Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yarn Along {Breaking Black}

This week the boys and I decided to have a little wool dyeing experiment.

We had some plain wool sitting around that a friend had given me-the colours were a light army  green and an *almost* cornflower blue, neither of which were terribly saturated. 

I'd read about breaking black Wilton food colouring-which is really neat. Black is just made up of various colours, and when you add acids, sometimes the colouring "breaks" into all the original colours and dyes in blotches. If you're trying to get a uniform colour, this wouldn't be a successful way to dye. But....we had free wool, a rainy afternoon and decided to give it a go.

 So this is the "before" shot of the green. I didn't get one of the blue, because i'm irresponsible like that.
 We unwound it into big hanks (I used my swift for this and it was kinda messy, but it worked well enough.)
Then we soaked these puppies in water and some vinegar for about 20 minutes.

 Dissolved the black food colouring into some water, and then added it to a pot of water and vinegar, and let it heat up. I added the wool, this time one on top of the other. I knew this would make *some* colour difference, but I wasn't sure how much.
 Reduced it to a simmer and let it go about 25 minutes, until the water around it was all clear. (The wool soaked up the dye.) You can see around the edges, the reds that broke away from the black dye.

 We let the wool cool. I ran a sink full of cold water and set the whole pot in there to cool it more quickly without shocking the yarn. (I don't even know what that really means, to be honest. I just read somewhere not to do it.) Apparently wool is sensitive to rapid temperature changes...kinda like me.

Then we gently rinsed the wool with some mild soap (my beloved Meyers lemon verbena dish detergent, actually-one of the few dish soaps i'm not allergic to!) Doing this over a colander helped because the water could run through it without us handling it too much. (Wet fibers get all cuddly with each-other and felt into one-which would be really messy.)

We rinsed until the water ran clear, which didn't take long at all because the wool had already soaked up most of the dye anyway.
The hank that was on the bottom of the pot soaked up most of the dye. See the one that's still green? That portion of wool was the one closest to the top.
Hung the wool up on the porch and sat nearby with small objects to throw at the squirrels who tried to steal it for who knows what.

Once dry, we took a look at the way the dye had broken-and it looked pretty cool. But not so great on the army green. I think if it had been white wool it would have been really pretty. But the result was kind of muddy.
So we decided it was going back in the pot. We decided to go with the greens since that was the direction the wool was going to go anyway.

 This time used several blues to get this mix, to sort of brighten up the greens a bit.
 I used more dye this time, so even though it simmered for almost 45 minutes, the water never *totally* cleared.

 Same process...cold bath for the pot, rinse with soap.
 It started to rain so hard though (and sideways) that we couldn't hang it up on the porch, so we spun it instead.
 And then hung it up while still a bit damp, once the sun came out.
 Twisted it back into hanks-and voila! (I turned a folding chair upside down on a dining room chair and used it's legs diagonally to wrap it back into hanks. Unconventional, but it worked.)

 I think I need a Niddy Noddy, and I took a  risk of complete embarrassment in having to ask the Mr. to make one for me. You should have seen the expression on his face when he repeated the words "niiiiiiiddy nooooddy....?" to me in complete confusion.
Awesome tool. Totally ridiculous name. Just sayin'. 

Oh, and The purple is the cornflower blue batch that we did later, using reds and blues.  We dyed those hanks in cake form, but both side by side so that they'd soak the dye up the same way.
I'm not sure what i'm going to make with them yet, but I'll post a picture once knit up to show the way the colour turned out.
That's one of the things I noticed, while looking online for dyeing tutorials, is that everyone showed how to dye, but not very many people showed the knitted results of different dye methods-which left me really curious!

The boys wanted to name our colours after things that only boys would come up with. And since they helped me, I only thought it fair to let them. So I won't repeat the original names.... They're gross.
I had to talk them down to less disgusting names, which took about a half hour of negotiation.  So, I give you, "Gaseous Peacock" and "Purple People Eater".


  1. Gorgeous yarn....what a fun experiment! And I love the names!!

  2. Wow! You are adventurous with the dyeing! Lovely yarn hanks and I hope you get a niddy noddy like you requested ;)

  3. Such lovely messy fun with such a great outcome - I love your yarn and I'm sure your boys enjoyed the process x

  4. I dyed white yarn with the black Wiltons and got a lovely variegated green and purple. :)
    As for the niddy noddy, I made one from PVC pipe pieces. I prefer this because I can easily disassemble it and store it in a small space. You just need a length of pipe, a way to cut it (I've used branch loppers when pressed) and two of the T connectors. It's not glamorous or anything, but it's definitely functional. And I'm not worried about someone breaking it.