Hand-dyeing with food colouring: Microwave method

hand dyeing yarn with food coloring in the microwave by @hookabeeThis is the fourth post in a series I am doing on how to hand-dye yarn using food colouring. Previously, (1) I harnessed the heat of the sun to dye a small skein of yarn bright yellow, (2) slow cooked my yarn in a crock-pot until it was a gorgeous pink, and (3) turned a bit of yarn teal right on the stove top. This time I am going to show you how I used the microwave to dye my yarn green.

If you missed the first post on hand-dyeing, make sure you read at least the first section on the basics of dyeing with food colouring and how to prepare your yarn.

Hand-dyeing using the microwave:

This method is the fastest and is super easy, but you have to watch out and make sure you don’t burn your yarn. It is possible to overheat your yarn and burn it when using a microwave if your yarn isn’t wet enough, especially if you aren’t familiar with the strength of your machine.  If your yarn has enough moisture, however, this shouldn’t be a problem!

This time I chose the Kelly Green dye from my box of 12 Wilton Icing Colours to dye the little 25 g skein of alpaca wool yarn I had made during my first dying experience.

My microwave dyeing protocol: (using 25 g of yarn)

  1. I pre-soaked my yarn for about 30 min in a bath made up of vinegar (2 tbsp) and water (2 cups). I used these volumes because my dye is green (so needs more vinegar than yellows and reds, see DyeYourYarn.com), and the total volume was able to cover my yarn fully.
  2. In a one pint glass mason jar (just needs to be microwave safe), I mixed 1 cup of water with 1 tbsp of vinegar and some Kelly Green Wilton icing dye. I just estimated the amount of dye, but used no more than 1/4 tsp because I didn’t want extra, and therefore wasted, dye that wouldn’t be taken up by the yarn. I based this on the info found on theDyeYourYarn.com site for Wilton dyes: “[Use] 1/16 teaspoon Wilton®Icing Gel on .2 oz Lion Brand® Fishermen’s Wool. This amount of gel produces a saturated dyebath. Using more gel will leave food color in the dyebath that will not bond.” I then whisked the solution until most of the gel clumps were gone and dissolved.
  3. Next, I transferred the wet yarn from the pre-soak bath into the jar. Before you transfer your yarn, make sure that your two baths are not drastically different in temperature. This reduces the chances of your yarn felting.
  4. I then placed the jar with the yarn in the microwave, cooked it on high for 1 minute, then checked it to see if all the dye had been absorbed. I repeated this process (microwave for 1 min, check dye bath) until no more dye remained in the surrounding water (which means all the dye has been taken up by the yarn). At each check, I mixed the yarn around a bit so that my yarn would have even colour. After just three minutes of heating the water started to boil, so I let it sit for some time before heating the yarn further.hand dyeing yarn using the microwave
  5. After the dye had all been absorbed, I left the yarn in the jar and allowed it to cool to room temperature.
  6. Once cooled, I removed the yarn and rinsed it to remove any excess dye. You don’t want to suddenly rinse your hot yarn with cool, or even warm water, because this may cause your yarn to felt, so make sure your yarn is completely cooled before this step.  Once rinsed, I gently squeezed the excess water out and hung the yarn to dry.

In the end, my yarn came out a gorgeous deep emerald green:
hand dyeing yarn using the microwaveHow does using the microwave compare to my other dyeing experiences? I think I may have used too much dye in this case. I needed to heat the yarn so much the dye bath started to boil before all the dye had been absorbed. Once I let the yarn sit and cool down, a lot of the dye was absorbed, but still not all of it, so I needed to do yet another bout of heating. In the end though, I was satisfied with the great colour saturation and how easy and fast it was to use the microwave over the other methods.

So, I have tried all four methods of heat setting dye: solar heat, slow cooker, stove top and microwave – and which is my favourite? I think I will mostly be using the microwave in the future. It was so easy and fast! I would consider using the heat of the sun again, however, on hot summer days – it doesn’t use up as much electricity!

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Until next time,
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Press and Publications: Inside Crochet

Press and Publications of hookabee crochet2016 is off to a good start – I am in a magazine! At the end of last year I was interviewed by the UK magazine Inside Crochet for an amigurumi article in their magazine, and the issue has recently been published.

In the article you can find tips from me on making amigurumi, as well as from other fellow ami designers. It was so fun being involved in this, especially since I am among other designers I admire and love. Bill the Pineapple was also featured in the article as a fun amigurumi pattern to try – he looks great in print!

Inside Crochet amigurumi article

Pick up your own copy of the magazine this month to read the article and learn more. There are also some cute ami patterns in the issue – the duckling is especially adorable!

