Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kool-Aid Dyeing the Microwave Way Pt. 1

I spent the Holiday Monday dyeing some yarn that I've meaning to do for ages with Kool-Aid, for the Urban Mittens - so I decided why not take pics of my progress and do a tutorial-type post.

By the way Kool-aid isn't available in the UK [probably due to all the mean chemicals] but if you have an American friend they should be able to send you some.

(Also - this tute is in 4 posts as Blogger would never let me upload so many pics into one post - plus they would be out of order)

1. The yarn - I'm using Jaeger Matchmaker Merino Aran in Cream. It's a discontinued yarn, but any animal-based yarn will dye. Acrylic won't dye, but acrylic-blends might produce some interesting results ... I found that merino makes a much more vibrant 'glossy' yarn - Coarser 100% wool tends to make a more matt result.

2. Prepping the yarn - I halved the balls into 25g each - the microwave is better for smaller batches of dyeing. I used a bookshelf to wrap the yarn around and left the ball end in the kitchen scales while I wrapped until it read 25g, then I snipped and wound the rest!

It's very therapeutic sitting on the floor wrapping wool around a shelf clamped between your knees! I developed an interesting rocking motion that felt quite meditative (but probably didn't look that way!).

Then I tied the tops and placed them in a basin of warm-hot water for at least 20 minutes - during which time you can begin preparing the Kool-Aid!

Kool-Aid Dyeing Pt. 2

3. Preparing the Kool-Aid - some websites are very exact about this, but honestly - if you put a little too much vinegar, water, Kool-Aid etc it's still going to be OK!

I put 2 Kool-Aids in a pint glass and used a smaller glass (maybe third of the size of a pint glass) to add 1/3 glass of white vinegar and 1 full glass of warm water to the pint glass. This would make vibrant 'hot' shades.

If you wanted a more pastel effect I would go with 1 Kool-Aid packet to the same vinegar/water mix.

If you want the same vibrancy but a lighter tone than dilute with futher water and a splash more vinegar.

Some websites state there being no need for vinegar as the Kool-Aid has acid in it. As I can find no definitive answer, I figure that adding vinegar when it maybe wasn't necessary is less of a catastrophe than not adding vinegar and having the dye all run out in the first handwash as it hasn't set right... Experiment! See what happens!

4. Painting the yarn. Lay the yarn in a mocrowave friendly dish and pour the glasses of dye over it (or use a baster-type implement for more precision) I just poured - the dye tends to 'stick' straight away to the yarn, so there is little running of colours (unless you shuggle the dish or something).

Use the back of a wooden spoon to press the colour in, and pour more on if necessary. The image above (plus the top image) are to give an idea of how much to pour in - until the yarn is soaking and still sticking out of the water a wee bit. I don't know how clear my pics are in illustrating this though.

5. Dye me! Cover with cling film and pierce with a fork a few times. Bung in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and lift cling film (be careful - extremely hot steam escapes) if water is clear when you move the yarn with the wooden spoon then you are done! If not then let it sit for 2 minutes and cover and put back in for 2 minutes. Repeat until done.

Some websites say this process takes about 8 minutes, but mine was 2-4 minutes of microwave zapping - I have an 800W microwave.

If you take it out after 2 minutes and see bits where the dye hasn't taken very well then just pour more dye on and bung it in again! (This method is for variegated yarn dyeing only)

Kool-Aid dyeing Pt. 3

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

So Blogger is totally not playing with the order of the pics ...

6. Out of the microwave (Figure C) - once the water is clear tip it into the sink and leave to cool whilst dyeing the next lot. Once the next lot is ready the 'sink yarn' should be cool enough to pick up and place on a plastic bag around the edge of the sink.

The reason for this method is to prevent felting - all the instructions I read talked about rinsing yarn in water the same temperature as the yarn. I have taps that run cold for a bit, then go roasting, then warm ... too many temperature variations could cause felting. I decided that cooling the yarn off then rinsing it in cool/lukewarm water in a basin was the safest way to go.

