Little running, much much wool

No running this week due to being floored by a chesty coughy cold thing that on Monday saw me go home early from work and fall into a deep, deep sleep. In the absence of any kind of athletic effort, I’m going to sneak in one of my woolly posts (well it has been Wool Week this week).

One of my birthday presents from Ginge was a day course learning how to dye yarn at Purl City Yarns in Manchester (a gorgeous place that could bankrupt me within ten minutes of crossing the threshold) and on Saturday, the time came for me to venture off to the big city. My bag packed with essentials (cash, phone, Shuffle, travelling sock knitting – it’s travelled miles, I’ve knitted mere centimetres), I caught the train and landed with enough time to have a quick (and restrained) explore of Fred Aldous and a brew at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. At eleven I presented myself at Purl City with a nervous enquiry of “Dying?” and the eight of us trooped off upstairs to start the day.

The raw materials

The course was taught by Debbie Tomkies of DT Craft and Design and covered the basics of dying yarn with Procion dyes. Debbie is incredibly knowledgable and brought a gorgeous array of samples and patterns for our inspiration. The morning was spent getting to grips with the effects of changing the concentration of dye and mixing the ratios of different colours in order to make a sample card.

Some people managed to keep their cards spotless. Not me.

Over lunch, we compared knitting habits (in both senses of the words; there was certainly a degree of enabling going on when we got back to the shop – “it’s only one ball, it won’t hurt….”), learnt about fascinating techniques and skills that were unknown to some of us (knitting socks on two circular needles, knitting from sock blanks, magic loop, spinning) and developed a slight sense of inferiority about our (my) knitting (the project lists went something like, socks, socks, lace, cloth nappy covers, baby clothes, um random things for people). It was lovely to meet other knitters, share the enthusiasm and learn stuff.

In the afternoon it was time to get our hands on our own projects and have a play with different techniques; mixing colours, dipping, painting or randomly squirting. The first two attempts were on 50g skeins of 4ply pure wool and then onto a final project with a yarn of our choosing (I went for a 4 ply alpaca/acrylic blend – I’m drawn to lighter weight yarns despite not really knowing what to do with them).

My first attempt took the random approach of twirling my yarn and then squirting dye across it willynilly. I found myself using the same autumnal/earthy colours that I always use on these courses and eventually produced something that looked as if I could flog it to the Army to use as camouflage.

Drying off - mine is on the left

I was a little more brave on my second skein, sponging wide bright  and paler pink stripes and interspersing these with thinner stripes of purple.

For the final project, I decided to do a gradiated colour change from pink to orange. I blended the colours to start with (90% scarlet/10% orange; 50% scarlet/50% orange; 10% scarlet/90% orange), but with hindsight it might have been more striking to use 100% of the colours at each end.

In to soak

After the yarn is dyed, it goes in the microwave to fix the colour, then is cooled, rinsed and dried.

The group's hard work - there were some absolutely gorgeous results

One of the lovely things about taking a course like this is that even if you’re disappointed with your end results, other people can always see something special about the work that  you’ve done and it makes you look at it with fresh eyes. At the end of the day, I invested in one or two items from the shop and returned home with three bags of slightly damp yarn, which were then hung up over the bath. They now look like this – I’m really pleased with them (if nothing else, it proves that wool always looks nicer in a skein) but have no idea what to knit them up into.

The end results!

What do do with it all? Apart from just stroke it.

Incidentally, I’m not worried about the lack of serious projects in my knitting box – in part because of words of wisdom from my mum who said “remain true to what you know and love”, which I reckon is good advice for more than just wool.