Category Archives: Dyeing

Iron Druid & Kevin Hearne Pt 1.

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I’m working on a yarn inspired by the wonderful Iron Druid Series by Kevin Hearne.

I’ll get to the yarn in a bit, but first the books!

The books are frequently categorized as Urban Fantasy- which they are.  But they stand out from a genre that is being flooded by the Urban Fantasy Romance (which is ready for its own genre now!).

The central story focuses on Atticus, the last of the Druids, who is at a crossroads.  Does he continue to hide from an angry god and live a diminished life under the radar,  or does he confront the god, re-establish wider contact with others like him, and re-enter the non-mortal community?

For me, writing breaks down into characterization, plot, theme, voice, world building and word choice- in no particular order.  In this case, the order doesn’t matter because Hearne hits every single one one.

Characterization:  Kevin Hearne builds strong, interesting characters drawn from folklore & mythology.  His take on mythology is fresh without ignoring the roots.  That’s a big plus!  He doesn’t assume that we are going to like his characters because they are the heroes & heroines.  His characters earn the reader’s affection and sympathy.

Plot:  How can anyone resist a tweak the nose of a god/ protect humanity plot line?  more on this below.  The story moves briskly with a nice balance of action and reflection.  A strong collection of subplots build a strong world with good character interaction.  The subplots come together to support a larger story line without making a muddle of the forward motion of the overall book.

The story doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun without crossing the line into brain candy!  Nothing wrong with brain candy, but who rereads those books? You will reread the Iron Druid books.  And most likely will stalk the author’s page waiting for book updates with the rest of us Hearne fans!

Theme:   Underlying the action is a continual theme of  a do I step forth and *be*- or- do I take the familiar path?  Do my past actions define me, or do I have the power & ability to do something differently?

World Building:  Perfection!  It’s seamless and believable without being tame or predictable.  While reading, you know it is the only possible version of reality.  Then you can step away from the book and realize he just pulled a rabbit, a dove and the Chrysler building out of that hat- & it totally worked!

Word choice:  Hearne isn’t afraid of mixing a casual tone with a wide range of vocabulary.  Reading his prose makes me happy!

Here’s the link to Kevin Hearne’s Good Reads page:

Start with Hounded, the first in the series.   I’m going to mess around with the Good Reads blurb, but please click over and read the whole thing!

The story opens with Atticus, the last of the druids, living in hiding from an angry Celtic god, Aenghus Óg who wants to reclaim the enchanted sword stolen from him centuries before. The deity discovers Atticus pretending to be a 21 year old hippie running an occult bookshop in Arizona.  With the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, a wolfhound and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish –  Atticus must prevent the god from gaining the sword’s power without unbalancing the detente between the different factions of Fae & Gods. 

Below is the opening scene.  Right away, I can hear Atticus’ voice.  I have a great picture of him in my mind, and by the end of this passage, I am completely on his side.From Hounded, Book 1 of the Iron Druid Series by Kevin Hearne, published by Del Ray:

There are many perks to living for twenty-one centuries, and foremost among them is bearing witness to the rare birth of genius. It invariably goes like this: Someone shrugs off the weight of his cultural traditions, ignores the baleful stares of authority, and does something his countrymen think to be completely batshit insane. Of those, Galileo was my personal favorite. Van Gogh comes in second, but he really was batshit insane.

Thank the Goddess I don’t look like a guy who met Galileo—or who saw Shakespeare’s plays when they first debuted or rode with the hordes of Genghis Khan. When people ask how old I am, I just tell them twenty-one, and if they assume I mean years instead of decades or centuries, then that can’t be my fault, can it? I still get carded, in fact, which any senior citizen will tell you is immensely flattering.

The young-Irish-lad façade does not stand me in good stead when I’m trying to appear scholarly at my place of business—I run an occult bookshop with an apothecary’s counter squeezed in the corner—but it has one outstanding advantage. When I go to the grocery store, for example, and people see my curly red hair, fair skin, and long goatee, they suspect that I play soccer and drink lots of Guinness. If I’m going sleeveless and they see the tattoos all up and down my right arm, they assume I’m in a rock band and smoke lots of weed. It never enters their mind for a moment that I could be an ancient Druid—and that’s the main reason why I like this look. If I grew a white beard and got myself a pointy hat, oozed dignity and sagacity and glowed with beatitude, people might start to get the wrong—or the right—idea.

Sometimes I forget what I look like and I do something out of character, such as sing shepherd tunes in Aramaic while I’m waiting in line at Starbucks, but the nice bit about living in urban America is that people tend to either ignore eccentrics or move to the suburbs to escape them.

Next post is about the yarn 🙂

Until then, read Hounded!


