Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finished Pillow Slip-Covers (and More)!

Not exactly "tomorrow", but...

The pillow slip-covers are done and on the couch!  I'm still not the very best at cutting perfect squares of fabric, but I think the string quilt kit is within the realm of possibility, now.  Of course, that doesn't mean I'll start working on it right away... So many other projects already underway!

But let's bask in the rare sunshine of the finished project.  ;o)

Here are a few photos of the pillow covers:

String-Quilted Pillow Slip-Covers

String-Quilted Pillow Slip-Covers

String-Quilted Pillow Slip-Covers

As you can see, they're pretty random and rustic-- shabby chic with a touch of darkness?-- but I'm satisfied.

- - - - - - -

While I was in "sewing mode", I went ahead and hemmed a pair of jeans into capris.  I made a couple of pair of capris the same way a couple of years (or so) ago, and I've worn those things constantly all summer.  Mine are completely casual, but it's something different from the standard "hack and hem" ;o) or "roll-up" look.  And if you wanted to, you could dress up the look with lace, ruffles, ric-rac trim, ribbon, big buttons-- whatever you like.

"Newly-Capri" Pants

I can't seem to find the tutorial I used, back then, but the concept is simple.

First, decide how long you want the capris to be.  Mark the jeans and cut the legs off at the desired length.  (If you want, you can serge/zig-zag stitch the edge or cut with pinking shears to reduce fraying, but I haven't, and there've been no problems so far, even with very frequent wearing and washing.)

Measure around the leg opening.  (Instead of getting fussy about it, I just measure flat across the leg opening and double the number.)

For the "accent trim", choose a fabric you like and cut two rectangles.  The rectangles' length should be the circumference of the leg opening plus another inch or so (to fold over so there are no raw edges showing).  The width of the rectangles depends on the look you want.  The wider the rectangle, the more you'll see of the accent fabric.  Two inches will yield a half-inch trim of fabric.  For a full inch of trim fabric, cut to a 4-inch width.

Fold each rectangle in half, lengthwise, and iron it into a skinnier strip.  Unfold the strip, then fold each half to the crease you just created.  Iron those folds into place.  (Doing one at a time is easiest.)  The rectangle should now have three creases.  Fold along each crease.

Now comes the trickiest part.  Fit the "envelope" of fabric over the cut edges of the jeans legs.  Pin into place, if it helps.  (I think it does!)  When you get all the way around the leg, you may wish to cut the end of the rectangle down a bit, if you have too much excess fabric.  You want just enough (a quarter to a half inch?) to "fold inside" so that there are no raw edges of fabric showing.

Sew the fabric trim into place-- and you're done!

If you want some step-by-step photos, here's a tutorial for the same basic method applied to shorts:  Fabric Short Cuffs.  

These "Knot No Hem Capri Pants" look cute, too, if I could just be sure the flaps of those bows wouldn't get in my way-- not to mention the bulk of the "knot".

- - - - - - - 

I guess I haven't been spending that much time crafting, lately, aside from the pillow slip-covers.

Warning:  Meandering Ahead!
Instead, we've been trying to get ready for house-guests and slowly transforming the "puppy room" back into a "people room"-- but instead of merely moving everything back in, we're turning it from a twice-used formal dining room into a secondary sitting room/parlor area.  There's still a lot to do.  Oh, and we've been dealing with plumbing issues.  Ugh.  Plumbing.  We're probably going to have the whole system redone, soon.  *sigh*  But hey, at least we live in a time and place where indoor plumbing is the norm-- and we aren't so strapped for cash that we can't afford to have it fixed without skipping meals. (Still not a fun expense, though.)

Ok, enough "real life".  Back to the crafty escapism! ;o)

What I have done is put all the pieces of the Mysteryghan together.  (Maybe I've already mentioned that... It's been a while since that was done...)  All that's left is to weave in a few loose ends (from joining) and the border.  The border looks interestingly textured, but possibly a little time-consuming.  Maybe I'll start it over the weekend.  Depends on what else is going on around here. 

