I may still have New Years and new goals and new things to try out on my mind, but of course I'm not going to forget the things that I learned last year. Hand-dyeing yarn was, while not officially on my list of goals and challenges for 2013, one of the things I taught myself how to do last year.
Every so often I would blog about my latest hand-dyed yarn with notes on how I made it. I love doing and documenting these experiments and I'm hoping to continue that in 2014 as a sort of ongoing "series", which I'm considering calling Monster's Dye Pot (Any better ideas are completely welcome!). Nothing will change too much besides getting an official title.
But without further ado, here's my latest yarn-dyeing experiment!
Standard Disclaimer: Plenty of text and photos of pretty yarn ahead!
Method and Preparation
As I mentioned before, I love dyeing yarn and I love experimenting with different ways to dye the yarn. Partially because I love trying out the different technique, and partially because I was never 100% satisfied with the way I dyed the previous batch of yarn. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled with the yarns and colors I’ve made so far, but they always seemed lack that depth that drew me to hand-dyeing in the first place.
But I think I finally found what I’ve been looking for. Really, it’s nothing too fancy. I suppose you could call it space-dyeing, where colors are strategically added to the dye bath in a way that different stay in the area the dye was applied to, but have the potential to mix and mingle with the other colors. It produces a multi-colored yarn that is a lot less predictable than hand-painting.
Here are just a few notes on how I dyed the yarn:
- The dye bath itself was just enough water to completely cover the yarn (Too much water and the dye spreads all over the place instead of staying put).
- To achieve a more haphazard effect, I arranged the yarn randomly when I added it to the dye bath.
- Before adding the dye, I heated the dyebath to 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the microwave. Usually, I apply the dye before I heat the yarn, but for this technique, I wanted as little movement in the water as possible, as it could also cause the colors to mix unpredictably.
- To apply the dye, I used my super-handy syringe. It’s so easy to simply squirt the dye where I want it in a somewhat controlled manner.
- After the dye was applied, I let it sit for a couple of minutes to give the dye a chance to absorb before I reheated it in the microwave. If needed, I added a splash of vinegar before (carefully) moving it to the microwave.
And a few more notes about my yarn and dyes:
- I used Lion Brand Sock-Ease in Ivory for my base. It is a 100% Superwash wool yarn, meaning that it has been treated so it will not felt... it also has this funny quirk of slurping up dyes very quickly.
- Instead of an entire skein of yarn, I dyed six 5g mini-skeins and 2 10g mini-skeins.
- For my dyes, I used my new set of Wilton’s Icing Colors.
- My dye solution, since mini-skeins don't need a lot of dye, was 1 TBSP of water mixed with approximately 2 toothpick’s worth of dye dissolved in it (A toothpick, in case you were wondering, is a very accurate and scientific measurement… it’s the amount of gel that coats the toothpick when you poke one end all the way down into the jar)
- I presoaked most of my mini-skeins in water and vinegar for few hours. Some of Wilton's dyes (Violet, Black and Royal Blue, for example) contain Red 3, which reacts to vinegar and causes the colors to separate and break. For mini-skeins I used dyes containing Red 3, I presoaked in water only.
I've done my best to condense my notes (one of my goals for this year). Regardless, I've blabbered long enough; time to get to the yarn!
Mini-Skein #1 (5g)
Colors used: Copper, Brown, Red/Brown (Mixed)
This was my test skein for the method I was using. After all, if you mix brown with brown you wind up with brown, right? I had a lot of fun playing with the browns since, using mostly Kool-aid and Easter Eggs colors in the past, I haven’t had the chance to work with brown yet.
There wasn’t as much variation between the browns as I was hoping for, but I like how it came out.
Mini-Skein #2 (5g)
Colors Used: Kelly Green, Teal, Royal Blue
Also a “safe” one for a second try. Royal Blue contains Red 3 and it broke when I used it last time, so I didn’t add vinegar right away… so it was also a test to see how much adding the vinegar would disturb the dye bath (It didn't really). It still broke a little bit, but I love all the different hues play together… sort of like the feathers of an exotic bird.
Mini-Skein #3 (5g)
Colors Used: Lemon Yellow and Golden Yellow
My 12-set of Wilton’s came with two different shades of yellow and I was a bit curious as to how different they would come out.
Predictably, Golden Yellow is more orange, while Lemon is straight yellow (I’m guessing one is Yellow 5 and the other is Yellow 6). Together, they make a really happy, sunshine-y sort of yarn.
Mini-Skein #4 (10g)
Colors Used: Teal, Copper/Lemon Yellow (Mixed) and Pink.
I thought it might be fun to try doing a split-complimentary color combination, with some white spots left in for a little extra “pop”… and my goodness, did it pop! This has to be one of my favorite yarns I’ve ever dyed. The moment I pulled it out of the dye bath and got a good look at it, I decided my experiment was an absolute success.
Colors Used: BLACK
And now for a quick break from our regularly scheduled programming… I needed some black yarn for what I'm planning to make with my mini-skeins. What a good excuse to try out Wilton’s Black dye, right? I didn’t do anything fancy here with the technique, just plopped the skein into a black dye bath.
The trick with black: Use a concentrated mixture, don’t add vinegar until much later in the process, and let it sit and soak in the dye bath for a long time. I started dyeing this skein in the morning, headed out to town to run some errands, then came back and dyed four more skeins before I finished it, all the while reheating and slowing increasing the vinegar.
Unfortunately, I think I used too much dye… most of the blue dye washed out—not for lack of trying, but because all of the red dye (excess included) absorbed into the yarn, leaving it completely saturated with no way for the blue to bond with it anymore.
Mini-Skein #6 (5g)
Colors Used: Violet, Royal Blue, and Lemon Yellow
This one was a bit of a risk. I was hoping for distinct areas of each color, but then the blue dye started to spread and encroach upon the yellow. It made for a very lovely green, so I can’t be too disappointed I didn’t get what I was hoping for. Except… Skein #3 (Sunshine Yellow) was meant to co-ordinate with it, whoops! I’ll make it work somehow...
Mini-Skein #7 (5g)
Colors Used: Violet, Burgundy, and No-Taste Red
I find myself drawn towards greens and blues when I’m picking colors to dye with and with these mini-skeins in particular, I noticed I was using yellow quite a bit. As a result, I decided to mix things up a bit and use the complete opposite: a variety of purple and pink tones.
As you can see (Not the greatest photo, I'll confess), lots of white spots and slow-absorbing blue made for a lot of bluer spots, but I love it.
Mini-Skein #8 (10g)
Colors Used: Pink, Lemon Yellow, Kelly Green, Royal Blue
For my last skein, I wanted to attempt a bright, random, mottled rainbow. In hindsight, I should have had the colors overlap a little more as I didn’t get as many “secondary” colors from where the four dyes mixed. It also came out a little more pastel than I would have liked, but didn’t it turn out pretty?
What I am planning on doing with all my mini-skeins? I'm going to be making some mini-critters from Rebecca Danger's new book 50 Yards of Fun. I have only ever made shawls using sock weight yarn, so the jump from size 6 needles to size 0 will be interesting, but I'm really excited to try it out.
I hope you all enjoyed seeing what I managed to cook up this time (and possibly feel inspired to try it yourself?). I am very, very happy with how my mini-skeins skein turned out. I will definitely be using this technique in the future... I have a few blank skeins ready and waiting for future experiments and I'm also really curious to see how it works with unspun fiber. There are so many possibilities!