Bright and woolly experiments

I needed a dye injection, colour, wool and experimentations. So, I dived into my stash and found some skeins of an organic wool I purchased at eBay which are a tad scratchy (read: fells like luffa sponge on the skin). These skeins are form a liquidation of a German wool brand and I bought the skeins exactly for experimenting. Sadly, they are not undyed but yellow. The colors I could produce with dyeing are therefore a bit limited.

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A brief digression:
If there is somebody out there who wants to sponsor my greedy creative self, feel free!!! I would love to dye white superwash treated wool. I long to create those beautiful and unique yarn in mauve or pink or petrol with neon speckles. And precisely the speckles are not possible with pure and untreated wool (like I used). The superwash treatment is the decisive element for creating speckles and naturally dry color pigments. Superwash yarn has a different fibre structure – the scales of superwash treated yarn are much smoother and react different to the dye pigments. On untreated organic wool like mine dots of pigments get soak in and create bigger areas of colour, whereas on superwash wool the pigment does not dissolve, but create powdery speckles.
Back to the begging – white superwash wool is much more expensive than my eBay purchase :-D
(Naturally I did not write this so that you really sponsor my wool – yes pleaseeeee sponsor me – but to explain how speckled yarn is made :-D)

What I did
The first step is to untwist the skeins and to secure them with a long cord, so that I can handle the dyed skeins later effortlessly.

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The second step is to give the wool a good swim in vinegar-soap solution. As I am dyeing an animal protein the yarn needs acid (and water) for the fibres to open and later to set the dye. Not the best smelling but the cheapest solution is vinegar essence. The first soak is ¼ cup vinegar per skein of wool diluted in some litres of water and a sprinkle of liquid soap. I let the wool rest inside this bath for several hours.

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In the meanwhile, I prepare the dyeing area. As I use food colouring which consist of very big and heavy pigments which do not dust or fly I seldom use a respirator masking. But beware if you use real store-bought acid dye pigments for wool you absolutely need the mask or you can develop respiratory problems. Another advantage of the food colouring is it is not poisonous and you can pour excess dye solution into the sink.

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Protective gloves are necessary for every kind of dye besides you also want to dye your hands… permanently. As I use the kitchen for my wool baking dyeing, I generously cover all surfaces with old newspapers, because food colouring also dyes your kitchen counter… believe me, I tried it 😱
I fetch the pigments and all other tools like bowls, brushes, a pipette and paper towels. These tools are strictly for dyeing yarn and are not used for anything else. As you can see on the photos I used red and blue dye. The red colour is food colouring from an Indian brand which is crazy cheap. Sadly they have no blue hues (the have yellow, orange, green and red). But I was fearless and tried old silk paint in blue which I got a as a donation. As the acid dyes need heat to set, I also preheated the oven (microwave would be easier, but I don’t own one).

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Step three – the actual dyeing
I mixed the pigments with more acid and water and for the two toned yarn I dipped one end of the yarn into the blue and the other into the red and let them soak. Afterwards I wrapped this yarn in aluminium foil, so that it will stay wet during the baking process…. Yes, I will bake this yarn ;-D
The next two skeins I splashed with the blue dye solution but omitted some parts which I then sprinkled with red. Afterward I also wrapped them securely. The last skein I dyed completely with different blue silk paint.
Now the wrapped wool migrated for an hour into the preheated oven. The temperature should not rise above 100 degrees Celsius.

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Now the wool is dyed – yeahhhh. But no, we are not finished yet. The last step is to let the wool cool down and then to rinse the excess dye out. This last step may need some time, because pure wool is prone to felting: no wrangling, no scrubbing and luke warm water. We rinse as long as there is dye washing out. If the water stays clear the wool is ready to be dried. I hang my wool into the shower to let it drop for a day (the shower was already „vintage“ when we moved into this flat – so no fear of stains)

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And now the pure pleasure: the fresh dyed wool is ready to be re-twisted into a photogenic skein. And then it must be wound into a cake or ball so that you can knit or crochet with it.

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On my photos you can see how all four skeins knit up in stockinette. I am already pondering garments I want to make with it. But - sigh - I encountered one problem, the pure green skein rubs off 😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱 The old silk paint does not set. I am completely unsure what to do: unwind the yarn into a skein and dye it again? Or try to wash it for longer or should I knit it first and wash it afterwards (because getting the yarn from cake to skein again is no joy)????
I have dyed this wool already for a different project - the dragon breath cardigan - and have not encountered such problems… I am open for advice 🙏🌈

Thank you @crosheille for initiating and @muscara, @shanibeer, @marblely for hosting the #needleworkmonday. If you want to see more beautiful projects with yarn, fabric and most of all needles, follow @needleworkmonday. Or even better grab your needles and keyboard and join the #needleworkmonday community.


