Friday, September 28, 2018

Weekly Roundup - My First Assistant!

This week we welcomed a new member to the ChemKnits family... my very first assistant/employee - an electric motorized skein winder! This device will help me as I deal with fiber prep both before and after dyeing.  In a livestream this week, I tried unraveling a sock blank on my skein winder for the first time and WOW.  This is a process that can take me up to 20 min while I do it by hand, and I think it was all unraveled within a minute or two when I used the machine.  Granted, I usually unravel sock blanks during livestreams, so there is some chatting involved, but I really liked unraveling it on this machine.

I'm still not entirely sure what to name her.  The leading name right now is Trisana, as a reference that goes along with my spinning wheel "Sandry," named after a Tamora Pierce character.  Sandry's magic expresses itself through fiber and weaving, and Tris is a weather mage who makes a lot of cyclones.  I'm still trying it out, but you have all given me some great suggestions on Facebook and Instagram.  I know that preparing skeins from balls of yarn and making miniskeins is going to feel a whole lot faster, almost magical.

My new unnamed friend ready to be put together.

2018 ChemKnits Chanukah Celebration Update

Speaking of mini-skeins, there are still a few slots left for the 2018 ChemKnits Chanukah Miniskein Sampler.  Every night of Chanukah this year, I will release a new dyeing video.  This is 8 nights, 8 mini-skeins, 8 yarn bases, 8 dyeing techniques, and 8 new videos.  I will be closing the full 100 g limited edition sock yarn add-on on Wednesday October 3, so if you want to get the largest sampler don't wait too long!

Dyepot Weekly #73

Black and Grey are really hard to achieve with food coloring.  When I discovered that Americolor has a whole line of grey food coloring ("Nifty Shades of Grey") I wanted to see if could help me create grey tones on yarn.  Unfortunately, the colors are very similar to a broken black, but the final yarn is stunning nevertheless.

I haven't attempted to break Americolor Black food coloring yet, but that is 100% on my list.  These grey tones were fun, but the titanium dioxide was a bit of a pain to rinse out of the yarn.  I think that this is added to add some white tones to icing when it is used in food coloring.

Acid Dyestocks Update

9 months ago, I made some dye stocks with acid dyes for the first time.  This was the only time I've ever gone into the Jacquard acid dye jars.  In all of the videos where I've used commercial acid dyes I have been using these dyestocks.  This week, I decided to film a brief update on how these stocks have been doing.  This is something that I've mentioned in videos from time to time, but I wanted to bring it front and center.

Over time, these 1 L 1% stock solutions have not been terribly consistent.  Some of this has been obvious - sun yellow is my nemesis due to its solubility issues.  Other colors, like the violet, have become much more intense as I've reached the bottom of the jar.  I don't think I've done a good job mixing the stock solutions up each time before using them, so there could be more insoluble particles towards the bottom.  I think that this concentration inconsistency is making it harder for me to get a feel of how much dye to use per skein of yarn.  I plan to start mixing colors fresh to play with so I can hopefully get a better handle on these dyes.

In terms of longevity, all of the stock solutions still work after almost 9 months. I can get the dyebaths to clear, and the colors are vibrant and color fast.  So, while you CAN make stock solutions, I'm not sure it is truly the best option for consistent color saturation unless you were going to use up most of the stock in one day.

You can watch the stock solution update video here.

New KnitPicks Subscription Boxes

KnitPicks listened!  (Disclaimer, I'm not sure that they listened to me in particular, but I think that a lot of the community had similar requests to me in my review of their new subscription boxes.) KnitPicks listened to feedback and has released two new Subscription boxes Crochet Lover and Sock Labs which are both $27.00, which includes shipping within the US.  I'm so thrilled that these are listed at a lower price point and are something that can really appeal to livelong KnitPicks Fans.  The Sock Labs subscription will feature the new hand dyed colorways and some free patterns each month.  KnitPicks, if you want to send me a sample of the Socks Labs box, I'd love to see it!

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon and KnitPicks.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dyeing Yarn with Highlighters

I have always enjoyed back to school shopping... or at least opening up brand new school supplies.  Crisp markers, sharp crayons, and brand new highlighters.  When these markers were fresh, before the bright fluorescent colors were dulled by text book ink, they were so bright and crisp that I wanted to doodle with them.  It was less fun to actually use them to highlight text, but I still enjoyed the process of drawing the bright, crisp lines.

