The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Socks to Dye For

Now, you just know there's going to be a story here, don't you? And you're right. See, it all starts with this sock:

I still love this sock beyond all much so, that I feel compelled to post two pictures, for absolutely no discernible purpose. (It may be noted here that falling in love with a mosaic sock worked in black and variegated clown wig colors is a very Ms. Knitingale thing to do).

ANYWAY, so I finished this sock and started to cast on for the other....which is when I noticed that there really wasn't all that much left of the black....probably less than half. Now, to refresh your memory, I bought this stuff at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. At a booth. A booth that came from a store many miles away from me that doesn't do online sales. I felt my palms begin to sweat. This seemed like a bad thing...surely, hot salty water on the yarn could only make my problem worse.

See, normal people make socks thusly (or so I'm led to believe...normal and I don't correspond all that much these days...): they pick a pattern, they pick yarn, they buy yarn (or dig it out of stash), they knit socks. Simple, no? Ms. Knitingale people, on the other hand, do it like this: fall insanely in love with sock pattern requiring two sorts of yarn that look good together but contrast enough to bring out the pattern. Realize that this might be a challenge, and proceed anyway, blissfully ignoring warning bells the size of Newfoundland going off in head. Go to once yearly fiber festival and fall in love with Koigu, which I KNOW to be difficult to find at the best of times. Select yarn for socks, consider that one skein of the black might not be enough, and then BUY ONLY ONE ANYWAY. I only wish I could explain what planet that idea took off from. Especially given that the shop is not accessible to me whatsoever. Has anyone seen my brain...anyone?

Okay, so you know the next step--not enough yarn, horror, sweaty palms, etc. Moving on. Hunt feverishly on internet for black koigu. Consider ordering, but realize cannot compare color to existing skein. Have brainstorm, call Weaving Works. Am saved--briefly, at any rate--when kind saleswoman notes that she has FOUR skeins of the black koigu and will set them aside so I can come choose the one I want. Huzzah! (Briefly.) Drive all the way across the water into Seattle's University district and race into store. Collect yarn from sweet salesperson only to realize this:

The picture doesn't do it justice, really, but the new skein (on the right) is actually charcoal gray. The old skein (on the left) is both black, and not enough yarn. It looks subtle in the picture, but there was another woman in the store who picked up one of the skeins of koigu black and said loudly "It's a shame this koigu doesn't come in black." Yeah, it's that gray. I told her that WAS the black, to which she promptly replied "No, it isn't." She had me there. At that point, I decided to go to the next step:

Pull completed sock from purse in abject panic, proclaiming loudly for all to hear that "I absolutely CANNOT unravel this sock. Who can help me? I must have black koigu." (Okay, so the sock wasn't the only thing coming unravelled at that point...but, I mean...who could bring themselves to give up a black and variegated clown wig mosaic sock??) Whereupon the very sweet young salesperson came over and said "If it were me, I'd just overdye it. We carry acid dyes." She was probably thinking something along the lines of "someone please get the crazy lady out of the store" but she had the good grace to not say it out loud. And she even told me how to dye yarn--which included the helpful and somewhat terrifying comment "Oh, and don't let it come to a real boil. If it gets agitated, it will felt." Oh, crudmuffins. It could FELT? And I can't agitate it....okay, so no sheep jokes. Fair enough. I also vowed to let it have the remote control if it wanted it, since I know that having it comandeered always agitates me....then again, I'm pretty sure I'm not felted so maybe it's safer than I think. Anyway, onward.

Now, at this point, the Knitingale school of sock knitting demands the following thought process: "Well, hell. If I'm going to cook a pot of wool and black dye ANYWAY, why not buy two skeins? That way, I can make another pair of mosaic socks (the book has more mosaic patterns besides the ceaser's check) with the leftover yarn." Because, you know, if you wake up in the morning having not the faintest idea how to dye yarn, it makes sense to spend nearly $50 on yarn and supplies on the assumption that you'll be brilliant at it by nightfall. Naturally. It's also far more economical to screw up two skeins of expensive yarn instead of just one. So, here is the offending yarn in it's pre-dye soak:

Which led to another issue. The yarn store girl advised me to remove the yarn from the dye when it appeared to be the right color. But...well, once it was was the right color. And while I conceivably COULD just make the second sock and be sure to always wear it wet...this seemed impractical. Even in Seattle. And, since the original yarn isn't really 100% true black, the risk of dying the new stuff TOO black was very real (in fact, given the fun little games the universe and I like to play in such situations, it was almost a dead certainty). So I stuck it in the pot and cooked it carefully (without telling a single sheep joke) and took it out a bit sooner than recommended with the theory that I can always repeat the process if it's still too light, but can't really do much if it's too dark. Then I carried it upstairs to hang in the bathroom, congratulating myself on having dyed two skeins of yarn without a single tangling incident.

Wouldn't you think I'd learn about the whole hubris thing? Nah, cause the minute I thought it, I dropped one and picked it up wrong and now it looks much like someone exploded a plate of spaghetti and hung it up to dry. Of course.

Stay tuned. It should be dry at some point and you'll know if it came anywhere within the window of "close enough" that is my current lofty goal. Mr. K actually came up with the saving idea--he said "why don't you use what's left of the good stuff for the heel and toe since that's where any discrepancy will really show, and use the new stuff for the pattern where it's so busy that a slight difference won't matter?"

Okay, I know where my brain is. Mr. K has it. Good thing, too. It has loads more company there.


  • At 11:30 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Well done Mr K ..but you have my sympathy Florence cos black isn't just black is it .Black has to come in about 12,000 shades .I have rarely run out of a shade in a project but that's why I knit so many mutli-coloured things then who'd notice.

  • At 4:42 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Oh hey YAY...look at you dyeing yarn! The sock is gorgeous, so very pretty! I can hardly wait to hear how the dyed yarn came out....chomp chomp...

  • At 6:44 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    The sock is gorgeous, I do hope we're going to have a happy ending...two mosaic clown coloured socks living happily ever after in your sock draw....please!!

  • At 8:52 AM, Blogger ccr in MA said…

    The not-having-enough-yarn thing is just the sort of thing I would do, but I would never have the nerve to delve into dyeing. Well, never say never, but I can't imagine solving the problem that way. Best of luck, intrepid one! The socks are certainly worth the trouble.

  • At 8:56 AM, Blogger Kitty Mommy said…

    Well, at least that is one gorgeous sock and well worth the trouble! I have my fingers crossed for the dye results.

  • At 9:15 AM, Anonymous marti said…

    yeah for mr k! another way to guess at the right color is to throw some of the sample into water so you can see what it looks like wet. at least i think that it would work, but we all know how well my thinking process are not working at the moment.


Post a Comment

<< Home