Thursday, November 17, 2005

an answer for you (for the price of a question.....)

I realized last night that the well thought out section on how the undyed yarn was chosen for being extremely madeover (a passage that involved a letter, interviews with the friends and lots of desperation) was left out of the post. Oops. Posting pictures (the way that I have been) is an exercise in patience and sometimes it publishes itself before I'm done.

Many asked about which dyes were used for the last batch; the answer is dyes from prochem. (I have two sets of kits (for cotton/wool) that were reasonably priced; my only gripe is the relatively expensive shipping but it was sent out fast.) I experimented with drink mixes last winter and as much as I liked how good and fruity my kitchen smelled, the colors were too pastel-ly and they seemed to fade as I used objects knitted from them. The dye day at Julia's this summer was just what I need to see that using chemicals isn't that complicated, and the colors are far superior to grocery store buys.

The process I use is a combination of what I saw that day and the result of a few emails with Claudia. It's really rather simple and pretty failproof, as long as I keep an open mind!

Step one: acquire "blank" yarn. It doesn't have to be white! I've enjoyed knitpicks free shipping on the "color your own" line more then once... Figure out how much you want to dye and then fill the kitchen sink with water and a splosh of vinegar. Drop the yarn in and make sure it's completely underwater (or at least all wet). I've found that up to three hanks of yarn is a good fit in one side of the sink.

at the same time, or after the yarn is all set, put together the crockpot (used from a second hand store or one that won't be used for food again) with a vegetable steamer (ditto). The plastic wrapped yarn rolls will eventually "steam" in this and it's not a good idea for th e yarn to come in contact with the water. (I solved this problem by elevating my steamer with an old ceramic mug. I like to use an inch or two of water so that I get a good bit of steam.) Turn in on high and let it sit. (It's a good idea to put the crockpot near where the yarn coloring is going on; trying to transfer yarn across the kitchen when it's dripping with dye isn't a good idea - trust me on this one.)

Step two: while the yarn is soaking, get the dyes together. It's important to note that any coloring agent is non-discriminatory: I wear clothes that I don't care about and limit my work area to a small section of the kitchen counter so if I notice a spill I can clean it up asap. The dyes from prochem include directions but I don't always follow them. Empty water bottles (think 20 oz'ish with spout lids (or not - I don't have them and it works out okay) are what I use to mix up the colors. I wish I had a scale to precisely measure out the powders, but that isn't practical for me right now so I simply sprinkle the powder into the bottles. I've thought about dedicating small measuring spoons to my coloring process, but haven't gotten around to picking up a set yet. (I do this part of the process with warm-ish water. Add water to the bottles and then mix in the powder - and remember that (with chemical dyes) a little goes a long way!) The bottles are good for storing the colors if they aren't all used up. (I either do this in the other sink or I switch this step with the next one so I can set up the colors on the plastic wrap. This is more fun then setting plastic though, so I usually do it first!)

Step three: Lay out sheets of plastic wrap. There are many variations on this, but this works best for me. I start out by overlapping to long "strips" of plastic wrap and then add a third over the seam that has been created. I am living in a house that is considered "student housing" and so I'm a bit paranoid about dripping onto the countertops. My initial biggest mistake was not making the strips long enough; look at how long the hanks are and then go bigger. Plastic wrap that doesn't wrap all the way around the yarn is nothing but a BIG mess. Get together as many long "sheets" as you'll need and set them aside; once the dyeing starts it's hard to stop and arrange plastic wrap!

Step four: Rescue the yarn from the sink, one hank at a time. (ideally it's been in there for 20-30 minutes) Gently squeeze it to get most of the water out of it - I've no advice on how to do this, or how much water to get out of it. I leave it so that it's damp, but not dripping. Place the hank out on the plastic wrap and add the colors. I have done it a few different ways - and haven't been disappointed because I've kept an open mind. The colors will spread out and eek into the other colors if they aren't totally soaked into the yarn. To try and avoid this I add one color at a time, slowly, and in between colors I pseudo-wrap the yarn up to try and mush the color into all of the yarn. (I worried about the middle sections of the yarn not getting enough color - mushing helps with this.)

