Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's an art - not a science

That's one of my favourite phrases when I'm talking about dying. And it's so true. You can step into the studio with a certain colourway in mind, but what comes out of the dye pot may be nowhere near it. It might be close, it might be better, or it might need a little (or a lot) of help.

No two skeins are exactly the same. This is not a game for perfectionists.

Case in point:

This morning I set out to dye 20 skeins (yeah - 20!) of yarn for Lore. I chose a lovely shade of brick brown to do a nice, rich semi-solid. Should be easy right?

It seemed like it - but the yarn threw me a bit of a curve ball. You see, different fibres take dyes differently - merino, falkland, BFL - they all love the dye and soak it right up, especially if they are superwash. (Non-superwash doesn't take dye nearly as well). With those fibres, it's easy to get nice rich colours.

Alpaca, cashmere, silk, and bamboo don't take the colour nearly as well. A bright colourway like Vampire's kiss on Jungle Cat will be much more muted and pink than it is on Alley Cat.

So, given that the yarn I was dying was non-superwash merino/alpaca/silk, I knew that wouldn't get the same cinnamon shade as I did on the Alley Cat I dyed 10 minutes earlier.

However, I didn't expect it to be quite so.... well.... barfy.The picture is actually pretty tame compared to what it really looked like. It was hideous. It was actually glowing - I kid you not. Like when the blonde girl in highschool tried to dye her hair auburn - I called it "atomic barf".

But that's the beauty of dying yarn. It's not over until the fat lady runs out of dye (and I have A LOT of dye!)

If there's one thing Mom and I have learned, it's the magic of overdying. There are four colours that work best for overdying, depending on you base colour - purple, dark blue, burgundy, and of course black.

You won't get a solid colour - your base colour will always peek through, but it can create some amazing effects.

For instance you can turn the above yarn into this:This yarn is gorgeous in person - shade of pink, copper, burgundy, and red. It's no where near what I was aiming for when I started dying - but I can't say I'm disappointed. I think I actually like it better than the colourway I had in my head.

So, once this is dry, I can cast on for Lore (probably Monday before turkey dinner!)

And, when I was mucking up yarn today, I was also dying some new Alley Cat Falkland (same great Alley Cat twist, with Falkland instead of Merino - two words - like buttah!) and, I was mucking about with a sock blank mom whipped up on her machine for me.
Is anyone else seen the potential for self-striped shawls??


Araignee said...

What an inspirational post! I screw up all the time when I try to dye and I never really have given overdying a consideration. Now that I can see what it can do, I almost WANT to go ruin something!

Delusional Knitter said...

I've fixed quite a few dye mishaps by over-dyeing, its amazing what it can do!

Rachelle said...

That reminds me of the time I was using chartreuse and of course aiming at that limey green that it normally produces and the colour split! I ended up with Merino top in kelly green and sunshine yellow; not what I was after but I loved it. The person I was dyeing it for didn't get it as she didn't like yellow; I ended up sending her raspberry and blackberry instead, which she loved. It was a fibre swap.

Denise said...

I've had to do over-dyes quite a few times. It turned out a lovely color.

Several years ago, I saw Swallowtail shawl a woman had dyed the sock blank a gradated rainbow to make the stripe effect. It was beautiful.

Minding My Own Stitches said...

This is why I'm afraid of dying yarn - I never know when to stop. That's why its great that I can buy what YOU make!

Alisha said...

Okay I love the fix up from the barf color!!

And self striped shawls....yes I see the potential!!

gayle said...

Love your fixed 'screw-ups' - you could claim that you got precisely what you were aiming for, and we couldn't prove you wrong. Lovely lovely colors.
Wouldn't LazyKaty ( ) look wonderful in your self-striping yarn...