Oh summer, where hast thou gone? The bright mornings and the long evenings, not stumbling to and from work in the dark, and the general piece and quiet of being in a city that seems to lose a significant proportion of its inhabitants over the summer vacation… All gone… Seemingly in an instant. As I’m doing most of my dyeing outside now, it’s probably also coming towards the end of dyeing season and the start of needing the daylight lamp for any fine embroidery work. I think I start to understand why some people are seasonal silk shaders, it’s much easier when you can actually see what you’re doing!
A while ago a friend of mine, who is a fabulous knitter/crocheter, mentioned that she’d never worked with anything but acrylic. Acrylic is great, affordable and very well behaved, and I am a big fan of the range of colours you can get in Stylecraft’s Special DK, but for me it doesn’t quite have the excitement and squish or some nice silk or yak or even merino. So, I thought it would be nice to try and do some personalised skeins on two wool bases I have from Yarn Undyed. The skeins featured today are their merino, cashmere and nylon mix (80% superwash merino 10% cashmere 10% nylon) and the extrafine merino and nylon mix (85% superwash extrafine merino 15% nylon).
I’ve blogged a bit about using Procion MX dyes with wool and I can confirm it does work. This is because a lot of Procion MX dyes can be used either as fibre reactive dyes (with alkaline solutions) or as acid dyes (when you use them with acidic solution). For silks, cotton etc. you typically want to use alkaline solution but pure wool technically you can go either alkaline or acidic. However, the complication with these yarn bases if the nylon, which doesn’t dye well under alkaline conditions, so best to opt for an acidic pH. I highly recommend going for citric acid over vinegar to achieve this. It works far cheaper, and if you do steam your yarns, you don’t end up with the smell and the eye-watering steam either.
I don’t have my collection of acid dyes with me at the moment and I don’t have a steampot I can use for dyeing either… This means I had to get a bit inventive with heating up these skeins. I think to be honest, while it works and I love the flexibility of Procion MX dyes in terms of the number of fibres you can work with, I think acid dyes are really best for wool. While the colours you can get are great with Procion MX dyes, I have had a few issues with fixing the dye when soaking it at higher temperatures. It’s fine up to 40◦C but soaking at higher temperatures always seems to give some run off.
This is possibly because the last few times I’ve done this I haven’t ‘finished’ the skeins properly. Normally, you’d steam for approximately an hour or however long you felt was okay for the fibre but what I’ve had to do instead is use the terracotta tiles on my balcony as a sort of ‘oven’ and make a very dodgy bain-marie by using a few washing-up bowls filled with boiling water to try and keep the temperature of the skeins as high as possible for as long as possible. I do leave them ‘setting’ for much longer but it’s hard to achieve the same temperature levels as with a proper heating steam bath. This is a note to myself to have a look into this when I can get back to steaming yarns properly!
It always feels risky making things for someone where you don’t necessarily know their colour taste perfectly. For certain people, I can see something and know instantly whether it’s ‘them’ or not, but for others it feels more of a step into the unknown. I feel that I have such a dramatic, impulsive reaction to colours that I don’t want to inspire an ‘UGH!’ in someone else!
I thought, therefore, it would be safest to go for a somewhat neutral palate in comparison to how I usually dye things. As always, these are lovely, if elderly, Kemtex dyes. Both skeins were pre-soaked in a mixture of water and citric acid (just a warning – if you’ve got sensitive skin, even though citric acid isn’t really dangerous, the acidified solution can be a bit irritating). I wring them out to removed as much liquid as possible, then, lots of saturated dye solutions painted on using syringes and a bit of cling film to squish the wool down where required.
I am very bad at getting white spots as you might notice for the more wild colour scheme, I know dye migrates and I know dye migrates more the wetter the yarn but I still think things look too spare while they are being dyed and end up adding too much colour. However, I did end up with some very cool lilac regions on the finished yarn.
I like these. Skeins are much easier to work with than raw fibre and, while I find the way the Yarn Undyed skeins come skeined is a little shorter and fatter than is ideal, I like not having to really work at getting the dye to penetrate through as you sometimes do with silk fibres. Both skeins survived the dyeing process well (you can see some fibre halos on cashmere-containing fibre but nothing serious) and I am amazed by how restrained I was with the colour scheme on the blue skein. Maybe one day I’ll even be dyeing solids…