Friday, September 30, 2016

Dyeing a Sock Blank

I started my dyeing ‘career’ by dyeing a double stranded sock blank with KoolAid.  That was enough to send me over the edge to another addiction.  Wow, how much fun and so very easy.  That was several years ago and I’ve since experimented with several techniques and have switched to using retail acid dyes rather than KoolAid and food grade colors such as food coloring, cake dyes, etc.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with dyeing with the food grade dyes and it led me into yet another craft.  I converted to retail acid dyes because our water apparently doesn’t have the right pH for food grade dyes to retain their brightness and color during laundry.  But don’t let my experiences stop you from the adventures of dyeing with food grade dyes.  Lately I got the urge to do a blank again and I’m very happy with it.  I’ve posted several other articles on my blog about other dyeing projects including blanks, mostly dyed in vertical or horizontal striping sequences, but I did want to expand more on dyeing this blank with diagonal striping.  So here’s what I did last week.
1.  I divided a 100 gram of bare sock yarn into 2 – 50 gram cakes and knit my blank with double strands at tension 7 on my KX350 midgauge machine.  I cast on 100 stitches and knit til I was out of yarn.  If you don’t have a knitting machine, knit with very large needles so the stitches will be loose enough to let the dye penetrate into all the crooks and crannies of the stitch.  I began and ended with about 6 rows of waste yarn.  This makes it easier to lay out and doesn’t have a tighter cast on and off edge for the dye to contend with.
2.  After I knit the blank, I put it to soak in the sink with tepid water and a couple squirts of Dawn dishwashing liquid.  I let the yarn sink into the water naturally and didn’t push it down into the water.  Pushing it down may trap air bubbles inside the yarn and create a resist for the dyes.  I let it sink into the water on its own and the air is released naturally as it sinks.  After the yarn sank into the water, after about 15 minutes I sozzled it around several times and then let it soak in clear water after I rinsed the suds out.  Let it soak for at least 30 minutes or more.  
3.   While my blank is soaking, I mixed up the dyes.  For this particular project, I wanted saturated colors so I mixed ¾ tsp of dye powder with 2 cups of water and 3T of white vinegar.  Citric acid may be used in place of vinegar if you don’t care for the smell of vinegar.  Mix dyes according to manufacturer’s directions and prepare the dyes using a dust mask and rubber gloves, preferably away from eating areas.   While measuring and mixing dyes, I lay down a couple of wet paper towels to catch any powder spills.  The wet towels keep the powder from dispersing into the air.  For this blank, I chose coordinating colors because I knew I would get some bleeding and didn’t want any weird colors in it.  Keep the color wheel in mind when choosing your dye colors.
4.   I prepared my dyeing surface by laying down a plastic painter’s drop cloth over my kitchen bar counter.  This will protect your work surface from puddles, drips and spills.  And trust me, you will have puddles, drips and spills.  I like to paint a blank on an absorbent surface such as an old rug or several layers of old towels.  I’ve found that an old rug absorbs excess water and keeps the color bleeding to a minimum. But if you want the colors to bleed, lay down several strips of plastic wrap large enough to hold the blank and don’t use an absorbent backing.   
5.  After I prepared my work surface, I squeezed out as much water from the yarn blank as I could with my hands.  Then wrapped it up in an old bath towel like a jelly roll and walked on it to remove remaining water.  The blank should be damp but not dry.  Then I laid the blank out on the rug, stretching it a bit in all directions so the stitches would open up nicely.  I prefer to paint with the purl side up but it’s your choice.  
6.  Let the painting begin.  I use little sponge brushes found in the paint or arts and crafts departments.  They are intended to be disposable but I’ve used them for several sessions after a good rinsing and drying.  Some use squeeze bottles like the kind you find ketchup in at eating places but I find I have much better control with a brush.  Paint by dipping the brush into the dye mix and dabbing it onto the yarn, don’t use a brushing motion as it will just fuzz up your yarn and won't get saturated.  Dabbing works best.  Saturate the yarn pretty well so you don’t see white spots anywhere.  Before I go to the next color, I blot up excess liquid with a couple sheets of paper towels.  Lay the paper towels on the dyed section and pat down with your hands.  If you dab with the towel, you’ll run the risk of contaminating other sections with that color.
7.  After you’re happy with your dyeing, flip the blank over and repeat painting on the other side.  I run a couple of long single pointed knitting needles through the waste yarn on one side of the blank, lift up by the needles and carefully lay it down on a clean rug so the colors don’t get contaminated with the others.  You’ll plainly see the areas that need another application of dye mix.  This second coating won’t take as much dye as the first side.  Again, lay paper towels down on your work and blot up the excess water.
8.  Cover the blank with sheets of plastic wrap, seal the seams and roll it up like a jelly roll.  Turn in the ends of the plastic wrap about halfway thru and finish rolling it up.  Wrap it up in another sheet of plastic wrap to make sure all openings are sealed up.  You don't want steam to come in direct contact with the yarn.

