If I dye cotton fabric with food coloring, when washed does the dye fade out evenly, or would it be splotchy?

You can’t dye cotton with food colouring.

I say dye in bold, because dye means something quite specific. It means applying a colourant, possibly with other chemicals, such that the fibre may develop a hue as intense as the colourant, and that the hue should not wash out, fade, or otherwise greatly change in intensity over the course of its use.

It is, on the other hand, entirely possible to stain cotton with food colouring – either the E-numbers type or the vegetable-extracts type, or indeed ketchup, red wine, blood, grass, and all those other annoying stains that Stain Devils were developed to counteract. But stains wash out, fade, and greatly diminish in intensity. They may not disappear entirely – I’m sure you have plenty of cotton dishcloths which have resisted detergents, bleach and boil-washes – but they do fade to indeterminately-coloured marking:


You can dye animal fibres and some synthetic fibres with a mixture of food-colouring (only the E-numbers type, though) and an acid such as vinegar or citric acid, and heat. For more information, see here: Thorn Maiden Dyeing.

The reasons for this lie in chemistry. Animal fibres are mainly proteins, which react well with acids and form a variety of bonds with the dye molecules in food colouring. On the other hand, plant fibres such as cotton are cellulose, with a waxy coat.

Diagrams and close-up photo showing the physical structure of plant fibres, notably the waxy outer cellulose which resists dyeing.

The waxes keep the dye acid out, and, while it is possible to get cellulose to react with (some, strong) acids, the result is glucose (it is a polysaccharide, after all) – and its reaction with vinegar (acetic acid) is very, very slow, and very, very weak.

Your gut should tell you this: your stomach contains hydrochloric acid, which tears through a steak, but passes wheat fibre undigested.

Quora linky.

Will cotton wool shrink up at all when I wash it?

Cotton yarn expands when washed. It lacks the little scales that wool has, which can interlock causing shrinkage. So that fitted cotton sweater you bought will most likely become a baggy sweater after the first wash.

A blend of cotton and wool will, on balance, retain its shape – the cotton expanding and the wool shrinking should cancel each other out, although a lot depends on the relative composition.

Cotton wool pads – the kind of thing you take your makeup off with – will appear to shrink, but that’s only because they’re floofed up with air in the package. As soon as they get damp – with water or makeup remover – the air gets removed, and you get a flat pad of cotton.

Quora linky.

Why do clothes made from cotton feel softer than those made from wool?

Because you’re weak and soft.

Wool comes in hundreds of different qualities, some suitable for next to the skin, others better suited to outerwear. For thousands of years, people wore wool – either as fabric or fleece – from swaddling to shroud, with none of this crybabying about thquatching their thoft dewicate thkin. You got used to it, or you scratched.

Nowadays, people haven’t the skill or knowledge to select the right quality of wool for the purpose, and are too precious to give themselves time to get used to wool. They pronounce themselves ‘allergic’ (only a very tiny proportion are allergic to wool; ETA: Claire Jordan reminds me that more people are allergic to lanolin, the oil in sheep’s wool – that one is nasty), and never wear wool again.

Here’s an experiment. Grab a cotton wool ball or a face flannel, and scrub it, dry, over your skin. Or actually look when you’re towelling off after a bath. They all scrape your skin. In the case of the towel, you might well see what looks like dandruff flaking off your body as you dry. You’ll probably need to slap on a load of moisturiser, because the cotton strips the oils off your skin as well, adding to the flakiness.

The only reason cotton “feels” soft, is because the specific cotton fabric in your clothes has been chemically and mechanically treated to feel soft. Untreated cotton sandpapers the top layer of your skin off.

Quora linky.

How do you select wool (-blended) socks from a mix with cotton socks quickly, but not by burning (just by smell, sound, taste, texture-touch, moistness etc.)?

Pluck off a quantity of the fuzz, and put it in bleach. If it’s wool-only, or blended with silk or oil-based synthetics, the fuzz will completely disappear. If there’s some trace fibre left, it’s blended with a plant-based fibre.

I find wool-cotton blends to be rather heavy compared to pure wool or other wool blends, and they feel cooler to the touch. YMMV.

The crochet yarn I’ve tried doesn’t drape well or has a fuzzy look even with a loose crochet/open-work pattern; what yarn should I use to crochet tops, tunics or other clothing items that will drape well and look like a quality piece of clothing?

