Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yarn Play, Part II

It's been a while since my last dyepot adventure, so yesterday, as I was squishing all that lovely, natural wool between my fingers, I decided it was time for another one. I want to keep that beautiful Marr Haven yarn undyed, but I have other undyed yarns in the stash in shades that don't excite me.

Like this yarn. I picked this up in a Rav destash a couple of years ago (I stalk the destash board): fifteen 1oo gram balls for little more than postage. It's an undyed, lanolin-rich basic wool. Not the softest yarn I've ever felt--not like merino, anyway--but certainly several orders of magnitude softer than Bartlett Yarns or Briggs & Little, both of which I've tried really hard to like. I'm not a fan of scratchy wools. Anything rougher than, say Cascade Eco Wool is just too rough for my tender hide. This wool feels like a lanolin-y version of Eco Wool. About the same gauge, too, so quite a useful yarn. Just...bland.

I've pulled it out several times to swatch and always put it back. I'm not a beige kind of person, and this is a really, really flat beige. No heathering, no variegation, no depth. Just...beige. Which made it perfect for the dye pot. I've been wanting to try dyeing some darker toned wool, because it provides such a rich base for the color. And lately I've been a somewhat interested--okay, obsessed--with acquiring some heathery, blue-green wool. Something like this, or this, or this.

Since I had a color in mind, I didn't follow my usual leap-before-you-look approach to dyeing, and instead decided to dye up a practice skein or two first. I skeined up the first ball with my trusty niddy-noddy and got to work.

I put the yarn in some warm water to soak while I prepared the dye bath.

Since I wanted a blue-green, I knew I'd need to mix yellow and blue. For my first attempt, I decided to shoot for the "1 teaspoon of dye powder to 100 grams of yarn" recommendation I found on the Knit Picks website.

Mindful of the need to duplicate the results for subsequent skeins, I even measured the amount of each color. I did not, however, consider in advance exactly how to achieve the color balance I wanted. I figured, the yellow is lighter, so naturally I need more of it than of the blue. I mixed three parts yellow to one part blue, mixed like crazy, poured in a glug of vinegar, and dumped in the wet yarn.

Almost immediately, my beige yarn turned dark green. Really dark, dark green. Not blue green. Not heathered. Really dark, solid green. The kind of green Robin Hood would envy. But it wasn't like I could stop mid-dye, so I let it play out. And I got a hank of forest green yarn.

Since I realized early on that my first attempt was going to be too dark and too green, I skeined up another ball, put it in to soak, and thought about the problem a little. I decided, since blue-green is a mix of blue and green, and green is a mix of yellow and blue, I should really have three parts blue to one part yellow. Not very scientific, but hey. It's supposed to be fun, right? Math is not fun for me, so I don't do it.

I mixed up a new dye bath, using the new formula and half as much dye total. The color of the dye bath was much closer to blue-green this time. But again, within moments of putting the yarn in the dye bath, I realized it was much too concentrated for what I had in mind. The yarn immediately became a dark, solid teal. Beautiful, but not what I wanted.

So I went for attempt number three. But since I am not the most patient person in the world, I didn't do another test skein. I concluded that the shade would be perfect if I just used the same amount of dye but three times as much yarn. I'm good at talking myself into things like that. I mixed up another dye bath using the same amounts of yellow and blue, but more water and vinegar, and tossed in four more skeins. I know, I said three, but I wanted to dye twelve total, and that would have been four more lots, and by now it was getting kind of close to when I needed to start dinner, so I cheated and put in four.

This was a mistake. The yarn came out a little too light--kind of washed out looking. Now, I'm sure a professional dyer would, at this point (assuming they were careless or lazy or clueless enough to have gotten into this situation in the first place), have done something totally professional to fix this situation. I, however, added "a little" more of each dye powder in the same ratio as before, poured in a bit more vinegar, and tossed the yarn back in.

Worked perfectly.

The yarn turned out exactly the soft, watery, blue-green color I had in mind. "Ah, hah!" you're thinking, "but how in the world will you duplicate those results with the rest of the yarn?" Well, I'll tell you how: for the subsequent dye baths, I measured the same amounts as I originally put in for each color, then put in "a little more" again, and tossed in the yarn. I figured, "a little more" is probably going to mean almost the same thing to me each time, and the yarn is going to absorb all the color whether I dye it once or twice, so.... And you know what?

Worked perfectly.

Sometimes my own recklessness in the face of the Knitting Goddess's wrath makes me a little breathless.

Here is some of that lovely yarn drying on hangers in the backyard:

And here is how it looks today:

Which is exactly what I wanted.

I love it when I'm successful in spite of myself.


5elementknitr said...

I think it would be really cool to use the other "test" skeins as edging! Like CO with one of them for the cuffs and a row or two later, use the main color.

sophanne said...

Hooray for revenge on the KG!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! It looks like a perfect celadon to me, which is one of my favorite shades to dye. (Blogger is having issues @ the moment - this is Sharon from Stitchjones/Chickenlips Knitting. Sorry for commenting anonymously) =)

Anonymous said...

Lovely color - you are a dyeing genius.