Add color as you want! I started out with two colors in various patterns and intentially blended some. The yarn directly laying on the plastic wrap will be the most mottled because that's where the extra yarn will settle.

Step five: when you're set with adding dyes, wrap up the yarn. I wrap the ends in first, then roll it up, as best I can. (too little plastic wrap makes this hard!) If it's dripping (at this point) I hold it over the sink and gently squeeze while letting the water run to dilute the colors. I can't afford to color the sink! (it hasn't been a problem but I don't trust it to sit and then come off without a fight.) Then it's into the steamer - I liked to spread it out a bit, but keep it wrapped upon itself. I do the dark colors first, then set the lighter dyed colors on top so that if it drips or bleeds it won't discolor the bottom roll.

Step six: repeat the process for as many hanks as you've soaked, adding them to the "sauna" as they are finished. My crockpot and vegetable steamer comfortably holds three rolls - the same as the sink.

Step seven: the hardest part - wait. The yarn needs to steam and get good and hot to set the dye, so I let it be for an hour or two. Then I turn it off and take the lid off to start the cooling down process. It's wool, and one of my fears is felting it - so I don't rush this part! After it's cool to touch (it will be HOT! when the crockpot is turned off - if it's not, then it's not done yet) I pull it out and let it sit in the sink for another stretch of time so I'm sure it's room temperature. Then I run the water so that it's lukewarm (in the other sink) and run it over the yarn rolls. The plastic wrap is sometimes mangled and fussy - just get the yarn out and throw the plastic away. Rinse out the yarn - the water should run clear - then hang them up somewhere to dry. Step back and admire often. Once it's dry it can be reskiened/balled and used!

I hope that makes sense - on a students budget, after the intial investment, it's cheaper and more satisfying to dye my own sock yarn then it is to buy it. I've been somewhat intially disappointed in how it knits up, but a pattern change or a needle size change has often made all the difference in pooling!

Now, a question for you:

What are your thoughts on white coats and doctors/med students? Do you think doctors should wear them, do you expect doctors to wear them and do you even think about it? Please share your thoughts on this matter - I'll hold back sharing my opinions and most recent ramblings until I know what people think and/or where you're coming from.


Blogger Maria said...

Shockingly, I don't think I have an opinion about the white coats. My doctor wears them, my daughter's pediatrician doesn't, and until you brought it up, I never thought about either one. As a patient, it's not as if you're ever in a position to be confused about who's a doctor and who's not; it's not like you're roaming the halls looking for a dr. to ask about your appendix or something. You're stuck in a little room, escorted everywhere by nurses or other attendants, and waiting for the Big Enchilada to knock on the door and come see your nakedness.

I guess I do have an opinion about THAT whole setup, but not about the white coats.

And I have an opinion about your dying tutorial – GREAT! I can't wait to try it someday, when I don't live with a 2 year old.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Very useful post. Thank you!

White coats. I don't mind, whenever I have had to be in hospital the presence of a white coat or not is the least of my worries. I am more interested in the friendlinesss/communication skills and manners of drs and nurses (when I was hospitalised for an undiagnosed physical collapse - probably viral related - around 14 years ago, I remember the nurses were so impatient and rude because I had no diagnosis. They treated me as if I was a bed hogger and liar... I don't remember their uniform, but I do remember their lack of feeling)

5:01 AM  
Anonymous mia said...

Hmmmm...the white coat. Well, I'm doing outpatient pediatrics right now, and I wear one (the attendings or "real doctors" do not). Sometimes I think parents don't hear the whole "I'm the med student" and think that because I've got the coat that I'm the doctor. That makes me feel a bit like an impostor. From an infectious disease point of view, I think they are a bad, bad idea. During Surgery, I would routinely bleach mine and wash it on the hot cycle to try to sterilize away some of the germs that I know are on it...But, those many pockets are valuable. I think that when I'm practicing in an office setting, I will not wear one, but may occasionally during hospital times.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

haha! What Maria said about the white coats. :)

As for the dyeing...great instructions! But you left out the (very important) part about wearing a dust mask while mixing up the colors (I know it's not attractive but it's necessary), and rubber gloves throughout. These dyes *do* give better results than KoolAid, but they *are* chemicals you don't want to be breathing.
Also, when wrapping, I like to fold one end, then roll up so any extra dye can easily come out the unfolded side.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great dying explanations!

re white coats - I don't care. I do enjoy unique scrubs, and evidence of real-personhood underneath whatever uniform they're wearing (personal clothes or jewelry). But it's not something I think much about.

