Satisfaction is a bobbin of plied yarn

I love the final plying process when spinning yarn. This is Texel and Clun Forest wool fibre, processed from raw fleece. One single of each as an experiment.

I find it very difficult to get a smooth yarn from my own prepared raw fleece. It’s pretty easy from commercially prepared tops, but getting all those little nepps and second cuts out is pretty impossible for me.

I’ll wash this and see how it comes out.

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Food colour dyeing

Today I wanted to dye some of my hand spun wool yarn a bright green. No natural dye I have would do this, and I didn’t have any green acid dye, (or any acid dyes at all), so I decided to use food colouring. I already knew that food colouring works as a fibre dye but did not realise that it was an acid dye, (thank you Google) so works best on wool, silk and other protein fibres that will dye with an acid dye. Acid dyes are not acid, but they require an acid such as vinegar or citric acid to attach themselves to the fibre.

Initially I’d intended to use liquid food dyes but discovered I have either thrown them out or someone had used them up, so had to resort to the paste colours I used to use for sugar flower modelling. These seemed to work fine and are quite intense, if a little harder to dissolve, (I had to squash some lumps against the side of the jug). I may use them again as they are just sitting in the cupboard at the moment.

So to prepare the yarn I soaked it in a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water for about 30 minutes. This did two jobs at once, soaked the fibres to remove trapped air and added acidity. I could have added vinegar to the dyebath instead.

Meanwhile I put some water to heat on the stove and mixed the bright leafy green I wanted from my stash of food colouring dyes.

I mixed the food colouring paste with hot water in a small jug, and added a teaspoon of salt, (this helps to level the colour and increase its take-up), stirring them well until the liquid was clear, then added this to the pan of water that was warming on the stove.

When the dyebath was ready I removed the hank of wool from the vinegar and water soak, gently squeezing it to remove excess liquid, and immersed it in the dye. The temptation to stir the yarn into the dye bath is always with us, so I gently prodded it below the surface and walked away and left it. It took about 20 minutes of gentle simmering, turning the yarn very gently once, to achieve the colour I wanted.

Because I liked the colour so much I decided to dip a second hank quickly into the dyebath so I got very pale green and then, having rinse it to check the colour, I trailed half the hank into the dyebath again and let it stay in there until it became darker. This gave me a dip dyed, ombre yarn in tones of the same green.

Post-dyeing rinses brought the brightness down a little on both hanks, but overall I was pleased at how little colour came out. I rinsed quite hot; wool can take high heat and won’t felt, as long as you don’t agitate it or put it straight into cold water. The important thing is to have the rinsing water at a similar temperature to the dye bath. Wear gloves to protect your hands during these hot rinses. To save energy you can slowly decrease the temperatures through the rinses. Never let the tap run onto the wool or it is likely to felt.

Because it was a lovely day today I hung the hanks out in the garden to dry, but you can spin dry them as long as you put them inside a mesh laundry bag or a calico bag.

Both yarns were handspun with a bouclé effect. The dip dyed one took the colour less well partly because it was from a different fleece, and partly because it should really have had an additional scour before going into the vinegar soak.


Brighton Textile Art Group meeting 11th May

Well I did it, I made it along to the meeting today and joined the group. Thank you to all the kind members who made me feel so welcomed. There was a natural dyeing workshop today, but of course I had not booked in advance. However, I took some singles spun on my Spurtzler and plied this using my hands in an Andean ply. Then I had two little hanks to dye in the onion skin and the daffodil dye baths.

Click on the photo to visit the brighton Textile Art Group website and see what other events and workshops are in the future.

There is a little more detail of the day on my Natural Dyeing page.

About Translating between Hand and MachineKnitting…

Hi, I’m Barbara from Italy and want to thank you for writing “Translating between hand and machine knitting”. It’s just great, I can now understand the differences between silver reed and brother. I have one of both but got frustrated trying to use the silver reed, so just stopped working with both… now I have the chance

Thank you Barbara, its great to hear your feedback.

What’s inside ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’?

Lace knitting – see more about this on my Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting page, but in brief, yes this is explained in loads of detail, with helpful photos and diagrams, examples and step-by-step instructions.

The book does not include garment patterns, it explains how to knit different stitches by hand and machine, and why some stitches are more suitable for hand and others for machine knitting.

 

Hand and machine knitting – using a ‘lifeline’ when knitting lace

When hand knitting lace it is so easy to make a mistake or drop stitches, even on the plain rows, (I have a habit of dropping the yarnovers).

To save yourself the hassle of having to unpick and rediscover your pattern, adding a lifeline is a real life-saver; although it may seem tedious at the time.

A lifeline is a piece of thread passing through all the stitches along one row of the pattern so that if a stitch unravels some rows above it cannot drop below this retaining thread.

Decide where you want the lifeline to be, this would usually be at the end of one full vertical repeat of a lace pattern, on a non-patterning row, (usually a purl row). If it’s a short lace pattern repeat that is only two or four rows high, then you might put a lifeline in after every four or five repeats of the pattern.

To prepare and insert a lifeline:

  • Choose a contrast colour that’s no thicker and preferably thinner than your knitting yarn. On fine lace sewing thread is ideal.
  • Cut a length of yarn that is 20 cm longer than the width of your fabric.
  • Thread the yarn into a large eyed bodkin sewing needle. Avoid using a needle with a sharp point as this may split your stitches.
  • Using the sewing needle thread the yarn along the stitches on the needle, making sure the thread goes through each stitch.
  • Pull the lifeline gently so that there is an even length of thread at each side of the knitting.
  • Remove the bodkin sewing needle and knit the row as normal.
  • Once you have threaded another life line in place at your next chosen position you can remove the first one.

