Sunday, 20 May 2012

Kool-aid dyeing experiments

Yesterday I got out the bowls and buckets and Tupperware and yarn, and had another play with the Kool-aid. Mr Mongoose as just got Diablo 3 for the PC and so I could reckon on a good long time uninterrupted by complaints about the smell of wet wool. I don't get the revulsion for wet wool, by the way - I think it smells clean and like a sort of wholesome farmyard.

Anyway, that plan didn't entirely work because, halfway through slapping around a wet blue skein, he drifts in and asks if I'd like to go and see the new Avengers movie. The question sort of fades away though as he takes in my spattered face, bright-blue hands, and Laocoon-like attitude with a bright blue hank of yarn.

(This is Laocoon, by the way - imagine this, less male, less naked, and with yarn instead of a snake;)

Off topic there, sorry. Anyway, back to YARN! Yarn yarn yarn.

I dyed four skeins yesterday, using five colours of Kool-aid (I can't think of them as flavours, it's too horrible) It was a deliberate attempt to see if I could use Black Grape as a modifier on other colours to dull-down the brightness. I've seen the effect before on some violently-orange mistake yarn that came out a gorgeous copper-gold. I also chose to mix dyeing methods - I used both a microwave and a big pan on the stove - and pre-soaked the skeins in washing soda. That was partly to protect the yarn, because Kool-aid is very acidic and soda is very alkaline, and partly to enhance the take-up and clarity of colour. I certainly saw the effect on the first skein, but it did less on the later ones, perhaps because the solution had watered down too much. I think next time I need a bigger place to mordant, and leave it for much longer to get a more even result.

In all cases I soaked the yarn in the sink for ten minutes in the mordant, dyed it by dip-dyeing, fixed it by putting it in the microwave for four or five minutes in a Tupperware with cling-film over the top, then over dyed it with Black Grape using a pot of dye on the hob at around 60 degrees.

So the five colours I used were Berry Blue Twist, Pink Lemonade, Black Cherry, Black Grape, and Red Cherry. I've used them in the past and got good results, particularly with the black cherry which is a really strong fixed colour. In all the colours I under dyed first with a combination of blue and red, fixed it, and then looked at the result before deciding to correct it and re-fix it, over dye it with Black Grape, or leave it as it was.

Here's the results, and I'll go through each skein and tell you what I did with it; hey, I'm feeling helpful. And I wish someone had told me what sort of results I could get - there is a dearth of good kool-aid dyeing stuff out there.

From right to left - Skein 1, Skein 4, Skein 2, Skein 3

Skein 1

The yarn is a 10% cashmere, 80% merino, 10% nylon from yarnundyed , It's about 400m of 4ply sock yarn and definitely my favourite yarn from there.

Anyway, I modanted with washing soda in the sink, squeezed it out, and dip-dyed it with a combination of 1 packet of blue berry mixed with a tiny pinch of pink lemonade, pink lemonade on its own, and red cherry. All of them were made up to about 700ml with warm water. The take-up into the skein was astonishing - the blue was just sucked up and exhausted straight away. I dipped the skein into Pyrex bowls to give a good consistency and nice overlap, but with such as fast take-up it was hard to control. Here's the fixed skein after it had been in the microwave;

The overlapping areas were very lavender/mauveish, which I did like;

Taking these pictures before the final dye-bath helped me a lot with later skeins, as you'll see.

Here's the same skein after the over dye, which was two sachets of Black Grape in water around 60-80 degrees C - it exhausted straight away, again.

Some areas were still very pink and blue, I think because it exhausted so fast, but I do like it it.

Skein 2

Very high-twist BFL from Ebay - lustrous but tough.

I under dyed with black cherry, only half a sachet, but it was enough to turn it a bright peachy-pink. I immersed the skein into a bowl of it, and the dye didn't exhaust this time. I then fixed it in and over dyed it in the black grape. I experimented with adding one sachet to the pan first, dissolving it, adding the skein to one half on the pan and another sachet to the other - I wanted a semi-solid, with some variation, in about the mauve colour I'd seen on the first skein. Here it is after it's final bath;

It's subtly darker in some areas where the second sachet of dye diffused, and really very nice. I love the colour, very rich and delicate.

Skein 3

The same yarn as above. A simple tale but a strange one. I used 1/2 a packet of blue berry, quite dilute, and dunked it unevenly. I was unhappy with the intensity of the colour so I made up another bowl of blue berry, one sachet, plenty of water - and it was a different colour. More sky-blue than the 80's aquamarine I'd got before and so pleasing I decided to fix it and keep it as it was. Just look at the difference in the blues!

Skein 4

A loose-twist 2ply sport weight merino. Quite fluffy and nice, about 400 metres again.

I decided to go for the lavender colour I'd been hankering for, so I mixed up a sachet of red cherry, one and a half of berry blue, and set the pot going with two sachets of black grape for the over dye. The under dye was quite even, which I did through dip-dyeing repeatedly and squeezing out dye from areas I didn't want very much fix on, then dunking it into the other colour. I came out a well-modulated pale lavender with shades of pink - very nice, and I nearly left it as it was;

But I felt it was a bit too sweet-pink for what I wanted today, so I fixed it and added it to the dye-pot. Ooh la la, it came out just right - soft, grey-lavender, semi-solid between warmer and colder patches. It's my favourite.

Here's a pic of it amongst the others drying on the towel-rail - second from the right. How nice is that?

Isn't it an interesting range of colours and effects from just a few different shades as well - I think this over dyeing really mutes the shades and makes them a bit more layered and grown-up than the acid-trip shades you get from the straight dyes. It also seems much easier to dip-dye than to paint, which is what I started off doing.

Anyway, I think that's enough distilled wisdom for one day - I'm going to scrub my hands again and then I'm going to see the Avengers movie, if I can stop myself looking like a secret smurf.

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