If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Always (Always always always) Wash It

Dear Ann,
So, wa-la! Here is my Lacy Scarf, made from a kit I got as a gift for subscribing to Rowan International for another fabby year of fantastically over-the-top exquisite knitting from the Yorkshire dales or moors or whatever you call their moody, suitable-for-sparkly-vampires landscape.
All that has been done to this FO is a simple soak in a tepid bath with a little fancy shampoo, followed by squeezing of excess water and an overnight rest on a ping pong table to dry. (It took up the entire length of the ping-pong table. This was impressive to the children who were playing ping-pong the next morning.)
But what a transformation. Since I don’t knit wool as often as I knit the plant-based yarns, I always forget that washing makes such a change. Wool seems so nice and stitchy and springy as you’re knitting it, that you can’t imagine that it is going to be improved by washing. But it relaxes and softens and looks 100 percent nicer after washing. So remember that, OK?
Fans of this pattern will notice that I freelanced buttonholes and buttonbands onto the ends. The design as written calls for a three-needle bindoff of the beginning and the end together, to get a long continuous loop o’ scarf. I felt this construction would limit the ways to wear it, so I did the buttonholes. This had a lot to do with the fact that I had some perfect buttons I wanted to use, but I didn’t probably need to tell anybody that. Now the wearer has Options. Button it into a continuous Rowanesque loop, or don’t button it and it’s a regular scarf.
I should also point out that I switched all the SSK decreases to K2together-through-back-loops. I believe this saved me MINUTES of time. I felt like the SSKs were messing with my rhythm. I wasn’t in the mood for that. It looks just fine to me.
Now I am at the moment of truth. I have a lovely natural dye kit (thanks Meg!) containing logwood and some kind of red powder, and a little baggie containing a Harry Potterish-sounding “mordant” of alum. I am ready to brew this scarf into a color that is less Band-Aidish (even though it photographed beautifully in southern sunset light, one really can’t limit a scarf’s wear to southern sunsets, you know?), but I hesitate at the edge of the cauldron. Should I go with the red dye, which might yield a deep salmon? Or the logwood, which will yield grey-ish or blue-ish tones? Or should I keep looking for the chestnutty brown color I was thinking of originally? Will coffee really get the color deep enough? Bueller?
I have questions. You have opinions. Please share.




  1. I used coffee to dye wool before. It came out a beautiful creamy brown, but not the deep chestnut you might prefer.

  2. I don’t know about dyeing, but it sounds like fun, and the oatmeal-ness of this shawl might bring some people down. I think red sounds good!
    I also always switch from a ssk to a knit two together through the back, and ALMOST never notice the difference. I agree, it does mess with the rhythm.

  3. I don’t know about dyeing, but it sounds like fun, and the oatmeal-ness of this shawl might bring some people down. I think red sounds good!
    I also always switch from a ssk to a knit two together through the back, and ALMOST never notice the difference. I agree, it does mess with the rhythm.

  4. Oh my oh no, please don’t dye the scarf– it is just beautiful the way it is!
    If you must, go with the coffee. Make it espresso, that should help the saturation lol.
    I just made up the baby kimono sweater from the first book and linked you all’s blog on mine. I have a niece on the way and did it in pink cammie- so flippin’ cute!!!
    Anyway, thanks for the reminder. I just knocked out a quickie scarf of La lana’s Forever Random and keep forgetting to block. In fact, going to do that now!

  5. It looks beautiful! I don’t think you can co wrong with whatever color you choose. I would go red!

  6. I like the way the pattern stands out in the light color as is, sorry. You’re going to lose some of that going darker.

  7. I think it’s lovely and elegant as is.

  8. I thought logwood usually yielded a deep purply-reddish color. I think it’s absolutely beautiful (and I’d go for that over the salmon).
    If you can get the “horns” from some staghorn sumac, that might give you something close to the color you’re looking for – or if you want a little more red in it, you can overdye it with the red powder. Simmer them for an hour or so, then strain, then simmer the mordanted scarf in the strained liquid for another hour or so.

  9. What is the red powder? Madder? I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten the same color twice out of madder, usually orange instead of red. Not a bad orange unless I overheat it to a brown.
    I love logwood purple, but it is a dark color.
    The best natural brown I’ve gotten is with dyer’s coreopsis on superwash wool. That superwash process sure does change how wool takes dye!

  10. Do you have any yarn left? Knit a test swatch or two and try them both! I’ve been dyeing yarn lately (admittedly with Kool-Aid and other food dyes) and it NEVER comes out looking like I expect it to. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not…but I wouldn’t try it on a beautifully knitted finished object like you’ve got without knowing what will happen first!

  11. I’ve been knitting for a long, long time and I never, ever thought to substitute knit-2-together-through-back-loops for SSK. You have just changed my life! (Also, I’d go with the logwood. Salmon, while beautiful in some shades, sounds like it might be if-fy for a novice dyer.)

