blah-blah & yarns

My first dyeing experience

When your yarn addiction reaches a certain point, you are no longer satisfied by purchasing beautiful, luxurious yarn. Then, you begin to think of touching yarn production itself and two paths lie before you: spinning or dyeing.

I’ve chosen dyeing. I’m of course attracted by spinning: to touch roving wool from variety of breeds and animals, to feel their differences, to transform it into yarn with your hands, that can only be interesting! But I have to admit that I’m more attracted by colors – you’ve probably noted that I’m obsessed by color combinations?

I bought a book on the stuff to prepare myself for my first experience: Hand dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan, well reviewed and commented on amazon. This guidebook shows that you can start dyeing yarn with what you have in your house, and encourages beginners to make the first step which is the hardest. It doesn’t give recipes to produce this or that color, but explains color theory in very understandable terms and presents a variety of techniques with nice pictures.

Following her recommendations, I started with food dyes I had in my kitchen. For containers, I picked up plastic cups I was going to put into the recycle bin. For mordant (dye stabilizer), I had also white vinegar for cleaning.
As for yarn, as she says different materials dye differently, I prepared a mini skein of superwash merino yarn and another one of alpaca yarn for each color.
I used liquid food dyes for red and yellow, and powder dye for blue – the liquid blue dye sold with other colors was in fact green and I went to buy this powder dye on purpose.
The colors had looked nice in the cups…

…but this first try had turned out to be a failure: the blue dye didn’t dye! Violet, pale turquoise blue and green that I had wanted turned out pink, pale yellow and yellow… (It was colorant alimentaire from Sainte Lucie, don’t use it to dye yarn!)

I ran to another supermarket to buy food dyes from Vahiné, very common in France, and I over-dyed the skeins on the photo, except the pink one in merino that my daughter and I thought lovely.
And here’s the result 🙂
You can see that the color of alpaca skeins (smaller ones) are paler than that of superwash merino. It seems that superwash merino adores dye and soaks it up readily.

I’m in particular proud of my violet skeins. The merino is just dyed, whereas the alpaca is over-dyed on pale pink, which gives these hues of mauve and blue that evoke those of hydrangea.

Here are their swatches 🙂
violet swatches-small

If I’ve made the first step in dyeing, that’s I had the idea of dyeing on my own CC yarns for Dessine-moi un mouton pullover (yeah, I’m crazy!).
I’m not sure I’ll use them to knit the pullover as their tones are not totally in harmony my MC, but I’ve had a lot of fun throughout this experience! Soak the skeins in vinegar water, compose the colors you want, see the yarn absorbing the dyes, stir the dyed yarns heated in bain-marie (no micro-wave please)… you have the feeling like you’re doing a science experiment or being a sorcerer’s apprentice 🙂
I’ll definitely do it again!

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