Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Handspinning and Dyeing Sock Yarn

SOCKS! Cannot get enough of knitting the things.
However, I thought I'd have a go at making my own sock yarn. The yarn is now complete and sock number one is currently under construction.

If you are interested in learning more about the dyeing process then read this post.
This is more of a visual guide to the different stages of making and dyeing your own yarn.

Here we go:

While making any yarn, durability is a main concern - particularly when it comes to sock yarn. Using synthetic fibres is a good way to add strength to your fibres. In this blend, I added 25% nylon to white Blue Faced Leicester tops. 

You can see the difference of the bright white nylon against the BFL. I wasn't sure how well acid dyes would work with synthetic fibres, so instead of blending these two fibres with a drum carder I blended them by hand for a more even mix. Evenly mixing the nylon into the main fibre should help prevent holey socks too.

Rolags all set up ready for spinning.
I may have left quite a length of time in between the actual spinning part and I forgot to document this part of the process silly me! 

You do need to have the wheel at a higher ratio when you're spinning finer yarn. Each group of fibres needs an increased amount of twists to hold it together, whereas a chunky yarn requires less rotation to keep its form. Creating a thin yarn can be rather time consuming, but if you prepare the fibre well (light fluffy rolags) before starting then you're less likely to encounter problems during spinning. 

After a good few (cumulative) hours of spinning:
-the yarn has been wound off the bobbin and onto a niddy noddy
-waste cotton has been tied around points of the skein to prevent the yarn from tangling during dyeing.

In the same way you would set the twist in a pre-dyed yarn, let it soak in warm water with some wool wash for about 15 minutes. This helps the fibre absorb the dye and also removes any residue left on the yarn.

While the skein is soaking, I tend to prepare my dye. I have some mixes already made and stored away, so sometimes it's just a case of tweaking them to get the colours right. A good way to check the colour is to paint it onto some white paper (if you're using white yarn) as the dye solutions can look a lot darker than they really are.

Once the yarn has been painted, it is wrapped up in cling film.
During my previous dyeing experiments, I have used a pot with a steamer attachment to set the dye. I managed to get my hands on a cheap microwave, which is apparently a good way to set the colour in a lot less time.
Before I have left the cling film package to steam for about 30 minutes. This time it was in the microwave for a total of 5 minutes. If you are using a microwave it is important to only use it for dyeing and not for cooking food as well due to the chemicals in the dye.

The package will retain heat for a while, so leave it to cool for about 15-20mins before attempting to open it. After rinsing away to excess dye all you need to do is squeeze out the water and let it dry.

The nylon seems to have taken the dye rather well. There appears to be a slight sheen to the yarn, which is either from the nylon or because the BFL fibres were a good grade.
I'm excited to see how the colours knit up.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Handspinning: Seascape Yarn

This is my most recent yarn. I seem to have an abundance of green and blue fibres so I thought I'd use some of them up. I thought it would be easiest to photograph each stage so you can see the process from the fibres to the finished yarn. I kept this as a single ply yarn, mainly because during the spinning process I allowed some sections to become thicker and thinner so the finished yarn has a mix of textures. Some of the areas with more fibres are lighter and fluffier, whereas the thinner sections have more colour definition. I have used 100% merino fibres because they are easy to spin, they make soft yarn and are available in lots of pre-dyed colours. 

At the moment I am also working on some sock yarn made with natural coloured Blue Faced Leicester fibres, so once that is done I'll get back to the dyeing!

My Seascape yarn is available to purchase HERE!

The selection of fibres in various colours.

Hand carding for blending and making rolags.

A group of rolags.

Halfway through the spinning - yarn on the bobbin.

Finished skein of yarn.

Here's a nice wee close up!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Just hangin'

I've been a busy wee weasel since reorganising my workspace, and I've had another shift of equipment around my desk to allow for my sewing machine. 
Lately, I've been spinning some Icelandic wool after purchasing some yarn I used for a giant scarf. I figured that spinning a chunky single yarn wouldn't be too time consuming. Right now it is drying (along with a build up of other skeins I've been meaning to set the twist in). Last night my bathroom smelt like a sheep had been bathing in it!

Icelandic wool has very long fibres and it makes for a strong durable yarn. You can see how fuzzy it is!:

I have a selection of Icelandic yarn, along with the other merino/silk blends I make on Etsy...HERE

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Clear workspace, clear mind...let's get making!

I always find it interesting looking in other peoples studios, so I decided to post about the current layout of working area/bedroom. 

Wool can be rather irritating to store: it takes up a large amount of space and by storing it in closed boxes you can't really see the colours. Today I devised a makeshift shelf out of stacked shoe boxes masking taped together. Seems to be doing the job and it hasn't collapsed within the first few hours!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Dyeing Sock Yarn

Another productive day today!
I placed a fairly large order with World of Wool at the beginning of the week. They have a great selection of wool and at excellent prices. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to build up the selection of acid dyes I have. Lately, I have been knitting a lot of socks so it would only make sense to experiment with dyeing sock yarn. Here is a wee step by step for hand painting your own sock yarn:

 You will need:

  • White/natural sock yarn (as many skeins as you wish to dye)
  • Acid dyes (I have used Eurolana)
  • White vinegar
  • Empty glass jars
  • A brush
  • Plastic sheeting/newspaper
  • Cling film
  • A steamer or a large pot


Your skeins will need a good soaking to allow the dye to penetrate the yarn. Soak the yarn in warm water with a little bit of wool wash and leave for about 20 minutes.

