Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mobii, or how I made a silk purse from a sow’s ear

I’ve been playing with Mobius scarves recently. I’ve made 3 so far, gave 2 away before getting pictures, but held onto the latest and best-suited to my wardrobe. A picture is below:

It’s quite short, being a scant 188 stitches at a gauge of 5 stitches per inch. But I wanted something to hug my neck nicely under my coat, or top a mock-turtleneck knit top, and it fits perfectly for that. So what’s the rest of the story? Well…

I used handspun Blue Faced Leicester that I had originally dyed in light tones of primary colors – red, yellow, blue and green – using Wilton food color. I only had 8 ounces to begin with; as I recall this particular top came as packing material for a drop spindle I bought from Copper Moose awhile back (great spindle, by the way). Lovely stuff that I packed away for the perfect project. I originally thought that the perfect project was as the color component in a pair of Fair Isle gloves, but got sidetracked into Mobius scarves. There might be enough of the original colors to finish up the gloves…

Yes, Virginia, I know the colors above are shades of red. There’s a story behind that, too. I started knitting this scarf from the original colors, edged it with a simple lace, changing colors every so often, and it was really pretty, and would go well with almost any outfit I wear. In order to finish it up, I washed the scarf. Then I discovered that the red and green food dyes were bleeding horribly. Aha! I thought – I’ll just put the wet scarf into the microwave with a bit of water and vinegar and re-set the dyes. That should work. Unfortunately, what happened in the microwave wasn’t pretty. The red set, but the green ran all over everything and shifted the color value of the entire scarf toward ‘very sad.’ It was pretty enough, but would no longer blend with much, if any, of my wardrobe of light clear colors and neutrals. “I really liked this scarf, too,” I mourned, as I hung it up to dry overnight, wondering if I’d ever wear it.

Next evening the scarf was dry. The colors, however, were still quite muted and sad. I liked the pattern of knit and purl variations, loved the lace edging, but hated the colors. Well, I’d tried over-dyeing once. Could I do it again, but in a color that would actually blend with my wardrobe? I started clicking through the color wheel in my mind. I don’t wear much that would go with green; any shade of yellow I could get is out except as an accent away from my face. Blue…the green would go aqua, the yellow green, the red purple and the blue bluer. But I only have one pair of pants and a single top that I could wear with that combination. No socks that would match it. Keep going. Red…red would work. The green would go brown, the yellow shift toward a red-orange, the blue go to purple and the red intensify. It would go with most of my wardrobe. And what do I have to lose?

So I ran a bowl of hot, slightly soapy water and vinegar solution and set the scarf to soak. Good news - there was no further bleeding to skew my dye results. While the scarf soaked I found a nice deep red in my trusty Wilton paste cake dyes (Christmas red, if you want to know). I added a couple of dabs of bright blue to shift the color away from orange-red, then poured over boiling water and added a bit of vinegar. Looked perfect. I removed the scarf from its soaking, placed it in a microwaveable bowl and poured over the color solution – 4 cups of liquid. I then covered the bowl and cooked everything on high power for 6 minutes. At that point it was boiling. I reduced power to 50% and cooked again for 12 minutes to finish exhausting and setting the color. After the microwave dinged, I left the bowl inside for a couple of hours while I took care of the usual evening tasks. About bedtime I went back and pulled the bowl from the microwave. It was nicely cooled down, dye was completely exhausted. I rinsed the scarf and hung it over a vent to dry. Next morning I looked it over. Beautiful! The colors had done exactly what I thought they would, and I was going to wear this today!

I did wear it that day, and it garnered numerous compliments. I’ve worn it twice since, and every time had the fun of confounding one or another engineer. They know what it is – a mobius – but have no clue how I might have made it. Only one electrical engineer has come close to guessing. The geotechnical, environmental, cryogenic and process engineers haven’t come anywhere near figuring it out. I love confounding these folks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I like your story of your experiment. Made me chuckle. I have not done any dyeing of wool,yet. My Mom used to do that and spin as well.
I'm just getting back into knitting again. Your mobeius looks beautiful.