Mysteryghan Waiting...

Then there's the granny square afghan.  I've begun joining together some of the squares (join-as-you-go method).  It's fun to see the pieces add up to something substantial.  :o)

Old-Fashioned Granny Squares

Old-Fashioned Granny Squares

And finally, here are the new knitting needles:

Stainless Steel Knitting Needles

I'd like to try them out, but I'm making myself wait until I've finished one of my current knitting WIPs.  (That'll be the Frosting cowl, because the Billowy Delight scarf is nowhere near finished.)  It's never too early to start plotting the next project, though... ;o) 

Ok, back to house-cleaning and praying for the first really cool cold front of autumn to push far enough south that we can get a taste of it!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What?! Actual SEWING??

When I started this blog, I expected to write occasionally about sewing projects.  (Hence the blog's name.)  I hadn't even really learned how to crochet, at that point.

Since the first entry (written in November 2008, which boggles my mind, because can it truly have been that long ago?), I've teetered through the learning stages of crochet and moved on to more advanced crochet (as long as you don't count fitted items like sweaters...).  Those thread doilies that once seemed all but impossible are now just a relaxing pastime.  (Ok, a relaxing pastime with the occasional moment of "Argh!  Why won't this blasted thing flatten out?!  Flatten!  I command you to FLATTEN!)  With the help of the Internet, I've taught myself to knit, have learned that even lace and  those amazing cables are possible, and have dabbled in food-color dyeing.

Basically, yarn has taken over my crafty interests in a very big way!  (And I've learned to regret the poorly fitting name of the blog, though I don't think it's worth the bother of changing, after so long.) 

Though I don't see myself ever abandoning yarn in favor of fabric, there are some sewing projects I've been wanting to attempt-- some of them for years, now.  Curtains.  Several sets of curtains, in fact.  Simple quilts.  Throw pillows.

Quite some time ago, Mom gave me a "string quilt" kit that she'd put together herself.  (Years ago.  Of course.  Ripping along at my usual pace!)  I've been a little intimidated by it, but I think the time is finally approaching.  So-- as practice, I'm making a few new throw pillows for our couches, using the "string quilt" method.

(It's about time.  I hadn't realized how old our current throw pillows were until I started looking back at old blog entries.  September 2009.  Yeesh.  They actually don't look too bad, considering their age and daily use.)

I dug into my strange little stash of fabric to find the makings for some string quilt pillows.  Seeing as I haven't done much "typical" sewing before, there's not really a lot of "quilting cotton" type fabric in there, at the moment.  It's mostly denim and flannel (from the "rag quilting" days) and "home decorating" fabrics that we got for free (yay!), but which are mostly on the heavier side (not so yay).  As a result, these pillows may look a little odd.  Still, it's good practice, and there's always the possibility of making more at some point in the future, when better choices are on hand.  Besides, the whole point was to learn the technique without ruining nice materials.  :o)

I decided to make removable slip-covers, so they'd be easier to throw into the washer.  This was my first time using the "envelope"-style cushion cover, and I'm proud of myself for not making a total mess of it.  ;o) 

I'd share a photo right about now, but I still have to finish the other three slip-covers and the pillow inserts.  (Wish I knew how to determine the perfect size for those inserts!  It'll be a guessing game.)

Maybe a photo tomorrow?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dyeing Semi-Solid & a New Project

Inspired by a tutorial video mentioned in an earlier entry, I decided to dye some semi-solid yarn.

I started with cream/natural (I think they call it "aran") Fishermen's Wool.  Wound the whole skein onto the swift into a large hank and tied in a few places (as always).  Pre-soaked the yarn.  Heated a large stock pot.  Mixed up some food coloring...

Hand-Dyeing Yarn

I basically followed the method in the video.  I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, and for a while I was concerned that it was going to be plain ugly.