I have chosen a sock yarn that is 75% Blue Faced Leicester and 25% nylon. Most commercial sock yarns will have a small percentage of man made fibres blended in to make the yarn more durable. Tears would certainly be induced after spending hours dyeing and knitting your socks only for them to withstand a few weeks of wear.

 Set up your work area/dye solution:

Make sure your work area is covered with a plastic sheet or layers of newspaper...or both! Your glass jars should be clean and it is helpful if you have lids for them. This way you can save any mixed up dye solutions in a dark place until your next dyeing adventure.
The acid dyes are in powder form so you can mix a few of them together to achieve the colours you desire or keep them as flat bold tones. You will only need a small amount of powder so be sparing! It is quite difficult to tell how the colour will look on your yarn, so it is handy to keep a piece of white paper nearby to paint a little bit of solution onto, therefore you can gauge if you need to add more dye.

Add your dye into the jar, mix with roughly 100mls of cold water and add two spoonfuls of vinegar to help fix the dye. Mix up all of the colours you need.
Lay out some cling film and place your skein on the surface, making sure you have squeezed out as much water so the yarn is only damp.

 Let's get painting!

Here comes the creative part. You can simply paint the yarn in stripes, contrasting colours, half and half, etc. A water colour brush (like the one I am using) is probably not the best idea because it takes forever to paint the yarn. A foam brush would be a better option.

The first yarn I painted is a mixture of a dull browny red, purple and navy. The second had a lime green base colour with darker olive tones and some more purple and navy dotted out in the middle section. It is exciting to think about how these will both knit up!

Take care in thoroughly covering all of the yarn with dye by turning it over and checking for hidden white parts.

Once it is all painted, wrap the yarn up in the cling film so it is all sealed and ready to be steamed.


Place your wrapped up skeins into the steamer. If you only have a large pot, you can make a shelf for steaming out of some tin foil with some holes punched into it as long as the yarn isn't touching the water. You can also use a microwave for setting the dye in yarn. Roughly around 6 minutes should work although you shouldn't use the same microwave for food and dyeing. Similarly with the steamer pot, it should only be used for dyeing. 
Put the lid on and let it steam for 30 mins. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then unwrap and rinse out any excess dye under some cold water. I normally hang yarn in the shower to dry with a small weight. Once your yarn is dry...

Ta da!

Now your beautiful freshly dyed yarn is ready to knit with/sell/give to a friend.
I can hardly wait to knit these into socks!

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Basics: Making Yarn

I found it rather difficult trying to teach myself to make yarn. There are so many options, quite a selection of tools you can use and an endless variety of fibres. The terminology that comes with yarn design is a whole other thing. So I've decided to write this post about my preferences in materials and equipment, along with some new images of my latest yarn. After all, I did find reading tips and hints from other blogs extremely helpful while I was learning the basics.

This post is mainly to show the whole process from fibre to finished yarn. I will be posting some more detailed tutorials on the individual sections soon.

Here is a rough idea of the process:

Select your fibres. 
Personally, I find that merino is a good choice purely for the vast selection of colours available and it is soft and easy to spin with. In this blend I have used 70% red corriedale and 15% each of purple and green merino. Corriedale tends to be a little bit rougher than merino, but the fibres are a bit longer too.

It is important to prepare your fibres properly. You can do this by either using a hand carder (as shown in the middle image below) or with a drum carder. Hand carders are often a better option because they are transportable, small, and they are easy to use for blending smaller amounts of fibres together. A drum carder is much more suitable for preparing larger amounts of fibre in one go (up to 50 grams or 100 grams depending on the model). You can find out how to use carders HERE. The reason for hand carding is to produce rolags (as shown in the right image below) which are then used for spinning.

Now we are ready for spinning!

It is very easy to be lazy and only create singles when spinning yarn (instead of plying two singles together to make a plied yarn). Plied yarns are stronger and the twist on the yarn is an attractive feature. The left image below shows singles on the bobbin and the middle shows a full bobbin of 2 ply yarn. To work the yarn into a skein you can use a niddy noddy

Setting the twist.
Now the yarn is tied at a few points to prevent it from getting tangled. The twist in the yarn is set by placing it in a basin of warm water and a small amount of wool wash (not too hot - you don't want the heat to felt it!). After letting it soak for 10 minutes, excess water is removed by gently squeezing the yarn and wrapping it in a dry towel. I hang my drying yarn over part of my shower and normally add a small weight (I use a shower gel bottle with a big hook) to keep it straight so the yarn isn't crinkly. Once your yarn is completely dry you can twist it into a skein.

And that's it! You can add your new yarn to your stash or unwind it to begin knitting.