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.