Thursday, April 21, 2011
A Day of Dyeing Yarns
Today was a great day! My friend, Lesley, and I spent the afternoon dyeing some of our handspun yarns. Lesley is an AMAZING knitter and now spinner. She showed me a sweater she is knitting from handspun and dyed yarn and it is absolutely beautiful! As you can see by the basket of yarns, today was all about color.
I brought yarns I had spun up from my Maine Island Sheep fleece. These are yarns that I want to make a sweater out of. Initially I thought I would get the color for the base of my sweater from Indigo. I grow Indigo (Japanese Indigo) and have used it to dye yarns before and I love it. But today was about experimenting with colors, a variety of vivid colors.
Color is a funny thing. You can create colors that inspire and excite you or colors that just turn you off. To be honest I am intimidated by color. How much is too much? Which ones go together? What if they don't look good together? I spin and knit for feel, for texture. The first thing I do when I see a yarn or fiber is touch it. If it doesn't feel nice than I don't like it. I'll chose texture over color any day. So this foray into the world of color is not an easy one for me to make. But Lesley is so comfortable with color that she is graciously helping me make that journey into the world of color. But for the record, I'm still scared of it.
http://www.awrinkleinthymefarm.com/ and so she was putting to practice all the wonderful things she learned during that workshop.
Once we knew what colors we wanted and how much yarn we wanted that color we began mixing the colors using hot water and vinegar. A packet of dye, a pint of very hot water, and a teaspoon of white vinegar.
While we were measuring out all the dyes we let our yarn soak in lukewarm water (for 30 minutes)that had a glug of white vinegar added. It was very helpful that we tied our yarns a little bit differently which made them easier to spot when they came out of the dyepots. Lesley very loosely wove a figure 8 out of thin yarn through her yarns and I just very loosely wrapped mine.
We then added the desired amount of dye stock to the pot, added the yarns, and slowly, very slowly brought the dyepots to barely a simmer. Once to the point of almost seeing bubbles begin we turned the heat down and let them simmer (just barely) for 30 minutes.
Once the simmering was done we took the yarns out and let them drain and cool in the sink a bit. Once cooled a bit we rinsed them in water the same temp as the yarns. We did this until the water was mostly clear. Some yarns this only took one rinse, others took 2 or 3.
FELTING NOTE - Something important to keep in mind throughout this whole process is that extreme changes in temperature, agitation, and lack of acid causes felting of wool. Knowing that and being careful throughout this process and you can avoid accidentally felting your yarn. The vinegar provides the needed acid. Not putting hot yarn into cold water or cold yarn into hot water helps with the extreme change in temperature issue. Carefully adding and removing the yarn to the dye or rinse waters and not stirring while in the waters takes care of the agitation issue.
And a well deserved meal of whole wheat ziti and 2010 summer garden stewed tomatoes with a delicious local ale:
To be honest I haven't decided if I will use these yarns in my sweater or not. Some of them are too deep a color and others not deep enough. I'm learning about value and today was a good lesson in that. I may use some of the yarns in the color work patterns in my sweater but I'm not sure about the body. That's ok; I've got lots of time to decide. Next step...finish spinning the fleece! I've still got easily 3 pounds of fleece to card and spin. Then I'll decide. So until I do I'm still planning and planting a natural dyers garden. I do really like that idea.
Hope you enjoyed our foray into the world of dyeing handspun yarns. And thanks Lesley for a great day!
PS - This is a very neat art exhibit in NYC. It's title: Counting Sheep by Brooklyn Artist, Kyu Seok Oh. An instillation of 24 handmade paper sheep (I wonder if they're lifesize? They look it.) in Times Square. I think it could have used some of our painting! Very Cool. http://www.cam111.com/photonews/2011/03/02/81256.html