Saturday, May 16, 2015

Off the Needles: Turquoise/Teal Shawl

 For several years I have attended (and participated in) the Carolina Fiber Fest, first in Raleigh, NC, and then in Sanford, NC. It provides a wonderful selection of local and non-local fiber suppliers and it is hard to avoid the temptation to buy more yarn for my stash. And that is pretty much where my purchases stay--in my stash. Facebook has a "feature" where it posts a photo you took a year or so ago. This year it was a photo I took of what I'd bought at the 2014 Fiber Fest. Looking at it, I realized I had done nothing! with the yarn I'd bought last year. And so, I was determined to use whatever I bought at this year's event.

I was very restrained and only bought two skeins of yarn -- wool, 2-ply sport weight, each about 400 yards, one in a heathery turquoise and the other in a dark teal. They came from Heelside Farms in Four Oaks, NC.

Choosing a good shawl pattern was a big problem; I started one pattern and after about 60 rows decided I really didn't like it. Spent a lot of time going through my library of patterns and Ravelry before finally deciding on Stephen West's "Boneyard Shawl" pattern, a free download on Ravelry. My next decision was whether to have the teal or the turquoise as the border part. I had equal amounts of yarn so that wasn't a factor. In the end, I decided that the turquoise would look better near my face and hair.

West offers two variations for the increases in the pattern: Make 1 Right / Make 1 Left or yarn overs. His method gives the shawl a more solid look while the yarn overs make the increases a bit more lacy. Given a choice, I went with the yarn overs which I'd rather do than that knitting into the front and back of stitches. I found his increase method more fiddly plus I'd have to keep alert so I did the right and left increases at the correct places.

The knitting went fairly fast, but I noticed I was getting a lot of dye on my fingers in only 2-3 rows of knitting. I'd already had some concerns about the scratchiness of the wool and now it seemed that I would also have to do something about the dye leaching out before the shawl would be wearable.

West suggests Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind off, but I decided to do an i-cord bind off. I've done this in previous shawls and like the effect and the stability it gives the edges. I'd thought about doing a lacy edging, but by the time I got the size I wanted, I just wanted to bind off and start dealing with the dye issue.

I have to say, this yarn has given me more work in rinsing out the excess dye than any other yarn so far. I got to the point where I decided I probably would never buy dyed yarn from this source again. I do have other yarn from this supplier, but it is undyed, natural-colored wool and should give no problems.

I started out with room temperature water to see if all it needed was some rinsing out with plain water. After several changes of water and temperatures, there didn't seem to be any lightening of the blue in the water. I tried washing with the soap the seller recommended (Soft Soap) to soften up the yarn. I do think the yarn got softer, but the excess blue dye still kept coming out. I went online to see what I could do to fix the dye and stop the bleeding. Two things were suggested: white vinegar and salt. I tried the vinegar first with little noticeable results and you then have to get the vinegar smell out of the yarn. The salt rinse didn't work any better, but at least there was no odor. This soak and rinse routine went on for several days with still more dye coming out. This was so frustrating as I was eager to block the shawl and move on to another project. But I had to get the dye issue fixed or I was afraid the dye would rub off on everything it touched when it was worn.

Last night, in a fit of recklessness, I gave up and just dumped what I had left of the vinegar into the basin of water and went to bed. This morning, the water in the sink was clear! What a relief. Now all I had to do was get the vinegar smell out using the Soft Soap and then on to the blocking.

Below is a photo of the shawl (taken before I found one of my cats sitting on it...why, why?) that is drying out on my porch. I'll take a photo of it in action when I get it off the blocking boards.

I think the lessons learned with this project are to be a bit leery of dyed yarns from unknown sources (i. e., not one of the major yarn manufacturers) and to be fearless with the use of vinegar to set dyes. I worried that the acid might harm the wool, but I can't see that it caused any problem. I still love the colors and the pattern, but the post-knitting process was more work than I care to expend on what was to be a simple, quick project.