I was OVERJOYED when Paradise Fibers sent me their September Fiber of the Month Club BACKPACK filled with a back to school themed fiber package.  (Disclaimer - I am a Paradise Fibers affiliate marketer and they sent me the Fiber of the Month club for free to unbox and share.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.)  Instead of the box that showed up the previous two months, I opened my front door to find a clear poly mailer with a purple draw string backpack inside.  I knew that I need to unbox this right away.  You can watch the replay of the live unboxing below:

If there was ever a subscription box geared towards ChemKnits... this was the one!  The washable nylon backpack was filled with goodies; 4 oz of undyed Cheviot wool top, 4 - 1 oz bags of recycled Sari Silk pulled rovings, and a zippered pouch that had 3 Sharpie highlighters, 1 pair of vinyl gloves, a Sheep Sticker, a chalkboard sheep pin, and some bubble gum.  The best part of this package... it included an unconventional yarn dyeing tutorial: Dyeing Wool with Highlighters!

A post shared by ChemKnits (@chemknits) on

There were rumors that this package would include a dyeing tutorial, but I didn't anticipate something so unique and whimsical.

I had been thinking about dying yarn with Sharpie Markers for a while (I recently found a huge packet from my childhood saved in one of my old boxes), but I it has never occurred to me to try to dye yarn with highlighters.  I knew as soon as I opened this package that I wanted to try this out in a livestream.  This way you could experience my true reactions (joys and frustrations) without me needing to edit the process down.

dye with highlighters

What You Need to Dye Wool with Highlighters
  • Wool (Roving or Yarn, Superwash or non-superwash, they all worked great!) 
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Vinegar
  • Sharpie Highlighters - I ordered some extras so I could extract some of the dye in advance and also demonstrate this in the livestream
  • Plyers - to help remove the end cap of the markers
  • 3+ cups to extract the color
  • Dedicated Dye Pot - This should be something that can hold some heat.  I heat set the color in a combination of using hot water, low immersion on the stove top in a steam pan, and steaming in a steamer basket.  You want to use non-food items for this dyeing project. 
  • Gloves - My favorites are purple nitrile gloves.  
  • Syringe (Optional) - I found the best way to extract the color was to inject rubbing alcohol directly into the dye tube, pushing out the dye.  This was significantly faster than cutting up the tubes and letting the dye come out overnight.  
  • Black Light (Optional)

The instructions included with the kit were fairly broad and left a lot of room for creativity.  The general concept for this project is to dye the wool like you were using acid dyes.  Presoak your yarn or fiber in a vinegar solution, add the dye, add heat, and then rinse it out once the colors have absorbed.  

The dye extraction step can take a few hours, so I picked up a few extra highlighters to do a cooking show type swap during the livestream.  The night before, I opened up three highlighters, cut the tubes into pieces, and left them to soak in a 50/50 mixture of warm water and rubbing alcohol.  By the morning, the tubes were much paler and there was a lot of color in the mixture.  During the livestream, I discovered that if I injected rubbing alcohol slowly into the highlighter dye tube, I could push out the dye fairly quickly.  Maybe I didn't need to do the overnight step, but at least there was plenty of color the play with so we could do multiple dyeing projects with these highlighters.  

The livestream is long, but we learned so much during this time.  The yellow highlighter is pH sensitive, so when you add acid it looks like it disappears.  (Later in the recap I discovered that this didn't completely disappear, but I'll get to that in a moment.)  The vibrant yellow as no where to be found, leaving behind a faint butter yellow color.  The pink, orange, and blue were super saturated and bound really well to the fiber.

Immediately after I added the dye 
paradise fibers highlighter tutorial
After an hour
In addition to dyeing the roving I got in my Paradise Fibers - Fiber of the Month Club Subscription, I decided to dye 6 miniskeins in different fiber types. I drew the highlighters directly onto some 100% acyrlic, 100% polyester, 100% cotton, 100% superwash merino, 75% superwash merino/25% nylon, and 100% Peruvian Highland wool yarns that had been presoaked in vinegar.  The yellow had a bit of trouble sticking, but the other colors went on easily.  I steamed the yarn and then washed to to see where the colors stuck.  The highlighters dyed the wool based yarns really nicely, with sharper marks on the superwash yarns.  The highlighter almost completely washed out of the synthetics and cotton yarn, which the exception of a faint trace of pink on each of them.