  12. i thhink you should keep looking for yhe cheastnutty color you originally wanted, don’t settle for anything less, and great job on the lacy scarf

  13. How ’bout black walnut for a rich brown. Check out this link : http://home.onemain.com/~crowland/Pages/Walnut.html

  14. Definitely, if you have any yarn left, try a test swatch first in any potential dyes you are thinking of using. The is just way too beautiful to risk having it turn out a funky color that you won’t be happy with!

  15. I’m with the others that suggest a swatch. But if not that, I’d choose logwood over the red unless you’re comfortable getting pink (cuz light red is pink). This would not be a good time to try kool-aid dying. Just sayin’. Good luck and be sure to show the gorgeous results.

  16. I have never dyed. Good luck. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes. Thanks for reminding me to wash it.

  17. I HATE SSK! Thanks so much for permission to K2together through the back loops! It seemed like the just about the same thing to me, but oh so much less annoying. I feel liberated.

  18. I have a question, sorry no answers because I haven’t dyed anything in ages. How big is this scarf? And how does it work w/ the buttons? It looks really large. Could you model it for us cuz I don’t see how buttons work w/ this at all? And, besides, I want to see the buttons! Maybe I’m thinking this is really a stole or shawl and not a scarf. I dunno.

  19. I love the sound of grey-ish/blue-ish hues for this scarf. But I don’t actually know diddly about dyeing. Best of luck to you!

  20. I’ve been working with Logwood(trying to get black by adding an iron afterwash, actually. The results so far is a bluish-black with brown tones. It’s…fascinating) a bit, and it’s an interesting dye. Based on some research it would seem that if your water is acidic then the colors shift towards the reddish end of the spectrum. Using alum in water that isn’t quite so acidic? The dye will shift towards greys and bluish-blacks. Less dyestuff would get you closer to grey.
    Aurora Silk has an article on dyeing with Logwood. If you google “logwood black” under Google books all sorts of fun, centuries old recipes come up.
    Have fun whatever you decide! 🙂

  21. Yarf. I should mention that the color I got(bluish-black, brown tones) was on SILK. A test dye on cream colored wool yarn using alum mordant and dyed in Brita-filtered water yielded a dark purple(I used a LOT of dye), also with brown undertones.

  22. That is beautiful. Feel like knitting lace now….

  23. Hrm. I would still do the coffee, but I don’t have a great idea how deep a color you can get with that. I definitely wouldn’t go with the salmon color, but it isn’t a color I can picture within miles of my complexion.

  24. Stevanie Pico of http://www.picoaccuardi.com is a master dyer with natural fibers. I’m sure she would be happy to advise. What is true, as others have said, is that dyeing swatches or skeinlets first is necessary if you want to have any assurance of the outcome. I imagine you can reach Steve through her website, but if not, e-mail me and I will link you up. Lovely scarf, BTW.

  25. the knicker pink has to go. Chuck all available bits of the dye kit in and see what happens. It HAS to be an improvement. x x x

  26. Love it just the way it is, of course the idea of dying something (with an end color in mind) scares the bejeebies out of me!

  27. CHESTNUT! I’m voting deep lovely warm brown. Cannot wait to see it!

  28. I’m all about K2tog thru the back loop as opposed to ssk’s, I also think they save time and have the added benefit of being less fiddely. As far as color goes I don’t think red can ever be wrong but I would probably err on the side of what the recipient would like the best, other than a beautiful hand knit scarf/shawl.

  29. I’m all about K2tog thru the back loop as opposed to ssk’s, I also think they save time and have the added benefit of being less fiddely. As far as color goes I don’t think red can ever be wrong but I would probably err on the side of what the recipient would like the best, other than a beautiful hand knit scarf/shawl.

  30. could this be dyed in strong tea
    comes in more then one color herbal teas
    might help
    will the dye wash out one would plan
    for that to happen or run all over
    the garment worn underneath if wet
    i live in the land of southern sunsets

  31. I’d go with the chestnut color (but love the band-aid nomenclature!) This beautiful piece of work deserves it. Afraid I don’t know how to achieve that though since I can even mess up kool-aid. Also did you know that you had created a clever version of the “Infinity Scarf” which all the rage from Eileen Fisher to Ann Taylor and beyond. The clever part is that once this fad is over (if ever) you still have a great traditional scarf. Looking forward to the chestnutty transformation!

  32. Forgot to thank you SO MUCH for that k2togtbl tip. So much easier to remember as well as execute for this novice sweater and sock knitter.

  33. It looks lovely to me in its present state, but I think you are kind of itchin’ to try some experiments with your trusty dye kit!
    I’m with the swatch-and-test contingent. And although I am brewing up black walnut (for browns without a mordant), if I had logwood I’d be tempted – some results I’ve seen on rav are gorgeous! I routinely cruise two dyers groups for the ooh-ahh pictures.