If you want to use cotton, you should look for mercerised cotton. This has been treated to produce a non-fuzzing, slightly shiny appearance which is perfect for lace.

You might also look at blends with linen, hemp, nettle, or silk. There are also some remarkable yarns around which are cotton-like, but are made from bamboomilk proteincrab shells … the world’s your oyster (and there’s also pearl yarn!).

Do not disdain wool: there are many wools around that are soft to the skin, and have wonderful stitch definition which is perfect for crochet. Specific breeds that are good are Blue-Faced Leicester and Falkland – I can particularly recommend Eden Cottage’s BFL Bowland and Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran – I designed this in Falkland Aran:

Incidentally, Ravelry is a great resource for learning about yarns. You can select to look at different weights, fibres, blends, sources, etc., and even look at projects worked in any yarn that interests you. Another great website is Yarnsub – especially if the price-tags on some yarns scare you! It’s still in its early stages, but still good. It was designed to help substitute yarns recommended in patterns if they were discontinued, hard to find, allergenic, or just to darn expensive!

Quora linky.

How will you distinguish among wool, cotton, silk, and synthetic fibres?

If you’re doing this at home, you can distinguish fibres using the burn and bleach tests. Note that it can still be quite difficult to identify the fibres in a blend.

Burn test:

How to tell what the fiber is advises using a 1/2″ square of fabric held in tweezers,and a bunsen burner. I’ve used 6″ lengths of yarn and a Zippo lighter, over a damp cloth.

How to tell what the fiber is


Bleach test:

Use neat bleach in a non-reactive vessel (e.g., glass), and submerge the sample for 24hrs.

How to tell what the fiber is

Quora linky.

I made a new knitter…

And here he is:
DSC00420 DSC00421 DSC00422

So proud of his work –
DSC00423

About a fortnight ago, my son, aged 2yrs 8 months, demanding to “do knittings”. I grabbed the camphone, then got out an old pair of needles and my bag of scraps (priorities, m’dears, priorities). He picked the “lello woo” himself because it looked like Josie Jump! He’s still asking for his knittings occasionally, though we’ve moved on to pink wool after an unfortunate potty-related incident with Josie…

DSC00424DSC00441As to my knitting, I have finished yet another couple of pairs of socks for my Blondy Bear. I got a variety of colours of 4-ply Teddy Enriched 25% wool in the Bullring and hope to make as many combinations as possible.

So far, I am tackling the light blue and claret shades, which are coming up at a gauge of about 12st / in. The first is the striped pair: just 4-row stripes, one of which is split across the heel. Both colours are held together on the heel and toe. I’m planning to make two more pairs in this colour combination, one of which is almost finished – again stripes, but in the combination AABAA BBABB. These are the strip colours of Aston Villa, a football club here in our fair city of Birmingham. A few years ago, The Villa were going through a reversal of fortunes – good or bad I can’t say – and there was a slogan about it – again it may have been coming from disappointed fans or enraged supporters of other teams, I don’t know. The slogan was “Sh*t on The Villa”, from which I named this project “Socks on The Villa”. I’m such a wit.

The second pair is in the light blue only, with a little mock cable running down the sides – k through back of 2nd stitch on left needle, k through front of 1st stitch and 2nd stitch and remove from l needle. The next pair will be in claret, and I’m toying with making them ribbed on the leg.

DSC00413I have started a little jacket for him as well, purely because I fell in love with the yarn… And it’s variegated!! Quelle horreur! Teddy Colorama Colour Keyed Chunky. Actually, I fell in love with the DK, then noticed the same colourways were available in chunky. It’s a simply beautiful melange of greens, creams and browns, some long runs and some short giving stripes, spots and chevrons. Of course the gauge is all off. The pattern calls for 10st x 13r on 9mm needles, which would be too large for this yarn, which is on the low end of chunky. The ballband recommends 3.75mm needles (15st x 20r) – ridiculously tiny for chunky yarn. I’m getting 14.5st x 20r on 6mm needles. I also decided to Zimmermann it – knitting seamlessly. Except for the pockets which I didn’t stop to understand – they’re attached at the bottom as per pattern (but there’s a BO edge in the body), and at the top as per a sort-of 3-needle bind-off of mine own devising which isn’t BO but instead melds into the body. If I had taken time to understand the pattern I would probably have done some sort of pick-up and bind off to anchor the side of the pocket, and possibly a Fig-8 cast-on onto a dpn at the bottom to knit the whole pocket attached, which would have the added advantage of not interrupting the striping-ness of the yarn. Sadly, it was all on my snazzy new computer which decided to die, so I’m a little stalled until it’s fixed.

