When last heard from, my first handspun sock yarn looked like this. It was a pretty color, but just a bit sober and practical. It looked nice with jeans. I think our Puritan forefathers would have approved.
I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. I was pleased with how well the spinning had come out, and I liked the fiber, a blend of Blue-Faced Leicester and mohair. Somehow, though, I couldn't get excited about knitting it into a pair of socks. Maybe a pair of denim-colored socks just seemed too much like something I'd go to the store to buy because I needed them. Ho-hum. Oh, excuse me, I nearly dropped off to sleep there for a second. :)
I thought a first pair of handspun socks ought to be more fun than that. I started toying with the idea of overdyeing the yarn. Overdyeing can produce nice results, depending on how the old and new colors work out together. Of course, there's a risk of coming up with something muddy-looking instead. But I happened to have several packets of Kool-Aid drink mix on hand in Black Cherry, a flavor I hadn't tried dyeing anything with before. (Let's be honest; I certainly didn't buy it with any real intention of drinking pitcher after pitcher of Black Cherry Kool-Aid this summer.) I was feeling adventurous, and I decided to give it a go. I resolved to love the result no matter what it looked like.
I consulted my latest favorite book on the subject, Teach Yourself Visually: Hand-Dyeing, by Barbara Parry, the colorist behind Foxfire Fiber. (Wonderful book.) I made a simmering potion with four packets of Kool-Aid and the nice blue yarn and hoped for the best.
And it worked like a charm. It came out like this, not muddy at all, but a deep purplish cranberry color.
In fact, everything went much better than in my earlier experiment a while back dyeing unspun fiber with Kool-Aid. That first time, the loose locks of wool didn't want to take up the dye and were still shedding color in the rinse-water afterward. I concluded eventually that the mostly-unprocessed wool still had a lot of lanolin in it that interfered with the bonding of the dye. This time, by contrast, the wool seemed to vacuum up intense color as soon as the water hit the right temperature. It made me feel like a pro.
The new color has agreeable variations that you can sort of see here. In the original blue color, I had noticed that it looked like only the wool had been dyed, while the blended-in mohair fibers had been left a natural off-white. I think that's what gives the new color its depth. It's a truer dark cherry red where the Kool-Aid dyed the natural-colored fiber and a purply cranberry where it struck the blue.
I find it ravishing. All of a sudden, the thought of knitting this yarn into socks seems a lot more interesting to me.
I'm just not so sure how well it's going to go with jeans. :)