Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tuesday toodlings posted on Wednesday. Random Notes on Dyeing. 

Saturday we went up to the Oceanside Library to spin (well Nancy and I spun, and Cristina spun, and Jessica wowed a roomful of fifty knitters by knitting her Rogue sleeves two at a time) and we had a good time hanging out and watching the miracle of three or so people teaching fifty how to knit. And a woman who thought the perfect place to change her baby was Right In Front Of Some Grossed Out Young Craftsters.

Yeah, right, they're all just parts, and we all got 'em, and we all sh!t our pants once upon a time and may do so again in the future but really. Ew.

I'm hoping it's not a trend, but once again, I unearthed my wallet in the after events.

A little bit at Black Sheep: Brittany cable needles which I love, but I've already lost them, and the bag they came in, and the bag the shop put them in, almost the instant I came home. A new level in my levels of dumbassédness. So they are not pictured in this Obligatory Post Shopping Pic.

A little bit at Noble Knits (the owner is the one who made the knitting event at Oceanside possible, with fifty gift bags of starter kits from Plymouth. Major props for that.) I had to buy the tape measure with the car and the stoplight because...um. Never mind.

A bunch of smelly stuff at a the Magic Hands Workshop booth at the little weekend market they have in Encinitas. Yummy smelling stuff, but I could do without some of the schtick. That's what's nice about ordering from Nancy. No schtick, all... never mind.

An IK back issue I bought for the "Aran Muff" (no, not really, I just like saying it) and Teva Durham's sexy renaissance tunic, the gansey layette and some other patterns with potential at Common Threads. They have reorganised and it looks awesome (it's still by color though mostly, bummer) and their Manos is priced below retail.

And a skein of Plymouth's Baby Alpaca Grande because every time I see it, I pick it up and marvel at how soft it is. And while I know I could spin a soft bulky weight alpaca two-ply...I have one fingerless cabled mitt nearly done with almost no knitting time. Almost instant gratification. Knitting On the Beach is a nice little shop--she has a cabled cashmere yarn in three colors, which speaks of real commitment to me. ;)

And then I fell off the wagon again yesterday and bought more damn buttons (naturally dyed and carved from the dropped nuts of rare indonesian trees--which ones, I can't remember), Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks which I bought for the different toes really, and another skein of Silky Wool. I can't seem to stop. Oddballs galore. Lakeside Knits is having a sale on books, 20% off, but only until the end of the month.

Amidst the shopping madness, I have been doing somewhat constructive things. School has started, and I think I'll be crashing some classes to try and get the last stray I want on my schedule.

I wetted out some stuff for dyeing. Annoyed by my dinky little aluminum stockpot from Target which has served me faithfully for two years, I went to twenty thrift shops looking for a huge stockpot at a good price. Since when did an enamel 20 qt stockpot become worth $70 used? In frustration, I went to Costco, for other household crap we "need" and snagged my new best friend:

Last one at La Mesa, $29.99. I can fit two and a half pounds of fiber in there and it beats the hell out of a $70 stockpot or the throwaway aluminum roasting pans bought at a 99¢ store. Although those are a handy low investment easy cleanup dyeing vessel too, just remember to recycle.

Although you can see in that pic that there probably is room for one more one pound dyeing hank if I planned my dye distribution right. You need enough water to keep the hanks floating, or at least not compressed on each other, swollen with liquid. You want to set the dye, but not cook the wool, it can be a fine line if you overload it.

These are sort of just random notes for three different tutorials I'll be putting on LdL sometime next month. Kettle, crockpot, and oven roasting. 3 different styles, 3 different results, although your technique within these also changes the outcomes greatly, o' course.

Materials used for all of them though is here:

I buy my dyeing supplies from Dharma Trading Co.. They even sell syringes for injecting dye inside these mondo dye skeins--very handy, since more handling can equal muddling of colors. I also use the syringes to help be more exact with the dye solution amounts for consistency.

A candy thermometer is handy for avoiding a boiling and keeping track of where the heat is at.

Ph papers are probably my favorite time/worry saver. Testing to make sure I'm at the right acidity (4) makes sure I'm not wasting time trying to get dye to set into something that's too alkaline, or that it's not so acid that the dye hits only on the surface and doesn't even penetrate. Just a glug or so of vinegar in a bucket, fill it up with lukewarm water, test the ph, then lay the protein fiber or yarn on the surface and gently press down. I use those industrial laundry buckets (well rinsed of course) because you can wet out about four or five pounds of stuff in one. I get the buckets from Greyhound Adoption Center (animal rescue groups go through laundry like crazy, big surprise), but you can buy them or ask your own local to save them for you and trade them a bunch of ratty towels. They almost always need towels.