Hand-Dyeing Yarn

Fortunately, there's almost always the option of adding more dye, and until it dried, I was pretty sure that I'd need to over-dye (dye it again) to get some variation in color.  When it was completely dry, though, there seemed to be enough subtle shading to keep it interesting, so I wound it into a gigantic cake. 

Food-Coloring-Dyed Yarn

Food-Coloring-Dyed Yarn

Not sure if you can tell from the photo, but that's a lot of yarn for one cake!   The winder could just barely handle it, toward the last few yards.

It felted slightly in a few spots-- moved it around in the pot too much, I guess-- but that shouldn't be a problem.  (That yarn isn't the softest to begin with.  A conditioner soak after it's knitted up might help.)

- - - - - - -

I started the catherine wheel scarf with the hand-dyed, long-repeat yarn!  I'm deviating from the pattern just slightly.  (See the project notes for details.)

I haven't done much on it, yet, but here's a photo:

Catherine Wheel Scarf

It's not going to look much like the colors in the inspiration scarf, but I think it'll still be pretty.  

I'm trying to figure out the best way to carry the yarn up the side.  Since there'll be an edging of some kind going over both sides and providing camouflage, I guess it's not that important, but I'd like to keep it as tidy as possible.

The color changes should keep this one fun!

More on Nickel-Plated Needles

Yesterday, I read this Ravelry thread on nickel-plated needles. 

(It's good to know that other people have this problem, too.)

So, it sounds like the thing to do for cloudiness (which apparently results in drag) is the following:

1. Polish with a microfiber cloth.  (Some suggest a jeweler's cloth-- usually for cleaning sterling silver jewelry.)   If that's not enough...

2. Polish with vinegar on a soft cloth.  (Someone else suggests a damp cloth and baking soda or toothpaste and a cotton cloth.) If that's not enough...

3. Clean/polish with something stronger.  (WD40?  Specially formulated tarnish remover for nickel-plating-- or possibly chrome?)

Sounds like those methods may work for some people, but not for others-- and once the plating has completely worn through in spots, there's not much you can do, short of re-plating them, which isn't really an option.

I've read that cleaning the needles with alcohol can prevent or delay tarnishing, but honestly, I'm unlikely to clean my needles after every use.  That's just too much of a hassle and would end up discouraging me from picking up and knitting a few rows/rounds in between other tasks.

If the nickel has gone beyond "clouding" and actually begun to chip off, that indicates that there's a problem with the needles themselves, and if they are under warranty, you can have them exchanged.  (My needles don't have that sort of warranty, I'm pretty sure!)

If the plating has come off subtly, though-- not in chips-- I'd probably assume it has something to do with my personal chemistry more than the quality of the needles themselves.

- - - - - - -

In any case, I'm still determined to never buy another nickel-plated tool (beyond cheap embroidery needles).  Donald encouraged me to go ahead and order some of the stainless steel needles to try, so I did.  They should arrive sometime between Friday and the following Wednesday.  (Exciting!)

I took the opportunity to also try the sharper "lace-tip" needles.

There are conflicting reports about how good the sharper points are. 

--The sharp points make it easier to get the needle into multiple stitches (as you frequently have to do in lace knitting).

--If they're very sharp, and if you're a "tapper" (i.e. someone who pushes the left-hand needle back into the unworked stitches with your right pointer finger)-- which I sometimes am, unless I resist the urge-- you can actually get sores or break the skin.

--Some knitters say that the longer points are less ergonomic for plain knitting/purling.

--If you work close to the tip, you may find your work "tightening up" on you-- the result of working the stitch on the tapered tip instead of on the shaft of the needle.

Looks like more cons than pros (g), but I may have missed some pros-- and anyway, I still want to try them.  (I remember in one of my most-recent lacy projects, I had a lot of trouble getting the needle where it needed to go, in some stitches.  That kind of thing decreases your speed and enjoyment.)

I ordered a ChiaoGoo 47" Red Lace stainless steel circular in size 6, a 40" Hiya Hiya Sharps stainless steel circular in size 8, and a 40" Hiya Hiya (not sharp) stainless steel circular in size 10.  (So two lace-tip/sharp needles and one standard, all stainless steel.)

