Sunday, February 06, 2011

Some projects fail

A long time ago (but not so far away) I took a fancy to producing my own self-striping yarn. The principle is simple - you dye the yarn in REALLY long skeins so you end up with REALLY long color intervals. I had some slightly-prickly, natural gray, handspun suri alpaca that I thought would make a great pillow for propping my feet on. I wound it into one humongous skein using a warping board, and dyed one end brick red and the other steel blue, leaving gray in the middle. So far so good. Happily I knitted up a swatch. The stripes were not anywhere as wide as I had hoped (apparently you need to use REALLY REALLY long skeins) but the resulting narrow stripes would be attractive. To make a nice sturdy pillow fabric, I marked 20ss by 20 rows with thread, and threw the swatch in the wash with my jeans. The resulting fulled fabric was lovely and the colors didn't fade or run. All still good. I did some calculations for size to fit the pillow insert I already had, and launched into knitting. This is where the project stalled.

It was Boring. Really Boring. The project was shoved to the side over and over in favor of more interesting projects. Even when I did work on it, progress was slow. At times it would sit untouched in its basket for months. I gave up on the idea of ever making a second pillow cover (for which I had planned enough yarn) and finally muscled through to the finish. Production was painful, but at least I would have a really great pillow. At this point my only concern was that the trip through the wash might cause the fabric to shrink unequally with the swatch. Just in case, I threw the rectangle of fabric into the washer before sewing up the sides. As it went round and round in the washer, I dreamed happily of my very superior finished pillow. All the torturous hours of knitting such a small pillow cover would be so worth it!

Then I took the thing out of the wash. Despite the happy results of the swatch, the colors in the pillow cover had all run together into a bruise-colored mess. I cannot describe how awful it looked. (I couldn't even look at it long enough to take pictures.) I have no idea why the dyes in the swatch didn't run under the same conditions. Additionally, the edges had curled up and felted themselves into place in solid little rolls. A sane person would have given up at this point. It took a sharp pair of scissors and several hours of work to tease/tear apart these rolls. In hopes of salvaging the many hours of work, I threw the pillow cover into a vat of dark green dye. You can see from the picture above how far the result is from my initial intentions. I now have a somewhat ugly little pillow to show for all the angst.

At least Zach really likes it.


Laura said...

This is why Knitting machines were invented...

Too bad about the color running - don't know why that would have happened in the finished piece, and not the swatch, unless there was enough water with the swatch to dilute the dye to nothingness.

Sharon said...

Boy, you are tenacious! You did get a pillow out of it, or I mean Zach got a pillow out of it. I'm sure he's very pleased with the results, though I must say that was a convoluted journey.