Look! A bucket!

And a skein of Le Bouffon waiting to be pushed down into a stockpot for wetting out as well. I think it's purely pretty.

I usually let stuff wet out for twenty four hours. It depends on the fiber. Silk takes frickin' forever and when you are dyeing you really need to spread it out and open to let the dyes penetrate and use a strong concentration. At least, in my experience.

Having the bucket in the corner means I pick stuff out, load the crockpot, kettle, & roasting pan and can do the dyeing little by little as it is convenient.

You don't want to leave stuff too long because it can get funky, but if it's cool like it has been, I think I strung the dyeing out over three or four days in little bursts of messiness.

In the pans, spread out the yarn or fiber and paint it as you prefer. I squeeze out most of the water and let the dye solution (a super concentrated dye solution measured out into a measured amount of water) swell up the fiber. Repeat the pattern, layer by layer. Eventually, you end up with this:

Put the lid on the roaster and turn it on to 225, 235°F or so. Experiment as they may vary, I'm not sure how much quality control you get for $29.99. You do not want bubbles, you do want a healthy amount of smelly steam when you lift the lid.

Same with the roasting pan, although since you won't be covering this, you need to check it often to make sure there is still enough water. Remember you want it well saturated, no scorching, so keep it filled almost up the first lip. I set my oven to 275°F but again, ymmv, as I think my oven may be a little cool. We're always amazed at its ability to produce scorching hot control knobs and pies still cool in the middle. Add warm water as needed to keep the level up.

With the stockpot on the stovetop, there are a lot of ways you can play it and create different effects. Filling the pot with dye solution and water, immersing the skein and then turning on the heat will produce a more even coloration.

Placing the skein in the pot and painting it in the water and then turning on the heat will produce more variegated effects and muddling colors (not neccesarily a bad thing) and placing it in the water, turning on the heat waiting for setting temp (it varies fiber by fiber, generally around 210°F for wool, lower for silk. Hot enough to really steam, cool enough to not produce bubbles. The pot will creak and be on the edge of a boil, but no bubbles) and then painting it can produce some dramatic color effects. If you want to do this, make sure you have retied the skeins very loosely so you can open it up to paint inside it very gently. On my stove, I could call the right temperature setting around a three or four on a scale of 0-10, 10 being the roiling boil full flame, and 0 being off, of course.

As for how long these should go, I let it go until all dye is exhausted, waste not want not, don'tcha know.

You can check for exhaustion by gently pressing down on the fiber. Clear, or nearly clear water? There you go, it's exhausted and should all be set in the fiber. Turn off the crockpot/oven/stockpot and let it cool completely before handling. For large quantities this can be overnight, as it may feel cool on top but still be setting (and hot) in the middle. Agitating hot fibers can produce felting. Don't forget AHA--heat, agitation, alkalinity. Any two of these factors can produce felting. The stuff in the oven will cool off first.

My first wash is usually in lukewarm water, or a water temp that matches the dyebath.

I add a generous splash of vinegar to the water and gently place the fiber/yarn into the sink.

Gently swish it around and open it up. Only do so much at a time as can float without pressing down on the bottom. Let soak for five minutes, swish around gently again, gently pull it toward you away from the tap and the drain, let the water out.

Refill the sink with the water flowing in gently at the opposite side. You are minimising agitation here. If you let the dye exhaust, you won't need much rinsing.

On the next repeat, measure in a little bit of your favorite soap, distribute it gently, let soak for ten or so minutes, drain and refill for a rinse. Squeeze, don't wring, out excess water gently. You can use the washing machine's spin cycle or a salad spinner to separate out more water, or just gently roll and squeeze in a towel, just like with a sweater. Lay out to air dry, usually flat, but with yarns and longer stapled fibers in roving form you can get away with hanging them out to dry.

Another fast and easy way to dye is by painting the skein or fiber with dye solution and then wrapping it up like a sausage or burrito (wrapping styles vary ;)) in plastic wrap (they sell extra wide plastic wrap now too) and steam setting the colors if you have a stockpot with a steam tray. Here you can let the water boil, of course. It's harder to gauge when colors have exhausted, but this by far the quickest way to dye. Remember to let it cool down sufficiently before washing, as these things can be little hot pockets. This method is neat because as the air expands inside the plastic it is like a coccoon, which deflates when you let the steamy heat whoosh out as you check it.

A proper dye tutorial would have lots of pics of finished products at the end produced by the different methods.



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