In addition to the roving and the mini-skeins, I also hand painted some yarn with the highlighter color to see how those would turn out.

The livestream recap for this project is a little more involved (i.e. longer) than normal.  I decided to wash all of the highlighter dyed fiber on camera so you could see how color fast, and how much bleeding, there was in each of the projects.

I think the biggest surprise was that the yellow highlighter actually bound to the yarn.  It looked like it completely disappeared in acid, but when you looked at the yarn under the black light you could see it show through. When I was handpainting the orange and pink yarn, I tried to paint on some yellow and once it disappeared, I covered that up with the pink and orange.  Under the black light, you could see where I had added the yellow!  This could be a super fun way to create a hidden message on a sock blank. 

I was surprised how much fun this project was.  I knew it would be whimsical, but I did not anticipate the level of color saturation you could achieve with highlighters on yarn.  I loved that so many of you decided to join me at home.  This livestream really felt like a dye-a-long - you were able to test things and share your own results in the live chat.  This was unbelievably fun.  I have a feeling that this is something that will end up in a Dyepot Weekly episode in the future. 

how to dye yarn with sharpies

Thank you so much, Paradise Fibers, for sending me this project!  It was a true pleasure to play around with this technique.  Clearly I need to revisit this package of Sharpie Markers... It shouldn't matter that they are decades old, I bet I'll be able to extract some color from them!

This post contains affiliate links to Paradise Fibers, Amazon, and KnitPicks.  Paradise Fibers sent me their products to review, and I was so excited that I did multiple extra videos and blog posts.  I selected items from Amazon and KnitPicks myself.  All thoughts and options are my own.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Weekly Round Up - A New Year

The holidays are all around us, and with this comes a lot of reflection.  It is a new year for the world and for ChemKnits.  Truthfully this has been a week of looking forward and looking back.  I've started wrapping up and shipping Mystery Surprise Yarn packages while filming videos for the ChemKnits Chanukah Special.

I really wish that I could share spoilers for the yarns that will be included in the Chanukah Sampler, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for people who are going to be opening up miniskeins with the release of the videos.  It is really fun to try some of my favorite techniques on new yarn types.  Different yarn blends absorb colors slightly differently, but all of the colorways are absolutely spectacular!  Don't worry, the Chanukah Special will be available to everyone, and I'm excited to show what the re-skeined miniskeins look like next to the full skeins of yarn.

What else is coming up this year?  I'm working on the beginning of a monthly dye-a-long!  I'm going to pick something as the inspiration each month and then we'll see how everyone interprets this.  I think this is going to be a fantastic way to celebrate the anniversary of Dyepot Weekly!  Keep an eye out on Instagram and Facebook for more details.

I'm so excited to finally share the video on my solar dyeing yarn project.  The final colors are absolutely stunning.  When you layer dye, water, vinegar, and yarn in a jar and set it outside, you allow the colors to absorb to the fiber really slowly.  This can allow colors to break, but also to get a lot of fantastic coverage.  Want more white in the yarn?  Try adding more acid so the colors strike faster.  I'd love to do this again while just adding dye to the top of the jar to see how far it will spread.

I had wanted to write about Dyeing Yarn with Highlighters for this round up, but realized that there is enough content there for that to be its own post.  I hope to recap all of that later this week.  The holidays mean fewer school days for the kids, and therefore fewer work days for me.  I have gotten a ton of editing done this week, so I'm happy that has been productive. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kickstarter Anniversary and Mystery Surprise Yarn!

One year ago tonight, the Dyepot Weekly Kickstarter hit 100% funding within 24 hours of the launch of the campaign.  We have accomplished a lot in the last year.  When I started the campaign a year ago, there were 200 videos on the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube Channel, today there are over 500.  This means that I have HUNDREDS of skeins of hand dyed yarn as the result of these dyeing tutorials. 

To celebrate, I just re-released a version of the most popular Kickstarter reward in the ChemKnits Creation Etsy store... Mystery Surprise Yarn!