Dyeing Multicolored Locks

20160414_111100  On Saturday, I’ll be at the Fiber Frolic at Beaver Lake Nature Center, demonstrating spinning and doing a variety of things fiber-y for people’s entertainment.

The Golden Fleece Spinners Society will have a story loom for public use.  It’s lots of fun, so come and add a few rows. You can use these  Leicester locks  which I’m dyeing today to add some colorful texture.


Thanks to Heather at Lochan Mor Farms for donating fiber for demonstrations! 20160414_140116

These are gorgeous locks.  They are bright white with creamy tips and a firm structure. Dyeing multicolored locks is all about the wide bottomed pot and leaving the locks alone while the dye does its thing.

Fill the bottom of your pot with a few inches of water and add citric acid.  Pre-acidifying the water will make the color strike quickly.  This means that some areas are going to take up more dye than others.

Put locks in and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to dye, add just enough water to keep the locks wet, not enough so that they are floating freely.   Sprinkle dye powder in a few places and use a wooden skewer to gently spread the locks a bit and disperse the dye without sending it over into the other areas of the pot.  You can also add concentrated liquid dye.  I find the powder gives a better color variation.

Then, put in the temperature probe set to 180F, turn on medium heat and walk away until the probe beeps.
temp probe

Here’s the spot in the process where I made a mistake.  I was trying to do 27 things at once.  I forgot to add the handy dandy temperature warning probe which is my solution to trying to multitask.   The probe works by setting a goal temp- in this case 180F.  The probe hangs out in the pot and when the temp reaches 180, the base starts beeping.

Lots of people dye without using the probe.  You can just watch and wait until the pot almost comes to a boil and then turn down the heat.  I know myself better than that.

Normally,  the probe beeps, I catch the water before it boils, turn the heat down to low, and let the fiber sit in the hot, acidified water until

1) It reaches the color I would like,
2) the dye is exhausted & the water is clear or slightly milky, or
3) the fiber has absorbed all of the dye it is going to take.

It depends on the dye and the fiber, but that takes about 30-45 minutes- sometimes longer for a very saturated color.  If the dye isn’t exhausting, you can try adding more citric acid.  Or you may have used too much dye.  *Or* it may need to cool down for the last of the dye to take.

Here’s the important part.  After simmering, turn off the heat and walk away until the water cools to room temperature.  If you need to reinforcement, set the temperature probe for 70 degrees and don’t touch until the probe give you permission.

Really.  Don’t touch it.  Every time you poke at it, you will start to open up the locks and either risk felting or ruin the lock structure.

Today, touching the cooling locks was not my problem.  I forgot the probe but walked away waiting for the beep.  This pot went to boil.  Whoops!  These locks are pretty resilient.  It was tempting to start pulling on the fiber to see if it had felted.  I was surprisingly good about it.   I pulled the pot off the burner and walked away. (that’s unusual for me.  I’m a prodder)   Once it cooled, I was able to rinse thoroughly and get a rough idea of how things look.

20160414_123959.jpgThe saying is, “It isn’t felted until it is dry.”   I’ll also add to that, “You don’t know the color until it dries.”   In this case, everything still feels nice and loose. The colors are bright and have a nice variegated look.  There may be some spots that are felted.  Felting happens with heat and agitation.  The boiling of the water was definitely adding agitation, so I’ll find out tomorrow if there are any sections that are locked up. If I start pulling on the locks today, I risk making any felting worse.  So, it’s out in the sun with a kitty for company.   The cat isn’t crazy about cold, wet wool in her sunbeam, but she’s agreed to share.

It’s all about the base

 I grew up surrounded by women who sewed needlepoint, esp. canvases inspired by tapestries.  In needlepoint, the artist hand blends single plies of different color yarn and thread before stitching and then interlaces the colors on the canvas so that the eye blends them to create incredible depth & complexity.  In spinning, I do something similar by hand-blending roving and layering the plies.  In dyeing, it’s a totally different feel.  Hand-painting is the best way I’ve found to get complex colors, and I’m working on painting subtle yarn that will create the same feel when knitted as the complex colorwork in historic needlework.

Right now, it’s all about red.  Rose red, tiger lily red, hibiscus red.

reds sheilas gold base


Red can go so many different ways from barn red to slinky red dress.  So many possibilities, but also so many beautiful reds already being made by other dyers.

I’m developing the color below: Tiger Lily Red.  cropped tiger lily

It’s a true red with hints of orange red, red-pink, and some brown & gold tints throughout. This is on a superwash merino/nylon base.  It looks very earthy and floral rather than 50’s lipstick.  That’s the goal.  This base isn’t the best choice for the color I am after.  It’s a wonderful yarn that takes color easily and makes a bright, in your face yarn.  I’m trying for something a bit more mellow with the Tiger Lily.