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Until next time,
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How to stuff amigurumi

How to stuff amigurumi by @hookabeeOne question that often comes up when making amigurumi, but is never explained within in an actual pattern, except for a “start stuffing” in passing, is how to stuff your creation. It seems simple in concept, stuff the stuffing in, but there are so many things that can go wrong! Sometimes you end up with a lumpy bumpy animal, or one that looks like it has deflated. Or maybe you stuffed your creature so much there is literally stuffing popping out at the seams. I am not a stuffing expert and I am still learning with each new ami I make, but I am going to share with you my current technique for stuffing here, because right now it seems to be working!

First, the stuffing itself:

No matter what technique you use to stuff your amigurumi, the stuffing you use makes a huge difference. I tried a number of different brands before landing on the one I like best, and I suggest you do the same. If you are always frustrated during the stuffing process, it might be the stuffing, not you! Don’t settle when it comes to stuffing – try a variety until you are satisfied.

During my trials, I found some stuffing to be too dense, holding its shape a little too well (if I stuck my finger in it the finger dent would remain!!), while others, though fluffier, clumped more easily (very frustrating).

I am currently using the brand found at Canadian Walmart stores: EverSoft (www.eversoft.ca). It is from a company in Toronto, Canada (so is local, yay!), is made from recycled material and is eco friendly (bonus!), and since I can get it at Walmart, it is convenient and well priced. I can’t seem to go wrong with this stuff – I LOVE it. While I will show you my stuffing technique below, which works pretty well for even the worst stuffing, if I stray a bit and add this stuffing a little higgledy piggledy, my ami still turns out great. Also, unlike some other stuffing brands, you can reuse this stuffing because it can be easily fluffed back up to its original form after being squished and condensed.

I use polyester stuffing because it is convenient and the cost is right, but if you want a more natural material there are other options, such as cotton, corn, hemp, and wool. I have never tried anything but polyester, so I don’t know how the other materials behave, but it doesn’t hurt to experiment and find THE stuffing that is best for you!

There are basically two main methods of stuffing:

  1. Put as much stuffing as you can into the piece all at once in one big clump, then add more to the centre of the clump if needed. The key is to only add stuffing in the middle so the outside remains smooth and less lumpy.
  2. Put the stuffing in layer by layer, one on top of the other, until the ami is filled. The key for this method is to use fairly thin layers for smoothness and less lumpiness.

I have tried both methods, and by far my favourite is option 2. I have used the first method, and it does work pretty well when your ami is one big ball themselves, with no shaping (such as for my Koko the Owl pattern), but doesn’t work so well for all other designs (such as Harry the Moustache).

My technique:

I stuff my amigurumi using thin layers of polyester stuffing layered on top of each other. Each layer is the same size in diameter as the area I am stuffing. For example, if I was stuffing a pointed piece, my layers of stuffing would start off very small in circumference, and then gradually increase in size as I work my way up the widening piece.layer sizes when stuffing amigurumi

After each layer I place, I push it down into the piece, pressing on the entire surface area of the layer, but mostly at the edges. I push the back of my fingers (or hand, depending on the size of the piece) down on the layer, with my finger tips at the edge of the piece, and turn the piece as I do this (lifting the hand up and down as I turn), pushing the stuffing down all the way around. I do this for EVERY layer I place.push stuffing down when stuffing amigurumi

Yes, this process is long and a little tedious, but honestly, it is less frustrating than trying to stuff an amigurumi that always comes out lumpy. By pressing down each layer before adding more, I also get a nice dense filling that is less likely to deflate later. The ami does look a little funny during the whole process, a little bulbous where I have stuffed, but in the end, when it is complete and closed up, it works great!

If your amigurumi has little limbs that are part of the main body, such as the legs of my Felix the Elf pattern and Hanna the Squirrel, then stuff the limbs first really well, with many layers, using the method above before you start using large pieces of stuffing for the main body. If you jump to the larger sized layers for the body too soon, the legs won’t be stuffed enough compared to the body.Stuffing little legs in amigurumi

When have you added enough stuffing? Knowing this comes with practice. It depends on your stuffing, your technique, and what you prefer for your finished amigurumi. I like to stuff my amigurumi a lot initially because the stuffing tends to become less dense with time. Even right before closing the last stitch of a piece, I am sticking in more stuffing with a stuffing tool (ie. chopstick) so that it is filled up right to the end, in all corners.

So that is how I like to stuff my amigurumi. What about you? Do you have a special technique that works? Would love to hear about it!

Don’t forget to sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,
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