Adventures in Dyeing, Part One: Let’s do the Yarn Warp again!

First, what the hell is a warping board?

When you want to make self-striping yarn, you need to dye it in sections. Each section gets dyed a different color. And when it’s knit up, stripes appear. There are a couple of different methods for making the sections. Some people recommend the “really long-ass skein” method - winding a skein that’s 40+ feet in diameter and then dyeing portions of that skein. Alternately, you can wind off lengths of yarn in various sizes for the different sections, making sub-skeins to dye individually. A warping board has sets of pegs around which you wind those sub-skeins.

Scout posted detailed instructions for making her Ghetto Warping Board. It’s a heavy-duty beauty. I’m plenty handy with power tools (my mother was a carpenter when I was growing up), but I wanted something with more flexibility. More options for color sections if I wanted them. Options to make the sub-skeins in different sizes depending on my dyeing goals.

So I was instantly drawn to peg board. No drilling necessary, holes spaced at 1-inch intervals would allow me to create sub-skeins of any size, in any number. Home Depot supplied exactly what I wanted. I found a 2×4 foot piece of silver peg board for $3. Easy enough to move around when I wanted.

Then began the long search for something appropriate to use as pegs. Peg board hardware is intended to work with gravity and weight. And even if I kept the board vertical, I would have problems with wrapping — wrapping up and down would pull up the bottom peg; wrapping horizontally would pull the pegs toward each other. If I wanted to lay it flat, I needed pegs that would jam in the holes, or I needed something to hold pegs in place. I tried a number of options at Home Depot and was disappointed by them all. And the smallest wooden dowel they sold was slightly too large for the peg holes.

Then my husband said the task reminded him of those peg games we’d play as kids. The kinds where you jump golf tees over each other on a grid to eliminate them. Golf tees! At a sporting goods store, I picked up a couple of bags of 2-3/4 inch golf tees. The multi-color bag was $1.50 for 50 pegs. I splurged and also got a bag of purple ones for $4.

Unfortunately, I discovered that the pegs were too thin for the holes, so they’d need a base to rest in. For that, I tried a 2-inch thick, 18-inch square piece of upholstery foam rubber ($5 at JoAnn’s). I laid the peg board over the foam and then jammed the golf tees into the foam so it gripped them. And then I set out 6 pairs of pegs. Each pair was 4 inches apart. And I arranged the pairs to radiate around a center. I chose a different color for each pair of pegs to keep them visually distinct.

Then, I did a bunch of planning and calculation for what I wanted my swatch to look like. Once I figured that out, I wound up a small amount of yarn, enough for 2 full pattern repeats.

How I figured that out and how that translated into what I needed to wind will be the topic of the next couple of posts. Now I want to talk about some of the issues with my warping board and improvements I’ll try in the future.

First, the golf tees are kind of short. I only wound 6 grams of yarn and you can see that it almost fills the tee. Part of the problem is that they had to go far into the foam rubber to hold them. And because foam rubber is flexible, they still wobbled a little bit while winding. So, I might replace the foam rubber with a piece of styrofoam. Or I might look into other options for holding the tees in place. I got “traditional” style golf tees. There were some others that had more of a spool like section at the top, with a thin peg below. They wouldn’t fall all the way through the peg board, but the section available to wrapping might be smaller. I might also look into rubber washers or something else to grip the tees at the base and hold them in place.

Alternatively, I might try to find some thinner wooden dowel, small enough to fit into the holes, but large enough to fit tightly. Home Depot didn’t carry smaller sizes, so I’ll have to venture to a hobby shop.

Another issue was that the inner pegs were placed somewhat close together. This made it a little more difficult to wind them. And it also gave me a little less control when dyeing (I’ll discuss that in a few days). Next time, I’ll move the pairs a little further apart.

And I’ll also keep looking for other options for pegs. Forget seeing phallic symbols everywhere, I’m wondering how it will work as a warping peg!