Next up, trying it on shetland and on a camel/merino blend.   I also plan to spin up some targhee/alpaca roving that is a gorgeous light grey & brown.  The warm undertones of the handspun will add a nice depth to the finished colors.




Spring, please!

Most years, I love winter.  I love curling up under a quilt with a dog or two in my lap. Wearing thick, cuddly sweaters while drinking hot cider.  Coming in from snowshoeing and toasting my backside in front of the fire. I even like shoveling snow.

This winter has been awful.  It’s been burn-your-face cold alternating with  help, I’m trapped to the hip in salty slush-sand.

Yesterday, as it rained on the nice fresh snow again, my mood went from simple “let me play with the colors of nature to find Mary Oliver’s color”  to “hey, I have an idea for a Latin American garden”  to full-on gardenfest.  Geranium pinks, hydrangea purples and blues,  emerging bulb greens.  If I can’t have fun snow, then I’m ready for Spring!

The garden skeins are fun and fairly simple to do.  The greens were layered emerald green, kelly green and a bit of turquoise blended for variation.  I laid turquoise blue, violet and pink stripes in between the green sections and let the colors bleed.  I did some skeins with the color stripes reversing (green, purple, pink, purple, green)  and some with repeats (green, blue, violet, pink, green).  I didn’t have a pattern in mind for this, so I went for a shortish repeat that would make a nice color pattern on a basic sock.

I did get a little development work done.  I don’t know where this one will end up.  It’s quiet and soft without being muted. The base is a mill spun 80% merino/ 20% camel fingering yarn with a lovely natural camel-y color.  I love working with tan bases because you just know up front it’s going to be an earthy skein.

I pressed the skein into a thin sheet and used a syringe and my fingers to paint a watercolor across the yarn canvas.

I did end up wrapping and steaming this one, but for these watercolor painted skeins, I should set up a steamer tray that will keep the canvas flat.  In this case, the color mixing worked nicely.  I used some ruby red which made a nice burgundy wine when blended.  By the square inch, this is fairly balanced across the colors, but the turquoise definitely pulls everything together and stands out.

Even accounting for wet/dry color variation, I lost much more of the color than I was expecting.  I was going for Marquez- Hundred Years of Solitude.  Instead, it’s very English garden.   Still, a good first step.  I like the English garden look, so yea for that.  Best of all, I have a much better idea of the colors and saturation required for the Marquez painting.  Now I have to figure out how get it on the yarn!


Peter Kagan and the Wind


In my heart, I’ll call this yarn Peter Kagan & the Wind, but considering that name is already taken, here is North Sea on shetland wool. I find shetland challenging to dye because the damp yarn has a halo  ( aka fuzz ) makes it hard to tell what the final color will look like when dry.   This is about 70% dry and coming up much more nicely than I deserve considering that I was seat of the pantsing things.


These were snow dyed using less snow that I should have.  I added a 1/4 c of water part way through.    The next time I do this, I will pack the snow more firmly or add ice cubes to the snow to get that extra bit of water.

The dyeing technique was very straightforward.  I soaked the yarn for a long while in water with vinegar.  Then I put the yarn in a turkey roasting pan and filled the pan with snow.  I sprinkled green, blue, black and silver dyes lightly over the snow.  I spread the silver evenly, then put blue and green pockets and a few areas of black.  On top, I spread another layer of silver. In all, I used about 1.5 teaspoons of dye split across 6 different colors.  About 40 minutes in, I was running low on moisture in the pan, so I added a 1/4 c. water.  I also sprinkled a bit of water on the bare areas to increase the dye wicking into the drier fiber. For the last 10 minutes of dyeing, I rocked the pan and washed all of the yarn in the blended dyes to do a quick overdye.

I don’t time how long the yarn takes to cook anymore.  I put the oven temperature at 300 degrees, cover the pan with foil and then leave it until my temperature probe hits the desired number.  Once it hits the goal temperature, I drop the temperature to 225-250F depending upon the goal temperature and leave it alone.

I brought this yarn up to 180F with hopes of separating the black.  I probably should have gone up to 200, but I did get the look I wanted.  The black broke into blue and a very dark green in places.

Once I had the yarn up to temperature and the oven reset to 225F, I cooked the yarn for 15- 20 minutes with the internal yarn temp hanging out around 170ish.  Then I did the 10 minute overdye by rocking the pan and adding a bit more water and letting it cook for another 10 minutes.  After that, I poured off the excess dye because I didn’t want the overdye to wash out the snow effect.

I let the yarn rest in the sink.  When it cooled, I rinsed out the excess dye and hung the skeins to dry.

Which lasted for about 10 minutes when I started playing with them, looking at the colors.  Waiting for yarn to dry is the hardest part of dyeing.

Bonus for today: I didn’t spill anything or set anything on fire.  Any dyeing day that doesn’t warrant a call for hazmat clean up is a good one!