Saturday, September 24, 2011

Greener Shades Dyes

I've been experimenting with Greener Shades dyes. These are acid dyes for protein fibers such as wool and silk, but they are nontoxic. Most acid dyes are not extremely toxic, but some have heavy metals in them, and it's difficult to know which do and which don't. With these dyes, you know you're safe.

I dyed several 100 yd skeins of a sport weight yarn that I bought on a cone years ago from Webs. The plan is to make very colorful mittens, from a book called Magnificent Mittens and Socks, by Anna Zilboorg. The gauge for her fancy mittens is about 6 stitches to the inch, which is perfect for this sport weight yarn.

I did all the dyeing in a crock pot out on the porch. This is a dedicated dye crock pot, and it works very well for dyeing wool, because it just sort of simmers rather than coming to a hard boil, which is easier on the wool. The workflow is: I skein the yarn, put it in soapy water to soak, heat up the crock pot, add the dye, add the yarn, and then wait a while for the yarn to soak up some of the dye. Then I add the vinegar which activates the dye and makes it stick to the yarn. I leave the mixture to simmer for a while, and then I come back and check it. If the water is clear, the dye has set and you can remove the yarn from the pot. I cool it for a minute and then rinse it in warm water, spin out the extra water and hang to dry.

I use the dye as a 1% solution. That is, I dissolve 1 gram of the dye in 100 mls of water, in a little half pint jam jar. For a deep shade, I use a 2% dye concentration: that is, I weigh the fiber dry, and multiply by 2 to get the number of ml to use to dye with. For example, for 50 grams of yarn you would use 100 ml of dye solution.

One thing I found out is that when you try to dye wool a deep shade like that, it doesn't take up every bit of the dye even if you cook it for a while. But that's ok, because if you put a new skein in after you take the previous, deeply dyed one out, the new skein will soak up the rest of the dye and will be a nice pale shade, a tint of the previous skein. These skeins harmonize well with each other in knitting.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Skorts for an Active Girl

My niece is a gymnast and a very strong and active girl. She likes for her clothes, even her school clothes, to be comfortable and practical, and she likes to be able to do a cartwheel whenever she wants to. For all those reasons, she prefers skorts to skirts. Skorts look like skirts, but they have built-in shorts underneath. So when you turn a cartwheel, nobody says, "I see London, I see France..."

I made a skort for her using McCall's 4762. I altered the waist and hips slightly, as my niece is very slim for her height. You sew the skort by making a pair of shorts, then an A-line skirt, and then a waistband. The shorts and skirt are basted together, and then sewed to the waistband. The waistband is smooth in front and elasticized in the back:

After I made this skort I realized it wouldn't be hard to design my own, using any shorts and skirt patterns. For the next one, I decided to make the skirt fuller, for more freedom of movement. I used the Kwik Sew Sewing for Children book, and I traced the shorts pattern and the full gathered skirt pattern. I added some side seam pockets to the skirt, and it was a simple matter to draft a waistband to sew both pieces to.

The KwikSew book also tells you how to take the basic shorts pattern and alter it so that it becomes flared shorts, which look like a skirt because the legs are fuller. These shorts are very comfortable, and needless to say, they are sufficiently modest for cartwheels and handsprings. I put side seam pockets on these shorts also. All you have to do to alter the basic shorts pattern is slash the pattern from waist to hem and spread the hem about 3 inches. (I also lengthened the shorts first, so that they would be long enough for school.)

Now I'm thinking about skorts for fall, in soft corduroys. The shorts could be a different, coordinating fabric. Maybe I'll make some big girl skorts for myself. I don't usually turn upside down except when I'm doing yoga, but maybe yoga skorts are the next hot thing.