Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kool-Aid + Wool = Whee, color!

Tour de Fleece is long over, but thanks to participating in several groups on Ravelry, some of which had prizes, I won some undyed merino roving and a fistful of Kool-Aid packets to dye it with. So happened that I also had another 4 oz of undyed roving sitting around, and hey, why not dye both at once?

And then came the State Fair where I won Judges Choice for my vest made of handspun, and the prize came with a tote bag full of fiber, which included 8 oz of undyed Corriedale.

Well, that gave me a whole pound of undyed wool to play with! And play I did. I thought that would be plenty to make a generously-sized sontag, using Kay's Tess D'Urbervilles Shawl pattern. Since I want it just for something warm to throw on when I take our leash-trained cats out in the yard on a cold evening, I wasn't worried about making a fashion statement, so the results could be entirely experimental and not have to be perfect.

So away I went. First dyeing session went like this:

I soaked the 8 oz of merino that I had first in hot water and Dawn dishwashing liquid to scour away any remaining oils, so that the colors would turn out as bright as I could get 'em. I poured everything into a colander and pressed out the soapy water, then filled the pan with rinse water and poured the wool in. I rinsed a couple of times with some vinegar in the rinse water to cut the soap, then soaked for a while in water with a couple of spoonfuls of citric acid that I found in the bulk section at the natural foods store:

White vinegar is fine as an acid for acid dyeing, but some folks say that they see a difference in brightness when they use citric acid. I don't know, and since Kool-Aid has citric acid in it, that might be overkill anyway.

A salad spinner is a useful tool for removing excess water without agitating and felting the wool:

I spread a towel and several pieces of Saran Wrap (the real thing, since it's the brand that will hold up under heat) on a table. The jars all have Kool-Aid dissolved in warm water. Different instructions I found had different amounts per cup of water, but really it's not the proportion of dye to water, it's the total amount of dye that matters. I used two packets in the larger cups, one in the smaller ones. I also used purple food coloring from a Neon Colors packet of food coloring, and added a spoonful of citric acid to that.

I laid out the roving like so:

And for this batch I was trying out methods of pouring the dyes. I poured from a measuring cup:

And used a giant syringe that had come from the vet's office when we were treating a kitty's wound after surgery:

I made stripes of the colors that I wanted, and saturated the wool quite a bit. I did notice that the dyes were kind of running on the underside, which meant I'd get mixing and mushy colors in some places:

I rolled up the roving in the Saran Wrap, sealed the ends, and put it in a pan in the microwave. I microwaved 2 minutes, let it rest for 2 minutes, then another 2 min, and so on, for a total of 6 minutes of microwaving. This way it got heated long enough without overheating and overcooking the wool.

After checking that the water was running clear, I unrolled the hot mass, dumped the wool in the salad spinner basket, filled a bowl with lukewarm water, and dunked it to rinse. Again, the spinner was handy for removing water. And yes, you can see here where the colors blended and produced a brick red that wasn't one of the original colors. Meh. Oh, well.

And there it is, looking all hippie tie-dyed and hanging out to dry.

Days later I went to work on the Corriedale:

This time, instead of pouring, I used the brush method. I'd used it before, but had problems with felting the roving in place. However, the brush allowed me to place the dye more precisely and not have problems with it running all over the place. I did use the syringe, too, to add little spots of color here and there:

Again a whirl in the microwave:

And now the stripes of color behaved themselves! Far less unexpected blending, more pure colors:

And this batch now hanging out to dry:

Once I get my current spinning project off of the bobbins, these two are going to get spun into somewhat thick singles, and I'll ply the funky Merino and prettier Corriedale together to make a 2-ply worsted-ish/aran-ish yarn for the sontag. Though they look different, they're both dyed with the same selections of Kool-Aid and food coloring, so the colors are compatible.

The real trick is to hand-paint roving and do all of that soaking and rinsing and handling without felting the whole mass. I did pretty well this time, but I can still see that I'll have to fluff and pre-draft the roving because it's kind of "sticky" in places, sort of lightly felted. There's a real art to this, and I've got a lot of learning to do before I master that art.

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