Where there is a will there is a way

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to kettle dye wool (yarn) - in Utah with my sister Wendy

When I visited my family, some who now live in the US, I dyed wool with my sister Wendy (who I believe will one day be famous, she's so creative). She showed me how to kettle dye wool with "acid dyes". I am very excited about it.

You can save money by buying undyed wool, then artistically dye it yourself.

Above - one kilo of undyed wool (Peruvian Highland Wool, Worsted Weight, "Bare" by Knitpicks).

You can do this either on the stove, or using an electric kettle. In the States, we used Pro Washfast Acid Dyes. In NZ, Wendy suggested Ashford dyes.

Electric kettle. (I think that would be better than on a stovetop anyways - safer.)

Wendy suggested 4 colours. I wanted to choose both the blues and greens of the ocean, and also the deeper darker greens of the NZ bush (forest). This is for a jumper (sweater) for my husband. Forest Green, Avocado, Moss, Turquoise.

First you soak the yarn in warm water with 1/2 cup of citric acid (white powdery stuff). The citric acid makes the dye take faster, a "faster strike".

Dissolve each colour of dye in a separate cup. (About 1/2 cup water and 2 teaspoons dye).

Sometimes the dye (especially turquoise) can be hard to dissolve. Try to dissolve the gummy stuff as best you can - can take a lump out to keep soaking and add later.

Next, Wendy (wearing gloves or else you'll get very colourful hands) took the wet noodley yarn out and placed it all in the heated kettle (with some water in first so the wool doesn't get burnt). She had her kettle heated up to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Arranging the hanks (skeins) like this...

Then she just started pouring dye all over it!


I call it..."where the forest meets the sea..." or something like that. Seamoss forest? Anyways it's both forest and ocean colours together. THEN wait 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, she added more water, especially between the wool and the sides to prevent burning, and let it cook for one more hour.

At which point Wendy and I found something industrious to do. This is my sister Wendy, spinning wool.

1 hour later. Ok. Let's see what it looks like...

Lookin' good!

After the dyeing, the remaining water will be quite clear if the dye has been "exhausted". If not, Wendy always throws some extra wool in there to soak up the dye. This is unspun wool. She saves an assortment of wool dyed in this way, until she has enough to do something with.

Then wash the wool, adding 1/2 cup of vinegar, and at this point you can add a few drops of essential oils to help it resist bugs - we used lemon and eucalyptus, but I imagine tea tree oil would be really good too.

Not bad!

Now I just have to figure out how to knit a jumper (that's "sweater" to you, North Americans).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My dad's style

Sticks for stirring bread dough that my dad whittled from honeysuckle wood he found lying on the street outside

I just visited my parents, who are currently staying in Salt Lake City, on a mission for their church (they normally live in Calgary, in Canada). Even though my Dad was staying in a small apartment right now, I just loved seeing the simple way he lives, as he brought his ways with him.

A great container for his gas camping stove, fashioned from a tin can, with a piece of honeysuckle wood for a handle

My dad is constantly reusing everything, in a creative way. He used a good canopener which doesn't leave jagged edges, and uses lids of large tin cans as spoon rests while he is cooking. He reuses tunafish cans for everything. His water in the fridge is in a reused juice bottle. He stores grains in reused large tins, and makes handles for them. Other people will give a rusted tool - and he will restore it and use it - it will become a good tool, always kept in great condition. Even when there is the smallest scrap of flour brushed from the counter from breadmaking, with a swish of his hand, he will sweep it into a little reused plastic container to use again, perhaps for making gravy, later.

"It's because I'm a cheapskate" he jokes with me. But I know it isn't that. He just respects things.

When he was a little boy, his dad gave him a hacksaw he was too young to use. When he left it out in the rain, he got into big trouble. His father was teaching him to respect his tools.

My father has been fixing an old school backpack my little brother had for 10 years. The zipper just broke, but he still doesn't want to give it up. "It just kills me to throw it away when the rest of it is still good."

There is such a beautiful feeling, when we set food out in this way, and eat dinner with my parents - with cold, good water in a juice bottle on the table, some fresh cut onions in a clean margarine container - the food is of the highest quality, artisan fresh bread, home-made jam - presented in this purely functional way. It feels blessed; as I am sure my non-wasteful father will always continue to be - with an abundance of resources.

"No. 10" cans reused for storing grains, flour, beans. Once opened, my dad gets plastic lids for them.

The grandchildren having fun grinding wheat into flour.

A very good canopener that cuts along the side of the can and doesn't leave jagged edges - leaving lids and cans that can be reused for many purposes.

Margarine containers holding artisan bread dough - dough which only requires mixing, not kneading, as the yeast slowly brews in the fridge.
Dinner at Grandma's and Grandpa's house; prayers are being said before we eat.