Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summary of Procion MX Dye Experiments

By Leigh

Color. I learned to work with color as an art student, when I took painting classes. I was fortunate to have an eye for color, so that mixing it came easily to me. I could match any color almost instinctively.

Dyes are different. At first I wondered why my Procion MX starter kit came with red, blue, yellow, black, turquoise, and fuchsia. After experimenting, I've learned some things. I've already shared a little of that with you, but this post is a better record of what I've done and learned so far.

Using my unbleached cotton lint (photo top left), I started with green, using the "Shamrock" recipe I found on this Jacquard chart.

So what would happen if I mix the proportions up a bit?

OK. Not a lot of difference, still they are pretty greens. But why the turquoise? Yellow and blue make green, right? What would happen if I just mixed the dyes like paints?

Interesting. Green #3 is a nice green, not as clear looking as greens 1 and 2.

Next, purple:

Switching proportions made a big difference this time....

But why fuchsia? Why not red?

Um, yuck(?). This purple reminds me of a lighter version of the color of my home canned Muscadine grape jelly after it's aged a bit.

One problem with purple #3 is that the red (MX-GBA) is not a pure hue. According to Paula Burch's PMX dye purity chart, this red is actually a mixture. I'm not sure what colors it's made of, but my guess would be yellow. Not only because Earth Guild calls it "Warm Red," but because yellow, being the opposite (compliment) of blue, would tend to muddy the purple.

Ah, but at least the recipe for orange ("Tangerine") is familiar color mixing territory:

A subtle difference from switching the proportions. But what if I substitute fuchsia for red? What happens then?

Well..... it's pretty but it's not exactly what I would call orange!

One thing I have learned from reading Deb Menz's Color In Spinning, is that all dyes have undertones. That's what the MX codes indicate in part, the undertones. According to this article (also by Paula Burch), the code letters after the MX stand for G = gelb, German for yellow, B = blau or blue, and R = rot or red. These undertones influence the outcome, and some work together better than others.

Because of those undertones, I could go on and on, playing with the colors and proportions. But I have other things I want to explore.

So there you have it. The beginning of my experiential knowledge base. I feel like I've got a good start.

Posted 28 June 2008 at

Related Posts:
1st Procion MX Dye Experiments - working with the primaries
2nd Procion MX Dye Experiments - experimenting with color mixing
Procion MX Fuchsia - information about
Procion MX Turquoise - information about
Procion MX Exhaust Experiments - You tell me!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Siamese Sleeves Done!

By Leigh

I'm even amazed at this myself, because usually once hot weather arrives, I tend to abandon sweater knitting. But here they are:

2 sleeves in one.
The sleeves for my Shetland Sampler Cardigan. One of the steeks goes right up the center in this shot.

For some reason, it seemed that this was faster than knitting the two sleeves separately. This must be psychological, as I had to knit the same number of stitches either way.

Besides ripping out those two dark colors that I knitted too close together, I made one other color adjustment:

The two browns just didn't have enough contrast for that section of the pattern. Embroidering over the old stitches was quick and easy.

I'm not going to cut them apart until I finish the body of the sweater, which is knitted a little beyond the bottom of the sleeve opening. Then I'll do all the cutting and sewing at the same time. After I put all the pieces together, I'll do the cuffs and bands. The end if almost in sight.

Related posts:
A Contemplation On Knitting Sleeves - Which method?
Ready to Start Those Sleeves - Discovering Siamese Sleeves
Starting the Sleeves - Sleeve Increase Calculator
Technically Not Fair Isle - Defining Fair Isle Knitting
SSC Sleeves & Cuffs
Shetland Sampler Cardigan Complete!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

2nd Procion MX Dye Experiments

My first fiber reactive dye experiments were the primary colors from my starter kit. My next step, was to mix the secondary colors from them. Rather than experiment randomly, I tried to see if I could find any information on color mixing with Procion MX dyes. I found this chart at the Jacquard Products website. You can either view it online or download a pdf copy.

The chart is useful because it gives recipes in both kitchen measurements (teaspoons) and also parts for metric. What wasn't useful, was the use of names instead of photos to identify the colors. That meant I had to choose recipes based on names. All I wanted was orange, purple, and green, but wow there were a lot of choices.

I finally settled on the recipes for tangerine, plum, and shamrock. This is what I ended up with:

Procion MX dyes on cotton lint.I confess that I was not exact in following the recipes, but this was because I didn't have the required colors. I substituted the colors in my started kit instead. Nor did I follow the proportions perfectly. I used teaspoon measurements, but since I am working with small amounts of fiber, I used 1/4 and 1/8 teaspoon measurements according to the parts required for the recipe. I rounded the parts to be workable with quarter and eighth teaspoons.

