Category Archives: dyeing

Pants!*

Last Saturday was a rainy day – an entire day of persistent rain – not spitty, not a brief but dramatic downpour, not a start and stop kinda thing that tricks you into getting to work outdoors and then makes you pack it in just as you’ve started.

It was perfect timing – the garden was planted enough and I was tired of yard work and house work, and paint doesn’t dry well when it’s damp outside and I can’t open the windows to let out the fumes, right?

So I decided to fire up the sewing thing again in preparation for finally sewing a few simple summer garments this year.

But I forgot that all of the shit from the basement utility room waiting to be painted was piled up in front of my serger…

(The serger is way in the back behind the rooster towel – but luckily it’s pretty light, so it was easier to move it rather than the stuff.)

I thought I’d whip up a pair of pajama (pyjama?) pants.

In my youth, I’d made at least a half dozen or so pairs of jams-like shorts, so I figured muscle memory and deep brain reserves would take over and I’d end up with something at least functional, if not decent.

I sort of need pj pants too – my favorite couple of pairs from Ageing Army are getting a bit ragged, and I was thinking I’d rather sew a new pair than to fix the blown-out waistband on this one – amazingly the elastic is still fine though.

I didn’t have a pattern, but figured I’d trace my favorite pair that are loose but not too baggy with a perfect rise that isn’t too high or low. But then I discovered their construction is a bit odd – likely it was cut from the bottom of the pile at the sweatshop and had gotten a bit twisted, but the twist made them fit great, but made a quick pattern draft not.

So I grabbed an old silk pair that had also seen better days. (Around the turn of the last century I scored several sets of fancy silk PJs for a song at a fell-off-a-truck kind of store in my old city – they’ve all just about gone tits up now, but the tops are still largely okay since I don’t wear them as a set often, so I’ll likely sew those into something else… eventually.

I laid them out (yeah, I had to take them off first) on freezer paper to trace. I was a little dubious that the front and back crotch curves ended up a bit too similar, but I couldn’t figure out how go rogue enough to modify them.

I had some thick and soft flannel I bought a couple of years ago on impulse – it was the last of the bolt and on sale, so I think the piece was just under 2 yards and $3 – something like that – and I was planning on dyeing it and using it as a wearable (or failable) muslin.

I couldn’t remember if I’d traced it with enough of a seem allowance, or too much – I was going to mostly serge them, so I didn’t need too much. But then it was too much, and I took in the sides several times (and should have done so several more).

And I don’t really know how to use my serger yet – at least doing anything other than straightish lines – too much of a curve and I kept slicing the crotch.

I worked and worked on trying to make the fit better and the crotch correctly curved, and then stopped – I’d blown a few hours by then and PJ pants shouldn’t take more than an hour.

They fit enough and stay up, and add 75 pounds and shorten my legs to stumps and makes me into a blinding squat clown gnome stompy troll.

I was planning on leaving the bottoms un-hemmed and kept in their rough, selvage-edge state, but of course they didn’t end up quite lined up, so I had to hem them even though they were a bit shorter than I’d like already…

But I oiled up and played a bit with my zigzag machine that hasn’t sewn many miles (by me) yet for the finishing, and that was a bit of fun and should make my eventual other simple garments a little more functional (I’d like to eventually venture into some knits, but I don’t have much hope for success).

(These old socks are are also destined to become knitted washcloths after another season or two of wear.)

So in the end, are they functional? Yes.

Are they comfortable? Sort of – soft and warm, but they’re so wide they bunched up to short ruffly chicken thigh bloomer height by morning.

Are they ugly? Hell yes, but not worth the effort or the $3 or so to dye them.

Will I make another pair with the lessons learned from this? Maybe, but I’ll probably get a legitimate pattern first, and I won’t need more for another couple, three years or so.

Did I repair the black plaid ones seen above so I wouldn’t have to wear these too often? Yes.

If I ever get around to widening my patchwork flannel duvet cover will they become part of it? Probably.

