February 19, 2014

Victorian (ish) Knee Socks

I need a pair of proper stockings to wear at the heritage village when I'm working there.  It's not that anyone ever sees my stockings but having some of the little costume details, does help me to get the right feeling to start the day on site. I'd been looking for knitted stocking patterns online. I 'd found lots of photos of extant socks and stockings, mainly cotton or silk and machine knit.  Finally, after who knows how long of wandering aimlessly amongst pictures and patterns online,  I found  Digital Resources from the Knitting Reference Library .  Who knew there was  Knitting Reference Library or that it was on line?

There are all sorts of 19th C. downloadable books on knitting, crochet and needlework.    On my first visit there, I found the 1865 edition of Miss E. Ryder's booklet "How to Knit Stockings" : this packet contains general rules for knitting stockings, ladies' ribbed stockings, gentlemen's knickerbocker stockings, boys stockings.    The pages within, give guidelines for knitting socks and stockings.   It does refer to an earlier publication for details, but there was enough information for me to make an attempt.   I did some changes.  The original just calls for decreases down the centre back but I added a cable for interest.  A knee sock is a long sock and that is a lot of knitting.  Adding the cable, also added a bit of extra time, but it added enough interest to get through the plain ribbing from knee to ankle.   The original also states to use a 3 - 1 ribbing pattern, which was easy to do.

On a later visit to the Knitting Reference Library website, I found a copy of the first book, though published at a later date (1870), How to Knit socks:full and simple directions by which persons may teach themselves, also by Miss E. Ryder.  As well, there is The Stocking-Knitters Manual: a handy book for the worktable,  written by Mrs. Geo. Cupples, although I haven't set aside time yet to read this one.

Let me tell you that there sure is a lot of knitting in a knee sock!  It seems like it's taking forever.  I'm finally half done the foot of the first sock.  Phew...  At this rate, I might have them done by next Christmas. 

Sock yarn is Mary Maxim Simply Sock.  It was almost solid, the closest thing to black or brown that they had that wasn't over the top expensive for an experiment.   Hind sight being what it is, I now wish I'd bought a better brand of sock yarn as this has a few unevenly spun areas and just isn't horribly pleasing to knit with.  The finished sock is acceptably nice though, so I guess that's what really matters in the end. 

February 11, 2014

Kettle Dyeing, my way

To dye with weak acid dyes, those that are available commercially to home dyers, you need not only the dye, but salt and a weak acid.  Some dyes, like Gaywool, have the acid integrated with the colour.  While this is handy, you pay for the convenience of having it all in one little pot.    Salt is a leveling agent, to help the dyes strike completely.  However, you can't use too much it it works to retard the dye take up.  The weak acids used, like vinegar or citric acid, are fixatives, which drop the ph needed for the dyes to work  on protein fibres.   Dharma has a good page on the chemical whys of acid dyes.  For simplicity, I used vinegar in this dye pot, because it's easily and cheaply available in grocery stores. 

50 mls of household white vinegar
To start with you need to do the math.  You first need the weight of fibre or goods (WOG) that you wish to dye.    Salt is used at 20% of the weight of the fibre (WOG) you'll be dyeing and regular grocery store vinegar (5%/volume) is used at 33% WOG.

The math is -
 WOG x .2 = grams of salt to be used
                            150 x .2 = 30 grams of salt
 WOG x .33 = mls of vinegar to be used
                             150 x .33 = 49. 5 rounded up to 50 mls vinegar

You can be really accurate with your measurements, using every day kitchen measuring tools.    A tablespoon measure holds 15 mls.   I grabbed a measuring cup which holds 80 mls.  Half of it would be 40 mls and then I added 2 more teaspoons (5 mls each).  I weighed the salt on a scale. 

Fill a pot with water.  I like to start with lukewarm water.  Add the vinegar and salt.  Stir well so that the ingredients are combined and the salt dissolved.   