The basic recipe I used was to produce medium colors:
  • Cotton lint (scoured): 100 grams
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Salt: 10 teaspoons
  • Washing soda: 4 teaspoons
  • Dye powders: see below
Green (adapted from the recipe for "shamrock" on the Jacquard chart):
  • 2 parts Yellow MX-8G
  • 2 parts Turquoise MX-G
  • 1 part (scant) Blue MX-R
Purple (from "Plum" on the chart):
  • 2 parts Fuchsia MX-8B
  • 1 part Blue MX-R
Orange (adapted from "Tangerine")
  • 2 parts Yellow MX-8G
  • 1 part Red MX-GBA
Each color was left to soak in it's dyebath at least two hours.

The Procion MX color names ("warm red," "lemon yellow," "clear blue," etc.) vary according to the manufacturer, but the color codes (MX-GBA, MX-8G, MX-R, etc.) should be the same. This information, plus the purity of many of the colors can be found on a different chart at
All About Hand Dyeing. You can either view or download that chart here.

The question that comes to mind next is, what would happen if I switched the proportions in the recipes? I'll let you know!

Related Posts:
Scouring Cotton for Dyeing
1st Procion MX Dye Experiments - working with primaries
Summary of Procion MX Dye Experiments - color mixing experiments

Thursday, June 19, 2008

MTW Weaving Update (At Last)

How time flies. I can't believe that it's been over two weeks since my last weaving post. I try to divide my time so that I get at least a little of several things done each day: weaving, knitting, computer, and spinning, (though I haven't been spinning lately). Now dyeing. I find this gives me a break from one activity to the next, but keeps me busy at the same time.

I have been slowly working away at my expanded multiple tabby weave experiments, and now have something on the loom to show.

The threading draft I'm using is found on page 48 of Dr. Bateman's Multiple Tabby Weave.

My latest MTW draft.
These are interesting, not only because the treadling is different from the samples I've done previously, but also because they use overshot wefting.

1st MTW overshot sample
This one uses only one shuttle, the pattern and tabby wefts being the same yarn. I'm using 16/3 unmercerized cotton for the warp, and a navy blue 5/2 cotton for the weft. The treadling is block C as drawn in, with the A block used for the tabby shots.

The yellow and red thrums on the right mark the end of each treadling sequence. The sequence is 56 picks, so if I lose my place, these show me where the sequence began. Then if I need to, I can count the weft shots to figure out where I am and what's next.

The white twill tape is for measuring. I draw my own measurement marks on it and find it's the best way for me to get each piece the same length! Details on that here.

Here's a close-up....

Close-up of 1st sample.
This second one is a two shuttle weave. The pattern weft is the same navy blue, and the tabby weft is the same as the warp.

2nd sample
The overall pattern is vaguely visible, so I am very curious as to how this will look after wet finishing.

The biggest challenge for these so far has been keeping track of where I am in the treadling sequence. This is how I'm doing it at present:

Keeping track of treadling with an index card & a paper clip.
I and II alternate. I just have to move the paper clip after I complete each section in the sequence. This hasn't been too bad really. I could have made it easier if I'd re-tyed the treadles. As it is, the tabbies for part I are treadles 3 and 4. It would have been much easier if they were 5 and 6. However, treadle tie-up on a countermarche loom is a bit of challenge and I prefer to avoid it if at all possible! Hence the fancy footwork.

What I really want to try to keep track of the treadling sequence is a treadling abacus. Photo and brief explanation from Yorksett Arts & Crafts here (at the bottom of the post). When I can find some cube shaped number beads I'll go for it. Until then, I'll just treadle along as I am. :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

1st Procion MX Dye Experiments

I've finished my first batch of procion mx dye experiments and here are the results.

The instructions that came with my dye kit were for one pound of fiber or fabric. Since I wanted to work with smaller amounts, I decided to use a recipe from Curious Weaver. Kaz has a page of tutorials and articles here. If you scroll down toward the bottom, you'll see Dyeing for Weavers - A beginners guide to fibre reactives for cellulose fibres. This is a downloadable pdf document with step by step instructions, including charts for different amounts of fibers and depths of color.

Here is what I needed for the dyeing:

Ingredients needed. The table salt levels the color and also helps the solubility and take-up of the dye. Washing soda serves as the dye activator. For the dye powders, I chose the primary colors to start. These are Lemon Yellow MX-8G, Clear Blue MX-R, & Warm Red MX GBA.

This recipe is for a medium color:
  • Dye: Procion MX
  • Fiber: cotton lint, scoured
  • Amounts
    • Fiber: 100 grams
    • Water: 3 liters
    • Salt: 10 teaspoons
    • Washing soda: 4 teaspoons
    • Dye powder: 1/2 teaspoon.
"Anonymous" commented in a previous post about the safety of procion mx dyes. A pdf MSDS (material safety data sheet) for Procion MX dyes is available from Fibrecrafts and can be downloaded by clicking here. To see their complete list of downloadable MSDS for a variety of dyes and accessory chemicals, click here.