DSC00442Finally, for a colleague who’s going on maternity leave soon, there’s a Presto Chango, one of the cleverest ideas I’ve ever seen for babywear. The body is in blue Robin Bonny Babe Aran, and the insert(s) is (are) a mystery Aranweight cotton found in the Bullring. I just have to knit one more insert, for which I’m checking through my Aran pattern books. She’s expecting a boy, and the pattern’s lace insert looks a bit girly to me… Not that she’s likely to put it on the child – from the sounds of things, the sprog won’t see anything less than Armani. And that’s just the nappies.

I had a clever idea, aka hints n tips, recently. Using i-cord to re-create the effect of Aran barleytwists if you don’t do Aran knitting, or to create your own non-canon shapes and designs. Just make huge quantities of i-cord (a job for a child with a new French Dolly?), lay it out in the shape, then sew to the knitted piece.

Gosh I’m good.

Tra
K

BS Johnson, socks, and a hoodie

What a boring title.
This afternoon was British Summer Time, so I forced my significant Creature of the Night out of his tenebrous cellar, blinking and meeping, into the lacklustre light to model his Bloody Stupid Johnson hat. But it was worth it: despite his wailing and chittering, and his frequent swinges into the shadows to check for tell-tale signs of ash forming on his pallid skin from the influence of the evil Day Star, the cables showed up well.
As for him – anyone would think I’d asked him to bathe, for sheeshs’ sake. Honestly.

Also forthcoming, more pics of the Ba’s socks. Not a lot to say here – they’re based on Lion Brand’s Child’s Solid Socks pattern (you might have to register to look, though it is a freebie). Not having Woolease within several thousand miles, I’ve been using what I have to hand – DK in the case of the beige ones in the previous post (Robin DK) and the dark brown (Patons Fab) and red (mystery) pairs here, and 2-ply pure wool, double-stranded, for the striped pair. Even in the DK pairs, there have had to be slight alterations as none of the yarns are the same gauge – brown and beige were 24st per 4in, close enough that I could use the pattern sizes given, but the red yarn was 26st/4in, so I had to go up to 44st cast-on.

At this point I unvented a 50-50% rule for turning the heel – half the stitches are used to work the heel, short-rowed down to a quarter overall. It may not be pretty, or anthropometrically accurate, but it works. The blue and yellow striped pair had a gauge of 32st/4in, even with the yarn doubled, and follow this rule. I have a Fibonacci striped pair on the needles right now, blue and yellow in alternating 1,2,3,5, and 8-row paired stripes, with the final 8-row split across the heel in the other colour, then 5,3,2, and 1-row paired stripes down to the toe – though I’ve had to do 4 rows of alternating-stitch colour changes to make the footbed long enough.

That turned out to be more than I thought. I’m planning to make a few more pairs.

I also got round to making His Wee Nibs’ Sirdar Bigga weskit. I’ve called it the Bookem Dano, as it is the Hawaii colourway (groan!). It took almost 2 balls. I hadn’t intended to put buttons on it, but I think I might try a duffle set, with a loop instead of buttonholes. I’ve unplied the remaining yarn and am hoping it will be enough for the Berroco Kap with a bit of fudging. It’s like the hat worn by Grandad Tumble, from the Mr Tumble series on cBeebies, which HWN loves, and I’m hoping he’ll like a Grandad Tumble hat…

One last thing: my niece Ava’s Little Pink Riding Hoodie, from Drops Design, using that weird pink mystery yarn I got in the Bull-ring. Quite a quick knit really, slowed down by my crappity attitude towards the sewing (~shudder~). The first pic shows it right side out, the second inside out, and the third is a close-up of the hairiest part of the sewing (~shudder~) around the armhole. Just to show that, actually, I am not such a crapilicious seamstress* as I fear myself to be. Go on, find a stitch. Yeah, you. See any? Do ya? DO YA? No.

That is not half bad for an awkward seam in a bulky, 6wpi yarn. I kind of mattress-stitched it from the right side, using a nylon-y fibre with cellophane strips which I unplied from the yarn itself. Y’see, I really can sew. I know all the moves. I know lingerie techniques lost before La Revolution. My homies called me Madame St Cyr down le ‘Ood. I used to have a little notebook with beautifully stitched and pinked samples of my needlework. Exquisite, it was. Of course, for every charming little gingham sampliaire in it, there were twenty blood- and tear-stain’d rejects, pin-rusted and spraying pulled threads, lying in a bin somewhere…

Now I just have to screw my courage to the sticking place and line the blasted thing.

