Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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Resolution 2014: My New Dye-It Regime

After my unplanned and extended blogging sabbatical, I’m back (!), with a fabulous new project: Dyeing! Yes, you’re right, I’ve written about dyeing my jeans, among other things, but at the risk of using Famous Last Words… this time it’s different.

Aside: Ironically, following my last post (In Re-Covery: The Great Pillow Makeover!), I spent the next several weeks slowly recovering from a serious illness. For a while, I couldn’t even read, let alone write, but when I could, I started studying about the dyeing process, which progressed rapidly into actual experiments, to the extent that I now resemble not so much a color enthusiast as a mad scientist. Think Pantone inadvertently wanders into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. End of aside.

Hand-painted skeins

Two of my recently-produced skeins, hand-painted at the same time, with exactly the same colors and heat-processing. The one in front is 100% nylon, and the larger one in back is a mohair/wool/nylon blend*. You can immediately see how differently the fibers absorb the dye; the shininess of the smaller skein also affects the way the colors are perceived, versus the softer, slightly matte effect of the mohair blend. Is it any wonder that I’m so fascinated? (Click on the photo to see these skeins, and lots more, in my Etsy shop.)

How, you ask, is it different? Primarily because now, instead of simply dumping a box of dye into the sink and throwing my hapless jeans into it along with a cavalier, come-what-may attitude, I’ve actually taken some time to learn about the dyeing process. (Great concept, right?) And I think it’s about time I pass what I’m learning on to you, particularly because, as long as I’ve worked with fibers, fabrics, yarns, and colors, most of what I will be sharing with you here is, quite surprisingly, new information to me.

Going back to the beginning of my learning process (less than 4 weeks ago!), the first revelation was about the different types of dyes, and what each type is used for, thus:

  1. Acid dyes
  2. Fiber-reactive dyes
  3. Natural dyes
  4. Union dyes

Note: There are other dye types out there, such as a specialized formula that’s used for leather and other skins, but for now, I’m just going to focus on these 4, since they’re the most widely available for the casual user, and also the most commonly used for fibers, fabrics, clothing, and accessories.

Here are brief summaries what I’ve learned about these four dye types:

  1. Acid dyes. Contrary to what this term conjures up (nightmare visions of caustic chemicals burning skin off my hands, but maybe that’s just me), these dyes do not actually contain acid; acid, usually in the form of either vinegar or citric acid, is added during the dyeing process, which causes the pigment (color) to bond with the fiber. (Also contrary to the implied harshness: when I’ve tested my dye mixtures with pH test strips, I’ve found that they are not any more acidic than your average vinaigrette. Which we eat.) Acid dyes are used to dye protein fibers (animal fibers: wool, alpaca, silk, mohair, angora, camel hair, etc.) and somewhat surprisingly, nylon.
  2. Fiber-reactive dyes. Unlike acid dyes, these dyes require alkalinity to bond pigment to fiber; soda ash is commonly added to the dye bath to accomplish this part of the process. Fiber-reactive dyes are used for plant-based fibers (cotton, linen, rayon, bamboo, etc.).
  3. Natural dyes. Despite the rather benign association we have with the word “natural”, what I’ve read about using natural dyes is that, while the material used for the color (flowers, roots, etc.) may not be harmful in itself, the dyeing process requires use of mordants, which are the fixatives that bond the color to the fiber— and many commonly-used mordants have been taken off the market because of unacceptable toxicity levels. Natural dyes can be used with a wide variety of animal-based and plant-based fibers; the mordants required will vary depending on the fiber.
  4. Union dyes. Rit dyes, along with others commonly found in craft stores these days, are usually union dyes; the term refers to the dye formula containing both acid and fiber-reactive pigments, so you can successfully dye either animal-based or plant-based fibers (or both at the same time); however, if you’re dyeing, say, cotton jeans, the fiber-reactive part of a union dye is the only part that will bond with the cotton fiber, leaving a lot of leftover dye.

Please understand that I’m not trying to encourage or discourage using any of the above types of dyes; I’m simply pointing out that, in order to make an informed decision about what type is appropriate, it’s good to know not only the uses for each, but also the advantages and disadvantages of each. I could probably fill a year’s worth of blog posts just exploring these areas in more depth, relative to all of these four dye types, but for now, I’m going to concentrate on acid dyes***, since that’s what I’ve been using up to this point.

Next time, I’ll plunge into the exciting world o’ color, with maybe a little basic color theory, more about the acid-dye process, and a lot of pretty pictures. Oh, speaking of which, here’s a look at the results of my very first day of dyeing, including lots of mini-skeins, and a few full-size ones:

My first color tests!

My first color tests! I’m so glad I decided to start with Superwash wool** mini-skeins (10 yards each) to test the dye colors, including with various levels of dilution. And yes, that is my bathtub. (The full-size skeins, all 100% wool, are now available in my Etsy shop. The red color is called Cardinal; the blue-green ones are Pacific. Click on the photo to see them, along with lots more!)

Coming up on CYC: Because this has become an ongoing research project, you can expect many more posts on the general topic of dyeing here at Changing Your Clothes (and you can also find these posts and much more on my color-centric blog, a Musing). I do think this subject is relevant to CYC, since dyeing is one of the simplest ways to change your clothes. And it certainly can’t hurt to learn more about how your clothes (and the yarns, fabrics, etc., thereof) are produced.

Also, I think I should tell you that the aforementioned future CYC dyeing-related posts will most likely be heavy on the puns. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*This lovely mohair/wool/nylon yarn is available (undyed) at Dharma Trading Company. (The link will take you to the listings of all their undyed yarns; this mohair is Yarn #6 Toaga. As of 2/13/14, it says it is temporarily sold out.)

