Category Archives: Dyeing

Where do you indulge?

KnitCroBlo Day 5: Where do you like to indulge in your craft?

Since I am generally designing while I knit, I must have at least a piece of paper and pencil handy….but often times my laptop, too. I’m hugely into charting when designing for visual simplicity and ease of error checking (via KnitVisualizer) so it’s nice to have the computer around for quick changes. Practically speaking, I always knit at home and I’m either sitting at my kitchen table or on my couch. I try to save the majority of my design time for when my kiddos are in bed. Theoretically this allows me to concentrate and make fewer mistakes. But it didn’t stop me from ripping out the instep of my newest (and still TOP SECRET) sock design 5 times last week.

I have knitting/designing/dyeing stuff in various places throughout the house, so you’ll find me doing yarn related things in the kitchen, spare bedroom/storage space and basement. These yarn related activities are usually not knitting, but generally dyeing, packaging, yarn prep, yarn washing, and business related etc.

It’s a good thing we have a pretty big house.



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Pretty Poppies Socks

I’m back from Sock Summit and sort of almost recovered from the insanity that is planning, working and cleaning up after a retail yarn show. It was great to meet lots of you at the Summit, and you know I always enjoy the yarn show – even if I don’t sleep for a month!

So I’m in just a bit of a holding pattern after the show, while I wait for a large order of base yarn to come in. After being in such a wonderfully chaotic, creative environment, it’s hard not to design something new. So currently on my needles I have my Pretty Poppies socks.

1/2 way up the foot on the first sock

1/2 way up the foot on the first sock

The idea is that the flower grows out of the toe, up the foot and finally blooms on the leg. Yarn is: Yarn Love’s Diana in Violet Vale (Background color: non repeating, medium saturated purple, semi solid) and Scarlett O’Hara in Ancient Forest (Accent color: non repeating, moderately saturated green, semi solid). The flower will of course be another color, but I haven’t quite decided what color I’ll choose. I’m leaning towards a new tri color that I dyed up for Sock Summit called Marigold. Notice the entire floral motif thing we’ve got going here?


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Remodelling on my mind

I just remodelled the blog. Yet again. I can’t find something I’m really in love with. I liked the last theme, but the single column was just too narrow. It made embedding pictures all weird and funky looking. The problem is I am not tech savvy and really don’t want to invest much time into redoing the blog. I do seem to be installing new design templates weekly, though, so I guess I am investing time in it.

Yesterday was full of new colorway creation. Above is the latest. More to follow. I have some lovely Nanner yarn to show you…right after I take pictures of it. You can’t really tell from the photos, but there’s a bit of bright aqua/teal in this colorway to give it some pop. I can’t show you that particular shade immediately as the ugly ties are still on the skein. I’ll post more pictures once things are re-skeined and spiffied up for their close up.


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The week (or slightly more) in review.

Storm from my front yardIt’s been busy around the Franceschi ranch this week. Lots of partying, dyeing, and storms. We’ve had storms and rain off and on all week resulting in very humid, sticky and oppressive conditions. Welcome to the wettest summer I can remember folks. Let me tell you it’s not so great for the hairstyling. Luckily, I have a new flat iron that’s keeping my 3″ tresses in shape!

dYEing – roving!

I’ve been dyeing my rear off this week. I managed to pull together a 20 pound roving order – which granted New Semi solid Yarn Love Colorsis a smaller order poundage wise, but considering it takes 3-4 times as long to dye roving as yarn means that I’m a genius of a workaholic. And it’s only Thursday. Not only that, but I’ve also been working up new semi-solid colorways for the Fall 2008 line. And I’m not talking one or two semi-solids, I’m talking a whole range. Right now, I have 9 colors that I’m happy with and are definitely in, but there are more colors that need attending to. Like red. And purple. And black. Red and purple and black are completely absent from the line up.

