November 1, 2010 by Spinningmad Dee (Dionne) Westwood
Hi! I’ve been getting really excited about today’s session with you. This is the final part in the preparation of the yarn before we finally begin to knit our socks.
Let’s begin with safety; it is important to ensure we do not use the dyes incorrectly and risk injury to ourselves or to others, and in particular we need to ensure that our heat source is well positioned where children and pets cannot get at them.
- The dyeing/heat setting area(s) should be well ventilated and safe from children or pets.
- Dye containers should be positioned so that they will not be easily knocked over and have secure lids.
- Tables/worktops should be covered with old newspaper. (perhaps with plastic sheeting underneath this).
- Any items used in dyeing MUST NOT be reused for food preparation purposes.
- Pots for pouring /mixing dyes should have a wide enough base so that they cannot tip over easily.
- You must wear protective rubber/latex type gloves
- Protective clothing/apron/overalls must also be worn
- When mixing Dyes (from powders) you should also wear a mask particularly if you are preparing large quantities so you are not breathing in the dust powder particles.
Please don’t stint on the safety aspects in storage, preparation and use.
We need a dry day so that we can get through the entire batch of yarn and get it dry so let’s get going…….. there are 10 steps in preparing each skein and applying the dye(s); this will be followed by detailed heat-setting instructions, and finally drying and re-skeining your newly coloured yarn!
At The Sink
Partially fill a bucket or bowl (of ample size to contain the skein(s) easily and allow it/them to move freely) by filling it with warm water and some liquid detergent (washing up liquid is fine), enough depth to soak and cover the entire skein. Soak the skein for at least 30 minutes. This will remove any oils and dirt that my be present in the yarn (from manufacture, spinning etc)
Next squeeze (DO NOT WRING) the skein and pop it into a colander or appropriate container whilst you empty the used soak water away. Rinse to remove remaining detergent. Put water into container then add the skein, do not run the tap directly onto the skein.
Empty again; as in step 2, then refill the container with 1 part WHITE MALT VINEGAR to 3 parts warm water (enough to immerse a skein or possibly 2 at a time). This is an ACID BATH.
NOTE: We are using ACID DYE because we are dyeing Protein (wool) Fibre. If our yarn was of a cellulose fibe we would use Fibre Reactive Dyes.
Soak the skein(s) for at least 30 mintutes in this acid bath whilst preparing the dye(s) and your work area.
To Prepare the Dye
Whilst the yarn is having it’s acid bath you can prepare your dye colours, if they are not already prepared – (mixed dye can be stored in a cool dark area for about 6 months) (see dye/colour mixing tutorial or read dye/colour mixing instructions) and prepare your working area.
This space needs to be large enough to work well on at least half the skein length at each time (see how I coped in the photos!)… a wall papering table or long work top would be fine. …Cover this surface in paper to protect it and absorb any splashes or spills… you might wish to put opened out dustbin bags under the paper to provide better protection. You could tape the edges down to stop anything moving about (especially if it is breezy and you are working outside!)
I worked in my garage which has a long-ish old kitchen work surface in it… it is a place that if I had spilled anything I did not need to worry… the disadvantage was that the resulting photographs were severely hindered by darkness in my garage; also as the work-top was not long enough for me to unravel the entire or half lengths of the skein for dyeing……
- Roll out a long length of clingfilm – again you could secure this with tape if you wish.
- Using 1 washed out container per colour, and wearing gloves and clothing protection, pour some prepared dye into the first container.
NOTE: If you are blending a colour you will need to have this pre-blended and ready.
Remove the skein from its acid bath whilst wearing your gloves by squeezing the excess liquid from it (do not wring or agitate it).
My skein is very large so I will need to begin at one end and work along the entire length. I worked on one part (half), leaving the rest in a “heap” in its bowl/colander where any liquid that it releases is caught and it will stay clean.
What I did to find half way was to hook one end of the skein on something (chair?) and stretch my wet skein out. Then walking with the other end back to the hook, and hanging that with the first end. Now I gently stretch my halved skein back out and mark the centre point with a clothes peg. This allowed me to see easily the halfway point was and what I needed to lay out and dye each time (I had several skeins).
Even now this halved skein was still too long for the length of the work surface so I laid it out in “waves” “zig-zags”.
You can use brushes, a foam applicator or just pour/dribble dye directly onto your yarn (or fibre). Or if using large enough containers dip the yarn into these but be careful not to drip and apply to much dye as you don’t need to use on vast quantities of it. (Read below how I cope with container dipping). You can always add more dye if you don’t at first apply enough. Work at your own pace, little by little until you get the feel of how the dye is “accepted” or absorbed by your yarn/fibre
I find a very economical and relatively clean way it so use a well washed out jam jar. I half fill this will pure dye (or blended colour dye) and work from the end of the skein pushing it into the jar working towards the middle. Ensuring all the yarn in the jar is soaked by dye, then working backwards I keep one hand above the jar pinching the skein between finger and thumb so squishing excess dye back into the jar as I work back to the end of the skein. If any dye splashes out I ensure it is squidged onto the re-laid out yarn or mop it up with paper towel. This way I can ensure I don’t use too much dye and almost none goes to waste.
Use your fingers (if necessary) to push the dye into the laid out yarn/fibre so that you are certain it has soaked through all layers (if the skein is very thick, you might want to apply dye from the reverse side as well, so turn it over carefully). As my yarn is tightly spun and plied I work it in well so I know the dye has penetrated to the core of the yarn.
