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Living and dyeing in 3/4 time

I have no idea why Jimmy Buffet popped into my head. Sorry…


On March 5, 2016 I took a couple of fiber dyeing courses taught by Kate Bachus of A Hundred Ravens.  I don’t know anywhere outside of the fiber world where people will divulge their secrets and tell you exactly what they do to achieve the results they get, be it a particular knitting stitch, how a quilt corner should turn out just so, and in Kate’s case, just that perfect shade of fuschia. She explained the basic principals of dyeing (at least for us – we were using wool that Kate supplied). And the principals are quite simple – you need a protein fiber (wool, alpaca, goat, rabbit, etc), an acid dye (no, no, the dye itself isn’t an acid, an acid (vinegar works, citric acid works better), and heat. Water is there only as a suspension medium for the acid and dye, to help evenly distribute it over the fiber. (Dyeing stuff like cotton is an entirely different process, which I’m not interested in learning yet.)

In the first class we each got two ~400 yard skeins of so-called sock-weight superwash merino yarn. Merino is the sheep breed, and they are known for their fine, soft wool. Superwash is a processing technique that makes the yarn less likely to shrink or pill, so the yarn is delightfully soft and about bulletproof. The yarn was in a plastic bag, still wet with a citric acid solution in which they were pre-soaked. I was completely winging it, and mixed two parts of fire-engine red, one part of sunflower yellow, and got this horribly blinding orange, which is not where I wanted to go. I added one part of black, which toned it all down to a nice rose color.  I dyed both skeins the same – dipping one-third into the dye bath for a while, then another third for a while, and then the rest of the skein for a while, all roughly ten-minute steps. I then squeezed the bulk of the dye out of the yarn and stashed it in a plastic bag. Done with Lesson One.

yarn2 yarn1

In the second class (mostly the same people) Kate and her minions passed out bags with pre-soaked “blanks” of sock-weight yarn. The blanks were just knitted rectangles about eight inches wide and long enough (almost a yard) to contain about 400 yards of yarn. The pretext here was to design a gradient color pattern. I chose root colors of approximately turquoise and mauve, so I dipped one end of the blank into a dark turquoise, then about two thirds of it (same end) into a lighter turquoise bath, which added some color to the already-died portion, then I moved to the mauve bucket, and gradually slid the other end into the dye, resulting in a dyed blank that started at dark turquoise, progressed to a lighter turquoise, then into  a light mauve, progressing (in a gradient) to a fairly dark mauve. It’s going to make a wonderful shawl…


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