Alpaca Blues: Knits from the Crockpot

I was so happy with the yarn and the sample I  made from my first crock pot dyeing adventure I was empowered to gather up my courage to dye some more yarn. Two more projects have emerged from the crock pot.

A bit of heaven for the head: A few weeks ago I tied together the leftovers of bulky huacaya alpaca left over from earlier hat and mitts and dyed them a darker indigo using the same infusion and no-stir method I employed the first time around. The yarn was nice, but blotchy, so I overdyed it with a little more indigo to even it out. This week I knitted the yarn into a hat. What do you think?

Hat
Here is the hat. Kind of manly, isn’t it? (Okay, that isn’t a shock as this is an adaptation of the Man Hat by Haven Ashley), but I like the feel of it on my head so I started to think about how to infuse a little cute factor…
Yarn and Hat
I had this much yarn left. Hmmm…
Rosette on Hat
Bam! Knitted rosette is just the solution that I was looking for. I found the pattern for this one in Knitting in the Details by Louisa Harding. I’m debating attaching a bead or button to the middle of the rosette. How about something that looks like a bone button? If you are looking for more details the project is here on Ravelry.

The yummiest cowl ever: that went so well I plugged in the pot and added two skeins of premium sport weight alpaca from Alta Vida Alpacas. I have to be honest here; this is the yummiest fiber I have ever handled and it was a little stressful to wet it down, pour some vinegar over it and add the dye. Still, what could go wrong? Worst case, I decided I would just call up Cari at Alta Vida Alpacas and offer to pay for the yarn. There. What’s to worry about?

What a baby I am. The yarn came out fine.

Yarn
Look, look! Not as blotchy as the first dye batch, but still pretty darn appealing. I’m keeping notes about the dye amounts and temperatures in the pot to get a handle on this. It’s fun; just like keeping a science notebook again. 🙂
Swatch and notebook
Since I’m recording notes about the dye efforts in the notebook I planned out the cowl I want to knit in the same location. I am making a cowl like an earlier one I made in this sport weight alpaca yarn. Here is the swatch that I posted about earlier (link at the top of this post); by laying it over the original cowl I was able to figure out the stitch count to make this one. If you’re interested the original cowl is this one on Ravelry.
Knitting
I cast on Friday using the directions for a Moebius cast on by Cat Bhordi online. Since this is a moebius the knitting started in the middle of the garter section and both edges of the cowl get knitted at the same time. I’m in the blackberry stitch now; at the top of the picture the berries are “up” and at the bottom they are “down”. Fun, huh. This yarn is just yummy; it is developing a little bloom as I work. I’m writing down the pattern as I go so I can get it written up when I’m done. What do you all think of my fun little notebook?

I’ve run out of alpaca to dye, but I found some white handspun last night that is temping me. Time to plug in the crock pot again. Wait. I have an old vegetable steamer. Maybe I should paint the yarn this time and put it into the steamer…

Oh, I am having fun now!

Have a good weekend everyone.

Note: I feel that I should mention that I have two crock pots: one is for cooking, and the other is for dyeing. They are in different colors and left in different places so I don’t get them mixed up. If I use the veggie steamer it will be joining the dye crockpot in the garage and won’t be used for cooking any more. Best to always use an abundance of caution.

Alpaca Summer Camp

Last week was a ton of fun! I helped out at a Camp Macusani, a summer camp run by Alta Vida Alpacas, which is also the site of Alpaca Partners, an organization “committed to creating quality with purpose in the lives of special needs persons through unique opportunities offered on the ranch.” Wow! Teaching, fiber arts, alpacas and a chance to be involved in something special that is making a difference in the lives of young people facing more challenges than most of us. Not only was this a lot of fun, but it was a special, special week.

