!  Hope you enjoy dyeing some blanks of your own!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Around and Around We Go

I must say that Day 3 of learning to spin on my new drop spindle was much easier (and WAY more productive) than Days 1 or 2, lol!  Even though I still ended up with a heavy worsted/light bulky weight yarn; it was something I could live with.  The very helpful man at Pacific Wool and Fiber suggested I start out with some Corriedale Cross Wool Top  (which was very affordable at about $9.00 for 8 oz), and after fiddling around and watching YouTube videos for a couple days, I was able to successfully take this:

To a couple 100 yard balls of these singles:

And then ply them together with my spindle into 100 yards of this; my very first handspun!

I got about 11 wraps per inch, indicating that is most likely a heavy worsted or a light bulky... but what to make out of this precious yarn?  Well, first it needed a bath through the dyepot to turn it into this:

and now it screams "HAT" at me... I'm thinking this one (free on Ravelry):

Man Hat Pattern by Haven Leavitt

And now, a couple weeks later, we have, "The Not So Manly Hat" modeled by my lovely recipient :)