If you can get a consistent temperature then put the yarn in the sink and rinse by running the (same temperature as the yarn) tap water down the side of the sink and through the yarn. Don't allow the water to run directly on the yarn in case of felting.

PS - don't use ASDA bags because the ink transfers onto the sink surface and it'll take ages to scrub the writing off the sink and side!

7. (Figure A) ... finish scrubbing ASDA transfer off sink and lay yarn on draining board to rinse. Rinse in cool water (check yarn is cold to touch) - you could wash yarn at this point too.

I'm going to knit it up then wash it before blocking - the lazy knitter route!

8. Dry (Figure B) Hang out on the line to dry in the sun - or if you live in Glasgow (where it never stops bloody raining) hang on a drying frame indoors with a towel underneath. Mine took about 48 hours to dry.

Kool-Aid Dyeing Pt. 4

Et Voila!
"Oh I love my ball winder,
my ball winder,
my ball winder.

Oh I love my ball winder,
It is utterly great!"

That's my little song cos there's not much else to say in this final post, except to look at the Kool-Aid dyed loveliness and try and resist starting another WIP until I get the current mountain of WIPs at least a little bit under control.

To make me feel better - are there any readers out there who have a bigger WIP progress bar than me? Or am I utterly lacking in the ability to finish anything?

I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed making this little tutorial :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My week

Finally Blogger has let me upload some pics! Above - I took a trip to HK Edinburgh at the weekend and came out with some purple Noro Silk Garden, some more Clover stitch holders and some Addi Turbos. I think I very restrained (because I was rushing as the boy was parked on double yellows in the next street)

HK Edinburgh was a really nice shop. What did it have that you can't get in K1 Yarns or Glasgow John Lewis?

Well...there was lots of Lana Grossa yarns, which I was really excited about. They were mostly man-made yarns, or man-made blends which didn't interest me much, but it was nice to see something new and different. There was also some lovely Louisa Harding yarns and lots of (Lana Grossa mostly) sock yarns through in the next room. Tonnes of books and magazines that were interesting.

They had some coloured aluminium needles in straights, dpns and circs which were so cool and they had made up the Rowan Tapestry scarf from this months Simply Knitting, which looked great.

The only disappointment I felt was that the prices of the yarns were all on A4 printouts at the end of the shelves. It would have been preferable to have them on the shelves under the balls, rather than having a to-and-fro to find out the costs - a small gripe, but when the shop gets busier people are having to squeeze past each other to check prices ...

My baking this week - Family Apple Pie from "The Beginnner's Cookbook" (I couldn't find it on Amazon to add a link) made entirely from scratch - pastry and all! It is delicious - the apples are from the boy's grand-parent's apple trees so I feel all Martha Stewart this week.

Especially as I had a huge Kool-Aid dyeing day on the holiday Monday (photos and tutorial to follow). A picture of a slice of the pie is at the bottom (as Blogger will not let me decide the order of my pics!)

Kathleen has mentioned that along with Cupcakes Galore there is also Cookies Galore - I think this may be my next purchase! Her Citrus Cream Stars look delish!

And finally, swap shop last night at the Glasgow SnB meet. I got some blue wool from Lilith and some fantastic 80s Vogue Knitting mags in exchange for some of my duplicate circs - they are so cool and include features like:

An intarsia Joker playing-card jumper
Matching outfits for child and Cabbage Patch dolls
A pattern for knitting a pair of socks at the same time - one inside the other!
An Elizabeth Zimmerman article
Some simply fabulous advertising, including a woman wearing a jumper in a pool all seductive and wet illustrating the brilliance of superwash wool. Who was the advert directed at exactly?

Another advert with the tagline "You haven't seen yardage like this since OJ Simpson : Nuturespun yarns"

And of course truely wonderful patterns - a lot are unwearable, however with a little adjustment could make fabby retro bags or purses.

It's quite interesting reading a magazine with no reference to the internet - the adverts request that people send in self-addressed envelopes with cheques to see the samples of their yarn - there was no other way for people to discover new yarns outside of their LYS than this. Now of course, we have the internet which is flooded with yarns, plus other people's opinion of how they knit up via blogs, forums etc.

