Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dabbling with dyes

Yesterday Warren looked after Thomas to give me a whole day off to go to the craft and quilt fair - what bliss! So wonderful to be able to browse and learn and absorb the creativity without trying to keep a little one happy.

I went to workshops on all sorts of random things, like making circles in patchwork, stained glass applique, dyeing lace and even picture framing. I also saw the beautiful Canberra quilts exhibition which is always really inspiring - sadly I'd forgotten my camera. There was a spectacular quilt there with an incredibly intricate persian pattern that had taken something like 17,000 hours to finish, and was a true masterpiece - wish I'd had a photo of that one.

I did make a completely unintended and indulgently extravagant purchase of some Noro silk garden yarn to make a shawl/vest after wandering into one workshop on knitwear, where an very elegant older woman was modeling the most gorgeous handknitted garments. I'm not quite sure about my colour choice, it seems to have more mustardy yellow in the blend now that I've got it home, but I'm sure it will be lovely anyway.

I had been thinking about doing some yarn dyeing experiments for a while, as I can never seem to find colours I like (apart from the beautiful expensive hand dyes), so inspired by all this creativity and the various kool-aid dyeing tutorials on the web, I also had a quick go today at dyeing some yarn just with ordinary food colouring and vinegar, as food colour is really the active ingredient in kool aid, and easier to blend this way.

I started with some jars half full of water and a splash of vinegar, then added a few drops of Queen brand food colours, mixing some together. I had the small packet of four colours, plus a rose pink. I also had some old ivory/brown coloured wilton colour. The yarn is a cream merino crepe from Lincraft (100% wool).

I plonked a mini skein of yarn in each one, covered with glad wrap (don't forget this step or you will have dye all over the microwave - trust me!) and then in the microwave for 2 mins off, two minutes on until the dye was absorbed -two zaps each with two jars in at a time.

You can see how the water goes clear once the dye is absorbed. Then you gently rinse in hot water (avoiding shocking the yarn with a sudden change of temperature) then wash in wool wash. I was surprised how little dye came out at this stage - the colour is very colour fast.

Here are the final colours. Pretty bright and garish, but they could be a lot more subtle with less dye (or more wool) and some more judicious blending. You can see on the pink shades how more or less of the same colour comes out very differently. The candy pink was just one drop, and the darker cherry red/pink was a few drops.

The next thing I'd like to try is some variegated blends. Some of these actually have some nice mottling, because I didn't soak the wool beforehand for very long - I like this look.

So there you go, all done in about half an hour - and lots of fun!


mames said...

awesome! i love how many different hues resulted from your experiment. i have some lovely debbie bliss aran cream wool that begs for color. now i know i can do it.

Cascade Lily said...

Wandering around the craft fair sans child AND playing with dyes - sounds like a great way to while away a few hours.

I went too, and will post some pix of my fave quilts later this week.

Shell xx said...

What a beautiful blog, I am glad I stumbled upon you! I am a Canberra mother myself, my craft - music - we Canberra women rock!

Kate said...

Love the dye experiment! Glad you had time to wander by yourself.

Suzy said...

Those yarn colours are beautiful. Hope everything is okay, and you're just having a rest from the blog.