And did I finally get some legitimate work done last weekend? Yes, the basement utility room got its fresh paint on Sunday.

And the freshly dyed rug.

And I can be safe in knowing I can lie on it and be camouflaged in my new fat gnome pants.

*UK variation.

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Dyeing for a new bathtub

The days of our shitty acrylic almond bathtub are limited.

And I remembered just in time that I had a pound or so of dye to yellowize an old rag rug.

Last Saturday N was out, all current and terrible big house projects were waiting for the plumber first, the dog was deep snoozing, and it wasn’t raining.

I could tell a story about the rug, but it probably wouldn’t be very interesting. But the short version is I got it in 1996 after moving to my former city and setting up an apartment with a few new things from Ikea when all I had before was used – some good used, some pathetic – and it was my first adult-looking space (I later regressed). The rug was originally very peach – in the store it was pale orange, and in my sunny apartment, it was very peach. It was too close to the ’80s and I didn’t want a peach rug, but the room was warmed up for it and I wasn’t going to return it – and – it quickly began to fade.

It was in another apartment, then a house, then in storage, and back to a house – since the first house, it was in my workrooms or places where dripping things on it didn’t really matter. I had been eyeing it for the basement lounge area, but we managed to find a few others new and used and besides, by then it had faded to beige or beige-ish and I had it folded up for a dog bed, but then the dog got furniture privileges and didn’t need it.

It has been washed many times in the big machines at the laundromat, and was still mostly clean, but it still bled a tinge of peach when I tossed it in the tub. (When wet, it was a nice color again…) I thought I had iDye for cotton in a mustardy/saffrony/ochre color, but I think it’s “sun yellow” – not a lemon, but not an ochre.

I didn’t measure the dye, just dumped 3/4 of it in, and I didn’t measure the salt, but it definitely wasn’t enough – maybe just a bit more than a cup, and the water was far from simmering, just tap hot which is almost tolerable to the skin.

It looked like a very terrible chemical spill.

And I muscled it around once in awhile and left it in for a few hours.

I liked the school bus yellow-orange of the water, but knew that could be a bit deceiving.

Then a sloppy cold wash with a little detergent, and likely not enough of a rinse, but that shit was heavy – the water was running a pale lemon though, so it was mostly washed out.

And lugged it out to hang dry off of the high stoop stairs (it’s going to take days to dry).

It turned out both darker and brighter (more intense) than I expected, and it likely could bleed more, but it will most likely end up on the basement laundry floor so that doesn’t matter (but what might matter is that it’s probably too big – 5′ x 7′ in more of a 4′ x 6′ space…)

And since it’s in the basement, it doesn’t really matter that it is a revived yellow instead of just faded beige/peach, but whatever, it will turn any area sunshiney.

(And the tub was actually a bit cleaner in the end, not yellow, but I wouldn’t risk my luck with dyeing in the new bright white tub…)

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Van socks up and running

I finished another pair of socks, the “van socks” I thought about in 2015started last spring, then re-started after dyeing one of the yarns, knocked out a few rows last summer, and finally set to finish up around the new year.

They sat for the last month or so just waiting for a bind-off and/or an end to the waffling I always go through nearing the end of a sock with yarn to spare – do I or don’t I increase a bit to go over the calf? But I don’t want to end mid-calf, and the amount of leftover yarn likely isn’t enough to reach the knee, so it is just a dumb loop I needlessly play.

The color of the socks isn’t really right in any of these photos – they’re mostly brown with a bit of orange, cranberry, and purple-brown.

And the walls are really yellow, but the floors aren’t, and my long johns are brown not purple, (but Rocco’s colors are almost right).

My socks look weird deflated, so I prefer to shoot them filled out, and I have no sock blockers or fake feet, so I have to make do.  And the light is weak indoors, and at the moment it’s icy outdoors, and let’s just get this done and move on to other things.

But the other thing at the moment are giant snowy ice bombs launching off the roof and slamming into the half-frozen hyacinths. It’s making Rocco equal parts scared and protective.