For a limited time, you can get a Mystery Surprise Skein of hand dyed yarn that was featured in a past or upcoming YouTube video for $25 with free shipping within the United States!  (International shipping is available at a discount from my usual rate.)  I look forward to picking out a skein of yarn just for you.  Check out the Etsy listing for more details.

I completely underestimated the community that existed behind my YouTube videos.  I love interacting with all of you, thought YouTube comments, private messages, and the ChemKnits Lab Facebook Group.  I love seeing pictures of your own dyeing adventures and it is the biggest complement when you run out to try the technique from my latest video. 

The Dyepot Weekly journey has been a whirlwind, and I am looking forward to the official birthday on October 18.  How would you like to celebrate?  I have a few ideas, but I have already received some suggestions that sound like a blast. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Weekly Roundup - Back to School

The beginning of September always feels hectic.  The end of summer, the beginning of the school year, holidays, and all kinds of lists. SO MANY LISTS!  But with all of these lists, there is a lot of fun on the way.

Paradise Fibers curated a fantastic Back to School kit in their September 2018 Fiber of the Month Club Box (Backpack!)  This month's kit included a dyeing tutorial... dyeing Cheviot Roving or Yarn with HIGHLIGHTERS!  If you sign up for the Fiber of the Month Club today, your first box will be October's Box, but you can still get in on the fun.  All you need are some Sharpie Highlighters, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, roving, and some dye safe containers!  (You can find the Cheviot Roving I used in my livestream on Paradise Fibers' website.) I'm planning on talking all about this in more detail in next week's Weekly Round up since I'm still waiting for all of the fiber to dry.  However, I really feel like we started off the new school year on a high note.  Thank you, Paradise Fibers, for sending me your kits to unbox!

Speaking of Back to School... how adorable were the ChemKids on their first day this year?
My boys had a great start to the school year.  This isn't that strange, they were at camp over the summer months, but as a parent the school year is a little easier to prepare for.  No more swim bags, multiple changes of clothes, and towels to hang up at the end of the day.

A post shared by ChemKnits (@chemknits) on

This summer, I had a super productive filming schedule.  So productive that I started working on multiple "special" weeks of videos. (Cellulose Week*, Indigo Week, 2018 ChemKnits Chanukah Special) I've got a huge editing queue to get through, but it also means that I'm pretty up to date when it comes to the new videos that are about to come out.  I've been waiting for this week's Dyepot Weekly to come out for a long time.  I think I shared the sneak peek back in July!

*There wasn't a specific Cellulose Week Playlist, but I used this as an opportunity to update my "How to Dye Cotton Yarns" Playlist.

This week, I released Dyepot Weekly #71 - Winding a Super Wide Skein to Create a Hand Dyed Yarn Gradient with Acid Dyes.  I wound a super wide 2 - ft skein, and then tied it up so that it would be arranged in a super wide gradient. (See the thumbnail below.)  I thought it would be fun to dip dye this yarn to get a gradient.  I did not expect to get some of the resist from the ties, so the final gradient had some stunning reverse speckles on it.

Ultimately, this technique takes a similar amount of time to prep as winding a blank on a hand crank knitting machine.  However, you don't need any special equipment to do this.  I used a PVC pipe niddy noddy, but you could also use the back of a chair, a textbook, or any other object in your home.  With proper planning (or even handpainting), you could avoid the reverse speckles to get a much cleaner gradient than you sometimes get with blanks.  I'm personally a fan of the mottled and speckled look from unraveling blanks, but some people want more solid tones in their gradients.  

Sometimes it takes a while for me to share a new video on the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube channel.  There is a lot that goes into the video production: fiber prep, dyeing, waiting for the yarn to dry (and sometimes second prep steps), and finally editing.  If you would like to get some behind the scenes sneak peeks of what I'm working on currently, check out the ChemKnits Patreon.  Some of the perks for becoming a Patron include behind the scenes sneak peeks. I'll start a livestream while I'm filming for a DPW episode so you can get the first look, watch me do multiple takes, and ask questions as I'm filming.  The archive of replays are up for all new "Wool" Patrons so you can go back through and watch the older sneak peeks.  How do these unedited streams compare to the final video I release?  Watch to find out!  

This post contains affiliate links, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.  The affiliate partners mentioned in this post are Paradise Fibers, Amazon, and KnitPicks.