Sunday, February 21, 2016

Yak + Indigo


I finally got this project finished to the point of showing it to you. This is something from the Project #Stashbust thread. I picked up the yarn from the counter in our studio where it has been sitting since I bought it at MDSW 2013 (ahem, 2.5 years ago) and matched it with a pattern one night when Kris and I were tearing through Ravelry matching stash to patterns. I picked Dewberry by Hilary Smith Callis. It’s one of those shawl-cowl hybrids. I knit a similar pattern by her last year: Starshower. starshower3

Boy, you guys get a lot of peeks at my neighbors’ house across the street.

Anyway, I thought Starshower was so well-written and cleverly designed that I didn’t think too hard about making a similar pattern. Starshower is for fingering weight yarn and Dewberry calls for Aran. Also, I felt the colors were different enough that they wouldn’t look too much alike.IMG_1223

This yarn isn’t exactly what I would call aran weight, even though Ravelry classifies it that way. My cowl ended up looking bigger and more lacy than a version knit with a thicker, fluffier yarn would.

This is a special yarn. I got it at the Wild Fibers booth at MDSW. I’ve been a subscriber for a while. If you’re not familiar with the magazine, it’s often described as “the National Geographic of the fiber world.” This is 100% Tibetan yak down, hand spun with drop spindles by rural women in Tibet. It is naturally dyed with indigo.IMG_9882_thumb[1]

I don’t think I’ve ever worked with indigo-dyed yarn before. Boy, did it bleed! I realized it just a minute or two into working with it, so I was careful not to let the working yarn touch my light-colored couch. I had to wash my hands after each knitting session – regular soap didn’t remove the dye, but lava soap did (S1 keeps lava soap out all the time so it was handy). Then I washed it four times (and included vinegar twice) to try to get the excess dye out. It didn’t work… the yarn was still bleeding.IMG_9859_thumb[5]

So I tried the citric acid trick. Maybe you’ve read about this? The first challenge was finding citric acid – I didn’t want to order a large amount on amazon (I only needed a teaspoon) and our local grocery didn’t have it. Then one day, I spied it at a local apple market with their display of canning supplies. Score!

I soaked the cowl in water and citric acid, and when I took it out, all I saw was a few fibers floating in the bowl. No dye: IMG_9861_thumb[1]Then I rolled it in plastic wrap and microwaved it for a couple minutes.


I don’t see any more bleeding.

This was a very quick project to knit – it took me 3 days between Christmas and New Year’s. But it took me many weeks to find the citric acid, treat the garment, and photograph it (that happened just yesterday). Oh well, all’s well that ends well!


  1. You microwaved it??? What function does that serve?

  2. Indigo is the one natural dye that requires the help of the knitter. Clara Parkes just talked about this here in Knitter's Review: and she includes a link to Kristine Vejar's great commentary on the process of crocking (what happens when the final part of dyeing with indigo occurs)

    And, if you were a lover of Rowan Denim yarn, you know about indigo dyed fingers!

    I do not think you needed to use the citric acid, since dying with indigo is a physical process rather than a chemical one.

    I love the depth that indigo dying brings and your cowl is truly lovely showcase of that!

  3. Yak and indigo is an interesting combination indeed. I just finished a cowl with some madelinetosh that bled through four rinses + vinegar. I finally gave up, but now may try the citric acid trick. Thanks!

  4. How cool. I'm reading a book about ocean explorers (surprised, right?) and I'm laughing thinking about how you've!cured your indigo-dyed garment of scurvy