I can’t get a moment of free feet.

And I still can’t get the right color balance.

But they’re warm.

And done.

And the last for a bit – my sock drawer is officially full.

Edited to add:

Finally, the actual color – more muted.

And after a day, slouchy ankles too, but the ribbed part stays up, so note to self to reduce ankle stitches next time…

 

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Handspun helmet

To kick off my last hatmaking binge, I started with a ball of one of my earlier handspuns…

yella&greenyarn

(I thought it was older than this, but I called it a year old in 2013, so it isn’t that old…)

But anyway, a few (or one or two) years before 2012, I bought a pound of variegated dyed roving online that I thought would be mostly mustard, and it ended up being mostly lime green. So I bought another pound of mustard only and did a spin with it as one ply green and one yellow, and two of green, to see which I liked better or both, and tried to achieve a not too dramatic thick and thin yarn that was mostly bulky overall. (I think the final project was going to be one of those open cardigans with the spiral backs.) Then, like many things, I ignored it let it marinate in creative fairy juice until I got around to swatching, then spinning more.

But the colors, though I loved them off of my body, still weren’t convincing me that they should be on it.

Fast forward to a few months ago – those aforementioned hats were a birthday gift for one of my brothers who has indirectly kept me in yarn making equipment over the years from some nice gift certificates to a big spinning place, so something in handspun seemed appropriate for him and he’s cool with bright colors.

So I grabbed the cheery ball, thinking a hat could also finally be a swatch and I probably had enough, but the stuff was stiff and unyielding, and not having his head nearby to assess the perfect fit, I went with the stretchy patterns in soft superwash instead and put this one aside.

handspun cloche

And later finished it up for me – albeit very slowly – the stiff yarn is hell on the fingers.

handspun cloche profile

(These pics are before blocking, so things look a bit bumpier than they should be.)

It is a close-fitting woolen helmet, or cloche-like thing and I like it, though I’m still not convinced the colors are best for me – I can wear most greens and some yellows, but some greens are tricksters and look fine in some light and tragic in others – I don’t really care though.

A nice long bath softened everything up, but it is still dense, but perhaps not dense enough on the ears, so I might line them, but need to get some more winter wear in first to test them out. The late winter flirtations told me it had promise, but I didn’t leave the house in high wind which is often the achilles heel of bulky knit hats…

But this was another reminder that I have to pay more attention to my spinning, and loosen the hell up more. My favorite handspun yarns have been singles (though I still often have to run them through to take out a bit of spin afterward), some made from rolags, and from the fluffiest merino rovings. Otherwise, I’m getting a stiffy – not pre-drafting or fluffing up enough beforehand (I do have a lot of dense roving though), and giving it too much spin – at least I think those are my biggest problems…

So it’s back to the books and the basics a bit for me, and I think I’m going to let go of the thoughts for a bigger project with the variegated green stuff and play with it a bit instead…

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Driving away

I had a full day of good bad luck recently.

The brakes in my car went out while I was driving…

…out of the state car inspection garage.

(Moments later, I’d have been on the highway, instead, I coasted into an uphill parking spot just outside the garage – and still passed the inspection!)

I had many other errands planned that day, but had to wait for a tow truck instead.

But I’d brought some knitting along at the last moment, so I had something to do while waiting.

I’d just downgraded our automobile club membership from the longest towing allowance because we hadn’t used it in years and the yearly fee is much higher now than where we used to be.

But it was still enough towing to get me back to my town.

I didn’t wear a coat when I’d left the house that morning because it was sunny and I would be running in and out of places.

But when I started the long walk home from the garage, it dropped 15 degrees and started snowing.

But I had inexplicably put on walking shoes instead of my usual clogs that morning, so at least my feet were fine.

The garage called to say my entire brake line was rusted out and my car would be in the shop for days.

And N had just left town for a three-day weekend with his.