The stainless steel is reported as being less slick than the nickel, so I'm curious to give them a test drive. I think I prefer slick metal, but if nickel doesn't last for me, that's not an option.  As for the aluminum Boye set, as long as really sharp points aren't required, I'm pretty happy with them.  (And I'll keep this in mind for the future, if the stainless steel doesn't work out:  Making Boyes Better.  The only downside to that elegant solution is that, if you want to glue the adapters into place, which seems like the way to go, you need a pair for each needle size.  It's a lot cheaper than buying an entirely new set of needles, but still adds up-- and then you have to hope that the glued-in adapters stay glued.)

Choosing which sizes to get in which sharpness is the kind of thing I could easily spend days agonizing over, but in the end I had to admit that there's no way to know which combination is going to be best for me, so I made an educated guess.

Since most of what I knit doesn't have to hit a very specific gauge, I decided to space out the sizes over the range that I seem to use most (and is most frequently represented in my Ravelry queue).  Chances are that if a pattern calls for size 7, a size 8 or 6 will work in a pinch. (Or I can use the interchangeables I already have.)

With any luck, I'll love at least one of these needles and can fill in any gaps in my collection over time. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Drat My Bizarre, Metal-Eating Body Chemistry!

How's that for a title?  ;o)

I bought a set of interchangeable knitting needles from Tuesday Morning several months back.  (Just checked.  It's been nearly a year.)  They are nickel-plated, Boye "Artisan" line.  I had some qualms about the nickel-plating, because I've had trouble in the past with nickel-plated embroidery needles.  (The nickel wears off.)  Well, it was a good price, and I hoped the coating of the knitting needles would be better than those cheap embroidery needles.  Worth a try.

I've been using them now and then.  I don't knit that much, but still, they've gotten some use.

Right now, the Frosting cowl is on the size 9's-- and this evening, I noticed that the surface of one of the needles is "cloudy" (the best word I can think of to describe it).  The other needle might be slightly cloudy, too, but the one is much more noticeable.  It's mostly on the "back" part of the needle, away from the tip, and the bit of metal on the cable seems unaffected.  So strange!  So frustrating!

(One good thing is that-- knock on wood!-- at least my hands don't seem to be reacting to the nickel.  Some people get green or black marks or even skin irritation from their nickel-plated needles.)

I'm afraid this is the beginning of an inevitable wearing away of the nickel-plating.  No way of knowing how long that would take.  It might be a while before they start to turn really dark and smell like metal.  And of course one size of needle might be affected long before another shows signs of wear.  Or maybe I'm over-reacting, and it will turn out to just stay cloudy, with no other change.  I'm skeptical, though...

Oh well.  I guess it was still worth a try.  I do know one thing, though.  I will never buy another set of nickel-plated knitting needles, no matter the sale!  I still have my trusty aluminum needles, and they're fine, but I liked the smoothness of the nickel.  Also, the manufactured 40" cables (Knit Picks Options cables, which are compatible with the nickel needles but not the aluminum) are nicer than the "hacked" cables we made for the aluminum Boye needle set.

I'll be keeping an eye on the finish of those nickel needles, and in the meantime, I'm researching other knitting needles.  I wonder if stainless steel needles would react to my weird body chemistry...  Hiya Hiya has some nice-looking ones.  Fixed-cabled needles with long cables (40", maybe) in just a few of the most useful (to me) sizes... (I mostly seem to knit using magic loop, so 40" would work for just about anything I can see myself knitting.)  They come in standard and "sharp", which might be nice to try with lace...

Needs more research, though, and for now, what I have should work. It's just disappointing that these seem to be "acting up". 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Catch a Wave" Doily

Here's a recently finished object-- something I've labeled my "Catch a Wave" doily.

Doily in Shades of Blue

Janice (on her blog, Passion of Love) reverse engineered from a doily in her collection, explaining it to her readers as she went, as well as providing plenty of helpful photos.  (Thanks to Pammy Sue for sharing the link!)

