Thursday, August 14, 2008

Handling Skeins in the Dyepot

Wow! Blogging is way more interactive than I expected. This is great!

In a comment on the last post, Michael asked "What are you using to lift the skeins?"

Aha! I learned about these handy rings in classes with Michele Wipplinger of Earthues. Each skein I dye, no matter what class of dye, is handled with one of these rings.

I made 8 or 10 of them in various sizes. The smallest is about 6" in diameter, the largest 10".

Go to your local hardware store. Look for heavy copper wire - these are maybe 16-gauge or 18-gauge? Copper is flexible, letting you bend it into shape, and re-bend and re-bend without becoming brittle and breaking. Then look for plastic tubing that the wire can just barely fit into.

You want the rings to be large enough in diameter that when suspended above the rim of the pot, the skein is still completely submerged. However, you don't want it so big it rests on the bottom and the plastic gets overcooked :) I'm afraid you'll have to do the math yourself...

You need a length of copper wire, and that length plus 2 inches of tubing, plus a product called "Plumber's Goop." Insert the wire into the tubing, leaving about 1 inch of tubing at each end extending beyond the wire. Bend the ends so they form interlocking hooks. Seal the ends with Goop. The Goop probably isn't so important with synthetic dyes, but with natural dyes, the copper can affect the color, so you don't want the dye liquor to get into the tubing if the ring slips down under the surface of the liquid.

Loop the skein over the ring. Once the skein goes into the dyepot, no spoon or other stirring device ever enters the pot. Instead of stirring (which can easily tangle fine threads) I lift and lower the ring in a pumping motion, sort of like churning butter. The motion of the skein ensures that the liquid circulates so dye reaches the fiber evenly.

I use barbeque skewers coated with a nonstick coating to keep the rings up out of the bath when I'm not pumping 'em up and down. A wooden stick or spoon might do, but you don't really want something that will absorb color or chemicals and possibly contaminate the next bath it gets near. Here's a shot of a dyepot "at rest." The skein is completely submerged, and the ring stays at least partly above the level of the liquid so I can grab it without scalding my hands.

Once the yarn is dyed and rinsed, I hang the rings on whatever peg or nail is handy out on the patio, and let the skeins air-dry.


Phiala said...

Oh, that's fantastic! I must make some.

Interactive blogging is great fun, and I must thank Michael for asking that question, since I never would have thought of it.

Anonymous said...

What a handy tool! I'll have to consider making some of these as I return to dyeing.

Michael said...

Thank you so much! I've been fighting with this for a while now. I had gotten to the point of grasping the "dip, don't stir" method, and I usually get acceptable results using just the spoon - but the rings just look like they do so much better a job!

Peg in South Carolina said...

I do something similar though less "high-tech". I make a loop of heavy polyester cord which I put through the skein and then through a wooden skewer sitting on top of the pot. One thing I have not figured out, however, is to keep the skeins from hitting the bottom of the pot. I suspect I need to make the skeins shorter and/or use a taller pot. Thank you for a great post!

Eileen said...

Wow! That is so clever!

Thanks for writing out the full instructions so that they were nice and clear for people like me (you would think that a spinner/knitter would be 'handy' enough to figure these things out for ourselves given just a reasonable nudge in the right direction, but Noooo...)

Love the blog!


Rhonda said...

How brilliant!
I wonder if Romex would work for this? You know, good old electrical wire? It has three copper strands inside the main covering-two of which have a "plastic-y" coating already.

Thanks for the great idea :>)


Beryl Moody said...

Your dyeing environment looks so much more sanitary than mine does. Thanks for the instructions on extracting color on your web site. Interesting stuff.