I have a tendency to ignore color. I choose yarns like I choose clothing, with attention to feel, quality, drape, etc, only considering color after I’ve decided all the other qualities are right for my desires. Sometimes this can be very disappointing, when it turns out that the yarn or shirt I was busy falling in love with for its beautiful drape and soft hand only comes in mucuous-green or goldenrod yellow.
The solution for people like me is to dye your own yarn! Last Christmas, I was gifted with a starter set of Jacquard Acid Dyes. I have a warm and cool red, a warm and cool blue, a yellow and a black. I have mostly used these dyes to dye over already-colored yarns. In this way, I’ve saved lace patterns from too-busy yarns and brought texture and color into harmony. I’m more likely to dye FOs than yarn itself.
Generally, I dye yarns on the stove and produce a kettle-dyed effect. In this particular case, I’m dyeing a hat I knit in grey, 100% wool, sport-weight Peer Gynt yarn. The yarn is perfectly nice, but the stitch pattern I chose (Japanese Feather Lace, modified slightly) was too delicate for the dull grey color.
Clearly, it was time to dye.
My dyeing equipment: A pot full of hot water on the stove, white vinegar to set the dye, powdered Jacquard Acid Dyes, a 1/4th tablespoon and a thermometer.
I start heating the water.
I’d like it to stay between 170 and 190 degrees throughout the dyeing experiment, to ensure all the dye is dissolved and permeates the yarn. I’m using yellow and the cool blue, so temperature isn’t too important. If I were working with either of the reds, it would be more important to keep the temperature high. Red dyes are temperamental in all mediums (I’m sometimes a redhead myself), and higher heat is needed to get a good effect.
First, I add the yellow. Always add the lighter color first when making a color combo; in this case, I’m going for green. I use the white teaspoon to create contrast so I can see what the color I’m making looks like. Of course, the hat itself is grey, so I won’t get the same effect, but this at least gives me a feel for where I’m going. This is about 1/4th tbs yellow dissolved in the hot water.
Then I add a little blue, and keep stirring and looking until I like the green I’m getting.
In goes the hat!
After the hat sits for a few minutes and absorbs dye, I pour in my 1/4th cup of vinegar. This will open the proteins in the wool (Jacquard Acid dyes only work on protein-based fibers), causing the dye to be permanently absorbed into the wool. I get my kettle-dyed effect here by pouring the vinegar directly onto the hat. The places the vinegar hits first will absorb more dye than the places the vinegar reaches later.
The dye is starting to exhaust; Most has been absorbed by the hat, with only a little still floating in the water. The lighter green swatches are lace swatches that I thought might show their pattern a little better if they were a color.
After letting the pot sit on the stove for 30 minutes (never simmering or boiling, since that could cause felting), I poured off the dye water and washed the hat with some shampoo. After two rinses, the water came out clear– no bleeding on MY dyejobs. I then squeezed the hat dry and pinned it out.
Want to see how it turned out? The hat is currently being blocked and drying on my living room floor; I’ll post the final picture tomorrow!