7:13 AM  
Blogger sparkydoom said...

I like the white coat thing. It serves as a means to distinguish between people in a hospital setting.

And I don't knit lol..well i used too, but it wasn't the greatest knitting job on the planet..nor was it anything fancy..just a scarf.. but I crochet.. something i just started recently!

7:15 AM  
Anonymous katie said...

I'm in favor of the white coats, or scrubs, or some sort of costume for medical staff. Yes, it sets them apart a bit, but for doctors, that's a good thing. Doctors and nurses are going to ask me questions that I wouldn't answer from anyone else, they're going to be poking at me, they're going to not only see me naked but study me naked. The costume is an outward sign that those things are okay, that we're both playing our roles.

Right now, for the first time ever, my doctor is younger than me. And as many times as I have been disrespected because of my age, I still find myself a little uncomfortable with a doctor so young. Her white coat helps me feel like she actually knows what's going on. Silly, yes. And in my head I know that it isn't her coat that qualifies her. But it is a symbol that helps me remember and feel comfortable.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Lorette said...

Very useful tutorial!

Re: the white coats. I wear one, mostly for the pockets, but also to identify myself to patients. In a hospital setting, where I work, there are so many people waltzing in and out of patients' rooms that it's helpful to have some sort of "dress code" so they know who we are. If I was in an office practice, I wouldn't wear it. I would have less need to carry everything I use all day in my pockets, and presumably the patients would know who they came to see.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

As someone who would be a patient, I think it's very scene specific.

If I were visited by a surgeon, a white lab coat would probably help me relax because of the ingrained belief that white=doctor. In a surgery situation, nerves run high enough. But if when I am visiting a doctor's office, I like a litttle less formality, especially if I had kids and was going to a pediatrician. I think if I were going to go to get other types of care at a hospital, a coat that wasn't white wouldn't weird me out at all.

by the way- nice dyeing tutorial.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Carole said...

I like the white coat. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned but I think it's part of the recognition. Thanks for the dyeing lesson. I've bookmarked this post so I can come back to it when I'm ready. I just got a bunch of dyes from PRO and they are actually only 1/2 hour from where I live. And I bought 4 pounds of white roving so I'm ready!

3:18 PM  
Blogger Carina said...

I have mixed feelings on white coats.

I remember fondly my hubby's white coat ceremony when he started med school, and that was very cool.

I don't remember as fondly being in charge of washing his lab coat in residency. He'd never think of it, and I'd pounce on it whenever he left it at home. Ick--that thing was disgusting!

Now that he's an attending and the practice has them professionally cleaned, I think they're good things most of the time. David looks young, so he's often mistaken as someone else and not the doctor. Having the coat helps him with that. He's also found that most of his patients feel more comfortable when he wears it (he did an experiment last year and went a day without it and then a day with it--big difference in how he was treated by patients and how comfortable they were, favoring the coat, which suprised him).

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

Tradition and habit are strong human traits. White coats are therefore not going to go away. They are considered unsterile in my environment, so I'm not saddled with one. When I'm in preop clinic, you can't tell doctors from nurses...everyone wears the white coat. Name tags in our institution are the currency.

6:23 AM  
Anonymous melanie said...

I like the white coats. I find them comforting. My primary care physician doesn't wear one and all I can think of when I'm with him is he looks like a lumberjack. A smart lumberjack, but there you go.

BTW - I am really liking your OB comments, keep them coming!! Let us know if you see any twins.

1:19 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

My little girl is all grown up.


Nice dyeing summary! You need more colors. Luckily the holidays are coming, so give the relations the ProChem website.

11:00 PM  

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