Remember my one piece of Christmas knitting? Well, it’s done. It’s done, it’s off, and thanks to my ability to procrastinate and the wonder of USPS Priority international mail, I didn’t even have to go to the post office. I know people like to complain about the postal service here, but a public service that will come to my door to pick up outgoing packages is a thing of joy and a wonder to behold. A few extra bucks to avoid the aeon in Hell’s waiting room that is a post office at Christmas is money well spent, in my book.
It was touch and go, though. I had a plan, and I thought it was an excellent plan, which should have set off the klaxons of warning right away. I had taken some of this giant Targhee fleece:
and experimented with blending fibres on hand cards, making a 3-ply worsted weight Targhee/tussah silk blend that was, in all modesty, utterly gorgeous: light and airy from the woolen-style spinning, next-to-skin soft, and the palest cream with a bit of sheen from the silk. Of course, the weather was rotten for photos throughout the week that it remained in its unknit state, so you’ll have to take my word for that until I spin some more, but truly, it was a beautiful yarn. With all that loft and crimp and the bit of silk, it was perfect for a hat. A very warm hat. And since I had some indigo I wanted to experiment with, it would be a blue hat, which meant it would be for Dad. Had I dyed with indigo before? No. Would I be smart and cautious and try a sample before committing my two skeins of loveliness to the deep blue? Of course not. I had new toy syndrome. I had looked up the process on the internet. Caution was for chumps.
So. Carefully following the kit directions, I dipped and oxidized and dipped and oxidized until the yarn was a couple of shades darker than I wanted, then rinsed and rinsed and rinsed until the water ran clear, adding vinegar and salt to one of the rinses to fix the pH. (An indigo dye vat is alkaline, which is hard on wool.) Then one last wash in Eucalan to hopefully add a bit of lanolin back to the now-not-quite-so-soft yarn, and…what the hell? More blue water. Sigh. Rinse and rinse and rinse. But whoa, the colour was perfect.
I cast on for a simple watch cap in a 5×1 rib that would allow for some size flexibility, since I have no idea what size my dad’s head is, and I wasn’t about to ask and spoil the surprise. As I knit, I noticed something:
Now, had I paid closer attention during my research, instead of letting optimism be my editor, I would have expected this. Indigo isn’t like other dyes, you see: it doesn’t bond with the fibre in the same way, and so some of it will come off, especially if you’ve gone for a deep, dark blue. (Remember how a new pair of jeans used to turn your legs blue? Okay, maybe only some of us remember that far back. But yeah, that’s indigo dye.) This is not a quality you want in a hat, especially a hat for a guy who might wear it running. Nobody wants the gift of a blue forehead. Fortunately, I had spun some of this fleece
into a soft, springy, grey — and most importantly, undyed — yarn. Perfect! The hat was feeling a bit thin for a Canadian prairie winter, anyway, so a lining would solve both problems.
And you know what? I think the hat is better for it: