With Some Success

Last weekend I dyed some yarn, with some success.  I think I was just a little too ambitious.  I only have 1 big canning pot and one smaller “spaghetti” pot and I dyed 6 skeins.  In one afternoon.  With natural dyes.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I started the process on Saturday by mordanting the yarn in alum and cream of tartar.  Man that stuff stinks when it’s cooking!  It kind of upsets my stomach.  I don’t think it is poison or anything, just yucky.  I had the windows and doors open and the stove fan at full force.  Still.  Also on Saturday I made the dye baths.  I had some logwood left over from my first natural dyeing experiment, so I put that in a cut up stocking and boiled it for a few hours, then set it aside to cool.  The dried weld plant I bought at UK Knit Camp Market from The Mulberry Dyer.  Same story.  Put it into a stocking, tie the knot at the end and throw it in the pot to boil for a few hours.

Then the fun began Sunday.  First I dyed the yellow.  I put two skeins into the pot with the dye bath and put on the heat.  After about 20 minutes I could see it was turning a dull dark yellow/brown.  This was not what I was after!  I wanted that big bold bright yellow that I had read about.  So I quickly got out the trusty laptop and Googled “brighten weld dye” and found out that my water is too soft.  If you want bright weld color, your water has to be hard, with chalk in it.  CHALK.  Damn where was I going to get some quickly?  I Googled “chalk” and went to a wikipedia page all about chalk and found out that it is the main ingredient in antacid tablets.  RENNIE!  I know we have some somewhere.  I went upstairs and dug through cupboards and found a pack of 18 tablets.

I took one tablet and threw it into a glass, ground it up, then threw it into the pot.  Nothing.  Then I dipped out some of the pot water into the cup and ground a tablet into that.  I could see the water turning bright yellow!  Ha!  It works, you just need more tablets.  I ended up throwing all 18 into the pot.  And cooked.  Look what I got!

merino dyed with weld

The first and middle skeins were the first 2 in the pot.  The skein at the very top was thrown in after about 45 minutes.  The lightest skein was just an afterthought when the cooking was done and I took everything off the stove.

What DIDN’T go well was that I stirred too much and the darkest skeins are a little bit felted in places.  They are still good and very usable, but I will have to be more careful next time.  I was doing all that stirring trying to get those tablets to dissolve and mix in!  But good colors, yes?

I’m going to keep the first one (at the bottom of the photo) just like it is.  It’s the best one.  The others will be overdyed, with indigo to make green, and the lightest I’m not sure yet what I will do with it.

So, by then it was 4 in the afternoon but I hadn’t even started the logwood yet.  I cleaned my pots and threw in the logwood dye and yarn.  It seemed to me right away that I had too rich a dye.  The color was kind of brown.  Good old Google came to my rescue again.  I read on a few sites that if your logwood color is brown it means too much logwood, not enough water.  I drained off half the dye water (which I didn’t keep because I had nothing to put it in!  Must get more dye pots!) and filled in more water and carried on cooking.  Again, great color.  I’m really happy with these.

merino dyed with logwood

So, now all I have left to do is indigo and I’ll have a rainbow of colors (red and orange from the first session, yellow and purple here, and blue and green with the indigo).

I bought a very small indigo kit, also from The Mulberry Dyer.  I’ve never dyed with indigo and it sounds very very complicated.  I’ll have to sit down and really think about it before starting.  But I can’t wait.  I have 2 skeins of undyed wool left, plus the yellow to over dye.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the purple dye stain off my tiled sink…..

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