The nice thing about these semi solids is that their component colors are made up of colors that exactly match one or more multi-color colorways already in the line. So let’s say you want to knit a pair of socks for Aunt Marge – but she’s not so into the wild colors – and you happen to have 20 grams of Bloom leftover from a previous pair of socks. We’ll you’re in luck – you can either choose the melon colored semi solid or the light, spring green semi solid and tuck that leftover multi-color in for the toes and heels. Aunt Marge will love it so much you’ll make her will.  


ceLeBratIOn – our 4th

Katie on the 4thWe had a fun 4th. We started the day by taking all three kiddos to see Wall E. They really liked it – especially X. He’s into robots, currently. Yes, the last 30 minutes of the film, myself, my husband and all the seats in between us were his jungle gym, but all in all, it was a good outing. Promptly after the film, we adjourned to my parents for a very decadent lunch, followed by slip and sliding. I was in my suit because pushing three toddlers down the slip and slide water sprinkled slide for 3 hours tends to result in wet clothing. I even went down one of the slip and slides myself. (Don’t tell!) After the slip and sliding, it was home for a nap (only X slept) and then we did fireworks over at the cousin’s house. By the time we got to bed we were pretty well exhausted. It only took us three days to recover from the revelry.


X on the 4th

The Girlies on the 4th

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Facebook = Time sucker!

I have succumbed to peer pressure.

I sold out to the man.

I am having a blast on Facebook.

Yep, a week ago I didn’t care about Facebook. Yes, I knew what it was but had no desire to ever join or spend time looking for people I didn’t know I cared about until I met them on Facebook. You know the song and dance. Busy at home, busy with yarn, etc., etc., etc. Then my very good friend mentioned (On her way out the door to her Valentine’s day dinner. You know you’re good friends when you both are in great relationships and you have to get together before your respective romantic evenings for a quick chat.) that she and my brother in law were talking ABOUT ME on Facebook. About me!?!?! I mean who does that? If I wanted to see what they were saying, I could just join. So I told her goodbye, shut the door and joined.

It’s a time sucker. You sit down to check on your mystery growing plant, see if the egg your friend sent you has hatched into something cute, realize that you have several new and funny stickers to read, notice that 10 of your closest friends have been writing on your wall since you were last there, then remember that there were 3 new beers that needed to be added to your beer rating application and pretty soon you’re late for making dinner because the past 60 minutes were sucked into the black hole of Facebook. But did I mention that if you simply add the Beer! application you can see my rating and remarks on every beer I’ve ever drunk?

Stating that Facebook has sucked up my time this week and that I’ve not gotten anything else done is a complete lie. I have nearly finished up my calculations for the business’ tax numbers. (You know those ones you have to spend hours working on before handing them over to a professional.) The deal will be sealed as soon as I go through my account, debit, and credit card statements to categorize and total every expense for the entire, freaking year. Yes, that’s after I had to go through and verify that everything was an actual business expense and wasn’t the result of pulling the wrong one of 3 identical bank cards from my wallet at the time of purchase. I hate taxes. Freaking taxes. And don’t get me started on politics.

Crap. I got derailed. I was supposed to be talking about the 12 pounds of yarn I hand-painted Monday and Tuesday of this week in addition to all the tax number crunching, but the tax angst took over. So yes, I have dyed half of a smaller order headed for The Loopy Ewe in the past two days. My skeining gal is coming over this afternoon and on Friday to get it into shape for shipping. Hopefully the new swift will be here by Friday so she can work from home and get lots more yarn done up faster! We’ll see. I inadvertently ordered it from a place who are open all weekend but closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Well, crap! If I’d known that I wouldn’t have waited all weekend to place my order!!!!!! Ahem. Anyway. It won’t be here by Friday, but I really want it to be. It’s a Strauch. Expensive, but I’ve heard they’re amazing. I’ve simply worn out my other one from two years of constant use, so this will be a nice upgrade (That I’ll never see or use!).

Sweet Sheri SocksThe Sweet Sheri socks are finished, except for weaving in the ends. I’m going to try to get that done today so they can go into the mail and be to St. Louis by the 28th. That’s Sheri’s actual birthday. Yay for birthday socks! I still think there’s way too much light green/celedon in this colorway, but I have request upon request for this. If you like it, it’s going to be available exclusively at The Loopy Ewe and there are three pounds of this colorway in the next order.

