Monday, May 30, 2011

Dyeing Again...and Again... and Again! to Achieve Enlightenment

I've continued my self studies into dyeing yarn.  Recently I was challenged to do an "over-dye" project, which basically means taking yarn that was already dyed - either by hand or commercially - and dyeing it again.  To accomplish this project, I chose to start with some yarn I had dyed with KoolAid and Easter Egg dyes.  It was a pretty yarn... I refer to the colorway as "NH Lupine" as it ranged from pinks to purples and greens, much like the Lupine flowers so common to New Hampshire.

Again, as in the original dye process, I soaked the yarn in water and vinegar for about 20 minutes, then I repeated the dye process with a contrasting color.  My son advised me on selecting an appropriate color.  He's 10, and actually very artistically inclined.  Interestingly enough, when I described the original colorway to him, he said it would be "most effective to use a primary color" (his words!) in the over dye process, because "using secondary colors could make the colors muddy".  Right he was.  After a quick zap in the microwave, I had a gorgeous skein.  Adding blue to the pinks, purples and greens ENHANCED the yarn beautifully enriching the shades to deep purples, plums, blues and deep greens.   (You may need/want to click on the above collage for a closer look at the color transformation.)

As much as I liked the original dye job, I LOVE the overdye effect.  From this project I learned a couple useful bits:

  1. I don't have to settle.  Just because I dyed it once doesn't mean I can't dye it again.  If I don't like something, I can dye it again (and again) and make something I love.
  2. Over dyeing provides a richness and depth of color single process can't.  
Now, I'm not sure why this second lesson didn't occur to me right from the start, but dyeing can be a layered process, much like painting or (better example) screen printing.  I decided to put this to the test last night.  For simplicity, I stuck to my son's advice and worked only with primary colors.

I took 3 skeins of Nature Spun Fingering Weight in Ash and dyed it with food coloring in a Red and Yellow variegated pattern.  The result was yarn with red and yellow spans, with slight orange blurring at the meeting points.


THEN, I over dyed the yarn using blue food coloring.  No special tricks here - I dropped blue food coloring into a bowl full of water, a splash of vinegar, added yarn and cooked this concoction in the microwave.

I checked the yarn, decided I wanted more depth and repeated the process, adding more dye and cooking it again, and yet again until I was satisfied with the outcome.  (Ok, the truth is I was out of blue dye, but the events coincided.)

The depth and richness of color is amazing (pictured left).  The variety of shades and range of color... breathtaking.  The completed project isn't just a Green, Blue, Purple variegated; instead it is a variegated yarn with dashes of red, yellow and orange and full spectral ranges: Greens from spring to fresh pea, kelly to forest; Blues  from sky to dark cornflower, teal to navy; and Purples from violet to plum, and eggplant to lavender.