**The Superwash wool yarn I’m using for my mini-skeins is also available (undyed) at Dharma Trading Company. (The link will take you to the listings of all their undyed yarns; this wool is Yarn #39 Kona Worsted.)

***The acid dyes I’m using are also from Dharma Trading Company, their own brand of dyes; their extensive selection also includes other brands. (The link will take you to the page for Dharma’s acid dyes.)

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Makeover Monday: Cardi-Wrap to Cocoon

Ever since I made my first 3D scarf for last week’s Makeover Monday, I’ve been wearing it almost every day. It’s the perfect light-yet-warm layer that goes on easily over everything. (I’m wearing it even as I type right now!) In fact, this surprisingly versatile piece has gotten so much use already that it inspired me to root through more than my scarf collection for makeover candidates. And lo! Lurking deep in a stack of seldom-worn hand-knitted sweaters, I found this:

Cardi-wrap, pre-makeover

Cardi-Wrap, pre-makeover. This is literally just a long, wide scarf with sleeves set into the rectangle.

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Makeover Monday: 2 Steps to a 3D Scarf

On this new Makeover Monday, I present my Ode to a Scarf. I wear one scarf or another almost daily, almost year-round, so I have a lot of them: silk, wool, pashmina, mohair, cashmere, cotton, rayon; striped, solid, printed, jacquard; scarves I designed and hand-knitted for myself, gift scarves, thrift-store and hand-me-down scarves, even one upcycled from a skirt into a scarf.

Out of this motley but well-loved collection, there’s one scarf I love best: my hand-knitted brushed-wool entrelac scarf, in the most luscious combination of deep, dark brown and rosy, pink-y reds.

My favorite scarf ever!

My favorite scarf ever, pre-makeover. All it needs is to be wearable.

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Mix It Up 3: Using Yarn Grab Bags

A couple of days ago, in an effort to be creative with “orphan” balls of yarn, I started putting them together into grab bags I call “Fab Five Plus“: 5 different balls of yarn, all in the same color family, along with a coordinating hand-painted silk ribbon (that’s the “Plus”). Here’s one example:

Fab Five Plus in Citrus

Fab Five Plus in Citrus: 5 different yarns, plus coordinating silk ribbon!

Note: This Fab Five Plus collection is currently up for grabs (pardon the expression) in an eBay auction, ending 1/17/13; click here to go directly to that page. This link will most likely not work after the auction ends.)

This morning, I got this question from a lady who has placed bids on some of my Fab Fives: “Do you have a recommendation for a pattern for this combo?”

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Changing Prices: Bargains on unique Knittique samples !

Here’s a last-minute gift idea, especially for that impossible-to-buy-for woman: a one-of-a-kind Knittique sample! These are the pieces I design and make in the process of creating my original knitwear patterns for Knittique; each is made with 1 or more of my own Scraplet Skeins, which are one-of-a-kind skeins I create by hand-tying multiple strands of yarn together to form a color sequence within each skein. (The skeins and patterns are also available in Knittique’s Etsy shop.)

Included in my sample sale collection are capelets, wraps, and pillow covers, and right now, I’m adding more at least once per day! And because they’ve all been very gently used— meaning tried on occasionally in yarn store trunk shows, and modeled for photography, including on Lola the Mannequin— I’m offering each of these truly unique samples at ridiculously great prices!

Here are just two of these extraordinary samples:

Aquamarine Capelet

Aquamarine Capelet, made with the Aquamarine Scraplet Skein from Knittique’s Birthstone Collection. (Click on the picture to go directly to this capelet in my Etsy shop.)

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Changing Your Scarf: The 4 Seasons Project

The 4 Seasons Project. It started several weeks ago with the idea of creating color sequences based on each season that could then be interpreted for my line of yarns*. (For more on the development of the color palettes and skeins, and to see photos of each season’s color sequences, see A Colorful Year: The 4 Seasons Project on a Musing, my other blog.) Once I had the colors worked out and had put together the skeins, all (?) I had to do was design one or more pieces that could be knitted with this collection of skeins. Or better yet— design a piece that could be finished in 3 different ways! (I think there’s something in me that positively revels in making a project more complex.) The idea I came up with is a scarf that morphs into an infinity scarf (a continuous loop) that morphs into a cocoon-shaped jacket! (Sure… why not?) And since I needed a title for the knitting pattern I was writing, I dubbed this design 4 Seasons 3 Ways.

 * I create a line of one-of-a-kind yarns for Knittique; each skein has a color sequence based on the color palettes I develop. You can see these skeins, and the patterns I’ve designed for them, in Knittique’s Etsy shop.

Here’s Version 1: The Scarf

The 4 Seasons scarf

The 4 Seasons scarf. The ends hanging in front are (on left) Autumn, and (right) Winter; Spring and Summer wrap cozily around the neck.

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It’s I Love Yarn Day! Celebrate with FREE shipping at Knittique!

Yes, folks, it’s true, today is indeed I Love Yarn Day. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, I’m having a today-only free shipping flash sale at my Etsy shop! Just go to the Knittique shop to get the discount code that’s in the shop announcement (under the Knittique banner). Then go find yourself all kinds of fibery fun (it’s good for you, after all), and when you check out, apply your discount code, which will automatically remove the shipping charges.

The Fade to Black skein The Fade to Black skein; click the picture to go directly to this skein in my Etsy shop.

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