Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dyeing Yarn for Stripes

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(click on photos to enlarge)
I am not a pro dyer by any stretch of the imagination but I do enjoy dyeing, especially for socks.  I started out with KoolAid and food dyes about 3 years ago and was soon disappointed by their lack of colorfastness so I graduated to retail acid dyes.  I use acid dyes from DharmaTrading.com or ProChem One Shot from Prochemicalanddye.com.  Either work great and there are many more other available brands.  The word ‘acid’ always scared me until I learned that acid only meant that the dyes need acid to set the colors, usually in the form of vinegar or citric acid.  The biggest differences I’ve found between working with food grade dyes and acid dyes is that I can’t use my kitchen utensils or appliances with acid dyes, and retail acid dyes are much cheaper to use than KoolAid.  Other than that, principles and procedures are basically the same.  So what I learned from using KoolAid has carried with me to acid dyeing.
Here, I’m going to show you how I dye yarn to make perfectly defined stripes in socks. I use a wool/nylon yarn from a cone so I first started out by winding off about 4 oz of yarn.  I knew I wanted 5 stripes of one color and 3 of another in my pattern.  So I roughly calculated the knitted length of one row on my sock and multiplied it by 8 for the total number of rows in one color pattern repeat.  The 8 rows came out to about 22 feet.  So I measured off my wrapping setup to be 11 feet apart.  In this particular example I put 2 clamps on our deck railing 11 feet apart.  It was handy at the time.  I’ve been known to use a chair back and a door knob spaced 11 feet apart, 2 chairs, or anything else that comes to mind. 
Winding the yarn
Yarn tied off
I then tightly tied off 3/8th and 5/8th of the entire length of 22’ to make 2 sections.  One section was about 8.5’ and the other was 13.5’ long.   I wasn’t real precise in my measurements and calculations but it worked out well anyway.  Then I used some acrylic or cotton yarn pieces and made figure 8s a couple feet apart to keep the yarn from tangling during the dyeing and rinsing process.
I soaked the yarn in luke warm water with a bit of dish soap or Synthrapol, sozzled it well, rinsed the soap out and continued to soak while I mixed the dyes.  Since I don’t have a dedicated place to dye with acid dyes, I set up my dye ‘factory’ with a crockpot (not used for food) on our covered back deck.  Works just fine, except during the winter so I try to do my dyeing in warm weather.  When I had the dye mix prepared and in the crockpot, I removed the yarn from soaking and squeezed out (never wring yarn) as much water as I could and placed the first section of yarn in the dye mix.  
Dyeing 1st color
2nd color dyeing
I followed the dye manufacturer’s instructions, heated the dye mix to 200 deg F for 30 minutes.  Then I added about 2T of vinegar and left the heat on til the color was exhausted.  If all the color is not exhausted after about 15 minutes or so, I add another 2T of vinegar.  Then I let it cool down to handling temperature and rinse til the water ran clear.  Sometimes I use too much dye powder and must rinse a lot to get all the excess dye out before it rinses clear. 
Hang to dry
Then I repeated the process for the 2nd section of yarn for the 2nd color, untied the marker ties and made sure to overlap the colors to prevent white spots.  I used related colors for the stripes because I didn’t want a 3rd color popping up unexpectedly where the 2 sections overlapped. 
After dyeing and rinsing, I squeezed out as much water as I could, then laid it out on an old bath towel, rolled it up and walked on it to get out more water.  Hang til dry and wind into a cake.  Nice striped yarn, easy as that.
You can use this same method to have a 3rd stripe of a different color.  Just add more yarn to the total length and tie off in 3 sections instead of 2.  You will need to dip and dye a 3rd time which will add significant time to the process….or leave one section undyed and have a natural colored stripe along with the 2 colors. 

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