Techniques: Self-striping yarn
As a novitiate in the Order of Kool-Aid Dyeing, I've been having a lot of fun making self-striping yarn. My method (which, I should warn you, is fraught with shortcuts and awkward work-arounds) follows. I can't stress enough that I'm new at this - all this is old-hat to many of you, I'm sure, but I thought it would be interesting to document it.
Pick a yarn. All my dyeing thus far has been superwash wool (Dale Baby Ull, to be precise), which takes dye thirstily. I'm told that Merino, like Knitpicks Color Your Own works very well, too, but any animal fiber should be fun to experiment with. This sloppy, low-maintenance girl just can't bear the thought of handwash-only socks, is all.
Once you've got a yarn, you need to determine how much yarn will go into each row of your piece. I've been working with a pattern in mind - Grumperina's Jaywalkers, which show off stripes beautifully - but you could also use an all-purpose number derived from a basic pattern to make stash yarn.
Cast on, mark the starting point of your working yarn (don't include the caston row) with permanent marker, and knit a few rows. The most accurate measure, I think, comes from working several rows and then taking the average length, particularly with a patterned fabric. Mark your end point, and frog.
Fold the frogged length into the number of rows you knit, and measure:
Don't worry too much about pulling the kinky yarn perfectly straight - just lay it out and take the measurement. With this pattern, I got about 32" of yarn in each row.
Now, you need to do a little math.
Come up with the stripe sequence you want - I'm going with six rows of dark red, two of dark pink, three of light pink (undyed), and two more of dark pink, for a total of 13 rows in each stripe repeat. Multiplying by the number of inches per row, each stripe repeat will take up 416" (13 x 32"), broken into a 192" (6 x 32") run of deep red, a 64" (2 x 32") run of dark pink, a 96" (3 x 32") run of light pink, and one more 64" (2 x 32") run of dark pink.
Note: I think stripes of at least two rows are the most visually coherent - a stripe of just one row is impossible to match joglessly, and any overlap is immediately obvious. Overlaps or gaps in stripes are harder to see when the stripe is a little wider.
Now, you need to wind off a skein 416" in circumference. Each 416" loop will create one stripe repeat. You could use a warping board, or go the low-tech route with two lamps set 208" apart.
Tie the skein with some waste acrylic or cotton every 18-24" or so to keep the loop intact and prevent tangling, and then mark your color divisions. Measure out the sections you came up with earlier, and tie them off with a different color of waste yarn.
Now, soak the skein in cool water with a dribble of wool wash:
while you mix the pots of color. I'm going with a deep red (4 packets Black Cherry, sprinkle Cherry), a deep pink (2 packets Cherry), and a light pink (the starting color of the yarn).
Now, dye your yarn as usual - I mix the color with cold water, add the yarn sections, and then turn on the heat. The magic seems to happen faster that way - and if you were working with non-superwash yarn, there wouldn't be any concerns about temperature shock and resulting felting.
Superwash provides one more benefit - you can stir without fear. Let the placenta - I mean wool - sit just under a boil until the solution is exhausted.
Let the pots cool, rinse your yarn
and hang it to dry.
Now, wind off your dyed, dry yarn into a more manageable hank (I don't have a niddy noddy, so I wind around my arm).
You can make a pretty skein by holding the hank stretched on your index fingers, twisting the right end, and tucking the two end loops together. The twisted hank should double back on itself to form a neat, compact little smugworthy spiral:
Enjoy your delicious stripey goodness. If I were the kind of person who named her craft supplies, I don't think I could help but dub this "Let Me Call You Sweet Tart." Not that I'm the kind of person who would do that. Or would secretly think it. Or anything like that.