english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Acid Dyed Self-Striping Sock Yarn

Naturally Dyed Yarn

At the most recent meeting of my Weavers, Spinners and Dyers guild, we tried out acid dyes in addition to the natural dyes I previously blogged about. Led by fellow WSD member Rachel, I took the opportunity to dye some white yarn to make self-striping sock yarn.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Acid dyes work with protein (animal) fibres and with nylon (as it’s also a polyamide), but not cellulose (plant) fibres. The yarn I was using was a wool and nylon blend. Acid dyes can be purchased with or without the acid already included. We used Kemtex and Colourcraft powdered dyes, and added white vinegar (citric acid is an alternative option) as our acid.

When mixing the powdered dye with the acid you only require 5 gram (approximately one tea spoon) per 100 gram of wool for a strong colour, so a tub of the powdered dye goes a long way. (Rachel recommended 1.5 – 2 gram of dye for medium colours, and 0.5 gram for pale colours).

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

In order to make a four colour self-striping sock yarn, we each started with 100 grams of white sock yarn, wound into a skein approximately 6.4 metres long, and secured with figures of eight ties every 50cm. (Rachel advised that, when knitted up, this would equate to approximately 2 row stripes of each colour at 64 stitch rows on 2mm needles).

While our skeins were soaking in a bowl of water, we prepared four dyes in separate containers (plastic cups in our case). As only 5 gram of dye is required per 100 gram of wool, we only needed one quarter that amount per dye colour (which equated to approximately one quarter of a teaspoon). One full teaspoon of white vinegar was added to each dye (it’s best to err on the side of too much rather than too little with the acid), and the cups were topped up with enough water to cover the wool.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Once the skeins were thoroughly wet, they were squeezed dry, and then divided equally between the four containers. With such a long skein it’s easy to mess this bit up, so it’s worth taking care to ensure that you have the colours in your preferred order and don’t splash the dye. You also need to make sure that you don’t end up with a white section of yarn at the ‘joins’ between the four colours.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

The skeins were left to soak in the dye for ten minutes, after which we carefully removed one quarter at a time from it’s container and wrapped it individually in clingfilm. Once all four sections had been individually wrapped in clingfilm, a final layer was wrapped around the whole skein.

In order to fix the colour, the skeins then had to be heated. We did this by placing the clingfilm wrapped skeins in a steamer on the hob for thirty minutes. This heating can also be done in the microwave or oven, but there’s a much greater chance of burning your wool…

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Once removed from the steamer, I left my skein to cool overnight before rinsing it in cool water and then giving it a wash with some wool soak. I didn’t getting any colour running when I washed it – which confirmed that the dye had taken – although there was a very strong smell of vinegar!

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Finally, I wound the yarn into a ball. It’s now waiting for me to choose a suitable pattern and knit it up.

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Some guild members used an alternative method to dye fleece for spinning. They prepared the dye in the same way, but then applied it to their fleece using syringes or paint brushes. The fleece was wrapped in clingfilm and steamed in the same way to fix the dye. When dyeing fleece you don’t need to worry about leaving white patches, as these will blend in and lighten the yarn once it’s spun.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

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Knitted Socks for #1year1outfit

TOFT DK Oatmeal Bed Socks

Have you seen This is Moonlight’s One Year One Outfit challenge?

I’m in, and these socks are my first make; they are made using the TOFT Alpaca Bed Socks pattern, and TOFT’s DK wool in Oatmeal. I used approximately 80g of a 100g ball. The last 20g is probably going to be used for weaving as I can’t think of anything else small enough.

The #1year1outfit challenge is to make clothing out of locally produced and sourced fabrics or fibres. The challenge is inspired by Rebecca Burgess’ Fibershed project, which began when she decided to source the fibres and dyes for a year’s clothing within a 150 mile radius.

Nicki from This is Moonlight, has set herself the goal of creating an outfit using natural fibres sourced in southwest Western Australia, within a 500km radius of her home. She’s also planning to buy no new fabric that doesn’t meet this requirement.

TOFT DK Oatmeal Bed Socks

Personally, I want to make an outfit made from fibres/fabrics produced in the UK. That gives me a very generous radius, but given that the UK is relatively small I think that’s ok;) I’m starting close to home, as TOFT Alpaca who produced this wool are located only 43 miles from my home.

I’m thinking a jumper with Hole & Sons wool (if I can get hold of some of their next batch) would be a good #1year1outfit addition (they are based approx 179 miles from my home). Harris Tweed is the only fabric I’m aware of that is produced wholly in the UK, so that’s on my #1year1outfit list. Is anyone aware of any other fabric? I’ve also found a local branch of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who meet monthly, where I’m hoping to pick up some tips.

TOFT DK Oatmeal Bed Socks