You can use a lifeline in exactly the same way when machine knitting, it is just a little bit more fiddly to thread the yarn through the stitches. But believe me, its worth it!

The image below shows a lifeline (yellow yarn), being inserted into lace knitting being worked flat, but using a circular needle. A circular needle has a thin wire in its centre (in this case its a red wire), and sliding the stitches onto the wire before inserting the lifeline creates more space inside each stitch, making it easier to thread the lifeline through.

A lifeline being threaded into lace knitting. Insert the lifeline after working a plain row. This gives you easily recognisable loops to work into.

‘Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting’ – publication date is 31st August

Cover of Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting
The cover features a voluminous and irresistibly tactile 3D knitted textile by Marie-Claire Canning

Point to point linking.mp4

What is a linker?

Making up knitwear can be quite a chore, and using a linker makes it a lot quicker.  Linkers make a chain stitch, which is extensible so will not burst the seam when the fabric is stretched.

Domestic linkers can be operated by hand or have a motor. The most common make in the UK is the Hague linker, which is blue, and made in the UK by Hague. It can used on a table, or mounted on its own stand. When joining large pieces whilst working a table you have to be careful that the pieces don’t drag as the dial revolves as this is likely to effect the stitch formation and make the machine heavy to use. Using a stand means that larger pieces can hang down and revolve with the dial.

Hague type linkers make the stitch on the outside of the dial where the needle is positioned, and the chain on the inside where the looper is situated. A linker is a usually circular, and has a dial of spikes radiating outwards. These are called ‘points’ and as with a knitting machine, the number of points per inch is used to describe the gauge of the linker.

Linkers have large eyed, usually curved, needles and are designed to be used with a similar weight yarn to that in which the garment has been knitted, e.g. a linker with 5 points to the inch will take yarn of similar diameter/count to that used on a domestic knitting machine. The linker in this video has more points per inch than one intended for use with domestic machines; it is probably a 10-12 point model.

Linking different gauges of knitting

Obviously its not possible to have a linker for each of your different machines, or for hand knits, but the good news is that you can use a linker for different gauges of knitting. If the stitches are wider spaced than the points, spread them out so that not every point has a stitch; the chain will carry over the odd empty point. If the stitches are closer together than the points, it is a little more difficult as you have to double them up on the points, and to frequent doubling can lead to a gathered seam, so I wouldn’t recommend using a domestic linker for finer than 8gge knitting.

Before starting, hold the knitting up to the dial (remember that the circumference of the dial is smaller at the inner end of the points, where the stitches are made), and estimate how often you need to add a space, or double-up on a point. Make a note of this, and put the stitches up onto the points with evenly spaced gaps or double stitches.

Linking tips and troubleshooting

If the garment is knitted in a fancy of fluffy yarn, I recommend linking with a smooth, strong yarn of a suitably matching colour instead.

The tension of the chain stitch can be adjusted with a thumb screw, and it is important to use this adjustment to achieve successful linking. Put broadly, over-large and/or missing loops indicate loose tension, and skipping, dragging and stiff operation indicates too tight, but the only way to get it right is to practise on scraps of knitting prior to sewing the garment.

In very rare circumstances the timing of needle and looper can become disrupted, and it is impossible to get the linker to make stitches; the needle may break or bang into the looper, or the looper may be totally out of synch with the needle thrust. Although it is possible to adjust this yourself, unless you are very experienced with the machine and understand how the stitches are formed, I recommend sending the linker to Hague for repair.

Preparing your knitting

When preparing knitting for point-to-point linking the last row of main yarn knitting is not bound off; the stitches are left ‘live’. Before removing the knitting from the machine, 10-20 rows of ‘waste’ yarn are knitted, then the piece is knocked off the machine without binding off. When choosing ‘waste’ yarn, aim for a strong colour contrast in a yarn that is slightly thicker than the main yarn. A thicker yarn will open the last row of stitches, making it easier to insert the points, and a contrast colour helps the operator pick the correct row of stitches to catch onto the points. Try to choose smooth waste yarns; fluffy ones may leave contrast colour fibres when the waste is removed.

More detail about the video example shown above

The video above shows how to point-to-point link a double thickness, folded collar around the neckline of a garment. The collar in this example has been knitted across the needle bed of the knitting machine, with ‘live’ stitches left at both start and finish as follows:

  1. cast on with waste
  2. work 10-20 rows waste
  3. change to main yarn and knit the number of rows required for the collar outer depth e.g. 20 rows
  4. knit a loose tension fold row if you want one
  5. knit a second series of rows equal to the inner depth of the collar, e.g. 20 rows
  6. change to waste yarn
  7. knit 10-20 rows
  8. remove the knitting from the machine

See ‘Preparing your knitting’ for how to work the joining rows between main and waste yarn to facilitate easy linking.

Putting the knitting onto the linker

Before starting to put the collar and garment on the linker, check whether your linker makes the stitches inside or outside the dial, and position the piecs accordingly. In my example, the stitches are on the outside, the loops inside.

Put the open stitches of the inner edge of the collar onto the points as described in the video, (wrong side facing in this example), and then put the garment neck onto the points (right side facing the operator in this example). Finally fold the collar over the top of the garment neck edge, and catch the open stitches onto the points – make sure to align the inner and outer stitches so that the collar is not twisted.

Sew through the three layers, and pull the end back through the last chain to secure the linking. Remove the garment and unravel the waste yarn back to the main stitches. Take care on the last row, and if any stitches have been missed, catch them with a pin or a strand of waste yarn. I find those little safety-pin stitch markers very useful for this on domestic- machine knits.

Hague direct’s website