So with no further ado, here is the week. 🙂

Alpacas
This camp started just as you would have thought: the kids went up the hill to meet the alpacas!! That cute rear end you see in the manger is one of the sheep.
Baby alpaca.
Of course there were babies…
Guard dog.
and dogs. At Alta Vida the owners (Dan and Cari Corley) have guard dogs and llamas in the pens with their alpacas to help keep them safe. Most of the alpacas in these pictures are huacaya, although with their coats clipped off it’s hard for me to be sure. The ranch also has suri alpacas.
Washed alpaca fiber
The actual fiber day started with the kids getting their own bag of alpaca fleece (huacaya and suri) to pick vegetable matter out of and to wash. Here is the washed fiber drying.
Flower hunters in a meadow.
While the fiber was drying we all headed out into the meadows on the property to hunt for Colorado wildflowers.
Wildflowers
and then the flowers were pressed to dry in phone books (with bricks on top to provide the weight!)
Combing alpaca fiber.
The next day the kids learned how to comb their alpaca fiber…
Solar dyeing.
and then they dyed some of the fiber using kool-aid and the heat of the sun. It was a beautiful hot day and the wool dyed great just using solar energy. The individual colors are contained in zip-lock bags, and then the bags were placed in aluminum cake pans with plastic snap-on lids. Slick, huh!
Making felt.
The white and dyed fiber was used to create felt art projects and also was blended to create rolags. Fun, fun, fun!
Felting is hard!
The downside: felting can be hard work. 🙂
Spinning yarn.
At the end of the camp students learned to make yarn. To break the process down to manageable “chunks” we had kids work with partners so that they could just control the spinning at the beginning, and then later they took over the drafting part of the process. Some were able to create yarn on their own using the drop spindle by the end of the second day.

Remember those pressed flowers? On the last day the dried flowers were used along with pictures taken during the camp to create photo memory books that the students took away with them. They also framed and made pictures using the felt that was created, and their yarn was steamed (to set the twist), wound and made into a little skein. Camp was only about 2.5 hours a day, but a lot was accomplished!

That’s why this was such a special week. By the family pizza lunch on the final day the kids had learned how fiber from live animals (that they learn how to take care of during the school year) is used to create items of beauty and purpose. Someday some of these kids will be creating items for sale in a farm store that will be operated by Alpaca Partners, and some of them may end up working with livestock later on in their lives. Things learned in this camp will be used in the two local high schools that currently collaborate with Alta Vida Alpacas to provide a unique educational opportunity for special needs kids; weaving and knitting with that yarn is a future possibility. If ever I spent a week well, this was it.

Oh yeah. I was also with my peeps!

Canning Jar Dye Job

I’m trying to stick to my New Year’s resolution: knit a sock each month using a pattern from one of my (many, many, what was I thinking of when I bought them…) sock knitting books and yarn already in my stash. I will not buy any more sock yarn! (but if I do, I won’t use it for the resolution socks… Hello! Need to be a little realistic here…)

So, I have a pattern picked out for the February sock (which is a secret since it isn’t February yet!), but there wasn’t really suitable yarn in the stash. I did find a kilo of Irish wool that my daughter-in-law gave me almost 20 years ago. Guess it would be OK to use that, but it is all white. Dye day!!

Skein of white yarn.
Look at this 200g skein of yarn! Wow! I think that I will try to rainbow dye it all in one pot!

 

Smaller Skeins
Seriously?! The skein is sub-divided into four 50 gram smaller skeins. Forget the rainbow dyeing. 

 

New idea. I can get those little skeins into wide-mouth canning jars. I just happen to have some of those in the garage.
New idea. I can get those little skeins into wide-mouth canning jars. I just happen to have some of those in the garage. 

Little skeins. Well, that is different. Each skein will need to be tied several times to keep them from tangling. I decided to dye the four smaller skeins of yarn at the same time in my canning pot with each skein in it’s own jar. I used Gaywool Dyes in Indigo and Raspberry and added one tsp of dye to each jar and filled it halfway with warm water while the yarn was soaking. I decided to make two of the skeins raspberry colored, and the other two indigo colored.

Dye jars in the water bath.
Once the water bath was  hot I added the jars of dye, crammed the wool into the jars, and then added more hot water to get the maximum volume of liquid in the jars. I used wooden skewers to stir my wool around. It was a tight fit, but do-able.

 

Dyed yarn in jars.
Ta-daa! Dyed yarn. You can kind of see in the picture that the exhaust water is almost clear around the now dyed yarn.

Once the water bath was up to the simmer I removed those skewers, covered the pot and let things simmer for about 30 minutes. I just love dyeing!  It feels like magic when the dye bites and enters the wool; the raspberry happened first, and then by the end of the 30 minutes the indigo had also made its move. I let the bath cool for an hour and then pulled the jars out.

Dyed yarn.
Here’s the dried (mostly) yarn. Yeah! February sock, you are so happening!!

By the way, I feel that I should mention that I don’t use this canning apparatus any longer for food; it is only for dyeing yarn and making candles. I have a whole crate of dye-only stuff and I even have a wool-only microwave. Best to be safe. 🙂