Friday, November 29, 2013

Fix it Friday: Foray into Dyeing

So you know I buy sweaters in order to harvest the yarn they're made of. And often they're not exactly the colour you want. Or the colour was fine, but it was popular a decade ago and just isn't anymore. I've been intrigued by dyeing with Koolaid for quite a while and hear all about it from the Unravelers group on Ravelry. The main advantages (for me) are that it's readily available and doesn't need to be specially ordered, and it's food-safe so I don't need to have a separate set of pots and utensils for dyeing.

I told my sister that I was finally and definitely going to try a batch Thursday or Friday of this long weekend. I said it out loud, but I didn't really believe it. I have some sort of mental block to dyeing. It seems like lot to set up and do. But I woke up Thursday morning and apparently was determined enough to get it started. It's fun to surprise yourself, isn't it?

My first project was going to be this pale blue cashmere:
The colour isn't really ugly, but the yarn's been around long enough I realized I wasn't going to make anything from it. It's very pale and lifeless. I bought the sweater it came from at a yard sale for $2 so there was very little on the line if this didn't work. (Plus I only dyed the sleeves so I still have yarn from the front and back to try something else.) The yarn itself is very nice so if I could improve the colour, it would be very worth it.

I brushed up on my Koolaid colour theory from this site. (It's well-worth a quick look at that link...135 colours from combos of Koolaid flavours!) This page from the same site had basic instructions for the dyeing process itself. They use a microwave to heat the yarn, but I knew from other reading that you can do it on a stove top. I was doing enough yarn that I didn't want to try to fit it into the microwave.

Step 1: soak the yarn in water for about an hour:
Ok, step 1 isn't so hard.

Once the time was close to finished, I heated some water on the stove (in another pot) and mixed my Koolaid. They recommended 1-2 packets per ounce of yarn. I had 2.6 ounces and used three packets of Black Cherry (the only red flavour I had in the house). I mixed it in 8 ounces of water:
I thought there might be enough light by
the window to let you see the colour,
but there wasn't.
Ok, I can mix Koolaid.

Then I dumped out the water the yarn was soaking in and squeezed most of the water out so I didn't drip all over and added it to the water being heated on the stove.
Um, I can do that.

And then I poured in the Koolaid mix:
And then poked at it with a wooden spoon to mix up the colour and get it all over the yarn. (You shouldn't really stir or agitate as you may well felt the yarn):
That's not hard; I can do that too.

Then I let it stay hot on the stove (but well below boiling). You're supposed to let it go until the water is clear, indicating that all of the dye has been absorbed:
[I think I let it go a lot longer than necessary because the water still looked red. When I finally dumped it out, I realized it was just the colour being reflected. Oh well, no harm done.]

Then you let it cool down. Easy-peasy.

I was so encouraged excited by my apparent success, that I grabbed another yarn I couldn't stand the colour of
and started the process again. Pre-soaking:
I had a lot more of this yarn (3.5 oz x 3) so I needed more Koolaid. I decided to hit this one with purple instead of red. I had only five packs of Grape, though. But then I figured I could use Mixed Berry (blue) and Black Cherry (red) to make my own purple. I had two packs of each, and that would give me a total of nine packets, which would be a good start for that much yarn.

I mixed the Mixed Berry:
and added Black Cherry to make the purple. Here the mixed purple is on the left and the Grape mix is on the right:
I can't see a difference; can you see a difference? I know, I know, this picture isn't very conclusive as you can't really see a thing in the dark jar, but I found it encouraging nonetheless.

Yarn in heated water:
 Pour in Grape:
 and then the mixed purple and then spread it around:
Can you see a problem compared to the other yarn after it was mixed. Yeah, there's a lot of blue not being covered by purple. You can see it even better here:
You can also see that the water is blue. I think the red dye is absorbed more quickly, and I think it all started a little too hot so when I poured the dye on, it took really quickly where it landed and there wasn't enough to dye the rest of the yarn. As I understand it, this is considered normal for "kettle-dyed" yarn, which is essentially what this is. That's why Malabrigo yarns, though beautiful, vary widely from skein to skein, even in the same dye lot. Or it could just be that this is alpaca and the first batch I did was cashmere. I'm not sure.

In any case, I decided to finish the process and evaluate things then. I didn't get a picture, but the yarn is more even than I expected, but still shows a lot of blue through the purple. Troy likes it, but it's not what I want. I'll be buying more Koolaid and overdying it to even out the tone and maybe darken it.

By the time the second batch was done "cooking," the first batch was cool enough that I could finish it up. I dumped it out:
 and squeezed out all the water, and then hung it over the bathtub to dry. That's when I found a problem:
In the places where the skein was tied too tightly, the dye did not make it to the yarn and I was left with blue spots. I made sure to tie the skeins very loosely and I think this was from the original ties that I left on the yarn. That was a mistake.

As a side note, here are the ties that I used:
Some are acrylic and some are cotton. You can see that Koolaid has no effect on them. As far as I know, it works on animal hair/wool and silk only.

I was surprised that the cashmere was dry by evening and I could twist up the skeins and compare it to the original colour:
Big improvement, don't you think? I wasn't aiming for any particular colour and I figured any kind of red would be good. I'm very happy with it. Except these blue spots:
I guess I'll be buying more red Koolaid with my grape and then I can do a second Fix it to this particular Fix it Friday. But now I know, it's not hard and I can do it. (And tie it loosely!)

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