Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tedious fun

I've attended several dyeing workshops (dyeing with acid dyes, natural dyeing, natural dyeing including indigo, shibori dyeing with indigo) and dyed with KoolAid a couple of times, but I had yet to try natural dyeing on my own. I've been accumulating equipment and ingredients and yarn and books, but had not yet pulled the trigger. Part of the problem has been my reluctance to mordant the yarn. But then I noticed that some natural dyes do not require mordanting, so I decided what the hell, go for it.

Many dye books present the topic as experiments in color, and no matter what you do, that is what hand dyeing is, as reproducing the same results consistently is a challenge, more so when using natural dyeing materials and techniques. This led me to a really tedious step in the preparation for yarn dyeing: winding single ounce mini-skeins from larger skeins. I'm glad I did this because I really was just experimenting, but OMG, was it ever boring. After a while, I decided I had enough 1oz mini-skeins and started making larger (and LARGER) ones.

For yarn, I chose naked Cascade 220 and Lambs Pride. Both are worsted weight, but Cascade 220 is 100% wool from Peru while Lambs Pride is 85% wool and 15% mohair and made in the USA. They produced different results, which is good to know in case one is mixing fibers for dyeing. The Cascade 220 comes in 3.5oz skeins while the Lambs Pride is in 4oz skeins. Behind my yarn choice is the idea that I will take all my naturally dyed yarns and knit something like an adult-sized baby surprise jacket.

Relying on the book Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, I started with the idea of dyeing with tumeric because tumeric root is now available in the produce section of some of my favorite stores. But then I read that tumeric is frequently combined with pomegranate, and hey, this is pomegranate season, so I bought some of those, too. Tumeric is not very colorfast, regardless of mordenting, but pomegranate rind naturally mordants the yarn. So no pre-mordanting. BUT. I did decide to apply color modifiers afterwards, ammonia for the tumeric and iron for the pomegranate and pomegranate/tumeric blend.

Cooking minced tumeric roots

I initially chopped the tumeric root by hand, but then threw it all into a mini-grinder. For the pomegranate, I just rough chopped it. If I were to do it over, I would not chop the tumeric as fine, as it was difficult to strain all the bits out, and I would maybe mince the pomegranate rind more so, as that is where the tannin is.

Cooking chopped pomegranate

I worked in the kitchen, even using one of my kitchen pots for a dye bath. This is usually a big NO-NO in hand dyeing - you are supposed to keep dye equipment separate from kitchen equipment AND work in a well-ventilated place like a garage and not the kitchen. BUT. I was dyeing with FOOD, so come on. Even the iron for the postdye bath was food grade.

Tumeric dye bath (before straining)

I think I simmered both the tumeric and the pomegranate for about an hour, then let them cool to room temperature before straining. I created a dyebath with just tumeric, one with just pomegranate, and one with a mixture of the two, maybe 2-to-1 in favor the the pomegranate. The plain tumeric became a cool-dye bath - I added the yarn but no heat. The other two were hot-dye baths - I added the yarn and brought the baths up to simmer (and I think simmered them for half an hour). Then all three sat overnight.

Pomegranate bath (before straining)

The next day, I rinsed each skein in running water since they were small and this was easy to do. By now, I had abandoned the kitchen in favor of the laundry room where there is a utility sink. Some of the plain tumeric skeins received an after treatment in an ammonia bath. This is supposed to pink up the color, but I didn't see much of that. It wasn't clear how much ammonia to use or how long to let the yarn soak, so I tried again the next day with not much change.

Iron afterdye

Some of the plain pomegranate and pomegranate/tumeric skeins received a post treatment in an iron bath. This "saddens" the colors. It doesn't take much iron and the yarn doesn't need to be in the bath very long. Everything was well rinsed after the after treatment.

Identification system

You may be wondering how I kept track of which skein had which treatment. I tried planning things out ahead of time, with minimal success, primarily because I was not sure about what I was doing. But I did label the skeins as I wound them into minis, then replaced those labels with plastic ones for the dye process, matching numbers/letters between labels and skeins. This worked okay, as long as I remembered to write down which skein got which treatment.

Note taking mess

This whole process was quite tedious, but then came the big reveal - colors! These photos don't capture the more subtle differences between the different treatments, especially the "pinking" of the ammonia, but the results were very interesting. One thing I learned is, if I am going to go through all this trouble to hand dye yarn, I should pick colors I actually like (yellows and greens are NOT in this group).

Tumeric, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Tumeric, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), ammonia afterdye (R)

Tumeric, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), ammonia afterdye (R)

Pomegranate, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Pomegranate, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Pomegranate, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Cascade 220, pomegranate (L), pomegranate and tumeric (R)

Lambs Pride, pomegranate (L), pomegranate and tumeric (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

There are hashtags on Instagram for #helpfulknittingcats and #helpfulweavingcats. Here is a pic for #helpfuldyeingcats.


1 comment:

Mereknits said...

YOu are much more adventurous than I am. I love the colors, the yarn turned out so lovely.