Experimenting in Gradiance

With the shawl finished, socks giving me fits, and a bad case of pattern writer’s block, my fingers were itching last week. Itching in a very particular direction.

After yesterday’s post, you know it was all completely over when Susan over at Sunflower Designs started her line of Lord of the Rings patterns last year. I didn’t know anything about her, so I stuck with the Evenstar for a long time, then this fall finally threw in the towel and bought the whole Fellowship of the Ring series. Now I’m signed up for this year’s Two Towers series based on nothing but faith, having seen none of the designs, because I know she’s very good, and I have little fantasies in my head about knitting through three years of patterns while reading through the books at the same time. (Yeah. Right.)

As I waffled and waffled over whether to get the FotR series of patterns, the one that finally pushed me over the edge was this one: the Rivendell Smoke Ring. If you can’t be bothered to click, I’ll tell you it’s a beautiful cowl in fingering weight yarn, with twisted stitches (in a sane gauge), lace, and a yarn that changes color from one end to another. I’ve been ogling it for months, meditating on how to get gradiated yarn for myself, and last week I finally snapped.

Gradiated yarn is kind of The Unique Sheep‘s thing, so I wouldn’t sell the stuff (besides, it’s a ton of trouble) but for a Lord of the Rings pattern, I decided it was worth it. I had the perfect skein of fingering-weight Alpaca set aside:

Huacaya Fingering from Criative Acres. (It’s not a misspelling; a “cria” is a baby alpaca.) This company is a small farm in Maryland, and the labels on their yarn tell me the names of the animals the yarn came from. These are folks after my own heart – after all, I put pictures of dyestuffs on my labels. It makes it a little less consumptive to have some sort of connection with where the yarn really came from. My clever husband put this in my stocking last year, and it’s been waiting for it’s day.

So to make a yarn that changes color from one end to the other, the first thing I had to do was divide the skein into 5 mini-skeins. So I wound the whole thing into a ball:

(Ignore the mess in the corner)

Then put the ball on my trust postal scale while I made new skeins, stopping every time I’d used 1/5th of the weight.

Making new skeins is easy as pie if you have access to a swift or a niddy noddy – just be sure to tie the skein in at least three places with a figure eight before you take it off.

Observe mini-skeins, appropriately tied. If you decide to do this, this would be a good time to mordant – I may or may not have forgotten to mordant in my eagerness.

I want my piece to fade from brown to blue. The two end skeins will be solid blue and solid brown respectively, so I figure I just have to worry about the three middle skeins, which have to be some combination between the two.

I tied three mini-skeins together so that they overlap by about three-quarters. Thus, when I put them in the brown dyebath –

Thus, theoretically, one of the skeins hanging from the above banana hanger will end up 3/4 brown, one 1/2 brown, and one 1/4 brown. The skein to be solid brown is in there too.

After a belated mordanting, I ended by dumping all five skeins (including the solid brown one) into a blue dyebath.

I let it sit on my counter for three days, poking and prodding it impatiently. At precisely 72 hours, I rinsed my little beauties and took them outside for a photo shoot.

It appears that I more or less succeeded, but these aren’t exactly impressive looking. This is the nature of un-reskeined yarn. I wasn’t going to reskein it for my own consumption, so I just made it into balls, which has more or less the same effect:

Much better. The middle one and the one next to the brown are disconcertingly very similar; hopefully that’s just an illusion and will work out in the knitting. As soon as I finished I cast all other projects aside like so many old dishrags and cast this on. I am through the first two balls already… what will happen next? will it successfully fade up the cowl?

One thought on “Experimenting in Gradiance

  1. I loved that smoke ring cowl too. I will order the patterns next pay as I have some other things I have to get first. But, do have fun with it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s