Tuesday, May 17, 2011

True Blue Warp

I have a weaving class coming up soon at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas on Color that Moves. The instructor, Betty Vera, sent out loom warping instructions a couple of weeks ago.

The instructions have seventeen different warping options with many types of fabric. It was really hard to choose which one to weave, but I finally settled on an undilatating twill with several shades of colors in the warp.

When I went shopping to try to find yarn (online of course because the nearest weaving store is 50 miles away), I soon decided that I was not going to be sure that what I bought would be what I had envisioned. The only way I could see to get the color control I wanted was to get out my fiber reactive dyes. I thought I would document the process I used in hope that it will help someone else.

For dyeing yarn with fiber reactive dyes, I have been happiest with a direct application method where the dye concentrate is poured directly on the soda ash soaked fiber, massaged in, then left to cure. I tried a vat method a couple of times and I just was not as happy with the dye process.
Sample Stock  mixtures with paper towel color testers

The best brief write up I have found on this method of direct dyeing is in Weaver's Craft, Issue 15. Jean Scorgie, the author, calls it "Kitchen Dyeing". It is adapted from an out of print book for quilters called Dyeing To Quilt. I was able to snag a used copy of this book from Amazon. My fiber reactive dyes are from Dharma Trading Company. I love their website and fast shipping.

For my class warp, I decided I would dye eight values of Cerulean Blue. I did a test run on some thrums by mixing a small amount of dye, and then diluting it - just to verify I was going to like the colors.

Once I was sure I liked the Cerulean Blue color I had made, I wound two ounce skeins of my yarn, chained and tied itm, soaked it in soda ash solution. I mixed my dye with 4 teaspoons of dye powder to one cup of water. This is a stronger solution than the Weaver's Craft issue calls for - by double, but I wanted my dark blue to be really dark so there would be plenty of contrast as the values got lighter.

Weaver's Craft suggested 1/4 cup of dye solution to one ounce of yarn, and so I mixed 1/2 cup of stock for each of my two ounce skeins.

To do the eight values, I started with 1 cup of the pure stock. I had eight containers. The first container got 1/2 cup of stock for the first skein of yarn. Into the second container, I poured 1/2 cup of the pure stock, then I added 1/2 cup of water - diluting it by half. I poured 1/2 cup of this diluted stock into a third container, and set the other 1/2 cup aside for the second skein of yarn. I contiuned this for all eight skeins. The last container ends up with 1/2 cup of stock that is discarded. Each value has half as much of the pure stock in it as the value that preceeded it.

I dyed strips of paper towels by dipping them in each dye cup. When the dye drys on the towels, the color is pretty close to the actual dyed yarn. This gives me a reference I can file away for later.

I started with the lightest value. I placed the skein in a deep plastic container, then poured the container of stock over it and massaged the dye into the yarn.

In the past I have had problems with light spots in my yarn. To combat those spots, I set a kitchen timer and massaged the yarn in the dye soultion for two full timed minutes, squeezing it out and puting it back in the dye several times. Later I discovered my rubber gloves had a hole in them, so I am still sporting blue finger tips that make my nails appear bruised. Guess I better get those gloves in the trash!

When the two minutes were up, the skeins had all absorbed all of the dye solution, and I placed each one in a zip lock plastic bag.  The two minute massage pretty much eliminated the white spots in the yarn, so I will be doing this every time I dye like this.

Fiber reactive dyes like to be cured in a warm but not hot like an oven place. So, I put all the bags in a plastic box and set that box down inside of a cardboard box that had a heating pad in the bottom, then let them cure for 24 hours.

The next day, I rinsed out the yarn until the water was mostly clear. (If someone knows how to make the rinsing go faster I would love tips). I hung the yarn to dry and now I am winding cones so I can wind my warp.

Finished Skeins of Yarn with Paper Towel Color Swatches

I think this yarn is going to make a pretty warp. I am very excited to see the fabric it makes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Calculate Twice, Weave Once

The Fort Worth Weaver's Guild is having a napkin exchange. The napkins are supposed to be 18" x 18" square. We turn in four napkins and get four back that are not our own.

Strickler 8 Shaft Patterns number 315-4

I have been fretting over this project for a few months, and when the deadline drew closer I got busy and wove mine in a twill pattern from Carol Strickler's book of 8 Shaft patterns. The draft is on page 85 of her book and is number 315-4.

I wanted to use yarn that I had on hand, so I chose 8/2 cotton. I have very little weaving experience so I warped my loom with six yards of warp for a test warp just to get dimensions and learn the pattern - which is the most complex twill I have woven. On the test warp, I wove seven little towels that will work for finger tip towels or small dish towels. These will go in the Guild Sale in September and if they don't sell, then I will have some Christmas Presents all done!

Two of each weft color - one for me and one for the exchange
Armed with before and after measurements of my test towels, I put on a new warp with 501 warp ends, 20.9" in the reed, sett at 24, for a finished width of 18 inches. I calculated the number of pattern repeats needed to reach 18 inches. I figured I needed about 11 repeats - which would leave the towels a tad long - but better long than short.

When I wove the napkins, for some reason that I can not explain, I carefully wove 12 repeats. My finished napkins are 18 inches wide as forecast, but they are 20 inches long :-{

No matter. I am turning them in anyway. If it bothers someone, they can rip out one hem and cut them off to square them.

New labels
On the napkin warp, I used a tip from Lorelei in the Guild for flatter folds at the hemline.  I wove 8 picks of poly-cotton serger thread, then the hem area for 10 picks, then I threw a double shot of a contrast yarn to mark the fold of the hem. After I hemmed the napkins, I pulled out the contrasting thread at the fold and the result is a much flater hem because the cloth as a place to turn.

All the napkins got one of my new labels from Sterling Labels. Makes me feel like SomeBody!

I always learn something new with each project. For this one, I won't forget to not trust my memory when I want something to come out to an exact length.