The socks are a mutton of patterns. The instep is the Jaywalker chevron, slightly modified to fit my stitch count. The sole is 2 X 2 ribbing for a nice fit. The heel is a garter stitch short row, and the cuff is Estonian Button stitch topped off with a decent cap of ribbing. I was attempting to do plain stockinette stitch instep and sole, and I couldn’t do it. I got 5 rounds past the short row of the first toe before deciding that this just wasn’t working out. I hope they fit. Most always, I work my socks toe up and knit until they fit and then turn the heel and do the cuff. The second sock is either knit at the same time or I count rows to copy…… It’s so nerve wracking to knit for someone else! I have relatively skinny, long feet and Sheri’s socks are just so much bigger than mine…..I hope I haven’t inadvertently knit GINORMOUS socks that are even too big for her. I swatched. I swatched! Swatched for socks people, and then double checked the stitch calculations based on measurements provided and then made them a hair smaller for the perfect fit. And they still look big.

I always do this. I’m completely convinced that the gift I’ve just knitted is wrong in every way and then have giving anxiety until I know otherwise. Sigh. Only with handmade gifts…..which I generally spend a lot of time planning out so that they’re sheer perfection for the giftee. Oi. I’ve got to go weave in ends before I talk myself out of sending them. (No, it’s not because I’m keeping them for myself because they’re an inch too long for my feet!)

Sweet Sheri in progress

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In which Katie dyes fiber.

Fiber is a funny animal and requires special handling. Don’t treat it like yarn or it will come back to haunt you.

 1.) Measure out 4 ounces of roving. I do this by gently pulling fiber off the large bump, and wrapping it from hand to elbow 5-7 times. Then I gently twist and tuck this “skein” onto itself and weigh it. Adjust as necessary and pull apart. Don’t use a death grip when you pull or you’ll break the individual fibers.

2.) Wind a ridiculously small skein. There should be at least 4 “strands” of roving around the entire skein. I find that anything less than 3 strands causes to roving to fall apart under the weight of water when you remove it from it’s pre-soak. The skein pictured has 6 strands, and was hand skeined on my swift. You can see the small swift setting here:

3.) Secure the ends. Snip a longish piece of yarn for your tie. Wrap it a couple inches from one end and figure eight tie it. Secure the second end. Tie your figure 8 wraps fairly tightly – much more tightly than for yarn. The roving compressed dramatically when wet and loose ties won’t contain it. It will allow too much movement and your roving will shred during processing even if you’re careful.

 4.) Pre-wet. Fill your sink or bucket. Use your hand to swirl in a generous amount of soap, but don’t create bubbles. Roving is not as processed as yarn, so be prepared to see a bit more dirt and lanolin in your water.

Place the roving on top of the water, and using both hands press the mass entirely to the bottom and hold for 5-10 seconds or until air bubbles stop rising from the surface. Repeat until the roving is wet, try to do this as little as possible.

After the roving is completely wet, drain the water from the bottom. This is the gentlest way to remove the bulk of the water.

5.) Pick up an individual skein by a tie and hang it until the excess water has drained. I park mine over my sink faucet while I mix colors.


6.) Dye. There are several ways you can dye the fiber. You’ll use more dye liquor with roving than with yarn. The super-wash makes it very sticky and the dye tends to take unevenly. I get around this in two ways:

 1.) I mix acid into the dye solution, but apply the dye while the skein is in a roasting pan. Don’t bunch the skein up too much or dye won’t penetrate the layers. Flip and continue dyeing. If you see a large amount of watery dye build up, drain the pan. The more  fiber you have in the pan the less draining you will do. Be aware that draining can cause color mixing and use caution. Stick the roasting pan into a warm oven and exhaust for 30 minutes.

2.) Do not mix acid into your dye liquor. Apply the dye like you would for a normal skein of yarn to the top side of the roving. Flip. Pour a mixture of acid and water over the undyed part of the skein and press through. Continue applying dye to this side of the skein. Press out excess water, wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to a warm oven.

