Saturday, September 19, 2015

saturday swatch

I did something funny last night.

Remember those six little samples of yarn, several yards of each?

I swatched them all.

I cast on the first sample just because it is hard to handle a new yarn and not put it on needles.

Plus, I wanted to see if my fingers would still work with needles the diameter of toothpicks. They would. They did.

And those first few rows of 30 tidy little stitches were so entertaining, I decided to continue and knit all the samples, making a note about which fiber was which. Because this is all in aid of the Big Decision for the next dyepot.

The entire finished swatch was about three by seven inches; half the size of a typical swatch for one yarn.

The little stripes indicate where the samples are linked by their individual pre-dyed wrapping strands. The result reminded me of those packets of jelly candies we used to buy when I was little. Do you know the ones I mean? There were five or six in a packet.

After noting some differences in the yarn as I knitted, and feeling differences in the texture of the knitted fabric - although certainly a "real" swatch would make this much easier! - I decided to wash the swatch to see if each fiber would bloom. Why not?

And this afternoon when I finally began a long-delayed project of overdyeing a plaid cotton jacket, I thought, "Why not take the tiny swatch experiment as far as possible?" and added it to the dyebucket. Not looking for quantitative information; just taking an opportunity to quickly see what the variability might be for uptake of dye.

Do you think there'd be much difference?

When all six sample yarns are based on two breeds of sheep?

Go on, take a guess.

And by the way, the bottom-most sections are the two I was initially trying to choose between.

ETA: the top four sections are merino yarns, the bottom two are British Bluefaced Leicester.

And for the truly hardcore: the 4-ply BFL was knit on US size 0 needles (2mm) while the 3-ply Sport merino was knit on US size 1 needles (2.25mm)

Dyeing is sooooo interesting!

I hope your Saturday has also been colorful and informative.

The jacket is having a second trip through the washing machine, to remove any excess dye. If I can get a few more pictures from my poor camera (the ones about took several attempts) I will post before and after snaps when the jacket is dry tomorrow. My goal was to tone down a squintingly-bright red plaid (with blue, green, and yellow components) into a deep brown fabric with subtle green tones.
Fingers crossed!


  1. Very interesting! As I recall, down breed fleece doesn't take dye as well as the long wools. Or maybe not at all! Dying is always a lot of fun, I'd forgotten how much! One of these days I'll get my outdoor kitchen going and have at it once again. :)

    1. Hi Leigh - please come back and write a bit about "down breed fleece"! I know very little about sheep, and when "down" is part of a breed name (like Southdowns) thought it referred to the region where the breed originated, rather than their fiber. After reading your comment I googled but came up empty on "down" as a wool type.

    2. The very best book about types of fleece (at least I think it's the best) is Nola and Jane Fournier's In Sheep's Clothing: A Handspinner's Guide to Wool. It divides them into fine. long and crossbred, down-type, other, and black and colored wools. It also has an excellent chapter on selecting, sorting, and storing fleece, plus one on blending wool. I learned a lot about the different types of fleece from that book. Highly recommended!

  2. Good luck on the jacket.
    I guessed the differences wouldn't be noticable. I favor the darker color on the top because it looks less fuzzy, and I like the solid color tone achieved. I wonder what they fed those sheep.

  3. Oh, the candy you mention I think the one called Chuckles.

  4. YES!!! CHUCKLES!!!
    Thanks so much for coming up with that - I don't think I would have remembered :)

  5. I don't think I would have realized that dyes wouldn't take the same on different types of wool ... different fibers (wool vs cotton, etc), yes. Very interesting. I have some unknown wool I'm planning to try my first dyeing experiment on soon. Thanks for the information.

    1. You're very welcome and I look forward to seeing your results! Dyeing is infinitely entertaining, partly because it is often a surprise. One thing I've noticed is, when I'm using botanicals that I've sought and gathered and prepared and so on, the colors I get miraculously turn out to be beautiful to my eyes. I never realized how much I love browns until I started dyeing!

  6. I've never been a dyer so I found this most interesting. It was amazing to me that the center and top sections didn't seem to take the dye at all and the differences in how the stitches look after washing

    1. The sections that look undyed are actually a very pale green - quite pretty! but it's hard to see without something white in the picture. And to be fair to the yarn, some of the apparent fuzziness is actually the tiny ends of yarn that I knit in as I went along...11 ends in this one tiny piece! This was a highly amusing knit :)


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