Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dyeing wool yarn

Last weekend we made a trip to Michael's, to get some glitter and food coloring for the kids (they were making snow globes). I figured since I was there I'd pick up a skein of cheap white wool yarn and try dyeing some myself, since I'd read up on it earlier in the week and it seemed pretty simple. I grabbed some Wilton's paste food coloring in forest green, brown, burgundy and teal, and a skein of Patons Classic Wool Merino in winter white.

When we got home, I pulled out some Pyrex dishes - casserole-type things - and preheated the oven to about 225. All my regular pots & pans are hard-anodized aluminum, and I wasn't willing to possibly ruin my expensive cookware on a test ball of yarn (you can't use aluminum because it is "reactive" - and I'm not sure what exactly happens, but I wasn't about to find out). I don't have any stainless still pots, so I figured I'd do it in the glass dishes in the oven instead of on the stove. I transferred the ball of yarn into a hank by wrapping it around the back of two dining room chairs (back to back) and then tied it in four places with some acrylic crap yarn to keep it in one big hank. I soaked the hank in plain hot water for about half an hour, until the yarn was fully soaked, then I drained the water from the sink and kind of pushed/squeezed the excess water out. I put 1/4 cup of white vinegar in each of the three casserole dishes, then filled each one with 4 cups (1 quart) of hot water. Then came the fun part - adding the dye. It's kind of a trial-and-error sort of thing; the more dye you add, the more saturated the color will be. I just scooped some out of the little jar with a wooden chopstick and swirled it around in the water/vinegar until it dissolved completely. I used the green, brown and burgundy for this trial (Rugrat wanted me to use the teal but I figured three colors was PLENTY to start out with). I carefully put the dishes in the oven (not real easy to make all three fit on one shelf, let me tell you!) and draped the damp skein of white yarn in the dishes, with brown on one end, burgundy on the other, and the green in the middle. I checked it often, poking it with chopsticks to make sure it was submerged all the way, and turned it over once to make sure the color saturated the top as well as the bottom of the yarn.

Finally I removed the yarn and let it cool in the sink, dumped out the remaining dye water, and rinsed the yarn. And rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed. The burgundy bled like crazy. When it finally let up some, I took a long, critical look at the skein and decided the colors were too bright and unharmonious, so I ended up re-dyeing the entire skein in brown dye. When I rinsed it out after overdyeing with brown, there was no bleeding, and the colors were much more muted - as I had originally intended. I ended up with a lovely autumn-y variegated skein, with coppery brown, camel, olive green, and cranberry colors. As you can see from the picture above, I'm turning it into My So Called Scarf, and the pattern shows off the color gradations beautifully.

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