Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Live And Let Dye

My Mission: to whip up a batch of yarn for knitting Doug a pair of worsted weight socks.

I need a manly yarn, and I have one clue: he liked that Araucania Atacama in the Earth and Sky colourway. I could knit him a pair with leftovers, but it is 100% alpaca. Not the best choice for socks.

I'm going to take you through this step by step to show you how durn easy it is. First: soak your yarn in a bowl of lukewarm water and vinegar. You only need enough water to cover your yarn. You need 1/4 cup vinegar for each cup of water. I just pour in a big glug. Make sure your yarn is wound into a skein and tied in three or four places. Let 'er soak for half an hour or longer.

For this batch, I am using a whole lotta little leftover balls of Patons Classic Merino worsted in faded denim colour (I've already spit-spliced the little suckers). Hey, it's already blue; I'm halfway there.

Next: we use the Easter-Egg method to make that plain light blue yarn more interesting. I mixed a scoop (about 1/2 tsp) of Kelly Green Wiltons into about a cup of warm water, and dip. That's it. One dip. I dipped about five inches of one end and squeezed some back out. I dipped again in another spot. I did not dip the whole skein.

I dumped out the Kelly Green and mixed up a solution of Sky Blue and dipped some more. I dipped a few new places, and I dipped over a few green-dipped places. Then I did the same thing with a solution of Cornflower Blue. Then one more time with a mix of Cornflower and Sky. You can hold the skein up and squeeze colour down to bleed into other colours. You can avoid dipping some parts of the skein to keep them the base colour.

When I was done Easter-Egging, I laid my skein out on a whole lotta plastic wrap. It is very nicely coloured at this point, and I could cook it now and have a gentle colourway in shades of blue/greeny-blue/hints of lilac. But I am not done. I'm going to get dangerous with it. Remember: this is supposed to be a MANLY colour.

The dangerous part: I just spotch on colour directly out of the little Wiltons containers. Here I used Kelly Green, Moss Green, and Brown. I used that palette knife, and that paintbrush. Sometimes I put a big dob of Wiltons on a styrofoam plate and make a paste with a small bit of water and paint it over the yarn. Not everywhere, just here and there. I lift up yarn and get it into the other layers. I turn the yarn over. I squeeze and massage very gently with my GLOVED hands.

Okay, now this is the truly dangerous part, 'cuz you think you've wrecked it. It looks like you've wrecked it. And quite possibly you have wrecked it. It's a good idea to practice this part on yarn you don't care about wasting until you get the hang. Or just go for it. Just don't blame me if you wreck your Debbie Bliss Cashmerino.

You can be less dangerous with this part by using safer colours. Purple would be safe here. Blues would be safe. Watch out for greens and reds together (they turn into browns).

When you're done painting, wrap the thing up in all that plastic. You can use plastic wrap to protect parts from touching if you need to. Then put the sausage into a microwave safe dish and cook on high for 2 min; open door to cool for 2 min; cook on high for two min. and then dump the roll somewhere it can cool off.

When it's cool enough to handle, remove the plastic and let it have a nice bath in lukewarm water. You might need a few fresh sinks of water until no more colour comes out. Don't run the water directly on the yarn, and don't change temps. Warm/lukewarm is good. Cold is not. It will seize up.

Gently squeeze out the excess water and hang up to dry. I like to roll my skein up in an old towel and step on it to get out a lot of the extra water.

My newly dyed skein (on the right) is still wet, so it will be lighter than this when dry, but see it next to the Atacama skein (on the left). Remember my mission was to get something similar and yet okay for a guy to wear. Granted my guy is more adventurous than some. My colours came out in darker green/blues than the lighter blue Atacama.

This is what the skein looks like when it is dyed, cooked, and rinsed. This one is still damp. I could hang it up to dry now and be done with it until it is all dry, but there is one more thing I like to do with it. I like to gently unravel it into a loose pile and then wind it back up into a skein again. Two things happen when I do that. It allows me to make sure that no strands have become felted together (it happens), and it changes the way the skein looks, makes it look even prettier. It doesn't change the dye at all (that part is already permanent). It just changes the appearance of the skein.


Becomes this:

Manly yes, but I like it too.


CatBookMom said...

GORGEOUS!! You know I love the colors, and I'm sure that DH will love the socks.

Suzann said...

How beautiful Jayne! I saw you were thinking of using Knitpicks dye your own sock yarn. Don't know if you have used it before, but it is a very very limp yarn. I think it would make a great shawl or baby things, but it drives me nuts as a sock yarn. When you tighten up the stitches it just stretches out.
And this is the one with nylon. This is also true of their Donagal yarn, the one with the flecks of color. Oh I have seen the Donagal on Etsy handdyed for 22.00 a skein.
Have you tried dyeing with Easter Egg dye? It is a lot of fun also. Last year after Easter I got a bunch of it for 10 for a buck at our dollar store.

Marta said...

Gorgeous again! And thanks for the great tutorial!


Joan said...

Beautiful work, Jayne. You could easily start yourself a little cottage industry. I'd love the socks myself in your colors.

Madge said...

You're a dying maestro! DH is gonna get a great pair of socks out of this.

Lisa W. said...

way cool! thanks for the great instructions on how to get those blotchy places and yet make it come out looking like great yarn with that intent!

word verify: owl kgb

hahahaha glad I'm not paranoid.

Kim said...

Oh boy! Now I have to go get some Wilton's! The yarn looks FAB - U - LUS! I'm assuming you use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar? I have a bunch of half skeins of HW left from projects and I think I could splice them all together and get enough for a project.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE that yarn! You did a wonderful job on the photo essay. This is a keeper, which I will return to when I decide to delve into the Land of Dye.