Take the previously weighed sliver and set it in the water to soak for about an hour.   This will aid in even dye take up.   You can gently press it into the water if necessary but avoid any stirring or agitation.  

While the fibre is soaking, if you need to, you can mix up your dye solution.  I used a 1% solution, which is 1 gram of dye/ 100 mls of water.  Follow the mixing instructions with your particular dyes.  Most dyes will dissolve more easily in hot water than cold, so keep that in mind.  Use appropriate safety measures too, like gloves, mask etc.

 When the fibre is soaked and ready to go, drizzle  the chosen dyes over the fibre.  You can measure
this accurately to be able to reproduce your results, or just pour a little over and keep your fingers crossed.   The colours will start to bleed together and blend.  I usually gently pressed  down on the fibres to help the colours reach the bottom of the pot.  It's not always necessary, but 150 grams of fibre is just a tad too much for this pot, so I like to gently help it along.  100 gms of fibre wouldn't have needed it, but I might have done it anyway, if it didn't mix the colours more than I wanted.

Set the pot on the stove, turn the stove on somewhere between low
and medium.  Add a thermometer.   Some care has to be taken here.  If you let the fibre boil, it will compact or possibly felt up.   However you need to keep the dye vat at 185°F or 85°C for an hour.  That means timing from when the pot gets to that temperature, not before.  This will make sure the acid dyes are as light and wash fast as they can be.   Even if the pot exhausts of colour before that hour is up, keep it cooking for the whole hour.  I then turn off the stove and I stick a lid on the pot and let it cool to room temperature, slowly.

No stirring, no rinsing before that fibre is cold.   Remember that felting is caused by temperature changes and/or agitation.   Once the fibre is cooled off, pour off as much water as you can, then put the fibre into a rinse bath of plain water, which is the same temperature of the fibre.   Do NOT squeeze, wring or agitate the fibre.    I use a cheap salad spinner to extract the water.  It doesn't seem to cause the fibre to compact like rolling it in a towel or squeezing it does.

Lay the fibre out to dry.  I like my laundry rack, which really is mainly used to dry fibre.  I lay a piece
of fibre glass window screen over it and then the fibre on top of it.  This way, air gets to all sides, but it can't be accessed by a certain young cat, who thinks that all fibre in the house should be his.

Note:  If you're after a solid, even colour, you'll have to gently turn the fibre in the pot once in a while at the beginning of the processes, to allow the dye to reach all crooks and crannies of the fibre evenly.  Since I wanted  some variation, I didn't do that.

February 09, 2014

Fresh Pots of Colour

  I was looking for a particular photo and came across several from last spring and summer, where the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the grass was green.  Remember green grass?  It seems like forever.  In a fit of pique and frustration, I grabbed the dye pot and  tossed in 100 grams of fibre, some blue and yellow dye, in an effort to get grass and sunshine on my fibre.

Two days ago, I found a whole pound of superwash Blue Faced Leicester blend which I bought last fall.  It was too white and snowy looking for me right then.  I divided it up into 3 sections of about 150 grams each.  These were the results of  Friday's 2 dyepots.  The icy blue one just screamed to be called Polar Vortex while the green is very much the shades of the first few freshly emerged leaves and grasses, in the spring.
I'll dye up the last lot later today or tomorrow.  Kettle dyeing is fast and fun, with often somewhat predictable, but once in a while, surprising results.

It was a great little break from the final stretch of spinning homework, which has been taking over my free time of late.

February 04, 2014

Blue skies and hoar frost

 Yesterday we had sunshine and blue sky, a rare sight in our area, which must be the grey sky capital of the winter world.

 Last night the temperature plummeted and this morning we had a few minutes of blue sky and hoar frost, making the world a sparkling wonderland.

 It was quickly burning off though and as it did the blue skies were waning.

Soon it was turning white though the sun is still shining.  Yet, a bit of sunshine is always appreciated.