Posts Tagged ‘phildar’

I Dye

April 25, 2009

*This post is a draft from a hundred years ago…but it may have some value for others that foolishly do not buy their yarn from a single dye lot*

Well, my friends, it’s finally finished, my Phildar meshy sweater, made with Rowan Purelife Organic  Cotton in Logwood.  I dyed it (using Logwood natural dye) and did not kill it.  It’s soul is hardened, but it is better for it.  Actually in reality, it’s not nearly as soft as it used to be.  But it kind of went through hell, so I can’t blame it.  I hope that it will soften with wearing and eventually trust me again as a loving owner.

So, I said I would report on the dyeing process and I will.

I had to do quite a bit of research and found some great online resources, mostly through Ravelry, and I also relied on some instruction sheets from the shop I bought my dyestuffs from, Griffin Dyeworks.

So I’ll try my best and share my process in using logwood to dye a cotton sweater–natural dyeing seems to have a different process than conventional dyeing and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, etc) have different prep and requirements than protein fibers (wool, alpaca, anything from an animal).

There are three important steps in the natural dyeing process, which I’ll go over…

1. Scouring

This was not something I was aware would be necessary until I read on a Ravelry forum that cotton yarns are very particular.  If not dyed properly it can be difficult to get bright vibrant colors–especially with logwood (which apparently has been known to fade and rub off pretty quickly).   Apparently cotton yarns come to us with quite a bit of waxy residue, which was very clear to me when I dunked my sweater in some plain old water and soaked it for a bit (in a vain hope that the dye was crappy enough to even out if just soaked) and the water was completely brown.  So in order to remove the residue so the cotton can take dye better, it must be scoured.  I got this scour mess (powder detergenty stuff) from Hillcreek Fiber Studio and followed some simple directions using a big enamel pot on my stove: 5% scour to the weight of the fiber, simmer for half an hour, and then thoroughly rinse.

2. Pre-mordanting

The next step is this thing called mordanting, which *I think* is necessary for natural dyeing only (?) to prepare the fiber for taking the natural dye.  Different mordants are used for different dyes, different fibers and to get different colors with certain dyes (like using iron for darker colors).  There’s a good table here, showing the different outcomes with different dyes using different mordants.  It can also be done two different ways–mordanting before dyeing or mordanting and dyeing at the same time.  I did the former.

So of course, cotton also requires a different mordant than protein fibers: aluminum acetate.  There’s a great blog post on the different mordanting methods for cotton here.

This was also really easy, basically following some simple directions for the alum acetate method: using 5% mordant to the weight of the fiber (or 4 Tablespoons for 1 pound), dissolve the alum acetate in boiling water. Simmer for an hour (longer is fine, too), drain water and do not rinse (though some would argue that you should rinse…I did not).

3. Dyeing

The most exciting step is the actual dyeing.  I used logwood extract, which is a finely powdered dye concentrate.  Logwood is a bark that would require a more intensive preparation than I was willing to do and the extract seemed like a perfect lazyish solution.  I don’t remember exactly how much dye I used, but it was a very small amount–maybe a teaspoon of dye in total.  The kit I bought from Griffin Dyeworks came with an instruction book, and I would imagine any dye you bought would also come with specific instructions.  It followed the same general process of dissolving the dye in a bunch of boiling water and then soaking the fiber for a while.

One interesting thing was the addition of soda ash to the dye.  If you look at the first picture the dye is a reddish purple and in the second it’s a dark bluish purple…it was like magic–it just turned the instant the soda ash hit the dye bath.

The rest needs no explanation.

A 4th obvious step of Rinsing

And finally, Drying

I may have to find a good method of softening this up again…conditioner maybe?

Day #6…Half way there!

January 2, 2009

Ok folks, this is getting difficult.  I knew I didn’t have twelve finished products to share with you, but I forged on with the charade.  So now begins the I-must-atone-for-my-lies-and-show-you-the-myriad-of-ongoing-projects-I-have-which-illustrate-my-inability-to-commit portion of… Twelve Days of Non-Denominational blah blah blah.

I would actually have a great FO to show you had the yarn not completely betrayed me.

