Saturday, March 27, 2010


About this time of year our southern longleaf pine trees begin to shed their fuzzy pollen bearing thingies. My Aunt, who was a botanist, informed me these are called catkins. I picked up a few one day, and loved the play of colors: yellow-orange through scarlet, magenta, violet, and lavender. I had to get those colors onto yarn!

I wound some Patons Kroy sock yarn into big skeins, since the dye won’t really penetrate a ball of yarn very well. This yarn is 75% wool and 25% nylon. You can try this at home, but don’t try with any yarns less than 50% wool or the colors will be very pale.

The wool skeins must be soaked (preferably overnight) to get them thoroughly wet, then swooshed around in a mixture of an ounce or two of vinegar to a gallon of water. Next they can be gently squeezed out (or spun in the washing machine) and placed on a surface for dyeing. I like to use the cheap plastic “Mexican hat” dishes designed for chips and dip. (I don’t put food in them afterwards!) The dye is placed on the wool, and gently squished around with a gloved hand. In this photo I used Wilton icing dyes, which come as a paste in little vials. The colors are very vibrant, but will fade and wash out over time. I use commercial acid wool dyes now, which are quite toxic to work with but much more permanent.

After the colors are just right, the skein of wool is carefully wrapped in cling wrap. This step can be quite challenging with rubber gloves on! The wrapped wool is placed in a microwave safe dish, then cooked on high for about five minutes. As the wool is cooking your house will begin to take on the odor of wet sheep and vinegar! Yum! The wool is allowed to cool, unwrapped, rinsed in the weak vinegar solution again, gently washed, hung to dry, and wound into balls.

Finally you get to knit it into some awesome catkin socks!


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