Knit Flix

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Beat the Blahs

It all started with a sale at Purlescence where I bought a dye kit at a big discount and 8 ounces of Louet Superwash Merino.

Mother MacKenzie's Miracle Dye Mix and Louet Superwash Wool

Then there was a deadline--dyeing fiber for Spinnity for her birthday. I had dyed yarn before in blanks and in hanks, so handpainting wasn't new to me, but I hadn't dyed fiber before and I hadn't dyed on my own. But I could do this, right?

Before I could get started, I had to buy a few things:
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic wrap
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Containers for the dye stock
  • Spray bottle for vinegar
  • Stainless dye pot/steamer
  • Hot plate
I found the first 4 items at Smart & Final and the spray bottle at a hardware store. All worked well except the squeeze bottles which leaked like crazy. Maybe they're fine for condiments, but they couldn't handle the water-thin dye. I may try putting some sort of rubber or soft plastic washer between the top and the bottle next time.

The pot and hot plate were more difficult to find. A lot of stores carried large stock pots, but the affordable ones I saw were made of aluminum. I went from discount store to thrift store to hardware store and still couldn't find what I wanted. I was about to give up when someone suggested the Asian supermarket. Bingo! I found a great stainless stock pot with a steamer insert AND an electric hot plate.

Each color of the MacKenzie's Dyes is dissolved into 2 quarts of water, simmered for a half an hour, cooled, then stored. I concentrated on the colors I needed for Spinnity's colorway--orange, yellow, brown, and teal. I was happy to have the hot plate because I didn't want to cook any of this on the stove. Everything was done outside using equipment dedicated to dyeing.

Once the dyes were mixed and ready, I glugged together some teal and yellow to make green, and yellow and a dash of brown for gold. Orange-Gold-Green-Brown. Spinnity colors!

I divided the wool into two 4 ounce pieces, wound them loosely into balls, and soaked them in a water & vinegar solution while I set up the dyeing table and the rest of the equipment. The books that I read suggested breaking the fiber into 1 yard lengths to make it more manageable, but I didn't want to give her a bunch of short pieces of fiber. I took 1 ball and kept it intact, snaking it back and forth 5 times on a long piece of plastic wrap.

The dyes were applied by squeezing the dye onto the fiber and working it in with a gloved hand. Once there were no more white areas, I sprayed it with vinegar then flipped it and applied more dye to the white spots. The first 4 ounces was dyed with a lot of orange and yellow and only a little brown and green. The second 4 ounces had more green and brown and less orange and yellow.

Applying dye

The fiber was wrapped in more plastic wrap and placed in the steamer for 30-45 minutes, then cooled and rinsed. The rinse water was a little yellow, but ran clear pretty quickly. After that, I hung the fiber on plastic hangers to dry. Now I have to say that at this point the fiber looked pretty sad. The colors were bright (maybe too bright) and the wet fiber was matted horribly and I was really worried that it would dry that way. I was wondering what Plan B would be.

Magically and thankfully, fiber regains its lovely fluffy character when it dries. *whew!*

Here are the braids. Sorry, we had a lot of rain and there wasn't any sunshine for decent pictures.


The orange and yellow (not gold) were really bright, so I gave Spinnity the top bump that has more brown and green hoping she'd be able to tame the colors when spinning and plying. Here's the great thing--when she opened her present, she was wearing orange, green and brown. Perfect!

Since then, I fired up the Lendrum and spun the brighter bump.

Superwash Merino singles

The singles were a little scary with long sections of orange and yellow, but I kept going with high hopes that a 3-ply would make everything right.

Beat the Blahs: hand dyed fiber -> 3-ply handspun

Beat the Blahs was spun when the skies were rainy and gray. It makes me smile.

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  • I get my squeeze bottles from a beauty supply store. Maybe a little smaller tip than yours, but you still have to be careful not to squeeze it much.

    By Blogger SpinalCat, at 2/07/2010 7:37 PM  

  • "Beat the blahs" is a great name for this color and I *love* mine. You nailed my color profile and the fiber is soft & fluffy, as you say. Thanks for a really, really special gift - the first fruits of your new fiber adventure. *smoochies*

    By Blogger spinnity, at 2/08/2010 2:39 PM  

  • Ooohh, Loverly! I don't spin or dye, but I do love the results of your handiwork (imagine me green with envy)!

    By Anonymous Teresa in Virginia, at 2/08/2010 7:46 PM  

  • Thank you so much for writing how you made the dye solution! I had lost my instructions sheet and looked everywhere on the internet for the directions! Almost an hour later I found your site and my dye is simmering. Thanks!

    By Blogger Julia, at 3/13/2016 1:04 PM  

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