Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yarn Dyeing Project

Today I finally finished my yarn dyeing project.

I started with two types of yarn.
1. Nature's Choice Organic Cotton yarn, in "Almond". This was basically off-white, an unbleached natural color.
2. Sensations Dolcetto (a very soft blend of wool and cotton), in a Lavender color.

yarn dyeing project

What attracted me to these yarns was their very soft texture. I have really sensitive skin, and many yarns are too scratchy to wear directly touching my skin. My neck and face are especially sensitive and sometimes have eczema in winter, so my scarves and hats have to be very soft.
(most wools, for example, are not soft enough, but the Dolcetto blend of lambswool and cotton is exceptionally soft).
The unfortunate thing is that both of these yarns only came in a very limited selection of light colors, and I prefer deeper colors. But, I decided that I would experiment with dyeing since they were natural fibers.

I bought two colors of dye.
iDye in Purple
iDye in Black
This type of dye can be used on any natural fiber- both animal and plant.

yarn dyeing 007

My idea was to make a self-striping yarn with the Dolcetto. I wanted to make a scarf that would have alternating skinny stripes of lavender, purple and black.

My first step was to knit a few inches with the yarn in the gauge and width that I would use for the scarf. Then I unraveled it and measured how many inches of yarn was used per row.
Once I determined how long each color segment needed to be, I set up two kitchen chairs far apart in a room. I started winding the yarn around the two chair backs to make a large loop. I tied off my loop in the middle and then I planned to dip one side of the loop in purple, and the other side in black.

The plan for the off-white cotton yarn was simpler. I had two skeins of it, so I was going to dye one of them solid purple and the other one black. Then I would knit with them doubled up to make it chunkier and have both colors showing.

I started the dyeing process with the purple dye. I used both salt and vingar as a mordant, since one of my yarns was a blend of plant and animal fibers.
Generally you use salt as a mordant for plant fibers (cotton or linen), and you use vinegar as a mordant for animal fibers (wool or silk).

I used a large pot on the stovetop instead of the washing machine method. This allows you to use hotter water and the cleanup is easier. It's the recommended method for dark colors.
I put one of the skeins of cotton yarn into the pot, and suspended the Dolcetto yarn over the pot so that half of my large loops was submerged in the pot.
I also threw in a white cotton eyelet top that I got at the thrift store.

The results were very good!
The cotton yarn came out a deep, vibrant purple.
The Dolcetto also came out nice and dark.
The eyelet top came out more of a greyish-lavender, but it was very pretty.

Then I got busy and did not have time to do the black dyeing until the next month. I finally did that today and it was my final step in the project. (not counting the actual knitting!)

I followed the same process I used with the purple dye. Salt, vinger, large pot on stovetop.
I made sure to leave the yarn in the pot a long time since I wanted a nice deep black.
I decided at the last minute that I wanted to make the natural cottton yarn variegated black and grey, so I left half of it soaking for a long time, and just gave the other half a quick dip in the dye bath.

My results were puzzling, to say the least!
The black dye came out purple.
This is the off-white cotton yarn after dyeing it "black". It's not completely dry yet.

yarn dyeing 006

This was supposed to be black and grey, from a long soak and a short dip in the black dye.
Instead, it is dark purple and light purple.

Then I left the Dolcetto yarn soaking even longer, over an hour.
This is the result:

yarn dyeing 004

The top lavender section is the virgin yarn as it came.
The left side is the "black" dye, not completely dry yet.
The right side is the purple dye, completely dry.

You can see that the black is a different shade of purple, it's most reddish while the "purple" dye is more of a blue-violet.
But both of them are purple.
My purple and black stripes are going to be purple and purple stripes.
otherwise known as : PURPLE.

I also tried to tie-dye the cotton eyelet shirt in the black. I twisted it into a rope and then tied it up with rubber bands and twine. The idea was for it to be black with purple spiral designs.
That came out purple and purple, as well. No black, no grey. Just variegated purple.
It's still drying, I will take photos after it's dry and ironed.

So my conclusion at this stage is that they accidentally put purple dye into the black dye package. I don't think I did anything wrong, as far as mordants or soaking time.
If I had not soaked it long enough, then it should be grey, not purple.
If I didn't use the right mordants or not enough, then the colors should run and fade to grey.
But none of these mistakes would account for the black turning purple.

It also could not have leached purple dye from the previous dye job, because the yarn I was dyeing black was the "virgin" sections, and the eyelet top had been thoroughly rinsed and machine washed, it had no excess dye still in it.

So it's a good thing I like purple, I guess.
I might still try to re-do the black section on the Dolcetto with another brand of dye.

Update, May 15

yarn dyeing 008

this is dyed first with the purple dye and then black on top of it.
The areas at the bottom which were not tied up with rubber bands, and which the black could completely penetrate, are actually lighter than the areas that were tied up and kept from the black dye.

yarn dyeing 011

Hat knitted from yarn that I dyed.
Using 2 strands of yarn: One solid dark violet-purple, one variegated with dark and light burgundy-ish-purple.
100% organic cotton

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