Back to the salt mines

I’m back to the grind of the book, so you lucky ducks again get what That Laurie and the tail end of her indigo adventure. Almost the tail end, actually, since there is one more you’ll want to see tomorrow.

The writing is going well, and will be interrupted tomorrow with a very fast trip to NYC, to do some sort of book sales conference thing (Note to self: ask Sarah-the-wonder-publicist why I’m going to NY and what I’m supposed to be doing there.) I’ll be gone less than 24 hours, but I’m so lame I’m excited anyway.


(PS. I’m knitting a new sweater, ’cause you know…I SO have time. Can you tell what it is?)

Lookit! Lookit! (I’m Look-it-ting; I’m Look-it-ting)

(AKA- Laurie’s dye adventure, episode #4)

The above title comes from one of my favorite Charley Brown comic strips, but it also adequately describes the kind of behavior I have been indulging in with friends and family, proudly showing off indigo-dyed blue yarn. Of course, to them it just looks like blue yarn. Oh, well. Here is the recently dyed polwarth skein that endured and thrived in thorough immersion:


I particularly like the way in which the skein matches (almost) my blue jeans and my blue shoes.

Here is my earlier skein BEFORE its second visit to the indigo vat. It is hanging on the clothes line in all its splotchy glory:


And here is the new blue polwarth skein AND the over-dyed old skein, now a much darker and more even blue:


The lessons from the two dyeing sessions:

1) The indigo dye vat is probably more forgiving than the instructions suggest.

2) Look for color CHANGES in the dye vat in the pouring session and the transformation to “indigo white,” NOT particular shades.

3) You can keep dipping for a LONG time, but the yarn must be out and exposed to air for 30 minutes in between and keeping the vat warm is important. I dipped the over-dyed skein 3 or 4 times. Which leads to the next lesson …

4) Heat + agitation + changes in temperature lead to a different kind of wool magic – fulling/felting, especially with non-superwash merino. The skein cooled in the ½ hour out of the bath and was heated (and agitated) upon its return to the dye vat. The result? My skein began to develop a dreaded dreadlock-style clumping of strands of yarn. Needless to say, I stopped the redipping process. Trying to separate the strands while the skein was wet almost convinced me that I had achieved a nice indigo-colored felted skein. Crossing my fingers, I set the skein out to dry.

Once it dried, I was able carefully to re-skein it while separating those strands that had clumped/fulled together. I gained two important insights from this problem: a) slightly fulled yarn CAN be separated into its strands, but you must do so when it is dry (wet wool is weaker than dry wool so you can seriously damage the yarn by trying to wrench it apart while it is wet and b) it would have been a VERY good idea to re-skein the yarn BEFORE over-dyeing so that the “blotches” in the original yarn could be redistributed and overdyed perhaps more evenly.

With the merino skein above, I find I actually like its faintly mottled appearance a lot.

Now, folks, on to the BIG question: what should I knit with my 440 yards of indigo-dyed fingering weight merino? What about the 150 yd skein of handspun polwarth that I dyed in a later session? For that skein (to be shown in the addendum to come along with more experimental indigo skeins), I have thought about making a new pattern, Arabella, from the Arisokka Textile Blog. It takes about the right amount of sport weight, and the Arabella I am working up now from other handspun is looking very cool. Of course, some kind of Fairisle pattern is also a possibility, or so you will think when you see the last episode in this series.

Although the merino yarn was originally for socks, I resist putting my carefully indigo-dyed yarn into a form that I know I will wear through sooner rather than later. Make your suggestions for 440 yard merino skein OR the 150 skein in the comments today! (I am stopping just short of the Harlot’s daring willingness to let us vote on which sock pattern she should start a while back; after all, we all know how THAT experiment turned out!)

Update from Steph: For the love of crap. Sorry about the comments guys…I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I’ll put my technical team (um…that would be Ken) on this and try and find out why my comments thingie is determined to mention the size (or lack thereof) of male organs when you try and say something civilized. Not that male organs aren’t civilized (well..they often aren’t actually, but that’s another problem.) but I don’t know what the trouble is. We, well…Ken will get on it.

Update again: Ken fixed the comments. All hail the mighty tech god and all round good guy. You may resume commenting, without fear of any sort of suggestions about the size of your “meat and veg”.