Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dyeing Wool

I finally tried dyeing wool.  Little man cooperated the other night by falling asleep for an unexpected nap, which lasted about 2.5 hours!  Plenty of time to experiment with a little bit of Koolaid & Jell-O!

At the time I dyed the yarn, I had not yet procured extra mason jars, but I decided I'd make do with what I had.  I couldn't miss the opportunity of all that free time!  A quick tip first - when you've decided to dye yarn yourself, I recommend winding your yarn into a hank as soon as you can.  Then, when you're ready to dye, all you have to do is get the yarn out and untwist that hank.  If you haven't already done this, and you don't have an easy way to unwind a skein, you're left spending your time unwinding and winding yarn.  Since I was already trying to be prepared to dye with Koolaid, I had already completed this step. :)

What you need:
Rubber gloves (I got mine in the pharmacy section at Hy-Vee)
Something to stir the solution (non-porous)
Tongs (to handle hot yarn)
Oven mitts or towel (to handle hot bowl or mason jars)
Old towel (for messes)
Newspaper or garbage bag (to lay under your ingredients to prevent dyeing your countertops!)
White Vinegar (for Jell-O)
Salt (for Jell-O)
Microwaveable mixing bowl or mason jars

First, I untwisted my hank of yarn and set it in a solution of water with a tiny bit of dishsoap (I used a bit of regular old Dawn.).  My yarn soaked for about 20 minutes. 
Wear gloves.  Although stained fingers might be pretty, I didn't want to go to work having to explain why I was red & blue. While my yarn was soaking, I prepared the Koolaid.  I took one mason jar for each color I wanted to dye (since I only had 2 jars, I knew I would only be using 2 colors!), and poured the Koolaid powder into each jar.  As far as the ratio between the amount of Koolaid vs. the amount of yarn, just know that the more Koolaid, the darker the yarn.  The amount of water is less important than the Koolaid/yarn ratio. 
I used 2 packets of Berry Blue in one jar
and 2 packets of Strawberry in the other jar.  I added just enough HOT water to dissolve the Koolaid. 
I then added the yarn - half in each jar, and added enough water to cover the yarn.  There was some yarn that would not be covered by water since I was using 2 jars.  After I had added the extra water, I dipped this yarn into the solution to get a lighter color (half in blue, half in red) and made sure it was plenty wet when I put it in the microwave. 
Putting everything in the microwave, I nuked it for 2 minutes.  Then, using oven mitts, I removed the hot containers from the microwave, and let them sit for 2 minutes to cool.  At this point, using the handle of a spatula, I moved the yarn around in the jar, checking to see how clear the liquid was.  Using tongs since the yarn was hot, I dipped the portion not submerged in water in each of the corresponding liquids - making sure the yarn remained wet while heating.   Repeat this step until the water in the jar is clear (or at least void of color - sometimes, depending on the Koolaid used, the water will be cloudy).  This means the dye has exhausted and has been absorbed by the yarn.  (Item to note: Koolaid already contains citric acid so it is not necessary to add a setting agent like extra citric acid or white vinegar.  Some people even use clear Koolaid as their setting agent.) 

At this point, I let my yarn cool, and then rinsed it in another water bath - making sure the water was the same temperature as the yarn.  If you use water that is too cold, it could shock the yarn into felting (or so I've heard - I was using superwash merino because it's easy to dye and you cannot felt it).  After rinsing well, I gently squeezed all the water out of the yarn (you could also wrap it in a towel and smoosh). 
Then, hang to dry.  After my yarn is mostly dry, I like to put it in the dryer for just a couple minutes to get the remainder of the moisture out (this is mostly because I'm impatient and don't like waiting for the final results!). 
I wasn't entirely pleased with the amount of color at this point so I overdyed the yarn (still wet and using the same method as above) with 1 packet Ice Blue Raspberry and 1 packet Black Cherry.  This gave a nice variagated color in the end.

My favorite part is rewinding the yarn into a nice hank to see how the colors look against one another. So pretty!
This was so simple and so quick.  I could have easily done several more skeins of yarn.

I also dyed a hank of yarn using Berry Blue Jell-O.  If I were to use it again, I might be more conscious of how much yarn/Jell-O I had.  I had about 3.5 oz of yarn and the resulting color was a very pretty, but very light blue.  By adding food coloring,  I was able to darken the color. (Sorry, I don't have pictures this time!)

This time I did not pre-soak my yarn.  I added 5 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt (the salt helps slow the absorption of dye so you have a more even result - if you want some variation in the color, you could skip the salt) to a microwaveable, non-pourous bowl.  Then I added the Jell-O and stirred until all the gelatin was dissolved.  Be patient with this step, you don't want clumps on your yarn!

I submerged my yarn in the dye solution, making sure it was all covered, using my spatula handle to mix it around a bit.  (My understanding is that if you have wool that could felt, it is important to handle the yarn as little as possible to prevent any possible felting. Again,  I was using superwash wool). 

I then nuked my bowl of yarn & dye for 2 minutes, let it cool for 2 minutes.  Repeat 3 times. Each time, checking to see how clear the water was. 

When this was complete, I rinsed my yarn.  Hang to dry.  I had let mine dry for about 5 minutes when I decided I wanted it darker.  I went back to my bowl, adding water, white vinegar, and this time, blue food coloring from McCormick's neon pack.  I don't know how many drops I added, I just kept adding dye, soaking the yarn, and heating/cooling until I liked the final result.  I've heard that blue is a bit difficult in that it takes longer to exhaust the dye. I've also heard that it takes more vinegar or citric acid to really set well.  When I use food coloring again, I will let the yarn sit in the dye bath, covered, overnight to let the yarn exhaust the dye while it cools. 

After it was cool, I rinsed in lukewarm water (same temperature as the yarn) until the water ran clear.  Hang to dry.  I was very pleased with the resulting color.  My original Jell-O color was very even, but I didn't use salt with the food coloring and so I do have a little variation in the blue.  I like it!
I am very happy with the results and would use these methods again! 

1 comment:

  1. These are beautiful!! What a great how-to, I can't wait to try this myself!