Sunday, July 13, 2008
This is the tail end of a huge ball of yarn. There's about enough left at this point for one baby cap. I know this for sure, because by the time I'm posting this, I've made the cap.
I make baby hats for charity, I've made lots of them over the years and later I'll post more about a project I'm working on with them. But for now, about the yarn.
I feel particularly proud of this yarn because I made it. Well, sort of. It's reclaimed merino wool from a thrift store sweater. There's tons of instructions on how to do this all over the net, but basically you find a sweater that is fully finished, not serged together, which cuts the yarn and gives you lots of short pieces when you try and pull it apart. The you rip apart the seams and start unravelling. This can be kind of challenging when you have a young cat in the house.
Then, once it's all unraveled and you've skeined it up, you dye it with kool-aid. I love dyeing with kool-aid because it's about as non-toxic as dye gets. I mean, I wouldn't want to drink the stuff, but it's not bad for dye. In this case, the yarn was a truly uninspiring light mushroom gray. I over dyed it with red and blue koolaid, in a one to three packet ratio, using maybe sixteen packets for this huge skein. Make sure you get the little packs of kool-aid, not the kind with sugar or sugar substitute added already. Toss em in the pot with a bunch of water, set on the stove to heat up. For this batch, I added a little vinegar for acid, to see if that would help the color be more vibrant, but you don't have to. Kool-aid is totally acidic enough as is. Wash your yarn. Rinse it well. Make sure you use cool water, and don't rub the yarn at all. You don't want to felt it on accident. Then, toss the skein in the pot and simmer until the dye is all exhausted from the pot.
You can space dye and hand paint with koolaid too, but I like just plain kettle dyeing. It gives a very subtle kind of effect, showing that its a work of the hand, with lighter and darker areas. But you don't get the sometimes crazy contrasts and pooling of colors like you often see with a hand paint.
The thing I love best about this yarn is that you're recycling something that might well have gone to waste. There's so many old used sweaters in the thrift stores. Sometimes they get so many old clothes that they have to bundle them up and ship them to developing nations, which can wreck havoc on local, indigenous clothing and textile industries. And while you're not really killing a sheep to get it's wool, there can be an environmental impact from over grazing. Not to mention, yarn production, though it doesn't have to be, can be an industry that is a heavy water polluter.
Out of one men's sweater that was just going to go back to the thrift store I bought it at, I got one adult plus size shrug, a toddler size sweater and at least ten baby caps.
More about how baby hats can help save the world later.