9.  I use a stainless steel mesh colander to hold the yarn roll, a hot plate and a pot with a couple inches of water in the bottom to steam the yarn. So I shape the roll into a circle and place it in my colander and onto my kettle.  If you were to use food grade dyes, you could do this in your kitchen or use the microwave to heat set but the retail acid dyes should be heat set in a well ventilated area, and not used with any utensil or appliance that will be used for food.  Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan and let simmer for at least 30-45 minutes.  I’ve been known to forget to set my timer so some of my jobs have steamed for over an hour, no problem.  Extra time gives some of the pesky colors a better opportunity to set.  Blues and reds can be kind of pesky.
10.  After steaming, let your blank cool before handling because it’ll be very hot.  When cool enough to handle, unwrap it and rinse it in the sink with the same temperature water as the yarn and with a couple squirts of Dawn dishwashing liquid.  The rinse water should run clear but if it doesn’t, keep rinsing til it does.  If there is a lot of color left in the rinse water, repeat the Dawn rinse to remove excess dyes and rinse again til clear.  Then hang to dry, unravel, wind into a cone and knit away. 

Painting a sock blank is such an easy way to dye yarn and the possibilities are endless.  I get lots of inspiration from the ‘I Love to Dye’, ‘What a Kool Way to Dye’ and ‘Sock Blank Artists’ groups on  There are many videos on You Tube as well as tutorials on artist’s websites and blogs.  Have fun and let your imagination go wild.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ribbing Seam in Back of Socks
(Click on photos to enlarge)
After making many, many circular socks on my flatbed knitting machines with ribbers, I decided that I like the seam of the ribbing to go up the back of the leg better than on the side like most sock patterns call for.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the side seam but I don’t like looking at mismatched stripes or fairisle patterns if I don’t have to.  If they mismatch at the seam, someone else can look at them from the back. 
Use whatever ribbing configuration you want but I’ve used a 1x1 in this example.  
I’m showing you 2 different methods of turning your ribbing.  The first is by scrapping off, the second is using a multi-pronged transfer tool, very similar to the Decker comb used on Passap machines.  Check out my post describing the transfer tool here.  I much prefer using the transfer tool but I used the scrapped off method until I was enlightened about the Decker comb.  It's a great time saver.
So here’s what I do.  

1.  After completing the ribbing, I end with the carriage on the left (COL).  But which side you end on is totally your call and dependent on your pattern; you’ll just have to change my instructions to be worked on the opposite side.
2.  Transfer all the main bed stitches to the corresponding needles onto the ribber bed.  (Increase or decrease stitches to make an even number, if necessary.)  At main body tension, knit 1 row across to the right hand side.  Lower the ribber bed one notch.  Remove ribber weights and cast on comb and replace with 4 claw weights, evenly spaced across your work.  
Now it’s time to do the math.  Divide your total number of stitches by 4.  The middle 2 forths (half) will remain on the ribber bed.  The outer forths will be turned and rehung onto the main bed in a tubular fashion.  For this example, I’ve cast on 70 sts in my ribbing but disregard that.  For sake of ease, let’s assume that I cast on 72 stitches.  Divided by 4, leaves me 36 center stitches in the center and 18 sts on each side.  For my 70 stitches, I would have 18 sts on one side, 35 in the middle and 17 sts on the other side.  Never fear, 1 stitch off center up the back will not be a deal breaker.  Just make sure to have the same number of stitches on each bed.
3.  This is the scrapping off method.  I prefer to scrap off by hand but you may use your machine if you like.  Just remember to put non-scrapped off  needles back into working position, take your carriage off hold and reset the part levers before resuming circular knitting for the ankle.  Some ribbers don’t like to knit by themselves so proceed with caution here if you choose to use your machine to scrap off on the ribber bed to make sure everything is knitting properly.  So firstly, select and raise the 18 sts up into hold position.
4.  Then, manually knit and scrap off the 18 stitches for at least 8-10 rows.


