Thursday, 24 February 2011

Natural Dyeing with Onions

A couple of weeks ago I set about fulfilling a task I had set myself a long time ago - natural dyeing with onion skins. Improving my dyeing is one of my ambitions for 2011 and this seemed like a sensible way to continue following the washing machine dylon dyeing. If anything, this was easier!

Much of what I've read online about natural dyeing has stressed the importance of using a mordant for colour fastness, however, the suggested chemicals are rather difficult to come by, and after discussions with the lovely ladies at the Handweaver's Studio (I love this place so much!), I decided not to use one. Whether my results are colourfast or not is so far unclear, although they have been thoroughly rinsed with no loss of colour so far. To be on the safe side I decided to use a cobweb weight yarn so that I knew would be a rare visitor to the wash pile (because really, how often do you wash shawls?).

The method is very simple, the most challenging part is collecting enough onion skins! All in all it took a couple of months of saving onion skins in our kitchen to get enough, but there are only 2 of us and we eat out a lot, so it may take you less time. I used a large cooking pan (big enough for stew for about a dozen people), and, leaving the onion skins in quite large chunks, it was about half full.

I filled the pan with water so that the skins were covered, brought the pan to the boil and simmered for 45 minutes.

At this stage they look a bit like red onion skins, but I assure you that I only used brown onions!

Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile soak your yarn in cold water. I used Lush Lace from that I bought at Knit Nation last year. 1200m in 100g of 80% Extra Fine Merino and 20% Silk, for the princely sum of I think £7.95! You are highly recommended to put in about a million figure 8 ties to hold the skein in shape, although don't tie them too tight unless you want tie-dyed yarn!

After 45 minutes when the dye bath is cool drain the onions (not into the sink!!!!),

Pour the dye back into the dye pan, and I stirred through 75g of urea crystals. I'm not sure if this is necessary, but I had it kicking about after the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and thought I'd give it a go, it's supposed to increase the intensity of the colour, and the colour is quite bright, so maybe it worked!

Add the soaking wet dye to the dyebath. Both yarn and dye should be the same temperature at this point. If the dye is still hot wait longer otherwise you'll felt your yarn (this is very bad!). Slowly raise the temperature of the yarn/dye mix and simmer until you get the desired colour into your yarn. Bear in mind, that the dry yarn will be a lighter colour than when wet.

Upon first adding the yarn,

45 minutes later,

Turn off the heat and leave the yarn+dye to cool for about 1/2 an hour so the yarn is lukewarm (or wait longer, the longer you leave it the deeper the colour). Run the tap so that the new water is the same temperature as the dye and rinse the yarn thoroughly. I didn't use a detergent, you could, but you may reduce the colour (see above statement on colourfastness). You can keep the leftover dye to use another day, although I imagine it's lifespan is limited due to the organic content. Mine is in a coke bottle, I'll let you know when it goes off!

Hang the skein up to dry,

Once dried, take pretty photos,

Wind (I wound using a nostepinne, partly because I enjoy it, partly because I wanted to check the whole 1200 metres over before I started knitting it), knit, then feel rather smug :)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

My word! Press and Promo!

My word it's been a long time since I posted - my only excuse is that it's taken this long to get myself, my camera, my camera cable and the laptop all in the one room as Andrew has been using it for work a lot. I know, I am getting round to getting my laptop fixed.You can now follow me on Twitter @MichaelaKnits for up to the minute updates!

There's lots to say! Firstly, following on from the previous post I made some adaptations to the Mathematica Knitting Chart program. This can be downloaded here:

This will only work if you have access to Wolfram Mathematica, so it's usage is possibly rather limited, but I was very proud of myself!

I have also recently appeared in University College London's most recent edition of Pi Magazine. UCL is the second largest university in the UK, and as such, I imagine that the readership of this student publication is over 10,000! And they gave me half a page!

I don't yet have a digital copy, so sorry for the photo! Notice also that it's the centre page - even more attention paid to it! I brought them 2 huge bags of everything I've knitted and am proud of, and they chose to use my Ikebana socks, designed by Judy Sumner and featured in Knitted Socks East and West, and my Ice Layers jumper of my own design. This is a men's jumper, but following the shoot (and the lovely comments I've received) I'll almost certainly size it for women too. The best part of this is that the rest of the shoot was dedicated to full time, professional fashion designers, so I'm certainly keeping good company at the moment!

Regular readers will know that I have been working for many months on the development of my own collection for the University College London MODO Fashion Society Show. I have been working since September to develop the team and have found 27 other excellent designers to produce an astounding 116 garments for our show on the 4th and 5th of March, at UCL Gower Street, London.

Tickets are available for £8 and can be purchased at Doors are at 6.30 and attendees can enjoy drinks and vintage refreshments (not literally vintage!) while they wander through our exhibition. The show begins at 7.15 and is expected to last for around two hours including an interval during which there will be opportunities to take a closer look at some of our garments. I will be opening the show with an 8 piece knitwear collection inspired by the revealing of tree branches during autumn. If you are attending, leave me a comment and I'll try and make sure I chat to you!

Following the show I will begin work on my newest and most exciting project - stocking my first shop! As soon as possible after the show I will begin stocking hats and accessories at The Create Place, 29 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green. I'll let you know when I first start stocking, I'm sure we can arrange a special gift for those first magic customers!