UndyedYarnpire’s Fiber Opera

December 23, 2007

dyeing to be blue and .. pink?

Filed under: dye, instructions — Tags: , — UndyedYarnpire @ 1:06 pm

Playing a bit of catch-up here.

I was talking to Boogie, who heard me bemoaning my lack of cookware that could be sacrificed to dyeing and she suggested I put my yarn in zip-top bags for boiling. Then the pot could still be used for food after.

The reality is that the acid dyes are not terribly non-food safe, but it is enough that I would not want to make soup in one that had been a vat for dye. About half my dye usage seems to be food coloring anyway, which definitely is not a problem.

I put a large kettle on the stove and filled with hot tap water. Since it was not for human consumption, I did not worry about the amount of lead or impurities which might be in the water and it dramatically decreases the stove-heating time.

My experience with the bags was not wholly what I expected. Let me detail what I did.

There is a concern about breathing in powdered substances and causing lung damage. One should definitely use a well-ventilated area and preferably wear a dust mask. It is my opinion that everywhere selling things which require safety precautions should be forced by law to carry those safety precautions as well. Power tools need hearing protection, but there is not usually a display of earplugs immediately adjacent or even a sign indicating where those might be located. There were no dust masks available at the store selling the dye.

I put the stove hood on high, pulled my shirt over my nose and mouth, and added a fractional-spoonful of citric acid powder. (The package says 1 Tablespoon per pound of fiber. I was dyeing 70g of fiber in two batches. There are about 500g per pound. So I was looking for about a fourteenth of a Tablespoon in each bag. I probably used between a third and a quarter of a “teaspoon”.) Then I added water to each bag and stood them in a (used but washed) take-out food container. I used a plastic tube (which had been one of those WTF packaging elements in a pair of shoes) and tapped it into the dye jar. I stuck the tube into one prepared bag and poured water through the tube to rinse the dye into the solution. Then I added another cup of hot tap water. To the other bag I added 30 drops of red food coloring, 10 yellow, 1 blue and a cup of hot tap water.

I washed my superwash yarn in warm water with a drop of soap added. Then I squeezed out some of the water and put a hank in each bag. (Rinsing the soap is not required and may even help the dye bond, according to the instructions. But I assumed it was like washing the kitchen floor, if the soap is diluted in a gallon of water, no rinsing is needed, if it is used full strength, a sticky residue would remain and rinsing is necessary.) The yarn which contacted the dye solution sucked up all the color. But the yarn near the top of the bag did not get exposed to the solution and did not get any color. The solution in both cases had immediately gone clear. I added another cup of hot tap water to the bag and a few more drops of food coloring immediately in the white area of the red bag. I sealed it and swished it and put it in the pot of simmering water. I did the same with the blue, though the straw was awkward while holding the jar, the bag, and the water for rinsing all at once. Luckily when I spilled, it was the exhausted water in the bag before the fresh dye was added. I was able to mop this up with a cleaning rag (usually used for dusting). I sealed and swished and put the bag into the simmering water.

Both bags were simmered (heat on) for 30 minutes and left to cool (heat off) for several hours. The bags float in the water, which is was unexpected, but only because I had not thought it through.

Upon removal from the water, each bag was individually handled. I turned on the tap, opened the bag and let fresh water flow in. This would guarantee minimal skin exposure to acid and dye. Then the bag was completely drained and fresh water added for the first real rinse. After that draining, the yarn was removed and rinsed in the sink while the bag was rinsed out. Some baking soda was shaken on, but no foaming or bubbles occurred which indicates the acid level was minimal. The yarn was removed and excess water was squished out. (Dyeing superwash yarn first is recommended because of the handling tolerance.) This was set on a clean but sacrificial t-shirt for drying. 35g of wool+nylon should dry overnight if it was sufficiently wrung out.

The resulting yarn is a monochromatic variegated yarn. It is exceptionally well done if that was the desired result. Since I had intended a solid color, I found myself somewhat dismayed. However that dismay was overshadowed by my thrill of the creation of a very useful kind of yarn. I call it serendipitous.dyed yarn

In future, I plan to use much more water when trying for a solid color. I hope that if the dye is suspended in a larger volume, the yarn will have a better chance to absorb the color evenly. That will require a new container because having a gallon of acidic dye in a slider-style zip-top bag strikes me as foolish. I also think that the bags would be ideal for boiling handpainted yarns. There is a suggestion that one can soak the yarn in the acidic water, drop on dye, then let the resulting colored fiber dry (so the colors do not bleed) then steam to heat set. If the handpainted fiber was only mostly dry it could be placed in a zip-top bag and simmered for 30-40 minutes. I plan to attempt that next time.

Overall my experience was very positive, even if unexpected things occurred. Since undyed yarn can be so much less expensive, I would highly recommend attempting this. I liked the Jacquard acid dye because of its color intensity. I really liked the citric acid powder in lieu of vinegar for the convenience. But the food coloring really does work quite well and there are no safety concerns about reusing the cookware. I did not like the Kool-Aid idea, even though that contains the citric acid and is obviously food safe. But the drink packets are quite expensive compared to 25 years ago and it seems wasteful of money.

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