Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Un-Gorey Dyeing Adventure

I've never deliberately dyed anything. Ok, that's not strictly true: I tried to dye a really ugly, faded black dress darker black. It didn't work. I've also dyed my hair. Black. That worked. Trying to put purple on top of dyed-black hair, however, did not work (I'm sorry to say that I have never had purple hair and now I'm too old. I'm keeping my figures crossed for my nieces and nephews to dye their hair crazy colors. I promise to encourage this behavior).

Last night, I finally engaged in some deliberate dyeing behavior. Several years ago, I came across a recipe for Penny Dye, in which you combine 1 part ammonia, 3 parts water and a bunch of pre-1982 (higher copper content) pennies in a jar, let it sit for a couple of weeks, shove in some wool, let it sit and then pretty colors happen. This summer I bought 3 or 4 skeins of a merino/silk lace weight yarn with this dye in mind. I wasn't entirely convinced that it would work, since the recipe calls for wool and I had a 50% silk combination, so I used a small cone of Jaggerspun Zephyr (which is either the same stuff or pretty damn close).

A couple of weeks ago, I combined my ammonia, water and pennies and came up with this:
Pretty, stinky, blue water.

Here is the yarn before dyeing. The recipe says to shove it into the dye and leave it there for 30 minutes, or until the yarn reaches the desired shade, or until the water becomes pale....

....which happened pretty much immediately. I left it in there for a while and swished it around.

In case you are wondering: ammonia is really stinky. Just sayin'

Finally I gave up and took the yarn out of the stinky, not-blue-at-all water and rinsed and rinsed. And finally had this:
The two skeins on the ends went into the stinky blue water first. The color changes were really interesting: while the yarn was in the stinky water it was a really pretty gray-blue. Once it hit the air it turned gray-green (that's the color this is, even though you can't really see it). My thinking was that the color difference between the skeins was so different that I would overdye all of them, or one or two of them. Then the color started to even out. At least it seemed like it was evening out, so I decided to live with it and throw everything into a vinegar bath (which I guess sets the color). At which it all turned sea green. (I don't have a picture of that, because, well, my camera sucks and doesn't represent color well anyway.) The dark skeins got a little lighter and the light ones got a little darker.

I wouldn't be surprised if the skeins have turned purple by now. Strange strange stuff that Penny Dye. I think I will wait until this summer before I decide whether I'm going to dye the rest of the yarn. God knows I don't need anything more to knit!


Lorri said...

The light and dark skeins thing happened to me when I kool-aide dyed also. I don't know what to do about that although I'm sure someone must.

As for Leaves In Relief, I suspect that the designer may have altered the pattern based upon her results with the first sweater. Just my guess.

Lee said...

I'm thinking that there may be two tricks. First is to have enough dye for the yarn (in this case, I didn't have *nearly* enough!). And maybe getting all the yarn into the bath at once would give it all an equal chance to suck up dye. Probably this has to do with the nature of copper oxidation, but it's really interesting to me that the shades of the skeins have evened out some.

I need to rinse the yarn again to try to get rid of the vinegar smell, but I'm a little nervous about washing out more dye.

Celtic Knitter said...

Very interesting lab experiment. Sounds wild! I don't know if I would have enough guts to try that.

Looks interesting from the pictures but I don't know how close the colour on the screen is to the real thing.