So I was stranded in the house, which is where I’d normally prefer to be most of the time, but I was unmoored and annoyed to not be able to do the stupid running around crap I’d planned do, so with my thoughts on autos, and mood bend on frustration, I ripped out the van sock and removed the offending skein to overdye it.

van redo-before

I only had violet and yellow food coloring gels and a smattering of stinky drink mix on hand.

I wanted the neon to go away, and I was still going to knit it with the other burgundy/cranberry/orange yarn, so as long as I could turn it into some form of purple or brown, or a favorite of mine, purpley-brown, or at least just all toned the hell down, all would be fine.

van redo-dyeing

I started off with just the violet, but it turned the yarn very dull and almost grey – acceptably muted, but surprisingly unpleasant (I usually like muddy, dull, muted colors). So I jabbed in some yellow and liked that it was heading to a brown. But then for entirely unknown reasons, I tossed in a packet of grape drink mix.

I decided that fake grape is the only drink mix stink I can somewhat, just barely, not quite really, tolerate.

But I got something acceptably purple-ish.

van redo-rinse

And rinsing the whole shebang was fun – the colors broke in the wash, so at first the rinse water was pink, then cyan, and then green when I remembered to pick up the camera.

There was still some color left in the pot so I tossed in some natural white (not quite cream) roving for shits and giggles.

van redo - sop color

And it cam out an intense orchid that I would hate to wear alone, but will be a nice occasional addition in a spin.

van sopped

The yarn came out mildly nasty on its own, and has a bit of that lifeless dullness that comes with food color dyeing…

van redye

and you can see the areas I jabbed in the yellow vs. the violet…

van redye det

 but it’s just what this pair of socks needed for me to take off with them again.

van new sock

(While I’m waiting to get my car out of the shop… and on the water treatment equipment repair guys, and my new tooth, and now possibly the washer repair person or new delivery, and the lumber delivery that we planned before everything else went to hell… this is becoming a helluva expensive month.)

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Necking

I like a GIANT squishy cowl neck.

I like scarves wound round and round and round my neck.

But I hate turtlenecks.

Even though they pop back in and out of style, I generally view them as always out – and smelling of elementary schools in the 70s and overly religious Midwestern mothers who dress decades beyond their age. But mostly I don’t like the feeling of my neck being oh-so-slightly constricted.

I’ve de-turtled a few necks over the years.

neck-flappy

(This one also got de-epauleted and de-shoulder padded, and de-gold buttoned – then I sewed the epaulets into the fake pocket to make a whimsical detail of sorts.)

Very often, there is a convenient seam running up the side of the neck that merely needs to be unzipped or picked and voila! A constricting turtle becomes a floppy…

manta ray? collar.

I’ve been going through my bins of thrifted sweaters to see what should be cut up into mittens and such, unraveled, or mended enough to wear…

neck-before

And I found this horribly weird pinkish, orchid? one that fits really well and lies on the “professionally” appropriate side of the fine line that it skates with  comfortably slouchy – partly because it’s actually a decent length on me and many thrifted cashmeres fall a bit too short.

But even after the turtlectomey, I’m debating about tossing it into the to dye pile, but I run the risk of loosing the good length… and though I think I hate the color, I think I can wear it without looking ill, and it goes well enough with browns or greys…

(I’d probably dye it yellow to turn it orange, or go the burgundy or brown route…)

neck-after

Turtles are also often the easiest part of a sweater to frog since they’re often knitted in rib stitch and don’t felt/full as much as the body. I’ve had several moth-eaten thrifts that were too holey or felted to frog as a whole, but still gave up good bits of usable yarn from frogged necks and cuffs.

Or merely extracted, they make good headbands or hat brims…

neck-headband

And once in awhile, a decent cowl will get detached too – most often from my own sweaters that have generally ceased to function as intended.

neck-mohair

And it can remain cowly, just no longer attached to a body…

neck-cowl

This was actually a favorite sweater of mine for about 10 years, so I’m happy to save part of it now that it is done being part of my wardrobe due to damage and too tight sleeves that always annoyed me but now are entirely unacceptable after the home reno and summer of gardening (big guns don’t play well with sheer skinny mohair). And I’ll attempt to frog the rest even though I swore off frogging mohair – if it works, I might knit more rounds onto the cowl to make it GIANT.