MSDS for the individual colors of procion mx dyes are available at the PRO Chemical & Dye website. For that list, click here. [I've added both of these links to my Dyeing Links page.]

Procion dyes are actually a family of what are known as fiber-reactive dyes. They were developed for vegetable based fibers such as cotton, hemp, jute, linen, etc. Their color is very permanent, as the color develops inside the fiber rather than on its surface. Except for turquoise, all other Procion MX colors require temperatures of 85 to 105 degrees F (depending on the set of instructions you're reading.)

The dyebaths looked like this .....

Red, yellow, & blue in the dyepots.The instructions called for about an hour soaking time, with frequent stirring. The actual time I left them in the dyebath was about two hours.

After removing the cotton from the dyepots, a cold water rinse followed to rinse out all the salt. After that I washed each one in hot soapy water, rinsed, squeezed out excess water, and let dry on a towel.

Cotton lint dyed, dried, & fluffed for a photo.The cotton was pretty clumpy when dry. These have been teased out for a photo.

I'm pretty happy with the results, though the red is lighter than I might have liked. My daughter calls it Watermelon Red.

What's next? Experimenting with some color mixing.

Related Posts:
Scouring Cotton for Dyeing
2nd Procion MX Dye Experiments - 1st color mixing experiments
Summary of Procion MX Dye Experiments - All of my color mixing experiments so far.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Scouring Cotton For Dyeing

The Online Guild's Vegetable Dyeing Challenge offered several options, including things like doing comparisons, or working with fibers and/or dyes new to you. Both the cotton and the Procion MX dyes are definitely new to me, so they are a good choice for me to work with.

Cotton lint is actually ginned cotton, i.e. the seeds have been removed. However, it still contains bits of husk and bits of stems. And even though it looks and feels clean, it is not.

The directions that came in my dyeing kit (which can be found here), did not include instructions for washing the fiber, so I used the instructions given in the challenge notes.

These called for 1/4 teaspoon of washing soda (also known as soda ash or sodium carbonate) and 1/4 teaspoon of Synthrapol per gallon of water. Since I don't have any Synthrapol, I used my old standby, Dawn dishwashing detergent.

I weighted out 8 ounces (228 grams) of cotton and put it into my dedicated dye pot along with four gallons of water. That meant I needed one teaspoon each of washing soda and Dawn.

After it had simmered for about an hour, it looked like this.

Even though the cotton hadn't looked dirty, the color of the wash water tells a different story.

After rinsing, I divided it into four plastic bags to await color. That will give me roughly two ounces of fiber per color. When I want to do more, I'll wash some more cotton.

How much of a difference did the washing make? Well, can you tell which side was washed and which one wasn't?

The best part of doing this in my little dye "studio" was being able to keep the heat and humidity outside!

Related Posts:
1st Procion MX Dye Experiments
2nd Procion MX Dye Experiments

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

OLG Challenge: Dyeing Vegetable Fibers

By Leigh

This month's workshop for the Online Guild is a challenge for dyeing vegetable fibers. At first, I didn't think I could participate, mostly because my kitchen is way too small to share dyeing projects with cooking and food preparation. But when fellow blogger and OLG member Kathe mentioned using very small outdoor spaces for dyeing, I began to change my mind.

I was especially interested in this challenge as I've done virtually no vegetable fiber dyeing. However, I have a huge box of cotton lint which I received as payment for doing an historical spinning demonstration about eight years ago ....

My large bag of raw, ginned cotton fiber.
.... and I have the Procion MX starter kit from Earth Guild that I bought at SAFF last October .....

Kit includes 6 colors, soda, urea, sodium alginate sh, rubber gloves, & instructions.
So all I need is a little space, a table, a heating element, and an outlet......

My teensy outdoor dye studio.
The beauty of Procion MX dyes, is that they are cold water fiber reactive dyes. This means the only heating I will need to do will be to scour the raw cotton. More on that next time.

Posted 10 June 2008 at

Related Posts:
Scouring Cotton For Dyeing
1st Procion MX Dye Experiments
2nd Procion MX Dye Experiments
Summary of Procion MX Dye Experiments

Friday, June 06, 2008

Technically Not Fair Isle

By Leigh

When I first started working on my Shetland Sampler Cardigan, I referred to it as "Fair Isle." I did this mostly because the chart I'm using is for the "Dyepot Fairisle Sweater" from Anne Field's The Ashford Book of Spinning.

Since then, I've been reading about Fair Isle, and discovered that not all 2-color stranded knitting is actually Fair Isle. I'll tell you what I've learned so far.