I never realised how much I took the internet for granted - even if the site isn't an online shop, it is at least an information point for stockists of the makers yarns and a showcase for their prodcuts.

I love these mags! Lookout for the Joker playing card jumper coming your way!!


Monday, September 18, 2006

My weekend

A pretty pic taken on the way back from Inverness to Glasgow - I put my green-tinted sunglasses over the camera lense for more atmosphere [yes I was a bored passenger...] - pretty, no?

Oops... I fell into K1 Yarns and stumbled over the Twilley's Freedom Spirit. Am gauging for a pair of arm-warmers. I had a nano-second of sensibility over the current mountain of WIPs and settled for only 2 balls realising that I couldn't create another heavy-duty WIP with only two balls...

It's knitting up with a nice colour-change at the moment, although the yarn isn't very tightly spun so the stitches have a tendency to merge into each other as they 'spread out' over the needle.

Another summit-type shot - it broke the monotony of arguing over whose iPod was better [mine obviously!] to try and take photos with a camera with dead batteries. (Take batteries out, rub vigorously in hair to create static - camera operates for a further one photo. Repeat)

It's easier to win the iPod fight as a passenger by the way.

And finally, huge thanks to everyone who helped me with the arm-hole measuring problem [and also to Kathleen for the pocket-shaping problem - I can't face frogging back those 4 rows just yet!]

I even had an email of help from the Central Park Hoodie designer herself - Heather Lodinsky - a knitty celebrity!

It was obvious once everyone enlightened me of course - but for anyone out there who doesn't know how to measure an arm hole [nope? just me then?] - you measure straight up from the cast-off edge to the needle. Either by placing a needle across from cast-off end to cast-off end for guaranteed straightness, or by measuring from cast-off 'tip' straight up to needle.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Problems, problems

This week I've been working on "Under the Hoodie" and "Central Park Hoodie" - and I've hit a bit of a snag with both ....

OK - Central Park Hoodie - see my hand-drawn diagram below [click on the image to open a larger image, then click the image enlarge symbol appears in the bottom right hand corner]

The pattern calls for me to "work even in pattern until the armhole measures 8 inches" So do I:
a) measure from the edge of the piece (where the first cast-offs for the armholes began) 'as the crow flies' to the edge or,
b) curve the measuring tape around the armhole and measure this way?

My instinct is a) - am I right? The last thing I made armholes for (Bella - still a WIP) I just guessed...


And the 2nd problem : Under the Hoodie - shaping the pocket.

Those who know me and were at Tuesday's Stitch n' Bitch will know how proud I was of the ability to pick up the stitches for the pocket - thanks to Kathleen's help. Trust me, this was no easy feat - we're not talking just sliding the needle through the stitches of a knit fabric - there was more! Anyway - enough of that! My problem:

"Border Pattern for pocket (worked over 5 stitches)
WS rows: (K1, P1) 2 times, K1
RS rows: K.

Shape Pocket
Rows 1 and 3 (RS): Work 5 border sts, ssk, work [knit] to last 7 sts, k2tog, work 5 border sts.
Rows 2, 4, 6 (WS): P across, working first and last 5 sts in border pattern.
Row 5 (RS): Knit"

I'm 4 rows into shaping the pocket and I think I've done it wrong. For the RS rows 1 and 3 should I just be knitting 5 sts for the border stitches because that's what the border pattern RS row calls for?

Or should I be doing (P1, K1) 2 time, P1 because thats the border pattern in reverse? Surely they would have just put k5 if that was what the pattern meant?

Whadda been simpler to do that ... wouldn't it?

Anyways - can anyone that can clarify? Pretty please? It's wretched getting reined in by a pattern when I was galloping along.

Just as I was typing this post I got an email from Katharine at K1 Yarns - I need to go there ASAP! She has new stock including Freedom Spirit - I've been waiting for this to arrive plus new Noro colours! mmmm.... come on boy - pick me up from work so that I have time to get there before she closes at 6.30!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

My first cupcakes in a while: Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes from Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman.