Here sits my completely knitted, seamed and otherwise lovely Phildar Meshy Sweater.

It sits soaking in a bucket, anxiously awaiting either its death or ascension to glory at the hands of this first-time dyer.  You will notice that even while it sits in a large bucket of water, it is comprised of two distinct colors–a very light grey and a darker grey-blue.

This was unintentional and not completely my fault.  The yarn I used is Rowan Purelife in Logwood–for the entire sweater, but from two different sources.  In my research, I have found that logwood is very prone to fade and rub off, and natural dyes in general can produce extremely different results in different dye lots.  I still believe the yarn itself is fantastic, I just caution all of you organic knitters out there to buy all the yarn you think you’ll need at once, from the same dye lot.

Because if not, you must delve deeply into the world of natural dyeing in order to fix your beautifully knitted sweater that now looks like a colorblock 80s mess.  I’ll give you full documentation of my dyeing endeavor once it’s completed, but let me tell you–it’s not what I thought it would be.  Dyers will laugh, but I seriously thought I’d just squirt some color into a bucket of water and stick my sweater in it for an hour or so.  But no no no.  I have to scour, then pre-mordant, and then dye.  I have no measuring implements, so it will be improvised.

I’m fully prepared for my sweater to die.  from the dyeing.

Possibly in memoriam, I wish to say that this sweater became kind of annoying to knit.  Quite a bit of knitting through back loops and the excitement of dropping stitches doesn’t come until the end.  That being said, I really am happy with the design, fit, and shape.  It’s very cool and…I think I’m realizing that I may shed tears if I kill my sweater.

The only thing that was a real problem was the sleeves.  According to my non-French-speaking translation of this French pattern, the sleeves are given no shape whatsoever–I mean no armhole shaping at all, just tubes of sleeve.  It looks surprisingly nice on, but when I followed the pattern exactly, the armholes were too small.  My fix was to still drop the appropriate stitches at the end, but pick them up again after creating the ladders and knit a couple of more rows–so no stitches were lost and the armholes would be almost twice as large.  They’re still a little tight, but fit decently.

I’m hoping to get to dyeing this week, so I’ll report back.

Let’s cross our fingers for a real FO, rather than a eulogy.

See you Monday for Day #7!


June 10, 2008

The idea of progress has been heavily on my mind lately. I just went to my 5 year college reunion, which is surprising in itself since college was not the positive experience I think it is for most people (high school strangely was the more positive time). Reunions I think generally leave us questioning how far we’ve come as individuals and though I pretty much left without any substantial revelations (except that there were quite a few cool, like-minded people that I wish I had known better while I was actually stuck in small city Virginia), I did come away with the reaffirmation that I have indeed grown into a far better and cooler person than the self-conscious, de-energized version of me running around college those years ago.

This reunion also got me thinking about progress of humans in general. I have the benefit of living with a vegan who is a vegan simply because he believes that by this point, with all of our physical and mental development, we humans should have progressed past the need to subjugate animals and use them primarily as commodities. Yet after a few conversations with friends at this reunion (all of whom I have nothing but the greatest respect for), I realized that maybe most people still do believe that humans are just better than animals and not only can but should exert that dominance. In fact, animals don’t have the same depth of emotion or level of consciousness to know the difference. I personally do not believe even an ounce of this, but it’s an argument that constantly comes up in the discussion of animal rights: the word animal itself denotes a something less than. It’s a living thing, yes. But it doesn’t emote like a human and our inability to understand animals as deeply conscious and cerebral creatures prevents us from believing they are worth protecting or even respecting in many instances. The question I got in drunken jest was would I kill a puppy or kill a baby. I think the real question is can we think of real situation where we would really have to do one to save the other? What I came out of this whole thought exercise was that it’s a slow progress…and we haven’t even progressed beyond the subjugation and torture of fellow human beings, whose humanity and capacity for deep emotion we should in theory be able to understand pretty well.

Even if we as a human race are only making slow progress on this front, I as an individual am making lighting fast progress on what in this context is a more frivolous topic, my current knitting project:

My meshy Phildar sweater.

