I started spinning yarn in September and after a while I thought is would be great to try dyeing some of the yarn I spin, especially when I have a great supply of raw alpaca from friends who own a couple of these adorable animals. I got a dye kit for Christmas and this week I finally got around to using it. I’ve been collecting suitable containers for dye stock and to use as dye baths. I also acquired a second hand microwave. You really need to keep these separate and not use them for food once they’ve been used with the dyes.
These are acid dyes, which are used specifically for protein fibres, including wool, alpaca and silk. The kit from DT Crafts includes 10 pots of different coloured dyes, citric acid, a measuring spoon, protective apron and gloves and a detailed instruction booklet.
I began by retying the skeins of yarn. Usually I secure the skein ends by tying a couple of half hitches but this would be too tight and stop the dye getting to some of the yarn. I undid these and used some strips of plastic bag very loosely tied in a figure of eight so the dye could circulate freely. I then thoroughly soaked the yarn in water.
Meanwhile I mixed up the dye solutions using 3 colours of dye powder adding citric acid powder to fix the dye.
I used three different methods. The dye needs heat to fix it as well as the acid. With the turquoise dye I placed the soaked yarn in an old pan with water and dye solution and brought to simmering point on the hob , keeping at this temperature for 30 minutes,
I used the green dye (more of a teal shade) in a shallower vessel in the microwave, heating this for 20 minutes in five minute bursts, stirring in between.
At the end of cooking the liquid should turn clear as the the dye molecules leave the solution and chemically bond to the fibre.
for the final batch I laid the soaked skeins on clingfilm and painted stripes of violet,turquise and green dye onto the yarn,, massaging it into the fibre and allowing the colours to bleed into each other. The skein was then wrapped in clingfilm and microwaved for 20 minutes.
All three were allowed to cool in situ before rinsing, and hanging up to dry
Here are the finished skeins
The turquoise yarn (left), which was simmered on the hob,gave a lovely solid colour. The teal/green which was microwaved (2nd from left) was a little patchy – I’m not sure if the dye bath was too shallow or I hadn’t got the temperature quite right, but I quite like the effect. The painted yarn (right and 2nd from right) worked well, though the turquoise and teal are quite close in colour. I love how vibrant the colours are and it was such good fun to do. I’m frantically spinning enough yarn to make a jumper for myself and am mulling over which colours to usefor that. I also want to try dyeing fibre before spinning and experiment with mixing colours. The possibilities are endless!