These are quite nice - but I've had better. The 'cream' bit involved constant stirring of mix in glass bowl over pan of simmering water again ...

It went little better this time. Instructions were to stir/cook until mix boils.

First the water evaporated ... much later [like 45 mins] ... I'm starting to lose it a little and overfill pan with more boiling water. Placing bowl in pan causes the water to rise over the pan, extinguishing the flame with loud 'hissy fit' noise.

I get water level right and place pan lid over bowl to try and encourage mix to boil.

Screams of "WHY WON'T YOU JUST [insert expletive here] BOIL!!!!" can be heard from a lower cottage flat in King's Park...

an hour of stirring ... "You are going to [insert stronger expletive here] boil!!!" ... I angrily spoon mix out of bowl and into a pan. Turn heat up full and glare at custard.

It wilts with fear and boils.

Tastes like semolina *sigh* am scraping mine out of my cakes.

The rest is delicious.

I won't be making this [or any other 'stir in bowl over simmering water' recipies] again.

Why is cupcake making fun again?

Friday, September 08, 2006


Progress on the Under the Hoodie [from Stitch n Bitch] and Central Park Hoodie [from Knitscene - Fall 2006]. I haven't got particularly far with either this week however I will be motoring on as from tomorrow.

Other news to fill the post - The Dulaan Project to which I donated some hats earlier this year has been extended to become an annual event.

The blog of the organiser of the Dulaan Project [which has a post about her meeting with the Yarn Harlot! amongst other topics] states that 12,085 items were received for the 2006 collection. 7,567 more than their goal - whoop! I love hearing when knitters give their all to their chosen charities.

A finished item ...

Garter stitch scarf with Colinette Peach & Cream Point 5 from Woolfest - added a little pocket with the left-over yarn.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My weekend

My weekend - well, I finished my tension square and had too many stitches to the inch again, however washing and blocking seemed to fix the problem. I am knitting one size up just in case. Thanks to India and Sue for their cable chart reading help. Even with India's helpful arrows added to my pattern I still managed to arse up the cables in the centre by reading the chart left to right instead of right to left.

As you can see from above I did try and drop the stitches to pick them up and again and fix the cable. And I got it as well - I managed to fix the cable and start moving back up again. But the stitches were uneven and, although I figured I could probably do some tinking with a crochet hook, the whole process was so painfully slow that in the end I just frogged back to the end of the ribbing *sigh*

I also bought Vogue Knitting and Knitsimple from K1 Yarns on Saturday - it's all about the cable this season so I guess I better get my chart reading up to scratch!

On Friday Robbie Williams was playing at Hampden Stadium, which we live next to ... So in the huge tailback of traffic we were stuck in on the way home on Friday I snapped this pic.

This is the 'cowboy' responsible for adorning the heads of many middle-aged & teen-aged women with ridiculous pink cowboy hats. It is a useful method of separating the residents of King's Park from the visitors though ...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Central Park and Kittens

The cutest t-shirt from Threadless entitled: Ambition Killed the Cat. Love it! A pressie from the boy.

And my Cascade 220 arrived from Get Knitted - I tried to take the most colour-true photo. It's a lovely yarn - really cleans up stitches and makes everything 'shop-bought' neat. It's a bit 'sticky' though - I had a bit of a tangle get it wound with the ball winder.

So I'm starting my tension square like a good little knitter and reading about other people's progress on the KAL [plus trying to find out about any pattern mistakes in advance, cos I think frogging this yarn maybe wouldn't be very joyful...]

Other knitting news; I've been carrying on with my hoodie, and also bought the latest Interweave Knits plus the Central Park Hoodie circs from K1 Yarns. Lots of exciting things coming into the shop soon - yay!

And a moth got in, so we all set about trying to smash it to death with rolled-up Knitscenes! It was allowed to live as it managed to escape out of the door and away from the crazy screaming knitters ...