Monday, February 27, 2012

Dyeing Yarn with "Real" Dyes

Wilton Immersion Dyed and Hand Painted Yarns
I have been enthusiastically experimenting with dyeing yarn with Kool-aids and Wilton gel colors. These experiments were both unscientific and rebellious because I rarely followed even the most basic "rules" for successful dyeing. How sad I was to discover that the beautiful pinks I was getting with these food-safe dyes are NOT colorfast in sunlight! So, I guess I will have to try real dyes, because the world needs pink, right?

Two days ago a package arrived on our doorstep containing my first set of Greener Shades dye powders. It was a lovely gift from my dear mother, who still wants me to have everything I want! I eagerly purchased or scrounged the few other materials I thought I would need to use these dyes and carved out a 90 minute slot from my ridiculously busy Sunday afternoon to scientifically produce the perfect shade of sock monkey red to use in my sock monkey longies.

Another Wilton Dyed Yarn

I was almost immediately disappointed to find that my kitchen scale does not measure below a 1 gram increment, and is not that accurate at slightly above 1 gram. So what now? How in the world will I get the correct ratio of colors for that perfectly blended sock monkey red? I have already said that I am no scientist, nor a mathematician. I decided to blend a solution of the colors by volume ratios (3 tsp-1 tsp). I immediately realized this would not be accurate because the texture and weight of the dye powders appeared to be different. Also, after dumping this solution into my dye bath, I realized that a 6-2 ratio only equals 80%. Oops! I read the dye "recipe" wrong (as I was reading over my son's shoulder at the computer) and left out a whole color. There was no going back now. So I stirred the pot to see what I would get! Towards the end, while the yarn was wet in the pot, I thought the color might be okay. But as soon as I pulled it out of the exhausted dye bath, I realized that the color was exactly what I didn't want--a sort of bright slightly orangey red, which makes sense since I mixed red and yellow. The family all agreed that it was a lovely color, but most definitely NOT what I wanted.

It was suggested I use the yarn for something else. Inconceivable! Waste $4.20 worth of yarn on maybe finding a use for it? No, I must fix this yarn (or ruin it). So today, after doing the dreaded meal plan and grocery list I commanded myself to do before anything fun, I set out to see what could be done.

I hypothesized that if the dye powders could be mixed at a certain ratio to produce a certain color, maybe the same thing could be done by mixing dye stock solutions at that same ratio. Well, my first roadblock is that I am not willing to mix enough dyestock to dye a pound of wool because I do not want to use that much of my precious dye powders nor do I want to have to store all that dye stock. SO, I calculate, which I am really bad at even WITH a calculator! I calculate 1/4 of all the measurements (given by volume for those without an accurate scale), which by the ml markings on my measuring cups involved a little bit of estimating--so still not very scientific!

I put the same wool back into the pot and follow ALL the instructions this time about temperature.
The question now is...Will the already dyed wool accept any more dye or will it even look any better? My dye bath looks very dark red. We will see...

Even if this red is acceptable to me, I still will not know if this second formula is the perfect sock monkey red I am looking for and will have to do this all over again. In all likelihood, by the time I find my perfect red, I will be sick to death of sock monkeys!

Well, the yarn has absorbed all of the dye stock, and I believe it is significantly darker, although I cannot prove this with a photograph because my limited photography skills and the inconsistent lighting prevent me. I will be content to use this yarn and not torture it with any more experiments.

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