Ta-Ta
K

* – Having started the post with the Terry Pratchett-inspired hat, I feel I should probably point out that when I say ‘seamstress’, I do mean the female personages wot sew, not the ladies of negotiable affection

ETA: I have Kool-Aid! w00t!

Senior Moment

Truly the brain is dying.

This is one of the first things I ever made, and the first I made for myself, after I started crafting again. I wear it quite often, too. Though I have to say it has not endeared me to shrugs – there’s something about the ‘frontlessness’ of it that makes me look fat, pigeon-chested and middle-aged. Well, more fat, pigeon-chested and middle-aged than I actually am. Not that I’m pigeon-chested, I just have a very straight back, courtesy of mother, music and military, and larger than average boobies.

It is a fairly straight copy of the Noodle Shrug, excepting that I abandoned the yarn-overs as they were driving me bananas, in favour of using one 10mm and one 4mm needle. I’ve since discovered that I was doing the yarn-overs the wrong way round (sensibly I wrapped the yarn over then under the needles, whereas in fact one wraps under then over the needle) not that it matters a hill of beans either for this pattern or for my sanity. The yarn is undyed 2-ply 100% wool, and the ‘noodles’ are a cream cotton chenille. I did not pay much attention to the instructions for these, I think they’ve worked out longer on mine.

A boo, frou-frou, and a big Bamboo

Well, I didn’t get to the wedding – by the time I got clearance from the school, it would have cost over 300 pounds for self and offspring, and would have involved travelling at stupid o’clock. So I took the day off anyway and spent it doing computery stuff. I installed a new hard drive (250g) in the old computer, discovering along the way that I didn’t have a particular cable I needed. I also discovered there was no point in transferring the Firewire card to the new computer as it has an unconnected 1394 port in the front panel – it would cost a few pounds to install one. So the FW card goes back in the old computer. The old 20g hard drive is now in a portable powered fanned external case. May use it purely for music.

Crafting: clicky to my first pattern, for hair scrunchies, see left! Though this is a bit of a cheat, to get myself linked on Ravelry as a designer – shh! don’t tell anyone! I do intend to produce patterns but haven’t got round to it yet.

It came through one of those D’oh! moments – when you realise the answer has been staring you in the face. I have very fine, flyaway hair. It needs to be restrained in a lot of situations – housework, work, nappy-changing, etc. The only product that will keep the hair in place is Brylcreem – half a jar usually does the trick, but it’s not a look I’m keen on. Any fixings you care to mention – combs, ribbons, elastics, kirby-grips – either fall out, or damage my hair. The only thing that stands a chance of staying in place without snapping the hair are scrunchies. For some reason, though, the few that I can find are usually in hideous colours.

So I was about to throw out an old fuzzy black one, randomly wishing I could get more and thinking the fuzzy would make a nice scarf, when it hit me I could make the blasted things with fancy yarns… D’oh! Hence the pattern – crochet, if you’re interested. On the plus side, since I’d got the fancy yarns to make scarves for myself, all the scrunchies have mysteriously turned out to be in lovely colours that tone with my wardrobe!

I have also put together a shortie scarf/ruff affair. I’ve found a scarf to be too long and gappy for some of my winter coats, and thought that a big-collared jumper would work better – only without the jumper… so I knit this collar-and-yoke thingy in Sirdar Bigga (Etna colourway), which I found unbanded in the Bull-Ring for 69p. It’s a 2×2 rib on the collar, 3×3 rib on the yoke by picking up the bar between the paired knits and purls. Finished with a belt buckle from the same source.

Finally – another Bull-Ring bargain: pure bamboo yarn, unbanded, also 69p. They had the same stuff on the shelves. I thought I’d just try a little random swatching to see what it was like to knit with, then I saw Knitting magazine had printed one of Joan McGowan-Michael’s patterns from Knitting Lingerie Style – Silk Slip. It’s basically just a bra: you sew a silk ‘skirt’ to it. I’m almost finished the first cup, after a few modifications for my voluptuousness. The straps are supposed to be single crochet, but I think I might use the lace bit to knit thicker straps for comfort. I’m also uncomfortable about sewing (!) so the skirt may wind up being knitted too…

TTFN

K