Friday, March 27, 2009

Living and Dyeing

Well, I finally did it, and here is the result:


This is the roving I dyed using Kool-Aid® and black food coloring. I chose to use Kool-Aid®, because I could see whether I liked doing it before going out in search of a pot and other equipment that would have to be dedicated to dyeing. Using Kool-Aid® and food coloring enabled me to use my big stew/pasta pot for food again afterwards. Here's how I did it--
First I collected a number of sets of directions from the internet, including Knit Picks' own directions found at
I decided I didn't want to risk ruining my nice roving in the microwave (mine is pretty powerful), so I chose to use the stovetop method.
Here are the colors I used--
Blue (4 oz. roving): 4 pkg.Berry Blue Kool-Aid®, 20 drops of black food coloring
Taupe (4 oz. roving): 3 pkg. Lemonade Kool-Aid®, 1 pkg. Lemon-lime Kool-Aid®, 20 drops of black food coloring
Orange (3 oz. roving): 2 pkg. Orange Kool-Aid®, 1 pkg. Cherry Kool-Aid®, 4 drops of black food coloring.
The roving I started out with was white Corriedale.
I measured out 4 oz. in each of two hanks of roving, and 3 oz. in a third. I used a kitchen scale, so weight wasn't exact. I only used three ounces for the third hank because I had bought a bunch of Kool-Aid® before I knew how much I needed, and that was what I ended up with for this experiment. Then I read that 1 oz of yarn or roving can be dyed to a saturated color with 1 pkg of Kool-Aid®. I took the packages I had and divided them up according to the colors I thought I would like to get. I wanted a mature color selection, so I chose to add the black food coloring. I'm glad I did, because that was what caused the shading evident in my final product. (Sorry about the photo. I'll try to do a better one later.)
I did the roving one batch at a time in the order listed. I reused my exhaust liquid each time. (I think that's what it's called.) First, I let the roving soak in warm water with a little dishwashing liquid for 1/2 hr. Then I mixed the Kool-Aid®, food coloring, 1 T white vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt (our water is softened) in some water and started heating it. I squeezed the excess liquid from the roving and when the dye was about the same temperature as the roving, I dumped it in, adding a little hot water to make sure there was enough to more or less cover the roving. While gently heating the pot and its contents, I occasionally moved the roving around to make sure the dye could penetrate the fiber. When it just started to simmer (I'm at 7200 ft., so it wasn't at the boiling point), I turned the heat down a little. I checked periodically and turned the heat off when the dye water was clear. The blue took about 45 minutes. The taupe and orange only took about half an hour. Then I let the pot sit eight hours, until it was cool to the touch. The roving then got a bath in plain warm water, rolled in a towel and then was hung up on a plastic coat hanger. After it stopped dripping, I moved it to the sweater dryer. When one batch was done, I started the next.
I've read that this method of dyeing will work on protein fibers, such as wool or silk, but not plant fibers, such as cotton and linen. I wore a cotton apron while working, but I didn't splash much. I also protected my countertop with a black plastic bag, just in case. The same method should work for yarn. I'm looking forward to trying it. Looks like I'll live to dye again!
I've decided to add a "Here's What's on My Needles" section of my blog, so here goes--
Here's What's on My Needles--
I haven't been knitting much for a couple of days. My thumbs have been sore, perhaps from the drop-spindle spinning I've been doing. Waiting for me are my Mr. Foster (two arms done, one leg almost done), the Sipalu Bag (second side about 3/4 done), the EZ leggings (second leg almost done), the Stonington Shawl (about 3/4 through center diamond) and the Yei Figures bag (one figure almost done in duplicate st). My entrelac scarf is finished, and I'm enjoying wearing it!
I'm waiting to received the rest of the yarn for my Grazing Sheep bag, as well as my blocking mats and the Essential kettle-dyed sock yarn, two 50gm balls of each color, because it was on sale!
Happy knitting, spinning, etc.! --Peggy

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