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Wow I absolutely love these colors! They turned out beautifully! Thank you for taking us through that entire process, it was very intriguing and fun to read! I have no clue on how to help you with that dilemma, I have never attempted dying wool before. Seeing colors turn out so beautiful makes me want to give it a try. Maybe one day ;D

I love the way the colors knit up! Nicely done! 💓

May be a good experiment for home schooling? Young people learn some science (and art - the best home schooling!) - and you have some lovely yarn?

This is a great idea! Thank you!

I'm envious - I would enjoy doing that! I used to love when the kids were small and we would do activities 😍

😄 I have to admit I’m enjoying this stage of motherhood while they are young and full of curiosity!

I learned from fiber friend via Instagramm that she also has problems with setting blue hues and she told me that she sometimes encountered commercial blue wool which also stains her hands during the knitting... I guess I have to investigate more. RIght now I think I will first knit the wool and then try to set the colour again. But as I have so many unfinished other projects, this will have to wait.
As @shanibeer wrote this would really be a lovely project for children. I have found several yarn dyer who use Easter egg colour or even better kool aid. The latter produces such beautiful pink hues 💕💕💕 Sadly you cannot buy this in Germany. Our lemonade powder (no idea how this is called in English) is nearly translucent and you cannot dye yarn with it.
I am a bit envious at these colours 😍😍😍

This will definitely be a fun project for you to experiment with when you have more time. Thank you so much for this link! I would have never though of using kool aid! I think I will look more into this for a homeschool project! So glad @shanibeer suggested it and you gave me more ideas on what to use :)

Sehr gut!

Danke schön 🌈💕 Ich hoffe wirklich bald mal weiße Wolle färben zu können. (I so hope to try it out with white wool someday)

Jeg er enig - farverne er flotte!

Thank you (I guess you wrote that you liked the colour, but I am not absolutely sure. So if I translated wrongly, I am sorry 🙏) 🌈😍

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Thank you so much for this lovely cake and the support!

That was really informative and such a neat project.

Believe me you have to try this out someday (if you haven’t already) It is addictive to see all this beautiful colors emerge. 💕🌈

Got some good colours

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Thank youuu and I am always amazed how vibrant the colors are although I only use food coloring.

I love the colours, so imaginative! They are all gorgeous, but I especially like the green. I'm not sure why the colour hasn't fixed. When I had a look around the internet, steam/heat seems to be the answer. As the yarn is wound now, perhaps make your garment and then try rinsing gently and/or another baking in the oven?

I have some yellow linen yarn - the height of fashion five years ago - and a half-finished jacket. Perhaps I shall unravel (well, I shall unravel, for sure) and try some new colour mixes. The speckles sound interesting.

Lovely to have your imagination and inspiration on needleworkmonday! 😘

I have written with a fiber friend from Instagram and she seems to have also problems to set blue hues and has encountered commercial blue wool which stained her hands. I think I will investigate if blue is a problem for acid dyes.
And I think I will follow your advice and will re-set the colours after knitting. But as I have so many unfinished projects (grooooaaan) this has to wait a bit.
And with the linen you need a different technique, acid dye only works for protein fibres (or so I have read)
But beware, if you have not dyed yarn before... I find it highly addictive 😱💕 and speckles are still on my high priority list. Perhaps you will try this for the linen yarn?

First ... I have to find the yarn ... :)

Or you could always buy this wonderful superwash merino wool (someday I will buy there!!!!)

You've been visited by @minismallholding from Homesteaders Co-op.

I love how the colours came out. I would never have thought about using food colouring. So much more environmentally friendly and I'm guessing cheaper. I've featured this post in the Homesteading - Living Naturally newsletter

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Thank you so much for supporting and sharing my post. I love all this colourful yarn, but I was afraid to use commercial dye which seems to be fairly toxic. Food colour and vinegar seemed to be a good technique to try without having a chemistry lab. I am happy you like this method. 💕🌈

The look like Christmas!! It is so awesome that you dye your own yarn!! Thank you for showing us how. I have wondered how it was done. The process looks quite daunting isn’t it? But it is so cool! bow
Sorry about the runny yarn. I think better to knit first and then rinse until no more colour runs. Mebbe wear gloves if it is staining your fingers too much? I agree it won’t be fun unwinding a cake into skein again. Too much work!

You are right, this is a classic Christmas combination, I did not noticed 😂 I only thought about colours I could produce with this yellow yarn :-DDD And the process is really manageable and even faster if you have a microwave, than you only need minutes to set the colors. But beware, I find it addictive ...
I will follow your advice and try to re-set the colour after knitting. I have never unwound a whole cake, I don’t imagine this is fun work 🤮
The stains on my fingers while knitting are not very intense, but I would be afraid that I stain anything I wear with this wool. So, I really have to try to fixate the colour.