Overdyeing Day: Saving the stash one skein at a time

Way back when, when I was still a pretty new knitter, I – like many young knitters – discovered Kool-Aid dyeing. Whatthewhat?! You can make your own beautiful hand-dyed yarn, just like all those on etsy, with a packet of overly sweet drink mix?! Snort. As if it were that easy. But we all imagine we’re going to sprinkle some blue powder around and come up with magic – like a yarn fairy, if you will.

Of course, we kind of do, only maybe not as quickly as we like to think we will. I think any yarn dyer, professional or not, will tell you that even those early tragic skeins teach you so much about how the dye interacts with the yarn, how the colors interact with each other, and how to plan color placement on the skein. I’m absolutely not even close to a professional just a hobby kitchen dyer, dunking a few skeins every once in a while, but even I’ve come a long way since I first gave it a whirl.

My first Kool-Aid skeins have been wasting away in my stash pretty much since they came out of the dyepot – I think I’ve always known in my heart of hearts that they weren’t right. I didn’t know yet what kind of yarns I like to knit with (almost exclusively solids and semi-solids now) and I’ve given some of them a sporting try, but they all just obscured any pattern I tested and the colors were just a little too Kool-Aid. I got sick of them sitting around wasting space, so I finally set aside a whole day to deal with them. Get pretty or get out of my stash, enough was enough.

Here’s some before and afters, though I have to admit that this is a little bit like those weight loss ads in crappy magazines. Of course the after person looks amazing compared to the before, shown with limp, greasy hair, no make-up or styling in a grainy, gray photo.

First up – this used to be called Hawaiian Morning:

Hawaiian Morning Sock Yarn

But is now Jolene:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Jolene

Ugh. I hate even having these ‘before’ photos on my pretty blog! The old colors don’t seem that offensive, this was more a case of the placement of the colors. I added ten tonnes of red, making it a nice semi-solid. It was still way too bright though, so I added, oddly, more red to make it deeper and then a little plum at a time to chill it out. I will, apparently, never get a nice photo of a red yarn with my simple little camera, but the photo up there is at least a close approximation of Jolene. This skein taught me to think ahead about what you’re basically going for and how to aim yourself in that direction. I’m not a big fan of red, generally, so I really had to think about what kind of red would be acceptable to me and then work myself there backwards.

This ‘before’ yarn, Take On Me, was definitely the worst of the bunch:

Take On Me Sock Yarn

But became my biggest win, Because The Night:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Because The Night

Seriously, what the hell was I thinking?! Stripes might’ve been cute in these colors, but it was just a big splotchy mess instead. With that selection of colors, I knew the only way to save it at all was to just cover the whole damn thing in black, under the theory that plain black yarn is infinitely more useful than hideously ugly yarn. That worked pretty well, but it came out just slightly uneven with little touches of the orange showing through here and there. I threw it back in the pot the next day and dumped red and plum on it, which worked exactly as I’d hoped: a rich jet-black with a sort of purple-y glow. Overdyeing certainly takes time and patience, but does result in wonderfully deep and rich colors.

Amber Waves, a yarn that looks way nicer here than it had any right to:

Amber Waves

Became Grass Is Greener, this yummy grassy skein:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Grass Is Greener

The ‘before’ photo is unfairly flattering – the real color was less canary-ish, much more highlighter-y. It was one of my first attempts with acid dyes and was actually almost nice; adding a little brown would’ve been a really simple way to make it more user-friendly. Um, if I hadn’t just bought a skein of Malabrigo Sock in that exact color. Dumping Jade over it did the trick just as well, but it still took the addition of some navy to defeat that highlighter glow.

Perhaps the yarn I most wanted to save was a batch of handspun laceweight, a merino/tencel blend that took me weeks to spin and ply. Man, was I disappointed when I tried to knit this yarn up into a Citron last year. Doesn’t it look like it’s going to be gorgeous in the skein? I thought so too, but in reality, I’d taken beautiful hand-dyed fiber (which I’d hoarded for a really long time as it was) and muddied up all the colors. Just to make matters worse, I’d somehow spun one skein to be self-striping and the other not so much. Just a sheer coincidence, where the colors met while plying, but it made them difficult to use together in one project. This problem yarn used to be called Starlite:

Starlite Handspun

The addition of blue fixed it right up, though it’s much more steel-y in real life, which is why I’ve re-named it Blue Steel:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Blue Steel

What a relief to have saved it! Remind me to be more careful next time I spend so much time spinning laceweight.