Fair Isle Knitting

  • Knitted in the round (traditionally with long double pointed needles). This has a number of benefits:
    • No seams to sew later
    • No purling (except for the bands)
    • Pattern is always on the right side of the work (no having to read charts backwards!)
    • Tension is more consistent
  • The body of the sweater is knitted first and then underarm gussets added.
  • Shoulder seams are grafted and then
  • Sleeves are picked up around the shoulder opening and knitting down to the cuff.
  • Steeks - Extra stitches are added at the front, shoulder, and neck openings. These are later cut open to knit sleeves and border bands.
  • Only two colors are used per round: a pattern color and a background color.
  • The unused yarn is stranded across the back of the work.
  • Strands are usually no longer than three stitches
  • Traditionally, the contrast between pattern and background colors should be consistent throughout the piece. Actual color schemes vary.
  • Designs consist of horizontal bands of symmetrical patterning:
    • x's and o's.
    • Peeries patterns of one to seven rows often separate the larger bands of pattern
    • Border patterns have nine to fifteen rows. These are used at borders or combined with peeries.
    • Stars - These have the same number of stitches and rows, often 21, 25, or 31. They can be single motifs, but often are repeated in a knitted band.
    • All over patterns
    • Seeding patterns which are used to fill in spaces between large patterns
    • Peaks and waves patterns (shaded from light to dark.)
  • Pattern bands usually contain an odd number of rows in a band pattern so that there is a center row. This center row often carries an accent color.
  • Corrugated ribbing. This is a knit 2, purl 2 ribbing which uses different colors for the knit and purl stitches.
So technically, my Shetland Sampler Cardigan doesn't qualify as Fair Isle. Which doesn't mean I like it any less; I just feel more technically correct about it. :)

My progress?

I've knit a few more inches on the Siamese sleeves, but am now very much distracted by the adjacent black and brown rows near the top.

They are just too dark together and keep pulling at the eye.

DH says it looks okay to him and to just keep going. I tried that for another inch or so, but now I just can't stand it.

Frog city, here we come.

Fair Isle Bibliography:
  • Alice Starmore, "Fair Isle Knitting" from Knitting Around the World from Threads, Taunton Press, Newtown, CT, 1993
  • The Celtic Collection, Alice Starmore, Trafalgar Square, Publishing, North Pomfret, Vermont, 1992
  • The Harmony Guide to Aran and Fair Isle Knitting: Patterns, Techniques, and Stitches, Debra Mountford, Editor, Collins & Brown Limited, London, 2000
  • Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, Shelia McGregor, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1981

Related Posts:
What I Learned From My Swatch - Calculating yardage for individual FI color patterns

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Expanding Multiple Tabby Weave Blocks

By Leigh

I've spent two posts discussing trying to calculate sett without saying much about the other project details.

What I'm working on, is another multiple tabby weaves experiment, also from Dr. Bateman's book. So far I've only threaded all three plain weave possibilities in alternating blocks, but this next experiment is based on expanding these blocks.

The blocks are expanded to five threads by repeating the first thread. So that,


In addition, these blocks can be flipped to create more possibilities. The threading draft I'm using is found on page 48 of Dr. Bateman's book.

I'm also planning to try the weftings found in this section as well. How far along am I at the moment? This far.........

Related posts:
Multiple Tabby Weaves
MTW Weaving Update At Last - how this warp is weaving up
Expanded Multiple Tabby Weave Samples - the finished samples

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Another Way to Calculate Sett

By Leigh

I've just finished winding on my next warp, so I don't know yet how satisfactory the sett I calculated will be. There are other ways to calculate sett. Trapunto pointed out another one in the comments to that post, and I thought it would be helpful to blog about that one too. The formula is....

Sett = WPI x R ÷ I + R

WPI = wraps per inch
R = warp threads in one repeat
I = intersections of weft with warp in one threading repeat

This formula is found in Sharon Alderman's Mastering Weave Structures, which I don't have, but it's also in Interweave Press's The Weaver's Companion (page 36) and in Peggy Osterkamp's Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle, on page 98. The terms vary a bit in each version, but they all do the same thing.

The formula requires a little more information to get started, so I admit I haven't used it more than once, especially since I usually use charts.

Of course my curiosity is up, so I've decided to give it a try. First I need to know a few things.

My threading draft is a four block pattern with 5 warp ends per block, so there are 20 warp threads in one pattern repeat.

From the tie-up, I can see the interactions of warp and weft, and count 4 interactions per block. Multiplying this by the four blocks in the repeat gives me 16. So....

WPI = 65
R = 20
I = 16

Let me plug those in and see what I come up with.

WPI x R = 65 x 20 = 1300
.I + R ..= 20 + 16 = ..36

= a sett of 36

The sett from the other method? 34

I'm officially relieved!

Next I'll thread the heddles and then on to sleying. Hopefully I'll be weaving by Monday.

Posted 1 June 2008 at

Related Post - Calculating Sett