Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why I’m excited.


I’ve written before about how my creative endeavors, outside of writing,  are not particularly creative.  Knitting, my primary hobby, really just involves following directions. I have neither the skill or the drive to design my own patterns (other than the very basic) and mostly create beautiful fiber-work rather mindlessly. There’s satisfaction in finishing, but I rarely get the delicious “ownership” feeling when I finish a knitting project.

Well, I found a tangential process that might change that a bit.

I wanted to find variegated yarn of maroon and orange–the school colors of my boys’ high school. No one made it–at least no one this wool-only yarn snob would consider purchasing from.  I decided to make my own.

I’m a firm believer that I can learn anything, and, in this case, if I failed miserably, I’d wind up with a trash can full of yarn and a beautifully wasted day.

First step, find somewhere that sells RIT fabric dye.  Walgreens used to–no more. After poking around my usual haunts, I was directed to Hobby Lobby by another store’s employee.  Jackpot. (Incidentally, Hobby Lobby has never let me down. I herewith resolve to start going there first.)


I bought Wine and Sunshine Orange.  The Wine looked exactly right, the Orange looked somewhere between yellow and tangerine. It was, however, the only orange offered in liquid form, so my guess (and I guessed correctly) was that is was truly a basic orange.  I also bought ivory wool yarn–100% wool. Natural fibers dye well, synthetic fibers do not.

The first step was to boil a ring of yarn in a water/white vinegar solution:

Nothing on the RIT dye said to add vinegar, but every tutorial I read through mentioned it. I knew it couldn’t hurt, so I threw it in. I used old medicine dropper to drip the (undiluted) dye onto the yarn, after shutting off the heat and letting the water settle but not cool.

I decided on a four segment color pattern, basically orange at 9 and 3 o’clock, and maroon at noon and 6.

It looked pretty muddy, but I had only the money I spent to lose, so I let it sit. In retrospect, because of the pattern I was using (entrelac), I should have gone with a half maroon (say, the right side) and half orange (left). This would have created longer repeats and bigger chunks of solid color. I think I broke the two balls of yarn I had into 3 hanks each, so I did 6 pots of dying on the day.  Drying outside, and making me so happy, it looked like this:

The white stripes, if you can spot them, are the places that scrap yarn was used to tie the hanks together so they didn’t go all spaghetti-like in the boiling water. Next time, I’ll figure out a way to get rid of them, although I have bought hand-dyed yarn in shops and those lines are present more frequently than not.  It also smelled strongly of vinegar, but I gave it a wool-wash rinse after knitting and got rid of that.

I used the yarn to knit a scarf for a fundraiser for the boys’ high school. Here it is:

It took enough work, experimentation, and wondering on my part to make me feel like I really created it, and I’m needy enough to be excited about telling the person who gets it at the fundraiser that I hand dyed the yarn and the only place you can get more is my kitchen.