Saturday, August 23, 2014

"We will use no stash before its time."

     A long time ago, a mediocre California winery ran an entire national advertising campaign (including memorable TV commercials featuring Orson Welles) with the slogan, "We will sell no wine before its time." What holds true for wine also holds true for stash--it needs time to "age" before it gets turned into some glorious creation.
     This time, the stash in question is a large quantity of 10/4 mercerized cotton yarn. It came into my stash when I bought my 4-shaft Gilmore in February, 1995; since then, it's been carefully stored with other cellulosic fibers, awaiting the time that it could be put to good use. There's quite a bit to this stash--all together, it's over five pounds, or about 13,000 yards of yarn. Some of it is dyed, but about 60% (about 3 1/2 pounds) is undyed, some with ancient labels for Royal Society Eversheen and Sunray Knitting & Crochet Cotton. This is going to make great yarn for weaving tapes and straps, but before that can happen, I need to dye.
     As I mentioned above, some of the yarns are dyed. I don't know who the original stash-holder was, but she had a fondness for warm, autumnal colors--nearly all the dyed yarns range from dark cocoa brown, through orange, to gold. There's a couple ounces of mauve, and a bit less of royal blue, but none of the cool greens, blues, and purples I like to use in weaving. There's also no red. Fortunately, I can fix all that.
     The first step is to put these skeins into some sort of usable order. I've "caked" all the colors so they're easier to work from, and turned the most tangled skeins into neat 2-yard hanks for dyeing. I've got the colors I need on hand: clear yellow; bright Chinese red; purple; dark and light greens; more royal blue; and turquoise. All I need to do is soak the yarns, then put them into their respective dye baths. Each hank is 500 yards, so once dyed, I'll have plenty for weaving a bunch of tapes and bands.

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     It took about two days to wind the hanks, then dye them all. I ended up winding about 4,500 yards into nine hanks--I kept finding yet another color that I thought might be pretty. I only have three "smallish" (2 to 3 gallon) dyepots, so I had to dye the colors in relays. Babysitting dyepots is much like any other babysitting--you don't need to be there every single second--so I sat in the kitchen next to my pots and knitted, stopping to stir the pots at the end of each round.
     Once dyed (and rinsed, and rinsed again, and washed in Synthrapol, and rinsed several times more), I hung the dyed yarns out to dry on the upstairs porch. I finally decided on turquoise, yellow, light green, red, dark blue, purple, dark green, periwinkle blue, and lilac (see the photo to the right). This gives me a range of cool colors to work with and, along with all the warm colors already dyed, I'm set for tape and band weaving.