February 9, 2010

Not So Easy Being Green

I’m not sure what I got myself into with this latest pair of socks for Keith. They started out so simply, using up a yarn in the stash that was the perfect color and a good weight. I had it all planned out – I would cast on and knit these great socks for him from Knitting Vintage Socks, and he would love them.

Except nothing else played along. I tried several different patterns, both from Vintage Socks and from More Sensational Knitted Socks, and even from the ravelry (the internets can’t lead me astray, right?). In each case, I liked the ribbed cuff and hated the way the pattern looked. At first I thought it was the pattern, so I switched that. No luck, it still looked like crappola.

I eventually (I will not admit how many restarts were attempted, a lady does not reveal such things) caught on that this yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, while a lovely yarn and a great green color, was not made for my socks. It lacked stitch definition, which I guess I like to see in my knitting, seeing as no variation looked right. It was splitty as well, which didn’t really bother me, but it was another strike against it when I finally decided to give up.

Still thinking I might be able to solve this problem simply, I stopped by Knitterly, the local yarn store in Petaluma on the way home from the city on Saturday. I haven’t been there in a long while, so it was a chance to peek in and see what they had. I also thought they would be a good place for a good green sock yarn. No such luck.

They had lots of yarn, lots of sock yarn, but nothing in the green I was looking for. It was disappointing. And odd that I walked out of a yarn store with nothing. So I decided I would make an extra swing by Balls and Skeins in Sebastopol. I don’t usually go there, they just aren’t my kind of place. Nothing wrong with the store and they have been helpful in the past, but they have a limited selection and just don’t compete with Cast Away for shop vibe, or Village Knitters for yarn selection. But I have a gift certificate from Christmas there, so I figured it might be worth it.

They didn’t have what I wanted either, and by that time I’m calculating in my head the number of days until Valentine’s and the pace at which I knit socks and the various other factors which could influence this time ratio . . . and decided to take a risk. I bought a less-than-great shade of Cascade Heritage sock yarn. I like their yarn. It’s priced well, is ok to knit with, and is durable for Keith.

But the closest thing they had was a wretched citron green which no guy would pick out himself.  I wouldn’t even wear socks that color, and I like almost all colors. But then I had an aha! moment. I recalled that I have been wanting to dye my own sock yarn. I had researched kool-aid dyeing and a few other techniques for hand dyeing at home and this terrible green was just the chance!


So I bought it and another skein of clearance sock yarn which I haven’t had a moment to touch given the looming Valentine’s Day deadline. I brought it home and didn’t show it to Keith, just nonchalantly put it in my basket. I didn’t have time to get to it until yesterday. On the way home I looked for kool-aid in appropriate colors while doing my weekly grocery shopping. Nothing. Arg! I hastily re-did the calculation of time remaining and promptly decided that I did not have time to check multiple stores for kool-aid flavors on the off chance I might find lemon-lime somewhere. I re-evaluated and decided that though I didn’t want to, I would have to use fabric dyes.

I stopped by the JoAnn’s and eventually settled on some options. I got a bottle of Kelly green, and powdered teal, royal blue, and navy blue. I headed home with a vague idea about how this would all work.

I started by immersing the yarn in a water/vinegar mixture for half an hour. I prepped the dyes by putting a little into separate small cups and adding vinegar and water. They all seemed dark and probably used more dye than I needed. I then laid out the yarn on plastic wrap and started dabbing these colors on with a foam brush. This method, while possibly good for un-dyed yarn, didn’t really seem to be working well for my already green yarn. So I did a little more dabbing of the darker colors, especially the blues, and then gave up.

Next, I heated water on the stove and poured it and a mixture of the various dyes into a bucket. I used a lot of the green, a little of the blues and all of the yellow in hopes that it would mix with the rest and make a more yellow green. I immersed the yarn and let it sit for maybe 10 minutes, poking at it occasionally and checking the color.

I pulled it out and was amazed by the change. While it wasn’t exactly what I was going for, it was still a great color and a vast improvement over the pastel original. I rinsed the yarn in warm to cool water baths and then wrapped it up in plastic wrap and put that in an open ziploc bag. I microwaved this bundle for one OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         minute increments with cool down in between for a total of maybe 4 minutes. Finally, I rinsed and rinsed with cool water until most of it ran clear. I wrung it out and dried it in a towel, and then hung it up on the side of the bath tub hoping for rapid drying.

I became impatient and worried about starting the socks with so little time left, that I actually pulled out the hair dryer and started gently blowing it dry! It worked and shortly I had a beautiful skein of dry, greenish yarn with hints of blues. Interestingly, the patches where I dabbed on the blues before giving up are now visible only as slightly darker areas which give great variety and depth to the over all color. Unexpected bonus!

So now I’m on track. I cast on last night for the Gentleman’s Sock in Railway Stitch from Knitting Vintage Socks and it’s looking great. I haven’t finished the cuff yet, but I am anticipating that the pattern will be more defined than with the Berroco.

Now, can I knit out two of these in roughly 5 days with work and a fresh round of thesis editing in progress? I think I can!

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