And, finally, my very favorite overdye job. Valentine, as it was, didn’t seem so bad – not the worst yarn ever, but too much shade variation for my taste:

Valentine Sock Yarn

Plum – a cure-all, apparently – made all the difference. I think this one, now called Neat Little Rows, will be in my stash for a long time – not because I’m avoiding it again, but because I’ll be hoarding it.

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Neat Little Rows

This whole extravaganza was such an enormous success, I’ve gathered up two more bags of yarn with color issues for further overdyeing adventures!


Thursday + Friday Loot

Isn’t this the prettiest little pile of loot you ever saw? After a chaotic week, and an especially tired and very odd Friday, I thought I deserved a little treat. This is a slippery slope indeed, but luckily my justification led to a very reasonable collection. I snatched up the copy of Mollie Makes from the WH Smith in Milton Keynes – still one left last Thursday when I got it! – which was pretty exciting for two reasons: 1.) I missed the first issue and couldn’t do the starter subscription deal like I’d hoped, so I hadn’t even seen this much-talked-about new magazine in person yet, and 2.) the lovely Scrapiana has the cover project of this second issue! I’m so pleased for her, and her strawberries are just too adorable, dontcha think?

The yarn and precious little birdy brooch were greedily acquired at All The Fun Of The Fair, a tiny charming shop in London with yarn and other crafty whatsits that I’d visited several years ago and remembered when worn out both physically and mentally in town on Friday. I wanted a little treat to wash away the morning I’d had, which was neither good nor bad but kind of surreal, and hoped they’d still have some boring ‘ole Opal sock yarn in stock. Having lived in a house with carpeting for some time now, I’ve come to accept that luxurious sock yarn just doesn’t agree with it. (More on my now overflowing darning pile another day.) So I’m leaving the the pretty hand-dyed stuff for shawls and other non-sock projects and sticking with the workhorse yarn for socks. It’s not exactly the most glamorous yarn, but it gets the job done and it wears like iron. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to give up knitting socks altogether, right?

Total Christmas Insanity: Spinning a Vest

Christmas present #2 and the one will most definitely be my downfall: a handknit sweater vest for my father. Not really that crazy on paper, but if you know about the rules, you’re definitely thinking that there’s no way I can do this for £10 (unless I already have suitable yarn, which I sadly do not).

Total Insanity - Christmas spinning

And you’re right, no way can I buy a man’s sweater vest worth of yarn for under £10. But I can, in theory, spin that yarn myself for under £10. This is undyed Falkland wool from the excellent Wingham Wool Work. I’ve never spun Falkland before but I needed something on the cheaper side and a quick search on Ravelry uncovered a ton of Falkland fans. Having spun up five bobbins and plied three so far, I’m definitely with them. Soft, buttery to spin, fluffy and sproingy when washed – yumyumyum.

Total Insanity - Christmas spinning

With three skeins plied and washed, I guess I should start knitting my ass off now but here’s the part that makes all this extra fun: I haven’t exactly sorted out a pattern yet. I’m spinning it to about a DK weight, and kind of have my eye on the Conservative (but Pretty!) Dad Vest by Julia Trice (Ravelry link). I’d have to do a little gauge fudging maybe, and figure out size-changing stuff. Which just can’t fail, of course, since I’ve never done any of that before. Oy vey. This one makes me really panic – ohmygod, what was I thinking?!

Total Insanity - Christmas spinning

If successful, this could be my best received handmade gift ever. I know this because every time I’m knitting around him, my Dad asks if I’m knitting him a vest. I’d love for it to finally be true. But at what cost? At what cost, I say?!

Totals so far:

Wool: £7.50 (if I use it all, the rules say you only need to count in the budget what you actually used, assuming you have a real use for the rest. Of course it’s always possible I’ll need more.)
Pattern: free (if I stick to my plan as it is now)
My sanity: I don’t even want to think about it. Wish me luck.

Total (so far): £7.50, subject to change.

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