Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chemical Warfare

A few years ago, I grabbed a few balls of this delightfully bright Regia Active 6-ply.  I had thought it would make great socks with contrasting toes and heels, and originally bought some gray as for that purpose.  But DK weight socks are so thick, it can be hard to wear with shoes... So these went back into the stash of unassigned yarns and one of the balls of gray became a hat for my dad.

One night as I was falling asleep, I realized that these colors would look awesome together in a colorwork sweater.  Specifically, they would look awesome as a Polar Dip, a pattern a gal from my knitting group put on my radar.  I made a note in my phone and went to sleep, dreaming happy "I can do this!" dreams about color work.  The next day, I did some researching and found that while the yarn that is recommended is classified as a worsted weight, the gauge is very much a DK gauge, so my yarn would work!  I tracked down how much yardage I would need of the MC, found the yarn at LoveKnitting and scooped up another bag of the gray, and for a really good price!

I was so excited to get this going, I swatched the next day with the partial ball of gray leftover from the hat.  Perfect gauge on the first try, AND the same gauge flat and in-the-round?!  It was like the universe was whispering in my ear, "Knit the sweater, Donita!"

I was so eager to tackle my first color work sweater, I nearly cast on then and there.  It was New Years Day, I had decided to knit all the sweaters I've got yarn stashed for, and it was bright and cheerful, which is much needed in the middle of this brown Ohio winter.  But, cooler heads prevailed and I remembered an Instagram post from Jasmin of the Knitmore Girls about pre-washing yarns before you knit color work.  Better to find out now if they have a little extra dye in them that needs rinsed out before I knit the sweater and it ends up all bleary, right?

I patiently ran my wash water how I wash my garments: warm water and Unicorn Fiber Wash.  I gently laid the yarn, which I had wound into a hank to facilitate washing and drying, on top of the bubbles and ignored it for an hour or so.

When I poured off the wash water, there was a concerning amount of color in the wash water.  Sometimes, that can happen.  But, this should be easily fixed - thanks again to the Knitmore Girls.   After the yarn was fully dried from the initial washing, I found my wee baggie of citric acid that I have for this purpose and set about following the great directions in this tutorial, which I have used several times with great success!

I followed the contingency plan for what to do if the water still isn't clear until I ran out of citric acid (1/4 c - only using 1/2-1 tsp. at a time).  And still, color in the water.  Amazing amounts of color in the water.  CONCERNING amounts of color in the water.  I shared some frustration on Ravelry, in one of my favorite forums that happens to have active members who actively dye for business or personal use, looking for next steps.  I got some wonderfully honest & helpful recommendations from these gals and ordered more citric acid and synthrapol (just in case) on Amazon.

When the citric acid arrived, I was ready - GAME ON.

Armed with suggestions about amount of heat and length of exposure to said heat, I was ready to do this and get started with this sweater.  After all, the universe wanted me to knit this sweater, right?

All the yarn went through the citric acid process and after increasing the amount of time it was exposed to heat, the 'jelly rolls' of plastic wrap, inside their plastic bags, went into a cooler to hold the heat in, to help the chemicals continue to do their jobs.  This worked really well; the yarn was still a bit warmer than body temperature the next morning!  I left the yarn in the cooler until the next day when I got home from work.  I spun out the remaining moisture and laid the skeins on the drying rack to air dry.

Just to give me hope, the water that spun out had MUCH less color in it.  Maybe the citric acid had finally worked!

Once the yarn had fully dried, I rinsed it all in cool water.  This is what I got.

Remember how the water is supposed to rinse clear?

... yeah... sobs just a little

So much for the universe wanting me to have this sweater.

I was so frustrated at this point - none of this should be necessary.  As a knitter, I should NOT have to buy citric acid to finish bonding the dye.

(Is it worth it to be sure that poorly processed yarn doesn't ruin hours of work on a handknit item? Absolutely, but not my point.)

As a knitter, I should NOT have to research and buy professional grade detergents like synthrapol in order to use this yarn.

With the amount of dye coming off of the yarn, what would happen if someone got caught in the rain while wearing this item?  Blue skin? Blue streaks in blonde hair?  Ruined clothing?

Completely unacceptable.

So, I vented a bit to my group on Rav and let blood pressure return to normal.  After the initial disappointment passed, I realized that this yarn may never work for this project.  And I accepted that.  However, Regia should not accept that.

I contacted them through the contact us link on their website on January 10, 2017.  At the time of this posting, I haven't gotten a response.

At this point, I felt like I had nothing to lose, so when the synthrapol arrived, I didn't hold back. More in my next post.

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