Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Adventures in Dyeing!

I've spent the last good while coveting and drooling over handdyed yarns. Gorgeous colorways and combinations of color that make me go oooooh....anyone who knits or crochets has been there. But they're always sooo expensive! Sure, they're worth it, but we can't all shell out that kind of money. I definitely can't.
After running across the fact somewhere that people dye with Kool-Aid, I decided to work up the courage to try it myself. That time's finally come.

Before I was ready to attempt it myself, I've spent a good amount of time gathering resources. It's helpful to know what direction to go in before you try it out. Some really handy tutorials are over at Knitty KnitPicks and a pretty useful tutorial over at A Beautiful Life

I read and reread these articles, and others, and visited some groups on Ravelry, just trying to soak up the details of how to do it. When I started earlier, I discovered very quickly that this isn't like knitting, there's no pattern. There's just what to do and what not to do, and then you, your yarn, and the colors you choose. Everything else just happens as you go along.

I decided to approach it in small doses by test dyeing only a little at a time. My method would be microwave dyeing. My first attempt was overdyeing (dyeing a yarn that is already colored) some Patons Classic Wool Merino, a bit over 2 yards. Mine was a light blue when it started out.

I soaked it a bit then tried the hand-painted approach, I put it out on a grocery bag and dabbed it with bits of grape, lemon lime, and black cherry. Now, I learned the hard way that you want this yarn to be fairly damp when you do this, and when you go to microwave it, for the love of God don't add it to water! (which I might or might not have actually done...)

The result was (okay, so I did that, duh..) that the colors ended up seeping out into the water, and swirling around a bit as the yarn soaked up the dye, so I got a bit of a heathered look. I like it, but it wasn't at all what I wanted.

At this point, my water wasn't clear. It actually wasn't anywhere close to clear. I wondered what would happen if I took my second yarn (Condon's Wool in a very light tan color) and just added it to the purple-ish water. I took a little bit (7 yards) and just plopped it in there, and put it back in the microwave for a few minutes. The color instantly took to this yarn (this is obviously the winner yarn here). I had a solid very light purple red yarn. What would happen if I handpainted some green on it?

I made sure the yarn was very damp, and very gently added small amounts of green to it in sections around the loop. then i spooned a bit more water on it to help dampen it, and put it back in the microwave (without water added, obviously!)

This was that result:

By testing, I learned that it works best for me to get a solid color then try to add others to it, but would that work for a lot more yarn? This third dye is about an ounce, I think. It came as an addition to my 4 oz skein of Condon's. (I'll measure it for sure when it's dry and ready to ball up, so we'll know for sure then)

First I soaked it for about 20 minutes in just warm water, to allow it to get really damp. Be careful not to use too hot water, or to agitate it in hot water, as you'll felt your yarn.

Then i removed the yarn from the water, mixed in some black cherry koolaid (about a tsp) and added the yarn again. The websites all say that it doesn't matter how much water you add, as it doesn't dilute the dye any, it's all about the amount of powder to the amount of yarn. I've been using small amounts because I'm dyeing small amounts, most sites recommend a packet of koolaid per ounce of yarn.

I put my yarn back in the microwave for 2 minutes, then let it sit in the microwave for about 5 minutes, and then repeated the process again. The next time, I took some grape, about half a tsp, and added it only to the part of the water in the middle and mixed it a bit, hoping to get a darker turnout in the middle.  This is the time where I added the grape.

Overall I repeated the microwave process about 4 times (over the commercial breaks of LOST) until the water was clear. All the tutorials say that the water will be clear, and boy was I shocked to see that it was actually clear!

This is the end result:

From what I can tell, the grape didn't really take in the middle, it probably just blended in with the overall coloration.

Now, because I can't be ultimately happy with one gorgeous solid color, I had to take it further. While soaking the yarn in some water, I took two coffee cups and mixed some dye in them, one grape, the other lemonlime.

From my second testing, I remembered the black cherry taking the lemon lime well. So I decided to see how well it'd take it. I put about half a tsp of dye in each cup, and making sure the yarn that wasn't in a cup was really damp, put it back in the microwave for 2 minutes.

After two trips through, I brought it out and covered it with the pyrex dish (that the cups are sitting in) and let the yarn steep a bit. After about 10 minutes, it had soaked up all the green dye (with little result) and was working on the purple dye. I added the rest of my green koolaid (about another half tsp) and put it back in the cup and put the pyrex dish back on top. About 10 minutes later, the water in both cups was almost clear, and I had this:

The green isn't entirely saturated all the way through, but it's a nice representation. The darker end is a bit of a light purple. I'm quite pleased with the end results, and can't wait to try some more!!!

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