don’t dye when drunk: Kelmscott cardigan.

well, I wasn’t drunk…. I just couldn’t think straight. It’s that damned illness I have, some weeks I have brainfog without realizing it.

remember Kelmscott cardigan? lovely cardi, made it extra long. First time seaming. Great project, great fit. Only the colour was kind of mehhhhh:

projectpage on Raverly can be found here

yeah, that colour is definitely not good. But not to worry because I can dye wool! Been doing that for years.

Dyeing a garment requires a bit more skill than dyeing an odd skein of yarn or spinning fibre because most times you want the dye to distribute evenly on a garment. In order to avoid blotches of colour you have to time the dye and the acids and the temps carefully.

well, stand aside, because I know what I’m doing!

A nice dark plum colour. And almost evenly dyed. There’s a bit of a darker patch at the label/revers on the right there but otherwise: even. The dark streaks at the middle are just tricks of the light (honestly)

Basically what I did was: presoak the garment. Push out all the air, stretch the knitting with your hands, make sure every little bit is thoroughly wet.

Make the dye but preferable with as little acid as possible. Make sure all the dye is properly dissolved. I myself have problems with dissolving Ashford Dyes, there allways remain grains. (next time I should do it like I make hot cocao or Japanese Sumi-é Ink: add two drops to the dry stuff, mix, add another two drops etc.)

I like to use Landscape Dyes, I can get them to dissolve pretty good. Only they have the acid incorporated into the grains and that’s not ideal for garment dyeing. So for garment dyeing I often resort to food colouring, liquid.

Put the dye in cold water in pan. Add garment. Stirr and let it soak up as much as possible. Stretch the garment to make sure the dye gets to hard places such as the inside of stitches and seams. (for this I wear hardwearing kitchen gloves, not the light latex gloves. Also kitchen gloves cover my wrists who have a tendency to scoop up water whenever I wear short gloves.)

then and only then start adding heat. Slowly.

stirr a bit but only a bit. Be very weary because heat+stirring = felting.

when you are confident the dye is touching the yarn everywhere you can add vinegar. Timing the acid is especially tricky when dyeing blue (turquoise is notorious for this!)

I cannot explain it any better without you come standing next to me in the kitchen and looking what I do. Bring scones.

hmmmm. In the mean time I’m not very happy with the colour. The grayness of the yarn is still coming through. I used too little dyestuff. I prefer more saturated colours. People I meet prefer them too, seeing how they keep asking me whether I’m ill if I wear warm greys or pastels.

stand aside! I’ll throw it into the dye pot again to add more colour!


the colour is right. Magnificent even. A nice dark saturated plum. I managed to stretch the collar into shape. But the cardi….has felted. It shrunk. All the lace details have gone. Unsolvable.

I cried.

I know what I did wrong. I stirred too much while raising the temperature to get an even colour. I reused the water from last time and it still had all the vinegar in it so the process when quicker than when starting with plain water. Because of this I stirred a lot more to try to get an even colour because I knew the dye would attach more quickly this time around.

Then, at rinsing, I was not gentle enough. Temperatures differed too much. I handled it too roughly because I was sick and tired of spending days dyeing. And when I noticed things going wrong (they still went wrong gradually with me adding the heat gradually and observing closely) I did not have the clearity of brain to stop or at least to reconsider. It was one of those days that any task was too much really and I was too stubborn to give in and take it easy. Too proud too. Because then I’d have to admit this illness is kicking my butt and I cannot even do the things I really want to do.

the truth is: I am ill and I cannot do the things I want to do. However I am coping and doing a lot of fun things. So when I have an off day there is no reason for me to postphone things a day (or two) when I don’t feel up to it.

I hope I learned my lesson and will take regularly breaks to check in with myself.

After crying for a bit I took a deep breath and flexed my optimism-muscle. There was still a lot of dye left in the pan and I used it to create some Sugar Plum Fairy Goodness for felting or spinning:

Here’s some silk chiffon; 100 grams of Merino Silk roving and a whole lot of Wensleydale locks. Together they can become a felted dress.

This time I did not stir at all. I just tossed it all in, one atop the other. If I would have stirred the various wools would have blended and it would have been a nightmare  to get them out of the pot to rinse without them matting together.

Without stirring the dyes ‘broke’. The plum became pink in some places, blueish in other. It is a lovely palette and everything goes well together. I can even use the felted Kelmscott when making something with this because it shares the same colours. Now that I have cried and with that have left the disappointment I can view upon the felted cardi as just a piece of lovely coloured felt (having a cardi shape for now). Basically it’s just a piece of cloth and can be used with this sugar plum fairy.

Also: I bought enough wool to knit another sweater. This time it has already has the right colour.

It’s Donegal Soft, the 2ply Merino aran weight by Donegal Yarns in a lovely midnight colour, here’s the (not so well coloured) picture from its seller in Dublin

1 sells yarn from Donegal Yarns and I have ordered with them before.

I bought the 3ply Irish Wool for that cardi that I messed up so dearly with fog brained math. I will reknit that some day, the yarn is frogged and doesn’t show it.

I’m betting the 2ply shown above will show of cables or lacework in a pretty way too.

The Lang Yarns Alpaca Superlight I made the Pippi Lace KAL Shawl with was also form Springwools. And now I’m trying out the Donegal Yarns Merino and I have ordered a few balls of the Donegal Yarns Aran Tweed which is a single. Just to see what it’s like.

But first I am redyeing a batch of yarns from Germany: Frankengarn. I want to start a simple sweater later this week (actually: tomorrow) and I dyed it not saturated enough.

not blue enough. You see a few spots, that’s because this dye is a combination of Landschape Dyes Elements Apollo Bay (well dissolved) and Ashford Dyes Blue (grainy). But in yarn it’s not much of a problem, it will give a lively effect to the knitting.

the problem is this is not yet blue enough. The other problem is that evening is falling and then I cannot see what I am doing well. A pro with dyeing at night is that it is easier to leave the dyepot along while the yarn cools. Nothing will felt your wool faster than an impatient dyer checking her pots.


6 thoughts on “don’t dye when drunk: Kelmscott cardigan.

  1. Ohh, that is so sad!! I am sorry for your Kelmscott, though you are right, it is a beautiful piece of felt.I love the fibres and fabric you dyed with the remnants of the dyebath, too. I hope you have forgotten the sadness of the felting when it comes time to continue with the project!

    • I’m sure of it! the colours and fibres really invite to felt. Just waiting for Spring cleaning to magically happen so I have room on the floor to get started.

      as long as I’m wishing I’d like a cat as big as a goat too, for some serious cat cuddling.

  2. I’m so so sorry to hear about the felting accident. I’ve had one of those myself and I feel your pain. The crying helped me somewhat.. 😛 I hope you don’t feel too bad about it 🙂 *internethug*

  3. Well, the colors are beautiful! Sugarplum Fairy indeed. Have fun with the new project. I too have felted unintentionally. And I have soreness and brain fog from fibromyalgia, especially bad when weather is changing. Wool helps me to feel better.

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