5.   Remove the stitches from the needles.  Turn and fold the scrapped off section between the beds and in front of the main bed.
6.  Rehang the scrapped off stitches to corresponding open needles on the main bed.     
7.  Be sure to have a weight on your work.  Raise that side of the ribber up into working position and make sure the stitches on the ribber bed are still intact.  You may need to realign the needles on the edges a bit. 
8.  Remove the scrap yarn when transfer has been completed.
9.  Now we move to the other side with 18 sts that need to be removed from the ribber bed and transferred to the main bed.  You can scrap off as we did the other side but I’m going to show you how to use the multi-pronged transfer tool that I fondly call the Decker tool.   
With that side of the ribber bed still lowered, raise the 18 needles that need to be transferred and insert the prongs of the Decker tool into the needle hooks.  Keep slight upward pressure so your tool stays in place.  
10.  Do a quick inspection to make sure you have
a prong into each needle hook, raise up each latch, push down on the 18 needle butts to transfer the stitches to the Decker tool, making sure there is a stitch on each prong.  Slightly lower the Decker tool so it can easily be removed from the needles.
11.  With downward and backward pressure on the back bar of the tool, move the prongs of the Decker tool forward.
12.  Place a Scunci hair band around the tool in front of the stitches.  A heavy rubber band works too but they’ve been known to break easily.
13.  Move the Decker tool with stitches intact and let it flop between the two beds.  Turn it so it forms a circular tube, pick up the back of the tool and lift it so it lies on top of the ribber and in front of the main bed. 
14.  Raise the ribber bed, remove the Scunci band and place the prongs of the Decker tool into open hooks of corresponding needles on the main bed.  Transfer the stitches to the main bed. This task is made a bit easier if you use your other hand to pull down a bit on the work between the beds.
15.  Note that the stitches meet in the center of the bed but the yarn is in the middle of your work now, so unravel the yarn tail back to the carriage.   
 16.  Place the yarn back in the carriage arm and set the carriages for circular knitting.  The yarn is coming off the ribber bed stitch, so the next row knit should be on the main bed.  So flip the right part lever up on the main carriage and the left part lever up on the ribber carriage.  Make sure your tension is set properly, the row counter at 000, weights are hung and knit away.
I usually work a Bickford style seam to sew up the ribbing.  It's not totally invisible in a 1x1 configuration but it's not offensive either and gives a nice, flat seam with no bulk, as found in a mattress stitched seam.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Dip Dyed Variegated Yarn
(Click on photos to enlarge)
I love variegated yarns but not how most of them typically pool or flash.  I usually paint my skeins for variegated yarns but wanted to come up with an easier way.  So here’s what I came up with and it worked relatively well for the first time out.  There's always room for improvement but it did give me a variegated fabric without pooling or flashing, this time anyway.  Atleast there's less chance of weird patterning but the final effect will depend on number of cast on stitches and gauge.

First, I wound my yarn into a skein on my DIY niddy noddy, loosely tied it off to prevent tangling, prepped the yarn by sozzling/rinsing with a bit of dish soap and soaking in water for atleast an hour while I prepped the dye bath.


I then hung the damp skein over 3 long knitting needles, the loops don't have to be perfectly sized lengths.  I adjusted the amount of dye bath in my kettle to allow for a bit less than half of the yarn to be submerged.  Then I lowered the yarn into the kettle, using the knitting needles as a ‘rack’ to hold the yarn in place.  The level of dye bath can be adjusted by adding water, while the yarn is not submerged in the dye bath.  After most of the dye has been absorbed, I removed the yarn and added more water to raise the mix level to about halfway and relowered the yarn.  My theory would've worked but think I had too much dye left in order to get a tonal effect that I wanted.

Then I covered the pot and brought the temp up to 180 deg for 30 min, removed the yarn and added 2 tsp vinegar, resubmerged the yarn and let simmer for another 15 min or so.
When the dye had been completely absorbed and set, I removed the yarn into a dish, let it cool and rehung the yarn over the knitting needles with the already dyed sections on top.  I skewered the end sections with another knitting needle to hold them up also.

