Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WAYM Wednesday

Almost missed it, but here's my What Are You Making? Wednesday post for this week.

I showcased the Oshima sweater last week, and I'm excited to start assembling the sweater tonight!

I'll talk more about my next project later, but today I'm going to tell you about the first step towards that project, which was to overdye some leftover yarn from my stash to better match a new skein I wanted to showcase.

I've done a couple of experiments with Wilton's Icing Gel dyes, with really exciting results for my first tries. I was not expecting to achieve spectacular results right away, but I was pleasantly surprised! Here's the first project, where I used the hot-pour method via my slow-cooker. The yarn is KnitPicks Bare Merino Silk Fingering and I used Wilton's colors Burgandy, Copper, and Golden Yellow.

My second experiment was kind of weird, but turned out OK, but is currently secret because I have no photographs yet ;-)

For my upcoming project, I just wanted to tone down some silver yarn so that it had a warmer cast. To accomplish this, I decided to try a glazing technique. If you've ever looked at Madelinetosh yarn and wondered how they get such complex, interesting colors, the answer is that they apply several light glazes of color rather than saturating the yarn with a solid tone.

Some Physics

A skein of yarn is really a very long, flexible cylinder. Wool is extremely absorbent, but somewhat resistant to water at first. (This is particularly true of non-superwash wools.) If you have anything made out of real wool, you may have noticed that if you toss it into a body of water it will float for quite a while before sinking. Once it does sink, however, and the fibers completely saturate, it becomes quite heavy (Wiki says wool can hold 3 times its weight in water). These characteristics are important to consider when dying. 

If you fully saturate and soak wool before applying dye, the fibers will all be equally open and receptive to receiving the dyebath. If you don't saturate the wool, the outer fibers along the yarn strand will absorb the dyebath first, before the interior of the strand does. 

A note on color fixing: dye is 'fixed' or made permanent on animal fibers (which are protein-based) by the application of heat and acid. For food-coloring dying, hot enough = just below a simmer, and acid = a tablespoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice.

With all this in mind, if you wanted to dye some yarn evenly with a solid color, you would 1) pre-soak the yarn (with acid already added, to prepare the fibers completely), 2) add your dye while everything is still cold, and 3) gradually raise the temperature and slowly stir the dyebath so that color is taken up evenly. Changing any of these conditions will give you different results.


A 'glaze' of color is just what it sounds like: a light coating of color on the outside of the strand only. So, we want un-soaked yarn and an already-hot, acidic dyebath, so that color will be absorbed on the outside of the strand first (un-soaked yarn) and fixed right away (hot acidic dyebath).

A Caveat

This is officially my THIRD time dying wool in my kitchen with Wilton's Icing Gel dyes. There are tons of tutorials out there; I highly recommend as a great resource for color recipes and tutorials for various methods. Googling will turn up lots of information. I'm not an expert; but everything I've tried so far has been the opposite of disastrous and was a lot of fun. The great thing about food coloring as a yarn dye is that it's completely food-safe, so you don't need special, reserved pots & other materials and there are no dangerous chemicals to worry about.

What I Made

Before dying:

The yarn on the left is the new skein I want to match, and the yarn on the right is the silver yarn that I dyed in this experiment. The small bit on the top was a sample, made by doing a super-fast test in the microwave.

Here's a pic of the Wilton's Icing dye. I found it at Michael's, and for this project I used the color "Brown". Imaginative name, huh?

The Process

Step 1 is to get the yarn in hank form. I took pictures to show how I do it. There are lots of great tools for making this easier, but I don't have any of those yet...a couple of chair backs pushed together works OK. 

Start by taping the end of the yarn to one of the chairs. Don't tie this to anything yet; we'll need it later. 

Proceed to wind the yarn around the chairs in a big circle. Don't pull too tightly or it will be very hard to remove. 

Once that's done, use the free end to tie a figure-8 knot through the strands. You can see what this looks like in the picture below - separate the yarn into 3 sections with your fingers, and weave the end over & under & over & under ... until you're back at the start. Tie off to finish. Repeat with the taped starting strand. Pull the yarn off of the chair backs, and use some cotton or twine to tie the yarn off in a few other places.

Ta-da, a hank of yarn!

Dyeing Time

Here's my setup:

Dry yarn to the left, dyebath in the middle consisting of hot-from-the-tap water and a hefty glug of white vinegar. 

Here it is with the dye dissolved. This pic shows the dyebath with about 3 toothpick-coatings of dye dissolved. I ended up re-saturating the dye bath a few times, so if I were doing this again I would start with a stronger bath of maybe a teaspoon of dye. 

My hot-from-the-tap water was pretty hot, so I knew that the yarn would start absorbing color right away and went ahead and submerged the yarn before applying more heat. The bowl should be covered with cling-wrap to keep most of the steam that we'll generate inside, but leave a vent so it doesn't explode. I proceeded to microwave the bowl for 2 minutes or so, until it was steamy.

Here you can see that the water is clear - this is a sign that the dyebath has 'exhausted', and all of the color is in the yarn where we want it to be. At this stage, the color should be totally set. 

Not pictured: since my first dyebath was not as saturated as I wanted, I re-did this process 2 more times by removing the yarn to another bowl, adding more dye to the water, and putting the yarn back in. 

Handling hot, non-superwash wool is a recipe for felting, so many people like to leave the yarn in the dyebath to cool to room temperature before touching it. I am not that patient, however, so I like to pull it out and drain it in a colendar. It cools much faster this way. Just make sure not to agitate it at all at this stage, until it is cool. 

Once cool, it's a good idea to test the color-fastness of your end produce by giving it a good soak in some woolwash. 

It's hard to tell because I have a brown sink, but the water is clear here after 15 minutes, so we're all set. Drain the yarn and press out any extra water with a clean towel.

Hang to dry.

The Reveal

Here's the final product:

As you can see, I mostly got what I wanted - the yarn does appear to be glazed with brown on top of the silver, and you can still see the silver poking through in several places. I'm pretty happy with it!

If you stuck with me this far, thanks for reading :-) This was a long post - I went back and forth between whether I should just post before&after photos and call it a day, or do a full-blown tutorial. I ended up somewhere in between. Hope you enjoyed, and I'll hopefully be back with another post before the next WAYM Wednesday rolls around.

Your turn - what are you making? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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