The pattern is nervousing because you set up a row at the beginning, then knit your dozens of centimeters and then drop stitches….so if you screw up…it’s all over.

It all worked out for the front piece and looks pretty fantastic so far.  And the pattern has delivered in teaching me new techniques: the twisted stitch to border dropped stitches.  It really tightens the stitch and makes for some really clean edges.

The end product will not be so fast coming I fear.  But soon.

I hope my dear knitting friends aren’t too annoyed that I made you go through my rant on the progress of humanity before getting to the knitting.  Maybe you were smart and just scrolled down to the pictures.

le genius

May 31, 2008

That’s what I am.

I ordered my first French Phildar magazine, because the selections that have been translated into English are not as abundant.  And I love the new summer issue.

The thing is I speak zero French…well, I know j’mappelle Monica.  Parle vous Frances? And then I start speaking Spanish or Portuguese (badly).

But.  Thanks to this fantastic site, this article, and my own shocking genius, I translated my first French pattern for this beauty, which will be done with a lot of leftover blue-grey Rowan Purelife:

In celebration of my linguistic feat, I’ve already plotted my next project:

The catalogue is mix of 80s inspired dresses (which are cute) and huge cardigans (lots o ugliness in my opinion) and then the summery meshy stuff above.  My new-ish requirement is there have to be interesting new techniques that I haven’t done before (or know how to do) in order for me to knit it at this point.  The reason being I have enough clothes and not enough money to justify making everything I think is lovely.  I’ve also been doing a great job with my “green” yarn only challenge.  I just ordered me some Blue Sky Dyed Cotton and the new Limited Edition Malabrigo cotton, which has to last me through the next few months.

All in all, translating the pattern was much easier than I thought.  The thing is speaking knitspeak is far more important to understanding these patterns than speaking French.  In fact I’m not sure a French speaker who doesn’t speak knitting would be able to understand the pattern (like when I saw my first knitting pattern in English).  It’s just a matter of translating the abbreviations — half way through I was flying through the translation.  I only got stumped a few times, which was more a reflection of the weirdness of the pattern.  It has no shaping except for some minor decreases embedded into the stitch pattern, not even armhole shaping.  The diagram even shows 2 simple squares for the front and back.

Maybe my next challenge will be translating all the amazing Japanese patterns I know are out there.  A slightly harder task I feel…

Finished! Phildar Cardigan

January 26, 2008

Well, here it is. Seemed like it took forever after being spoiled with the instant gratification of the Twinkle knits. But this may be the nicest thing I’ve made–the kind of thing where I wore it to work and people who know I’m knitter didn’t assume I made it. I’m really happy with it and pretty proud of it. This was my first Phildar knit and I love the simplicity (and thus wearability) of their designs. The patterns are also extremely easy to follow. The mistakes I made were when I was rushing through something and weren’t a reflection of pattern vagueness or typos. The only thing about Phildar is actually getting your hands on the magazines, which for me ended up costing a small fortune–I ordered through Knit n’ Tyme in the fair land of Canadia and for 2 magazines I paid something like $50!! I’ve learned through the Ravelry forums that it would’ve been better to have ordered directly from Phildar.

I used Jo Sharp Alpaca Kid Lustre, which I have to say is gorgeous yarn. It has the right amount of sheen to make the piece look so nice in the end. And the alpaca makes it so warm and soft. The yarn gave me a slightly smaller gauge than the pattern called for, but since I wanted it to fit a little tighter than on the model I didn’t do any mods. The fit came out generally the way I wanted.

The buttons are ginormous vintage glass faceted buttons I got on Etsy. I had something else in mind but I couldn’t find what I wanted anywhere. My next endeavor may be button-making.

The skirt actually is another FO, of the sewing variety from a year or so ago. I love the buttons on it, which I got at Mood in NYC while I was living there. I only wish I had that place at my disposal still. It’s a very simple skirt, but finally something wearable. I went through a silk phase where I made all these silk pants and shorts and fluffy shirts that are cool…but in a costumy sort of way. Actually the shorts are cool. Maybe I’ll share those at some point.