  34. I’d go with the brown since brown seems to be the IN color now (as it was 3 decades ago but then I”m dating myself!). It really looks pretty in the photo but maybe it’s just the light. Nice knitting!!

  35. I second (third?) the walnuts. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve seen some pretty awesome pictures… http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/plants-to-dye-for/170022/651-675#666 you can get a pretty wide range of colors.

  36. Go for a rich dark reddish brown. I would like that a lot. But, how? No idea. What ever happened to RIT, or whatever, that one used to tie-dye with back in the day?

  37. Wow, everyone is on the red bandwagon…or the brown one. I’m going against the grain by saying GRAYISH BLUE!!! But only because I have a huge preference for both blue and gray over red.

  38. I do think it looks less “knickerish” in the photos. Beautiful job. I’m doing the scarf, but put it down a bit for a quicker, 2 row stripe scarf so I can chat and knit with hubbo and not count rows.
    Happy December to both of you.

  39. You can always add a red tint to brown, but you can’t take it out.

  40. WAIT!!! Send me back the name of the dye company!! Let me ask her about the walnut color you’re looking for because I think there’s a way to blend those powders to get the color you want.
    Oh, I’ll figure it out and get back to you ASAP.

  41. I don’t want to say this to increase your anxiety, but I’d be scared to dye this. However, if you DO, here are some things I’ve learned in my somewhat limited experience garment-dyeing.
    1) soak that thing a LOT in water laced with a little vinegar before you dye it — it takes the dye better
    2) eek. I always have found that the garment, unless it’s 100% ALL IN all at the SAME TIME and in the SAME LOCATION (100% impossible, in my experience) in the dye bath, will come out blotchy or layered or whatever. I don’t know how big this scarf is, but if it’s really big, that could be a problem.
    3) I wish you best of luck. Dyeing is fun, but…. there are lots of “buts”.

  42. Sounds like black walnuts would do the trick. Definitely consult with someone (and that’s not me) who does natural dyes so that you can get the best results possible.

  43. Luv, Luv, LUUUVVE, the button idea! It then can go from straight, to Mobius, to round, to straight, again!
    Dye it any color that speaks to you…

  44. Say no to salmon! I vote for coffee or logwood. Beautiful scarf….
    What do the buttons look like? That might be important when you’re deciding on color.

  45. I’m thinking logwood, but either way it will be beautiful. Good job! Love the buttonholes. You must show us the buttons.

  46. logwood all the way!! good luck!

  47. Can we see a photo of it being worn? It is lovely!

  48. Can we see a photo of it being worn? It is lovely!

  49. Blue-gray over Bandaid Color is unlikely to produce something attractive. (If I understand your description properly… otherwise ignore me.) I’d go with the red.
    Make sure when you’re doing the mordant to (carefully to avoid felting) squish your scarf around a couple times, so the mordant ‘takes’ evenly. It’s hard to gauge because it’s invisible, but uneven mordants will result in unevenly dyed stuff, later.
    And, of course, take photos and blog this. We’ll all enjoy the heck out of it.

  50. OMG. SSK vs K2TOGTBL? What, they aren’t the same? Nooooo.. or actually, yesssss!!!!

  51. I think this is a personal preference. I could never, ever, dye such a lovely FO the color of dirt, or, well, you know! I say the logwood and lots of dye to aim for a deep color, then pray for purple! I have not dyed alone, but attended a hands-on workshop on Appalachian plant and natural dyes and the colors seem to be very unpredictable. I could not risk getting baby diaper brown! lol Of course, they say the black Irish were gypsies, so bring on the brights for me!!

  52. It is a matter of taste I suppose. My personal preference would be the logwood (grey-ish/blue-ish). Good luck!

  53. yes, I too think the grey/blue-ish sounds wonderful but that is my color palette… Either way, the resulting color will be fabulous, i’m sure! :o)

  54. So beautiful. I grew up in a walnut grove–those black walnuts can overpower any light color, and come out dark blue-brown. Now, I don’t know about wool, because I live in Southern California, but skin, and mostly cotton clothing definitely come out a nice color! You are going to convince me to put out the money for Rowan International yet.
    I want to thank you with all my knitting heart for mentioning the K2togTBL. I have a neuropathy and that fiddly SSK frequently results in dropped stitches. Since you say there is no noticeable difference, I am going to try it on the shawl I am working on now.

  55. I vote no to salmon–it seems too close to ladies’ panties to risk it. I second the vote for throw it all in…but I have no idea what goes on with dying. Definitely swatch and test. It might lie but you won’t have any regrets to deal with as well.
    As for SSK, sometimes the only thing that leaves me feeling like I’ve accomplished something in a day is a nice SSK. I guess on the real bang-up great days, I’ll speed along with K2togTB.

