I finally did it - I dyed some wool.
I've been voraciously reading all sorts of books and web sites and magazines about how to dye yarn. They went on about food color, acid dyes, protein fibers, plant fibers, dye strengths, steaming, boiling, soaking, washing - to the point where I realized that I now knew waaaaaay to much (or nothing at all) and needed to just go out and do it.
So I did.
Step 1: Yarn
I'd been trying to get my hands on some real wool at discount prices, but it just wasn't working out. That became procrastination so ... I got some el-cheapo wool/acrylic blend from my LYS. Two skeins at $4 each. Definitely not a big investment so it's fine if I screw it up. Wind the balls into a pair of skeins on the dining room table, stick in a pot of water to soak. Check.
Step 2: Dye
This is where things got crazy. I visited a semi-local establishment, Dharma Trading Company, well known for being a great place to buy dyes. Unfortunately, I did this before I had anything to dye, so I simply looked at dyes, read books, wandered about, bought nothing. After more reading, I found the PieKints blog that talks about dying with Wilton's Icing Dye. It's a highly-concentrated food color specially made for frosting. A variety of colors and totally non-toxic. Off to the local craft store - six different colors secured. Check.
Step 3: Method
I love sock yarn. The kind that changes colors and does cool things. If you read this blog at all, you know that. Ok, that means I am NOT doing the simple immersion method (too simple, after all) and I'm heading right to the "cold pour" method. Once again, it's Knitty to the rescue with a great article about food color dying here. I cleared off the dining room table, put down two big lengths of plastic wrap and I was on my way. I did a mostly blue with a quick transition to yellow. No, I didn't take pictures of anything (idiot) but then again, I had food color all over my hands and thought that would NOT go well with my digital camera. Pix at the end. I poured the dye, squished it in, rolled it up, covered with foil and baked for about 3h in a 250F oven. Open it up (oops, some of the blue leaked on the pan), rinse it out and hang in the shower to dry over night.
Step 4: Now what?
First, it became two hanks. And it looks like this:
You can see where the blue and the yellow mixed to make green. That was deliberate, actually. I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep them separate and so it made sense to force the issue by muddling the dyes. Common sense said it would become green - and it's nice to see logic in practice. I'm also happy that the dye "calmed down". I suspect that's mainly because of the high acrylic content of this yarn - and it could also be because I didn't add enough vinegar, or bake it long enough. Heck, I don't know. However, I am happy with the end result.
Better still, my winder showed up today and I made my first yarn cake - and now my two hand-dyed skeins look like this:
Will I do this again? YES!!! With what yarn? No idea. Food color definitely does NOT work on plant fibers (the cotton yarn I used to tie the skein is still crisp and white) so I'll need to stick to wool for the time being. I also need to perfect my rolling/wrapping technique so that the dye doesn't leak so much. There are droppers to buy, jars to fill and color palettes to think about. Oh, and at least one pair of socks to knit from these lovely little balls. What a cool thing - and to all of you that do this regularly ... I am amazed at the beauty of what you do. This is truly an art!
Step 5: Knit Something
I have a thought that this will be a pair of socks suitable for wearing with my thong sandals. I've only got 50g per skein of this yarn and therefore it's unlikely to go far. I like the Tropicana pattern over at Magknits. If I combine that with the toe for the Lickety Split socks from Knitty, I could be on to something. Regardless - it needs to be easy, and I need to do it soon! Thank goodness this is a holiday weekend. :-)