7.) Hang to dry and only use a gentle fan. My box fans set to high will shred the roving as it dries. I hang my skeins on folding drying rack with opened paperclips and the figure 8 ties. This works the best of anything I’ve tried and reduces drying time. I do rotate the skeins to help even out the water accumulation.

 General things to keep in mind:

* Leave space between colors. Dye wicks considerably more on roving than yarn. Also, colors mix a lot while spinning. I leave a 1″ space between the colors when dyeing. A lot of this space will be eliminated by the time the roving finished exhausting.

* Handle the roving as little as possible. When you pull it from it’s water bath, use your hands and not gloves. Rubber gloves tend to shred the roving.

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Hi, I’m your designated dyer this evening.

Hand painted Yarn Love rovingI’ve been a busy girl lately. Lots of spinning in the evening going on. Spinning is so wonderfully relaxing, and zen-ish for me. It’s even better than knitting in the sense that it’s less complicated. It’s a wonderful craft to have when you’re still really busy in the post-Christmas rush. I’ve been spinning so much that I’m out spinning my ability to knit. That might not be that hard for some spinners, but I’m pretty slow. That and I’m spinning two ply fingering weight, so that’s some serious singles yardage. Not nearly as much as a Navajo plied fingering weight, but still pretty good.

 I’ve also been dyeing up some roving…..which I’m then spinning and plying. I’m hoping that the roving Cherub - roving from Yarn Lovewill go out as samples to our retailers and can be another Yarn Love goody that easily found. Roving has always been in my thoughts for Yarn Love (Notice how our tag line says “fibers” and not “yarn”.) but until recently, our retailers have not carried roving as a product. So I’m busy dyeing up a variety of rovings, and then spinning them up so that I can wow the vendors with a cute package of roving samples and accompanying hand spun yarn. I think that will offer them a good way to visualize how the fiber spins up, and what they can expect from the yarn, post spin.

 India Spice singles on my Jensen bobbinMy main wheel is a Jensen Tina II. She’s my first wheel, and I just can’t get past how wonderfully she spins. I’ve had her since I was a sophomore in High School. I sold my French horn and worked many hours at the local McDonald’s to save money for her. Then my dad taught me how to stain, and I stained and finished the cherry wood myself. I feel a deep sense of personal connection to this weel. There’s something so rewarding about saving up for a beautiful tool that you can invest yourself in and reap many years worth of satisfaction from. Plus, she’s amazingly beautiful. What I consider a kind of fairy tale wheel. I know the more ornate style isn’t appreciated by everyone, but I love her just the way she is. Plus, now that the original wheel maker has retired, she’s probably gone up in value…..not that I could get rid of her in the foreseeable future…

India Spice roving from Yarn Love Up for your perusal: Amy March roving in (brand spanking new!) colorways of India Spice and Cherub. The India Spice might have to be renamed before going into the catalog to better reflect the romantic nature of the company, but that’s what the singles reminded me as I spun them. You can see the difference in color blending between the original roving and the singles. The singles all seem to be steeped in tea – deep, rich colors with a sepia tone to them. I haven’t spun up the Cherub, but that’s definitely next.

Amy March is a medium-fine wool fiber with a great staple length. A great choice for a  newer spinner and certainly a very rewarded spin for a more advance spinner. She’s super-wash treated, so easy care is an added bonus.Spring Morning hand spun yarn

The yarn cake and sock is Spring Morning, super-wash merino spun up into a light sport weight sock yarn. It was originally intended to be fingering weight, but the fiber is so fluffy that it really increased in size when I plied it. I might actually have to take this sock out and redo it, as it’s a bit stiff. Plus, the toe yarn has some very pink parts to it, and that’s what I intended to have for the contrast instead of a marled pink/burgundy. It’s not exciting me. What’s a few hours of knitting frogged between friends, anyway.

 More pictures soon. I have a pair of Valentine’s themed socks to show you, knit from hand-spun but they’re still wet and currently un-photogenic.

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