Janice worked her doily in autumn colors to prepare for the next season, but when I looked over my own supply of partially used balls of thread, I found more blues than autumnal hues, thus the whole "Catch a Wave" thing.

This was originally supposed to be a CAL, but I came to the party late.  That doesn't really matter, though, and the pattern's still there for any other latecomers.

It was an interesting change of pace to work from something other than a traditional written pattern or a chart.  However, practically my first real project was worked from something written in the same "tutorial" style-- Lucy's (from Attic24) JAYG hexagon pattern. 

At first, I wasn't sure the center of the doily was going to lay flat for me, but (as often happens) later rounds helped smooth it down.  I love the way the doily turned out!  The ruffle section, especially, is unlike any other doily I've made.  Very neat construction.  I also like the use of more than one color, so I'll have to try more of that, in future.

I had to laugh at myself, though, when I took out the blocking pins.  The rose in the center of the doily was missing three petals from the second tier!  I don't know how it happened, but they were nowhere to be seen, though the chain loops they were meant to have gone into were ready and waiting.  Fortunately, it wasn't difficult to fix.  Just reattach the thread, crochet the three missing petals, fasten off, and weave in the two tails.  I don't think anyone will ever know-- well, as long as they don't read this blog.  ;o)

Thank you for the doily pattern, Janice!  I'll keep this one in mind for the future!

Doily in Shades of Blue

Doily in Shades of Blue

 - - - - - - -

The "Frosting" cowl is growing a few rows at a time.  On the second ball of yarn, now.  (Bamboo Ewe, discontinued.)  I'm not sure yet if I'll need to use the third ball or not...

Frosting Cowl - Progress Shot

- - - - - - -

As predicted, I'm procrastinating doing the research necessary before starting the Rhubarb Scarf copy.  (Tsk, tsk...)

Also procrastinating on this week's clue for the Mysteryghan.  The next clue will tell how it goes together (and how to work the edging), so I'm holding off until then.  (I'm not sure how I want to work part of the current week's clue, so more information would help.  Also, mid-August, so no urgent need for this afghan to be finished right now.)

...And ...There's some cream-colored yarn pre-soaking in anticipation of a little semi-solid/kettle-dyeing.  (I blame this video, entirely.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dyeing à la Microwave

Back as promised with details from the dyeing!

Administer caffeine now, because this one's a rambler... (Or, you know, skim and/or skip at will.)

- - - - - - -

The goal was to dye yarn with (what I believe are usually called) long color repeats.

The key to long color repeats is to not just make one long hank of yarn by either whirling it onto the swift or wrapping it around chairs, end of a table, etc.  You can do that and carefully dip or paint sections in different colors if you want short repeats, which read as blips of color in knitted or crocheted fabric.

For example, I dyed this yarn with lots of splotches of color, which was lots of fun to do:

Canyon River

And then I knitted it into this hat, which I found disappointing:

Not Quite a One Day Beret

It was just too mottled for my taste.

Striping it with another, darker yarn, though, yielded a result that I did like, because it broke up some of the mottling.  Still, though, I think you can see what I mean by "blips of color":

Unblocked Beret No. 1

Short repeats can be fine or even wonderful in certain patterns, but this time it wouldn't be quite right.  This patterns calls for leisurely lengths-- not blips-- of color.

There may be an easier way than this to get long color repeats, but if so, I haven't seen or thought of it.  It's a bit tedious and time-consuming, but just put on some good music or listen to a favorite movie or TV program.

What you want to do is separate the skein/ball/hank/whatever into multiple "mini-hanks"-- while leaving them attached to one another.  (That part's important.  You shouldn't cut the yarn into smaller sections.  That just makes more work, down the road.)  I used a partially opened umbrella swift to create these mini-hanks, but honestly, I'm not sure that's the best way to do it, as I suspect that the swift closed in upon itself a little bit as I wrapped the yarn... It wasn't a big deal for me, because I was varying the sizes of my mini-hanks slightly.  (If you're going for precision, something that can't possibly "shrink" mid-process would be best.)

