Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ooooh That Smell

Can't you smell that smell? You know the one. Vinegar.

I recently purchased a lovely yarn online (won't say which one) and it arrived smelling like a stale bag of vinegar and salt potato chips. The odor was so strong that my husband walked in my studio and asked, "What stinks? Did you spill vinegar in here?"

As a dyer, I am very curious about this. When I dye with acid dyes my yarns never vinegary after they are properly washed and rinsed. But I like to design with popular commercially available yarns so that when knitters purchase my patterns they will often be able to grab something from their stash and start knitting without hunting for yarn. Why, if my yarns don't smell, do others? Here are my thoughts. I would love to hear from the rest of you about this topic.

For one reason or another, perhaps some dyers don't rinse as much as they should. Water is expensive and rinsing takes time and energy. Usually when yarns aren't completely rinsed, there will be some color bleed when these yarns are washed. This residual dye is harmful to the knitter, as it is now in a powdered state and can rub off and be absorbed through the skin. Fine particles of residual dye can be inhaled, especially during the process of winding the skein into a ball. I can't help but wonder if some dyers may use vinegar in the final rinse as a vehicle to set any residual dye that may have not been completely rinsed out. Or they don't use any kind of soap in the rinsing process so that they don't have to rinse, wash, rinse. And perhaps the pungent smell helps to keep moths away? Who knows.

Certain colors are more prone to this bleeding, namely red, dark blue, turquoise. The skein that so offended my husband was a luscious deep blood red. So I decided to wash the skein. I filled a basin with warm water and added about 1/2 tsp of Wrapture by Eucalan (it smells so lovely...jasmine...mmmm). After soaking for about 5 minutes, there was only the slightest tinge of pink in the water...almost non-existent. And guess what? No more vinegar smell. As I hung the skein to dry I detected nothing in the way of pungency and once dry I could bury my face in the wool and only smell fiber and jasmine.

So if you want to wash those vinegary skeins before you knit, make sure that they are properly tied. Undo any ties that constrict the yarn to the point of "sausageness" and retie them. Remove labels, then soak the skeins in cool to lukewarm water with a little Eucalan or Soak. These mild soaps do not have to be rinsed and leave a lovely scent behind. Do not agitate the skeins, just gently squeeze them and allow them to become fully saturated with water. If you see any color in the wash water, then rinse again in clear water of the same temperature of your wash water. Squeeze them out and roll them in a bath towel to remove as much moisture as possible and hang them to dry. To speed drying, blot moisture from the bottom of the skein once it has had time to drain some, then move that part of the skein to the top of the hanger.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Spinning A Color Sequence

With the Sewanee Fall Craft Fair coming up next weekend, I decided to finally write a formal pattern for Kerfuffle: A Simple Fingerless Mitt with a Riotous Little Ruffle. You can purchase the pattern here.

My favorite version of this pattern is one I knit from my handspun. It's classic Lynne Vogel, this one, from a technique I teach in my color classes of predrafting a color sequence to lengthen the colorband placement in the yarn. This roving is LV ltd for Three Waters Farm BFL in "Sepiatone Rosalie".

the entire 4 oz roving laid out in repeats
 This colorway is laid out in thirds, so there are three distinct repeats in it's entire length, plus a nice bit of orchid on one end. In a 4 ounce hank there is more than enough for these mitts (yardage approx 110 yds per pair) spun in a short draw worsted weight singles. It takes approx 48 yds for each mitt body and 12 for each ruffle depending on your row gauge.
two identical repeats and one orchid end
one repeat predrafted prior to spinning
I divided the roving into thirds following the repeat patterns, then chose two to spin for my mitts. I saved the piece with the orchid end for the ruffle, splitting it in half lengthwise before spinning so as to have two shorter identical bits. I predrafted each piece keeping the colors of the fibers in alignment and spun both on separate bobbins working from the same end of the color repeat, doing the same for the ruffle. This meant that the fibers were going one way for one repeat and another for the next, but with blueface leicester this really doesn't matter much. It's more critical for a finer fiber such as merino, so take that into consideration if you want to try this technique with that fiber. I finished the yarn by washing and setting the twist before I knit.

In Honor of a Soulmate

Monk aka Rasta Monkeyman of Neely Ranch: April 30, 1999 - August 27, 2013

one picture is worth a thousand words