Time to Mix Things Up A Bit

The other day, I got some generic Kool-aid from the new Aldi's in town called Mixade and naturally, I could not wait to try some out... dyeing with it, that is. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to drink it after what I've seen it do to wool fibers.

I also had a new method of dyeing I wanted to try out, so I decided to mash the two new things together into one little experiment. Horrible methodology, I'm sure, but it's not exactly rocket science, so I wasn't too concerned.

I chose decided to try out three of the four flavors that came in my 12-pack of drink mix: Grape, Cherry, and Tropical Punch. I didn't know at the time that just like its name brand counterpart, Cherry and Tropical Punch are the exact same color.

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For my fiber, I used 4 ounces of my Ashland Bay Portuguese Merino combed top. Previously, all of my top has been hand-painted and wrapped in cling wrap to heat, but I wanted to do a variation on ChemKnit's Spaced Dyed Roving. Instead of using a pot on the stove like she did, I used a 9x13" Pyrex baking dish. It was a tight squeeze getting all of the fiber in there, but I didn't mind since a couple of white spots wouldn't really bother me. I let it soak for a little bit in the pan... but next time I need a little more liquid to start off, I think.

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Like the ChemKnit's video, I used a syringe (my new favorite tool for dyeing) to squirt the dye onto the fiber, focusing primarily on the spaces between each row of fiber. This actually made most of the dye pool at the bottom of the pan (since I only had one layer of fiber), making for some very, very dark spots. Next time I do it like this, I'll try just squirting it on top.

I started with the Cherry, which looked like it was the lightest colors. After my first batch of Cherry (one packet in a 1/2 cup of water), my fiber looked like this.

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Then things went wrong. At least, in my head they did. I thought Tropical Punch was going to be a different shade of red, but it wasn't. I decided to darken it with some of the Grape dye. But I'll admit... the Grape dye absolutely scares me. Which is silly, because I love the muted, dusky purple of the finished yarn... but seeing that murky, dirty dye trying to soak into my pretty fiber is a little frightening. So I chickened out of using most of the Grape dye (Once again, in hindsight, I wish I had added more), I did use a couple squirts here and there, and I mixed it with my Tropical Punch to darken it.

Once all of my dye was applied (or as much as I dare apply given how chicken I was about using some of it), the entire thing went into the microwave for 3 minutes and then sat out to cool for a while. Then I repeated the process.

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I discovered another use for my syringe besides applying the dye. I could stick it down into the dye bath and draw out some water to see if the dye had exhausted without disturbing the fiber. There was still a lot of of dye at the bottom, and when curiosity won out and I (carefully) moved some of the fiber aside... I could see why. There were big, nearly black spots on the very bottom of the fiber where the dye had completely saturated it and could hold no more. And the fiber was so firmly packed into the pan that there was not room for it to get to the top layers.

But I decided that my fiber was a good enough color, so I drained the remaining dye out and set the pan out to cool before I rinsed the fiber.

And what did I get once everything was washed and dried? A really pretty hand-dyed combed top I cannot wait to spin!

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There's a couple things I would definitely do differently next time, but I really like this method of dyeing. Once I get this spun up, I may try again with Easter egg dyes and a broader range of colors.

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