 - - - - - - -

My mini-hank process worked like this:  

--Wrap the yarn around the small-diameter swift a certain number of times.  Make a note of this number, if you want to keep the length of the repeats fairly uniform.  The more wraps, the longer the yarn will stay one color.

--Stop wrapping.  Do not cut the yarn!  Tie the mini-hank with figure-8 ties of scrap yarn (or scrap crochet cotton thread, if you have it).   Be sure to tie sufficient number of times to prevent tangling.  I recommend at least three ties per mini-hank.  (See how this gets time-consuming?)

--Remove mini-hank from swift/niddy-noddy/etc.  (If you have to collapse the swift, make a note of its size so that you can return it to that position.  This is only really important if you want the mini-hanks to be the same diameter or are trying to maintain a consistent color repeat length.)

--If using swift, drape mini-hank over bottom of swift-- or otherwise arrange it so that the swift may turn freely, without tangling the mini-hank.  (This bit was messy, but I found that hanging the hanks over the bottom folds of the swift worked pretty well.)

--Begin wrapping a new section.  Tie off as before.  Repeat until the end of the skein.

--When finished, you should have a series of mini-hanks attached one to the next.  Each mini-hank represents one long "stripe"/repeat.  You can dye each one a different color, or you can distribute them between/among two or more colors in any sequence you choose.  This method of "daisy-chaining" mini-hanks can also be useful for gradient dyeing.

- - - - - - -

I turned four skeins into bunches of mini-hanks-- two skeins per colorway.   (The scarf pattern requires two colorways.)

The next step was the determine the colors in each homemade colorway.  I kinda-sorta took my inspiration from the yarns in Moonstitches' Rhubarb Scarf-- but I decided to do a loose interpretation, because that's a lot of colors to duplicate, and it's not easy to get copies of so many colors just right on the first try.  (Translation: Lazy and impatient.)

Anyway, I planned to make one pair of skeins in mostly greens/blues, with a hint of beige and grey.  For the second pair, I would aim for pinks/red-violet/rust.

This was my first time using the microwave and mason jars to dye.  (Previously, I've always used old pots on the stovetop.)

 - - - - - - -

I'm no expert in this process, but here's how I did it, this time:

--Pre-soak the yarn in cool water with a dash of vinegar in it.  (I didn't measure the water, but I didn't use tons-- just enough to really soak the yarn and a little extra.  I put one tablespoon of vinegar in each soak-bath.)  You can soak yarn overnight.  I ended up soaking two of the skeins for probably only a few hours, at the most, while the other two soaked for about 24 hours.

--Fill mason jars about 1/2 full of plain tap water-- or enough to cover yarn, once it's in the jars.  Add small amounts of Wilton food color gel (or other food-coloring) to each jar.  (I used toothpicks to scoop out the gel.)  Whisk to dissolve gel as fully as possible.  (Little globs can make dark speckles on the yarn-- highly unpredictable.)  If you're a note-taking kind of person, you can keep a record of your color mixes. (Note: If you don't have mason jars, anything that's safe to heat in the microwave will work.)

--Arrange jars into the sequence in which you'll be using them. 

--With jars still out of the microwave, squeeze most of the water out of the first mini-hank. (Since I was dyeing two re-wrapped skeins to match, I squeezed the first mini-hank of each skein.)  Place the mini-hank into the first jar.  (If you're doing two at a time, as I did, place them into the jar simultaneously.)  Use a spoon or other utensil to fully submerge the mini-hanks.

--Continue through the entire sequence of mini-hanks.

--If the "joining strands" between the mini-hanks don't wick the dye solution, you can use a spoon, ladle, eyedropper, or syringe to dampen them.  (This is purely optional.  If un-dyed bits won't trouble you, don't bother.)