  56. Let me know what you decide to do because a friend and I each made a gorgeous pine cone wreath with the intention of spray painting them red. She’s painted hers and it’s stellar, I’ve grown attached to my brown one with the white dried pine sap tips. To paint or not to paint. I’m with ya on the tough au-nat vs. painting decision!

  57. What a beautiful lacy shawl-ey scarf! I vote for the chestnut brown. That sounds very soothing and relaxing. I just saw a quilt made with chocolate velvetty brown and white, wow, what a gorgeous combination. It seems like pink/red and blue/green tones are so common these days. Chestnut would really stand out as unique. Also very sophisticated. With hand dyeing, you’ll be able to test, test, test until you get just the right color you are looking for. Awesome!

  58. I’m voting for the logwood; it sounds beautiful. The red seems more risky.
    I am with you on the ssks, they do break up your rhythm, don’t they? I like the k2tbl myself, and can barely tell the difference. SSK rebels unite!

  59. I laughed when I saw your post because I just finished dyeing half of my free gift yarn with wild mushrooms. I’m saving the other half for my next walnut crop. I will say that the Pure Wool 4ply takes color extremely well, and it sounds like you would prefer brown. So I would suggest that you try the coffee and if you don’t like the results, you can overdye it when you find another source of that chestnut brown you’re after.
    Happy dyeing!

  60. Logwood as I’d worry that the reddish could possibly come out — pardon my adjective — sort of menstrual-colored. Unless you don’t mind going all “wymyn-y” with this garment.

  61. Beautiful scarf! I’d go with the blueish/grayish…
    so… I’m knitting my first lace scarf out of the yarn I spun (novice in that also) and I didn’t know how to do ssk… i knit continental, so the few Youtube instructions I looked were not exactly helpful – however it seemed to me that ssk IS knit through the back loops… hmm. it’s not?

  62. Greyish Blue would be my recommendation. Could you show a pic with a person wearing it buttoned? I’m not quite sure I understand given the size of the FO.

  63. Re K2togTBL – I’m with you dawg. Ever since I found out about that, SSK’s are dead to me.

  64. Well, you Mason Dixon ladies have done it again! First Kay pushes I mean enables me into a log cabin addiction like no other, and now you have freed me from the dread ssk! I am sure I got another 1/2 row done on my Meandering Vines shawl thanks to that tip! Might even make the Christmas deadline! Thanks and I would go with the chestnut.

  65. Logwood. Everyone does red. And I’ve never gotten a coffee dye to stay. Plus, a non-coffee drinker would be put off by lingering odor; a coffee drinker would be driven to extreme over-consumption & severe over-caffeination. Three cheers for murky blue-gray.

  66. Mix them together! Use both.

  67. ok – i’m sorry, but i can’t believe you would want to do anything to that simply beautiful knitting. and wool no less. it is so very beautiful.

  68. ok – i’m sorry, but i can’t believe you would want to do anything to that simply beautiful knitting. and wool no less. it is so very beautiful.

  69. wa-la. Love it.

  70. I always thought K2tog thru the back loop was the same as SSK. What did I know?
    I agree with the person who said test dye some swatches if you can.

  71. I was thinking coffee coloured, but I agree with Kathy that dying a couple of swatches might be in order. The shawl is gorgeous.

  72. is this pattern available somewhere? still looking for one last minute knit gift!


  74. Love the scarf in its natural color! Would love to have the pattern. Thanks!

  75. Hey Kay. Check out “the Dye Pot” if you can get your hands on it by Mary Frances Davidson or Jim Lyles book on dyes. They are the two who wrote the books literally for this generation. Jim was a chemestry professor at UT and Mary Frances taught math at Oak Ridge. I have some of her hand dyed yarn from about the last batch she did before she went blind. They both could get any color you want in any shade. You can vary the shading by changing mordant as well as the dye plant. Sometimes onion skin can yield a nice chestnut color but I forget which mordant you use for that. You really do need to swatch some before you dump the whole scarf in the pot. Out of town now but will check out Davidson for a chestnut recipe for you when I get home if you want. BTW you can’t have too many dog sweaters for your cutie.

  76. I agree with someone above who said to test it first with some extra wool. Brown sounds good to me–there are many lovely shades of brown but there aren’t too many lovely shades of salmon.
    And thanks for the K2T trick because I hate SSK and always change it to K2PSSO (not sure I have that abbrev. right) but K2TBL sounds even better!

  77. There is something about the pattern that speaks of mists and mountains (could it be because it IS, after all, a Rowan pattern), so I vote for the blue-ish/grey tones.

  78. There is something about the pattern that speaks of mists and mountains (could it be because it IS, after all, a Rowan pattern), so I vote for the blue-ish/grey tones.


A bit of news from us, every now and again.

(Your email is safe with us.)