Saturday, 15 August 2009

Dyeing sock blanks

Everywhere I go recently I've been hearing about sock blanks. 'What's a sock blank?' I thought. Is this something I should or want to know about? After a little bit of research, I've found out it's a long knitted length of sock yarn, knitted with two strands at once. This 'blank' is then hand painted/dyed in whatever pattern or colours you like and once you have fixed the dye and left it to dry, you can knit up two identical socks when you unravel the blank - clever, huh?

The intention is you can knit both socks at once if you want using this method but I've not tried that technique as yet so I can either knit one sock and wind the second thread into a ball as I go, or I could unravel the whole lot and wind into balls ready for my two identical socks.

So, I've got the gist of sock blanks. First thing to do is knit myself a blank. Out comes the knitting machine. The looser the knit, the easier it will be for the dye to get into all the stitches and not leave any white bits, so I selected every alternate needle on the loosest gauge and knitted two 50gm balls of sock yarn together for as long as it lasted. I cast off with a chain stitch so it will unravel easily after dyeing. I guessed as to the right proportions of height and width here - I'm not sure how this compares to shop bought ones. I could change the width to get different effects too but for now I'll stick with this size and see how I get on.

Understanding the theory and applying that knowledge are two different matters:-) What type of pattern will give what effect? I found a really helpful link at Knitpicks that gives you an understanding of how stripes, dashes and zigzags will look knitted up. Exactly what I needed. So on to the dyeing....

I used some already mixed colours - greens, aquas, blues and purples - and started with a basic stripe pattern. I tried to make it repeat the colour order but it doesn't really need to as it's more like a canvas. Both socks are being painted at once so you could paint a landscape - that would be interesting! - and they will still knit up the same.

Each colour band was broken up a bit more with some tonal variation. You don't need to load a brush with dye, it goes through the knitted fabric easily so no turning over and smudging your work of art! And you can get some fine detail in there.

Then wrapping up in cling film, just like a painted skein and blasted in the microwave (or steamed if you prefer) until the colour is fixed. I gave this about 15 mins just to be sure as it was more of an unknown quantity. A little colour came out in the first rinse but not much more than that. So good result.

Dried, it looks a little paler in colour but has still retained some of the finer painted detail. If anything, the purple has receded and the greens now dominate. I think both the aqua and the purple dyes must have been a weaker solution. I also got a few little blobs from either some sediment or dye on the edge of the cling film. This hasn't happened before so I'll have to remember to wipe the excess dye off the edges before wrapping and mix fresh dyes each time from now on.

But all the same, I do like my little experiment. Now, the exciting bit - what will it look like knitted up? Tune in tomorrow:-)


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