--Some people put their jars into a dish that fits in the microwave to protect it from spills.  I found my jars so heavy (as a group) that I decided to just put them in one or two at a time and hope that the microwave's tempered glass turntable would be enough protection.  It worked fine, but next time I might try harder to find a shallow dish that would fit all the jars.  ...However you do it, put the jars into the microwave oven.

--Run microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.  (Caution: Again, not an expert.  Your microwave may work differently from mine...  I've read that you should always be sure that all yarn in the microwave is damp to prevent scorching or fire.  That shouldn't be an issue with this technique, but just in case... Even if there's a portion of yarn you want to leave undyed, be sure to dampen it with plain, untinted water.)

--Allow jars of yarn to cool for ten minutes.  (No need to remove them from the microwave, at this point.)

--Run microwave for another 1-2 minutes.  Cool for ten more minutes.  Run through more cycles of 1-2 minutes on, 10 off until the dye-bath (the water in the jars) is clear.  (I checked mine with a white plastic spoon.)  To use dyeing terminology, a clear dye-bath means that the dye has "exhausted" (all attached to the yarn).

--DISCLAIMER:  Did I mention that I'm not an expert?  ;o)  Seriously, though, if you're really interested in food-color dyeing, I recommend visiting some of the helpful websites out there and joining this Ravelry group: What a Kool Way to Dye.  The process I've described seems to have worked for me, but there are variables-- how much vinegar you need, how long it takes for the dye to "set" permanently into the yarn, etc.  Just because I got results that I'm satisfied with, this time, doesn't mean I did everything perfectly.  For instance, some of the color in my yarn is a bit splotchy.  There are a variety of potential reasons for that... It's superwash wool, which (I've read) tends to slurp up the dye quickly... Maybe I had too much vinegar in my soaking water... Maybe I needed more water or dye in the jars... Maybe the yarn was too crowded... Who knows?  I'm satisfied with my results, but I tend to look at dyeing as a mad-scientist experiment.  I never know exactly what my results will be, because I'm not into measuring and taking copious notes and premixing the dye and so on.  I just don't want someone to ruin their really-really-nice yarn because they're following my "instructions", thinking that I can guide them to the Land of the Perfect Dye-Job.  (g)  Wish I could, but I'm not there yet, myself!

--So... Once the water's clear, let it sit and cool for a good long time.  Just let it sit in the microwave for a while, if you like.  (The jars are easier and safer to move if they're not piping hot.)  The jars take a loooong time (hours) to cool completely, but you don't want to risk burning yourself or felting your newly-dyed yarn, so try to forget about it for a while.  (If I'm not mistaken, letting the yarn cool this way also helps set the color into the yarn even better.)

--When the yarn is finally, finally cool, remove it from the jars, taking care to avoid tangling the mini-hanks.  (I went one jar at a time, with two dishpans ready to take the yarn-- one per skein.  I think that helped prevent tangles.  Poured off the water, gently squeezed out most of the water, and put each mini-hank into its prescribed dishpan. Then on to the next jar, letting the "connecting strands" lead me to the next mini-hank.)

--Soak/rinse the yarn-- gently, trying to keep the mini-hanks neatly in order.  (At this point, you can do whatever you normally would do for newly-dyed yarn.  Some people like to soak it in a special product-- anything from a marketed yarn soak to cheap hair conditioner.  Sometimes I use conditioner, but this time I didn't bother, as I'll be using the yarn soon and washing the finished object afterwards, most likely.)

--NOTE:  If you notice colors "running" into the rinse/soak water, that means that your dye didn't set properly.  I'd recommend researching elsewhere for tips on how to deal with that.  All I can tell you is that it probably means you need more acid (vinegar, for instance) and/or a longer time at a high enough temperature.  Don't panic, though.  It should be pretty easy to set the dye. 

--Gently squeeze water from the yarn.  If you like, you can press it between the folds of a clean, dry towel to remove even more water, hastening the dry-time.  Place the yarn somewhere to dry; usually hanging is best.  If the weather is dry enough, you can even hang it outdoors, out of direct sunlight.  Allow yarn to dry thoroughly before carefully cutting the figure-8 ties and rewinding it into either a large, single hank or a ball.  (If you wind it into a hank, don't forget to tie it with a few fresh figure-8's!)