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Is this lump outta my head? I think so.

I have an old cheap sofa that I’ve held onto longer than I probably should have because it’s so damn comfortable.

I bought it about a decade ago off an old apartment neighbor who got it as a gift from her boyfriend who later dumped her and she decided to move far away. It was a bit of a shame though, I hadn’t spoken to her except for neighborly pleasantries until that point, and only when she was moving did I realize she might have made for a good friend.

But her sofa, ugly as it may be, has been quite the comforting companion.

It was too big for my old tiny living room and one had to awkwardly maneuver around it when entering through the front door. But it made for decent sleeping accommodations when need be, and I had the perfect knitting nest in one corner.

I believe a good sofa must be deep and wide.

It is red, and I never much liked red, except for a bit in kitchens, and N never liked that it was faded red – it’s meant to be of the casual canvas aesthetic sort of thing, completed with cotton rag rugs and denim pillows, likely.

Unfortunately, just when I had the cash to buy a new, better colored cover, the big Swedish store discontinued the sofa and all its covers.

Somewhere along the line, I bought some fabric to make a new slipcover, but it wasn’t quite enough – so I bought some more, which still wasn’t quite enough either, but complemented the other, so I thought I would make it two toned, but then I never made it. (The fabric is still waiting to become something though – probably a slipcover for a chair instead.)

In our first house, it stayed propped on its end and shoved into the corner of the basement for a year or two until N took a job long distance and it once again reigned over a living room – a proper sized one, finally.

But then it spent nearly a couple of years in storage – I thought we’d need to trash it after it essentially stayed in a garage for so long, and who wants a sofa that’s been in a garage (especially one infested with stink bugs)?

But it came out fine.

Except the lumbar pillows.

lump-pillows

They were always a bit too lumpy – I think my neighbor had washed and dried them too often or too aggressively – I’d rather not speculate why, but the rest of the sofa is stain-free, so I’m not too worried. But the lumps made the pillows flaccid and ineffective, so I decided it was time for a revival.

lump-lumps

Should I be ashamed to admit I still kept the lumps? They’ll be good in a future dog bed, right?

I really hate to put anything in landfills.

And I wasn’t keen on stuffing it with plastics again, but wadded-up old clothes weren’t comfortable, leaves or straw too crunchy and a bit too earthy, and wool is too dear, so I got some more of the synthetic fluffy stuff.

lump-stick

It came with a free “tool.” Now I like free shit as much as the next guy, but for chrissakes, it’s just a chopstick – a single chopstick in a paper sleeve just like what chopsticks come in – did a chopstick factory accidentally package only singles and the stuffing company get a bargain?

Not to mention I already had a few random chopsticks kicking around in my sewing box along with a pencil or two with the lead broken off for the same purpose… A stuffing “tool” is probably the one thing people don’t really need…?

lump-during

So I crammed the pillows to their fill and made them a bit lumpy in a fluffy way, but that didn’t really matter. I like some poly fill brands over others but I buy it so infrequently that I forget which I like and I’m not certain this was the one…

But now our lumbar regions are properly supported once again when lounging in the basement – the perfect place for a less than perfect but still very comfortable sofa.

lump-after

A bit ago I ordered a pound of yellow dye to revive an old rag rug and turn this sofa cover orange – I figured the best options for overdying it were brown (but we already have a brown sofa upstairs), purple (meh, purple), deeper red, black, or orange – but I didn’t want to worry about potentially staining our clothes if I didn’t wash a dark dye out well enough, so I figured the yellow was the best option and I wanted a yellow rug anyway. But now I’m not so sure – the red sofa actually matches a rug for once and it is the basement, so a bit of a mishmash is warranted…

But I do like orange much more than red…

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