Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Pickled Sheep

Last year at Yarndale, my good friend Curly Girl Coop surprised me with a course in Yarn Dyeing. It was good messy fun, and I vowed I would do some more at home. You didn't need expensive items - undyed yarn, a microwave, some dyes and plenty of stuff to mop up the mess with! We experimented with a variety of dyes, from acid based to plain old food colouring. My efforts looked something like this...

and here's the actual piece of sheep I dyed. Look at those curls!

It was great to see how different materials soaked up the dye differently. I loved it, and my friend obviously knew this as for Christmas she bought me these beauties... 

Excuse the small hand, but she couldn't help rearranging the packets as I was trying to photograph them! That's a hank of aran weight merino yarn, and four colours of that American drink thing - Kool-Aid. Finally, 9 months later, I got started on yarn dyeing adventures. I took the opportunity whilst Little P was at nursery one afternoon, I most definitely did not need her help here!

I started by reading up on dyeing with Kool-Aid. It is acid-based, which helps to set the colour. Some dyes you need to add vinegar, but no need with this. I did read that some people added vinegar to the water when soaking the yarn to boost the acidity as it helps to keep the colour bright and vibrant. I did just this. 
When wool gets wet, it just smells like a wet sheep. I guess it essentially is that really. When wool is soaking in a mix of vinegar and water, it just smells like a pickled sheep. Luckily, when you burst open the sachets of Kool-Aid, all bad smells are covered up by a deliciously fruity aroma. I used 2 sachets of Kool-Aid in a small beaker of water and mixed it up well. I wanted my colours to be vibrant and not wishy-washy.

All set up and ready to go...

I laid out my hank in a hoop shape and decided to roughly colour each quarter a different colour and blend them at the joins... I toyed with the idea of just using red and orange as they blend so well... but plumped for going all out with the 4 colours. There are plenty of more opportunities for stylish yarn, this was pure fun!

Using a plastic syringe, I squirted the colours on, rubbing them into the yarn and making sure they all soaked in. You could squeeze out the excess liquid, but you would end up with paler coours. So mine was dripping with dye to keep it bright. So far so good. The next part was the tricky part for me. I carefully transferred the dripping yarn to a microwaveable deep dish thing, and covered it well with cling film. This was tricky to do, as I didn't want the colours to touch too much and become contaminated. Alas, with so much dye on it, that was impossible...
Microwaving the whole lot sets the dye. It's dead easy too. I just stuck it on high power for 5 minutes - you want it to boil and the water it's in to become clear. It had a bit longer after 5 minutes, but not too much as the cling film begins to look as if it is going to burst...

After it was cool enough to handle, I gave it a rinse. Phew, no colour leakage! Then I took a look at it. Mixed results - great bright colours, but lots of areas where colours had merged to create 'brownish' splodges...

As you can see, the bottom picture shows some of the contaminated areas. Hmm... On the plus side, there were also some lovely colours in there too... Time to dry it off on the washing line!

Once it was completely dried, I got out the trusty yarn ball winder and balled that thing up!

Now that's what I'm talking about! The dodgy colours get completely lost in the ball and you can't notice them at all.

Love it! Overall, very happy with the results in my first foray into dyeing with Kool-Aid. Would I do it again? You bet! I may like to try with a cotton yarn next time as I use those types much more. I'm not sure if cotton would work as well, but I'd like to try! 

Next question was what would I make with this? I'm not all that good at wearing wool, as it makes me itch, so a scarf or hat was out of the question. But I could probably handle some gloves, fingerless ones at that! I noticed my hands were getting a little nippy on the handlebars when biking Little P to nursery, so that would be perfect!

When I looked at this yarn, I really thought the star stitch may really show off the colours, so I made a swatch... sorry about the quality, but these two pictures are from my Instagram feed...

and here are the finished fingerless gloves, made following this free pattern by Hilah Kellner

I must say they are bright, but I somewhat love them. They aren't too itchy at all on my hands either. It is a very satisfying feeling knowing that not only have I crocheted these, but I've also the yarn, making them totally unique. I really enjoyed my adventures in yarn dyeing and hope to do some more soon, probably not until the New Year now, as it's a busy run up to, dare I say it, Christmas! 
Thanks for stopping by, until next time :)

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