Clean/wipe hands in gloves dry, remove any unused dye from your work surface (if pure it can be poured back into a storage bottle) then working from one end turn the end of the clingfilm it is layed out on over and fold over like making a swiss roll with it, enveloping layers of yarn and cling-film into a package. Which is compact and manageable and will not allow the dye colour to contaminate the work surface we are about to re-prepare for the other half of our skein. You can “seal the open ends a little to ensure less leakage/seepage.
Lay a long length of cling-film along the surface as before and lay out the 2nd half of the skein. In the same way, apply colour two (use a different brush, applicator, or jar). Remember to work from the end towards but not right to the centre (see note below).
Pour any remaining dye into its storage container (of if blended, a new one)
Note: Because the yarn was pre-soaked the two colours will work towards one another and overlap creating a small area of new colour as one mixes with the other (our sample here will blend from the primary colour red through to orange (a secondary colour) and into primary colour yellow.
This is the reason we don’t work our dye right to the centre. If we had done the overlap would be larger than I had wanted and create a strong third colour over a short length of yarn. This would mean that the planned banding pattern I want to achieve would be distorted. (Though this method would/could work as part of another design so bear it in mind and experiment another time with this aspect of dyeing and colour)
If you have never dyed before you might want to have a couple of small sample skeins to practice with.
Wrap with second section with the clingfilm it is laying on as you did the first…working towards the middle where it will meet the already wrapped section. Fold over so the skein is entirely wrapped. Ensure it is well closed. You may wish to give it a second skin of clingfilm to be certain it will not leak. It should not be “running” with dye – if it is you have used far too much.
**** Repeat these 10 steps for all the skeins you have made to ensure you have enough dyes yarn for your project.****
To Heat Set the Dye
That’s the messy bit done with…. I do enjoy the freedom to experiment with colour, mixing dyes and applying it in differing ways, to fibre and/or yarns.. there are an infinite number of ways to ring the changes, and if you find you enjoy dyeing and working with colour, you can have a lot of fun now that you have the basics!!!
For both microwave and steam setting, you need:
- to ensure you have oven/heat proof gloves
- tongs to lift packages out of the heat source
- and to ensure that your work area is safe from children and pets. As the packets that will be steamed or microwaved will be extremely hot and need to be left to cool.
Heat the steamer so that the steam is well established and ensure there is plenty of water to last for the entire 30 minutes required, (you can always top up the water during “cooking”).
Place the packet(s) containing your yarn/fibre into the pot using tongs and re-close the lid.
Steam well for 30 – 40 minutes.
Place packet containing dyed yarn/fibre into a microwave safe dish (such as a pyrex dish or large plate).
Microwave for 2 minutes on full power or until the package appears to pillow
Now reduce the power to defrost….the package will shrink as it cools. continue to “cook” until the package pillows out again. Then stop.
For Both Methods:
If there is liquid left, is this clear?
If it is entirely or almost clear all the dye has been used and set.
If there is still colour there was either too much dye used, or it requires further setting.
You can return to the steamer or microwave and heat set a little longer.
We will assume there is clear or almost clear liquid…..
Turn off heat source.
Using heat proof gloves and tongs remove from the heat and allow to cool well.
Back to the sink
Take the cooled packet to the sink and run hand hot water into bowl…unwrap packet and allow skein to fall into bowl. … you might find that the clingfilm has set itself together and unwrapping might be a bit of a rigmorol. Rip it off if necessary
Rinse in the hand-hot water.
Rinse agaian, this time in warm water.
Rinse a final time using cold water.
This process of rinsing in progressively cooler water ensures the wool is not “shocked”.
Rinsing should not take too long as there should be little or no colour residue to wash out.
My 1st bucket of rinse water tends to be discoloured simply from dye residue on the clingfilm. Your fibre/yarn will have taken and kept hold of the dye it needs……if you wish use some liquid detergent and re-wash the yarn, but this is not vital as having already been detergent soaked it will be clean.
Squeeze excess water by hand. DO NOT WRING.
Put rinsed/squeezed skein into an old pillowcase and spin it in the spin cycle of your machine (or miss this step if you wish to drip dry).
You do not need to weight it unless you want to or it is still over-twisted though most if not all “spring back” should now have relaxed out (unless it was very, very over-spun).
Did you get the colour results you had aimed for?
If you had a lot of colour running from your fibre and you had pre-soaked in for the correct amount of time, and in the correct dilutions of vinegar to water before applying dye: you probably used too much dye.
If not the above: the yarn/fibre may not be wool/protein (Fibre Reactive Dye is used for Cellulose Fibre… Cellulose Fibre will probably take on some colour from the Acid Dye but not deeply or well.
Or: you may not have pre-soaked and cleaned it enough
Or: insufficient heat setting was achieved…
Did you have enough steam of microwave sufficiently?
Did the packet pillow out well and then as it cooled shrink up and “vaccuum pack” around the skein?
Well that was a fun packed day wasn’t it?
I hope it went well, that you have some pleasing results… and that you inspired to try your hand with dyes again
Why not dye fibre and spin from that… you could create a large batt and write a name or a message on it with dye colours… when you spin it, and/or use it for a special someone no one else will know the secret message it contains!
You’ve invested many hours of time and effort in creating this sock yarn, make sure it is thoroughly dry, you don’t want to come back to it and find it mildewed. Store it well……. You should be proud of your unique hand-spun/hand dyed yarn…. next week we will begin the knitting and a much more relaxed pace for us!
See you soon, we’ll get comfy and begin to knit our socks at long last!
love Dee x
Written by Spinningmad Dee.
Supplies by Sara at www.sarastexturecrafts.com