--Congratulations!  Your yarn is ready to use! 

- - - - - - -

So, that was my process.

Now here are some details specific to these two batches of yarn:

For the first two skeins, I used six dye-baths/jars.  (All were made using Wilton food-color gels.)

1. Sky Blue
2. Leaf Green, Teal, and a dab of Royal Blue
3. Teal
4. Leaf Green
5. Brown
6. Black (new formula)

(Since these skeins were wound into seven mini-hanks each, but I mixed only six jars of color, I had intended to start and stop with the Sky Blue.  However, I accidentally put the first two mini-hanks of one skein into the Sky Blue and didn't notice until near the end of the color sequence.  Oops!  That one got an extra-long stretch of Sky Blue at one end and none at the other.) 

I ran it for four cycles through the microwave (including the first, longer burst).  The last cycle was probably not strictly necessary, but "one more for good measure" seems like a good idea. 

Here they are waiting to be re-hanked (re-skeined?):

Yarn à la Microwave

(I make no claims as to the color accuracy of these photos, by the way...)

The attempt at grey turned out darker and more purple than intended, and the brown, blues, and greens warmer and more vivid than in the "inspiration yarn", but not bad.  I'm not sure how the purple-grey and brown will work out in conjunction with the blues and greens-- they seem to stand out too much, right now-- but it may look nicer than expected.

. . .

For the second two skeins, I used eight dye-baths, again using only Wilton.  (These skeins were divided into eight mini-hanks, so one dye-bath per section.)

I started the microwave, but after the first cycle, I gave the jars another look and determined that they were far too pastel for what I had in mind.  So out they all came again.  I used the rough descriptions I'd jotted down for the mixes as a guide, but also tweaked the new mixtures as I went.  (In other words, no "recipes" for these colors... Not that the earlier descriptions told you much!  I can tell you, in case you're interested, that almost all of them have some No-Taste Red.  Purple tints have Royal Blue.  The ones with a yellow cast contain Golden Yellow.  At least one has Brown, and another has "new formula" Black.)

I mixed the gels into a little water in a Pyrex-style measuring cup, poured them into the jars (with the yarn still in place), and used a little plastic spoon to gently "redistribute" the new dye around the jar.

Yarn à la Microwave

Yarn à la Microwave

Yarn à la Microwave

After that delightful detour ;o) it was back to business as usual.  (Four cycles of microwave on, microwave off.  Cooling, rinsing, squeezing, and hanging to dry.)

Yarn à la Microwave

The second application of dye helped, but some of the colors still aren't quite as dark as I'd had in mind.  I could have added even more dye, but at that point, I was satisfied (and ready to move on to something else before the whole weekend was gone).

Interestingly, the yarn ended up more orange and purple than I'd planned.  When I mixed colors, I just tended toward purples more than pinks-- and I liked the two orange/tangerine colors too much to change them.   I actually love the way that colorway came out, as a stand-alone.  (It feels like a sunset sky!)  I hope it'll work well with the blue/green colorway...
. . .

Here's all the dyed yarn together:

Yarn à la Microwave

Yarn à la Microwave

Yarn à la Microwave

(I think these colors should be fairly accurate-- especially in the top photo.)

- - - - - - -

Whew!  As much fun as it is to dye yarn, this was still a very time-consuming project with several steps.  (Winding the yarn from the mini-hanks onto the swift!  That alone took far longer than expected.)  This is definitely a labor of love.  ;o)  It would be far, far easier to just buy some yarn already dyed.

Next comes reading through the pattern, checking out some of the project notes on Ravelry that have been marked "helpful", and deciding exactly how to begin.  (Which balls to start with, from the inside or outside of each, which hook to use, etc.)  I feel a tendency toward procrastination coming on...

I should have a totally unrelated FO to share tomorrow.  :o)