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I Knit Around

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dyeing as a Group Activity

Please note that, although Kool-Aid could have been involved in these activities, the post title does not refer to Jonestown.

Tuesday night, the Craft Goddesses got together for a little yarn dyeing. The plan was to work with either Kool-Aid or Wilton Food Colors - everyone, in fact, opted for the Food Colors, since there was a larger selection of hues available.

I set up my kitchen with a color mixing station that held an electric water kettle (we used hot water to mix the colors), an assortment of coffee mugs, a flask of white vinegar, and appropriate measuring spoons and cups.

Bea Helps Vicki Mix a Color
Bea watches as Vicki mixes one of her chosen colors

I used our two ironing boards, covered with newspaper, to serve as dyeing stations. Long strips of plastic wrap were laid out, 2 or 3 wide, with overlapping edge. This formed both a waterproof base for the dyeing process, as well as the plastic wrapping that the yarns would ultimately be folded up in for the heat-setting in the microwave.

Vicki Painting Her Yarn
Vicki applies her third color

Vicki chose to work in shades of green, brown and yellow on worsted weight yarn. She's hoping for a camouflage effect when this is knitted up. The first green she used (I forget which Wilton color it was - maybe olive) turned out to be one that breaks - we watched with great interest as it separated out a brown color that stayed in the application area, while a soft, jade green spread from there. Since she was going for mottled colors including green and brown anyhow, she didn't mind!

Detail - Vicki Painting Her Yarn
Brightening the colors with Yellow

The brown you see in the close-up above is entirely the result of the olive green breaking down into component colors. Interesting effect, and definitely a reason you might want to test your colors before dyeing that must-get-it-right-the-first-time yarn.

The bright orangey patches are actually a golden yellow mixed with a hint of brown to mute it. After applying greens, Vicki wanted an accent color that would liven up the mix a bit. I think she got what she wanted.

Bea Painting Her Yarn
Bea enhances the purple

Bea dyed laceweight yarn in shades of violet, blue, and green. Her specific goal was to create a colorway she can use with the Peacock Feathers shawl she wants to knit.

We ran into somewhat more problems doing Bea's yarn than Vicki's. First of all, the sheer quantity of yarn (Bea dyed two full 880-yard skeins of laceweight yarn simultaneously) required more dye. Applying the dye to the first side wasn't sufficient - we had to turn over the skeins and work on the other side as well, since the dye hadn't penetrated well.

Then, the volume of yarn and dye clearly required more time in the microwave to heat set, and we didn't give it enough on the first go-round. We watched in dismay as most of the blue washed out of the violet area, leaving a magenta-like shade in its wake. The green and blue areas washed out a bit much as well, with the resulting colors left paler than Bea wanted.

Detail - Bea Painting Her Yarn
Bea applies more blue over a washed-out violet area

Not to worry - Bea was a trooper, and she simply went about mixing a new round of blue and green to overdye the washed-out areas. We were also more careful on subsequent rounds in the microwave to check that all the color in the liquid had exhausted into the yarn before declaring it ready.

The End Results

Everyone had a great deal of fun. Bea and Vicki, who were trying this for the first time, were pleased with how easy it all was. There is talk of having more dyeing sessions in the future.

Oh, yes...here's how their yarns looked in the end:

Vicki's Sunshine Camouflage

Vicki's Sunshine Camouflage

Bea's Peacock Yarn
Bea's Peacock Feathers

Not bad, considering this was only my third time working with yarn dyeing, and Bea and Vicki's first!

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