I lowered into the 2nd color dye bath and repeated the heating process.  For this session, I removed the yarn and added enough water to the dye bath to overlap the colors, then resubmerged the yarn but an undyed section could be left in the middle for painting with a third color.  But I’d need to wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and steam to set the color if I painted later.  Or the middle section could be left undyed, depending on the effect and color scheme you want.
Have fun with it!!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Flat Seam in 2x2 Ribbing
(Click on photos to enlarge)
I normally use 1x1 ribbing in my socks but I’ve had occasion to use a 2x2 for slippers, caps or mittens so I worked out a seam that is totally reversible and pretty good to look at.  It takes advantage of one of the Bickford methods which I am so fond of.  This is a particularly great seam for items like hats, socks or sleeve cuffs that may be folded over.  You may want to practice the technique before using it in the real thing, however it’s not hard at all once ya get into the groove.
The needle setup for this example is below.  The outermost needle on both sides must be on the main bed.  So plan your cast on accordingly.
.    . .     . .     . .     .  (Main Bed)
  . .    . .     . .     . .    (Ribber Bed) 

First off, you must be able to identify the loop stitches and the knot stitches along the side.  This seam is worked from the public side, so fold over the ribbing edges into a tube or butt up the edges of a flat garment.  My sample is intended to be a circular sock cuff so this is how I set up the needles on each bed of my machine.  I used my SK860 midgauge machine and Caron Simply Soft in this sample so the stitches would be more easily seen.  

So let’s get going on the technique.  You'll be working with the stitches on the outermost edges of your fabric.  From the top down, insert your needle and yarn thru a knot stitch and pull through.  Do not pull your stitching too tightly.  You are trying to match the stitch size of your knitting and you don't want your seam to pucker.


Then on the other side of the fabric, insert your needle and yarn from the bottom of the corresponding loop stitch and pull up.
On the same side, insert your needle from top down through the next knot stitch and pull yarn through.

On the other side of the fabric, insert your needle and yarn from the bottom of the next loop stitch and pull yarn up.  Continue in this manner for the full length of your seam.
When you get comfy with this method, you'll be able to go down thru the knot on one side and up thru the loop of the opposite side in one step. 

This seam is particularly nice for items or garments with foldover cuffs because the back side looks just as nice as the public side, with no bulky seam.  You won't have to turn your work and seam from one side for the cuff and the other side for the main fabric.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Quarter Crown for Hats

(Click on photos to enlarge)
A fellow machine knitter Margaret, AKA as ‘HybridSJ’on Ravelry, posted a very interesting finishing for crowns of hats.  It involves dividing the hat body into 4ths, knitting triangles from each 4th section and joining together with SAYG (Seam As Ya Go).  It makes a flat, form fitting crown that lends itself nicely to beanies, helmet liners, chemo caps, or any hat crown where gathering isn’t always the best finishing technique.  And it goes much faster than decreasing across the row and moving stitches in.  Since she doesn't maintain a blog, she gave me permission to post it on mine so it could have more visibility.
So here’s Margaret’s post.  And I’ll add my own take on it afterward.  
Margaret’s Notes:
The quarter crown can be done at the end of a machine knit hat without removing from the machine, or you can take off on waste yarn, or even rehang stitches from an in the round hand knit pattern.
Last row of the body pattern should be divisible by four, so reduce or increase accordingly. For example, if you have 86 stitches, decrease two stitches evenly on the last row. If you have 87, you could decrease to 84 or increase to 88. I prefer to decrease.
If knitting straight on from the body of the machine, put 3/4 needles in hold. In the case of 84 stitches, that’s 63 in hold, 21 in work.
Decrease one stitch fully fashioned each end. I use the 2 x 1 tool to move 2 stitches over one needle each end. Knit that row and the next, i.e. two rows.
Repeat these two rows until 3 stitches are left. Thread yarn through stitches and take off.
Bring next 21 (or quarter) stitches into work. Knit decrease row. Hang stitch from nearest end of first quarter on end needle opposite carriage.
Repeat these two rows until 3 stitches are left. Thread yarn through stitches and take off.
Repeat twice more. Sew seam or follow instructions for knitting in the round.
Finishing from in the round
Hang quarter stitches and continue knitting as above for three quarters.
On last quarter, pick up stitches as before PLUS unworked stitches from first quarter. I am still experimenting with the best time to pick up the first quarter end stitches but picking up on the first or third row works with some “fudging”.
Or you can do a mattress stitch seam to finish. (only you will notice the slight difference and it is easier)
My Take:
I decided to try using a 1 prong tool decrease on the crown instead of a 2 prong tool. It worked well and gives a bit different look.  Both are totally acceptable, it’s just another option.
I worked the hat flat, not in the round, and used a Bickford seam to sew up the last triangles and the seam.  It is flat, virtually invisible and doesn’t leave the inside bulk that mattress stitching does.
So, thank you very much, Margaret.  It’s a keeper technique.