Thursday, December 4, 2008

First Yarn Dyeing Experiment! + Lessons Learned

Before I dye my handspun, I decided to try dyeing some yarn I bought a while ago (on sale too!) with Kool-Aid-type stuff. So at the store, there were two brands of drink mix: Kool-Aid and Cool Splashers. The Cool Splashers were 50% cheaper (read: 10 cents less) than the Kool-Aid and contained more ounces of powder per packet, so, being the cheapskate I am (usually), I bought the Cool Splashers ;)

The yarn I used was one ball of white Novita Florica sport weight wool (50 g, 1.75 oz). It was also superwash, which I think is a good idea if you're dyeing yarn for the first time. You can stir and disturb the yarn all you want and don't have to worry about felting :) (Which is probably why sock yarn is so popular to dye!)

The first thing I did was to re-skein the yarn into a super long loop. Here it is twisted into a long hank:

(With winter coming, my bathroom was the only one with enough light to give a good picture... which is weird because it's on the north side of the house.)

Then I soaked the yarn in 1/2 cup of vinegar and enough water to submerge it all. Fiber floats, so I weighed it down with some ladles. I'm not sure if that's really necessary because of capillary action, but I did it anyway.

Most people say to soak it for at least a half hour. I let mine sit for an hour and a half. Meanwhile, I prepared the dyes. The general rule of thumb is 1 packet per ounce of yarn, but I wanted super-bright colors, so I emptied 2 packets of strawberry, orange, and lemonade into three separate glasses and added 1 cup of the same liquid in which the yarn was soaking plus 1 extra tablespoon of vinegar. Pretty colors!

(Pom Tea is awesome!)

I then divided my yarn loop into three, roughly equal sections and submerged them into the glasses.

Then, I filled the pot with water and put it on the stove:

Unforunately, the glass with the orange drink mix cracked and orange dye leaked into the pot.

After leaving it like that for about 10 min to let the yarn soak up the dye a little more, I took it all out. The yellow dye was pretty much exhausted (not much could be done about the orange...), but the red wasn't quite done.

So I decided to finish it all with the microwave. Here they are after microwaving on high for 2 min x 2.

You can see that the color has pretty much gone out of the liquid, leaving it cloudy or clear. The water was still hot, so I let it cool in the glasses/plate for the better part of a day. I then took it out, rinsed it with cold/room temp water. No color leaked out. It was pretty cool! I let it hang to dry, with the red hanging at the bottom, just in case.

Later, I decided that the yellow section was not strong enough, so I re-dyed that section. I microwaved 2 cups of water + 1/4 cup of vinegar for 2 min and mixed in one packet of lemonade drink mix, submerged the yellow section of yarn, and let it sit for about a half hour. By that time, the dye was exhausted. (Additional internet surfing revealed that drink mix is one of the easiest things to dye yarn with and you may not even need vinegar or very much heat at all... unless you're impatient I guess.) I let the water cool a little and then washed the yarn in warm water, which turned out to be a mistake because a little of the red/orange bled into the yellow section. It's not really that noticeable in an individual strand though. Here it is after it dried (sorry for the yellow-ness of the picture again):

And... (drumroll please...) here it is re-skeined into a smaller hank:

I've realized that there's really no reason to re-skein like this if you're going to knit from it because you're just going to have to re-wind it into a ball. However, I think the idea is to see all the different colors next to each other. And I have to agree with Presents Knits: yarn really is prettiest in the hank :) I liked these colors so much I made it into my blog header, yay! (PS - image edited with Picnik, a genius online image-editing website, which is, of course, free!)

And finally, lessons I learned:
  1. Don't use cheap wooden chopsticks to mix the dye. It absorbs some of the dye and the splinters (because they're cheap) get caught in the yarn. Use plastic utensils instead. I switched to disposable spoons halfway through.
  2. Using the microwave is a lot easier than using the stove. Especially if you're cooking-impaired like me :) And if you are going to use the stove, get a big enough pot so the water comes close to the level of the dye in the glass/jar.
  3. Don't use cheap glasses. They crack.
  4. For Cool Splashers drink mix, 1-2 packets of strawberry is probably enough for an ounce of yarn. Use 2-3 packets of orange and 4 or more of lemonade to get saturated color. Or maybe try Kool-Aid for the yellow.
  5. Until you know that the color won't bleed (especially in warm/hot water), rinse each section of color separately.
Here are some sites that helped me get started:


Delighted Hands said...

There is no going back now!
Beautiful results!

Crazy Lady with purple fingers said...

Great Job, I love the colors, I had a few disasters with jars breaking until I used canning jars which are made to be in hot water, looking forward to seeing your other dying experience's, once the bug bites there is no going back!!

aimeewrites said...

Absolutely gorgeous - congrats!!

lhutch said...

That is absolutely gorgeous!. I have only begun to learn and have not yet actually tried this yarn dyeing. Your lessons learned will be a big help to me. Thanks.

--TECHknitter said...

Nice job of dyeing. You've certainly jumped into knitty world with both feet! Impressive.