Sod’s Law for Crafters says that, no matter how big your stash, you still will never have the right material for the project at hand. Having recently started weaving, that saying is more true than ever. All of my non-acrylic yarns are committed to projects and I don’t have quite the volume of silk I’d need for a decent sized warp.
That meant it was time to indulge myself in a bit of ‘necessity’ shopping. Shopping for weaving threads is quite an experience, particularly as a UK resident. ‘wc’, ‘nm’, ‘cc’ are all units you might see, as well as various fractions, weight per length and often, a complete absence of any useful information.
It doesn’t help that there are regional variations in the naming systems as well as the hilarity of trying to work out whether you’re using metric or imperial units for the weights and lengths as well. All of this makes for a real headache when you’re online shopping and there aren’t many good visual comparisons available for reference either, something I will try and address at some point. I really recommend trying to find the weight per length information (e.g. kg per m or lbs per inch) if you can as it is usually more informative than the naming.
After giving myself a bit of a headache, I ended up ordering a mixture of silk and cotton from Handweaver’s Studio, that have a really comprehensive range of weaving yarns. I can confirm that Handweaver’s Studios 2/16 is indeed the same weight as an American 16/2 and approximately the same weight as a laceweight yarn. They are a great supplier but their website is really unhelpful as you have to go to their catalogue pages to actually get much information on the products, rather than it being directly accessible on the product page where you need to be to buy the damned thing…
Variety is the spice of life and I do enjoy having a good colour pallet to choose from. However, as I wasn’t completely sure what colours I’d need, how much, what I was even going to do, I thought the best value for money would just be to buy a load of plain cotton and get to work with some Procion MX dyes.
I wound off ~ 1250 m skeins of Optical cotton ready for dyeing. All the guides say you’re supposed to scour cotton by boiling it up with soda ash. Now I will confess I don’t really wash my silk top beyond giving it a rinse before I dye it and I’ve never had any problems so because I’m lazy, I thought I’d see if I could get away without scouring the cotton before use as well. I decided to scour 8 out of the 10 skeins using the hot wash/soda ash method and then leave two just to pre-soak to see if there was an obvious difference in how predictable the dyeing was.
As I was going to do a black warp in 2/16 cotton, I really wanted vivid colours that wouldn’t get swallowed by the black. It was a struggle to resist the temptation to make highly variegated skeins too but I wanted subtler variations in mostly block colours to fit in with the weaving.
Working with skeins was refreshingly easy after my last top-dyeing marathon. I’d left the skeins to soak in the soda ash for nearly 24 hours and even dyeing with them relatively dry, I had great fun watching even the smallest drop of dye rapidly moving along the skein.
The colours all took fantastically on the cotton and there is no obvious difference in the colours on the scoured and non-scoured cottons. However, in contrast to the nice, quick dyeing process, the rinsing turned out to be a pain in the neck, with a seemingly infinite amount of dye haemorrhaging out of each skein. Even skeins that had relatively little dye, with large undyed areas seemed to be just as bad.
If you are lazy and have no health and safety qualms about it, I highly recommend just making a mini-washing line in your shower and just leaving the shower to deal with it on your behalf. Cotton also has no qualms about being abused with hot water either, though your electricity bill and environmental credentials might!
Some of the purples looked incredibly dark until they had completely dried and there might have been a spot of ‘accidental’ space-dyeing going on but I’m really pleased with how they’ve come out, perhaps with the exception of what has been nicknamed the ‘nuclear yellow’ skein. That’s Kemtex ‘Acid Lemon’ with a bit of green contamination and I think might be looking for a slightly less lurid base yellow for mixing.
This was such a fun project and the mercized cotton is really soft and kept its nice sheen after dyeing as well. I have got around to making the warp for what will hopefully be a set of 10 samplers but it is currently at home on the floor rather than the loom… Next job on the list!