19 March 2016
More Reversible Lace — in Organic Cotton
Since my goal for this year is to get the reversible lace technique out into the world in a big way, I have been designing items using the technique. When I was at South Carolina Knit Inn, Cindy from Stony Hill Fiber Arts insisted I take a couple skeins of Pacolet Valley Fiber Company Southern Exposure organic cotton. This is a sport-weight 100% organic cotton yarn grown and spun in the United States. If we want an American textile industry, we need to purchase their products. The cotton is 50% organic naturally-colored cotton and 50% organic cotton. (To learn more about naturally-colored cotton, visit Fox Fibre.)
However, being the reader of knitting and spinning and weaving literature, I had read about these naturally-colored cottons and understood they will darken when boiled. So, after I finished knitting the Viridi pinnam shawl, I gleefully filled a large stockpot, stuffed the shawl in, and put the whole thing to simmer on the stove.
Wait . . . wait . . . wait.
Nothing . . . is . . . happening.
Ok, not entirely true. The bath turned a brownish tea-like color. Still no sign of green. Green? Are you in there? Hello?
A quick review of the literature indicated a key ingredient is washing soda, which changes the pH to alkaline. Hmmm. A little time on the Internet took me to a blog post about how to turn baking soda into washing soda. I let the water and the shawl simmer on low. I set the oven to 400°F, tossed a few tablespoons of baking soda (probably less than ¼ cup, it was the remnants of a box) into a glass baking dish, and put the dish in the oven for 30 minutes. When the timer went off, I turned off the oven and set the baking dish on top of the stove on the inactive burners.
Time to see if this works.
I spooned about a teaspoon of the washing soda into the stock pot. Within a few seconds, the fabric near the washing soda turned green. It looked like a movie special effect. I added more soda, moving the fabric around to keep the color even. The whole shawl turned green. Success! Better living through chemistry!
I did try simmering the shawl longer, but that didn't seen to make a difference. Plus, I had to be attentive to keep the shawl submerged. If you do this, just turn the shawl green, give it maybe five minutes, then go straight to the rinse.
I rinsed the shawl in cool water in the kitchen sink. At first, the rinse water did turn a little green. The shawl also felt slightly slick or slimy due to the washing soda. When it seemed mostly rinsed, I took it to the top-loading washing machine and ran it through the rinse and spin cycle using cold water. This yarn is machine washable and dryable.
After the wash, I blocked the shawl to its finished dimensions. This yarn does want to pull in after being dressed, even if left to dry overnight. I recommend a generous application of steam while the shawl is still pinned out on the blocking board.
For those of you working your way up the reversible lace learning curve, this shawl uses only the same skills you need for Juniperus ficus — reversible decreases leaning left or right, double yarn-overs, Italian cast-on, and tubular grafted bind-off. This is just a more complicated ‟basic” lace pattern with 24 rows per repeat. Wrong-side rows are still mindless 1×1 ribbing.
You can check out the shawl in person, purchase the yarn from the vendor, or take the reversible lace class at Spring Fling today and tomorrow.
Edited to add: Cindy tells me you can throw a bare skein in the stockpot with the shawl and as some of the color comes into the water, the bare skein may take it up. Talk about natural dyeing and recycling!