Jobo Designs

Letting the crafty creative juices flow. Knitting, spinning, crafting, dyeing, rabbits, sheep and more!

15. March 2009 11:00
by Jobo

Dyeing Series... Wilton's Icing Colours... to dye wool?

15. March 2009 11:00 by Jobo | 1 Comments

Another installment of Jobo-learns-to-dye-wool... this time with Wilton's Icing Dyes.

I do have more plans to continue learning to dye with natural items, but happened to have icing dyes already at home, and since they are nontoxic I didn't have to worry about using my everyday cooking equipment to do some playing around.  I think I would like to try using some other kinds of dyes, but at this point, I'm not sure if I will like dyeing well enough to run out and buy pots and pans and spoons and tongs etc.  My family is on the lookout for old enamel or stainless pots for me, but until I hit the flea markets this summer I plan on sticking with food item dyes with no major mordants or with things like icing colours.  If all goes well, I might try out acid dyes later on in the year.

Using more of the merino top I have hanging around the house... I prepared an approximately 3-4 ounce rope by soaking for about 4-6 hours in a water and lemon juice solution.  (Basically a big glass mixing bowl of water with a couple of glugs of lemon juice.  I decided to use lemon juice instead of vinegar this time after the uncool odour last time (I agree with "Knitting in the Free World", wet sheep + vinegar smell really is a buzz kill) During the soaking, I prepared the kitchen table for the dyeing process:  I laid down newspaper first, then a plastic tablecloth, then 2 layers of plastic wrap.  I was afraid of ruining the oak table, so maybe that was overkill, but I think thats okay :)  I squeezed out the excess water from the wool gently, trying not to overdo it, and then laid it out in a squiggle on the plastic wrap.

Some references I looked at recommended a certain amount of dye per ounce of wool, or weighing things out.  Of course I don't have a kitchen scale yet, so I decided to just wing it and not worry too much about how dark the colours would be, just to go with it and have fun.  So added 1/4 teaspoon of the icing colour gels to approximately 1/2 cup of water in some glass containers and stirred well to dissolve.  I also let them cool to room temperature because my wool was not soaked in hot water.  I really wanted to avoid felting it by brushing on really hot water.  For my colours I chose a basic yellow, and sky blue.  I was hoping for some greens where the two colours mixed. Gotta love that colour wheel theory!  I will have to do a post sometime on colour theory :) 

** note also in the background:  Natural Dyeing, by Jackie Crook (One of the first books I bought on the subject!) **

So, when the colours cooled off I gave them one more stir and then started blobbing them on. (wear gloves!  or you will end up with coloured hands!  I used cheap children's paintbrushes from the dollar store)   It was really hard to tell what the whole thing would look like in the end.  The liquid dyes seemed to soak into the wool, kind of like painting a sponge.  I tried to alternate the blue and yellow, leaving some whiter spaces in between some segments so that the colours could remain pure, and placing them almost on top of each other in other places so that the colours could mingle and make some greenish sections.  I know that when I spin handpainted rovings, I enjoy watching the colours slide by in my hands and meld and mix before my eyes... so I wanted to have all of those wonderful surprises from my own braid.  Some spinners consider white space to be an amateurish quality in a handpainted product, but I kind of like the contrast that a "controlled quantity" of white space can add.  I guess for me the bottom line is:  the white has to look like you left it there on purpose!  not like you just missed a section with your dye. 

** next time I will buy a lighter colour plastic tablecloth... red was hard to visualize your colours on top of **

after painting the wool, which took a surprisingly long time, and 2 refills of the blue dye, I carefully nudged the wool lengths together and wrapped them up with the plastic wrap, sealing the edges as much as possible.  Then I laid out the roving carefully in a glass baking dish (9x9 inch) and then microwaved the wool on high for 2 minutes, then rested for 2 minutes.  I repeated the process about 3 cycles of heat and cooling before the wool looked like it was "steaming" inside the plastic.  I was again worried about felt.... so I let it rest for about 15 minutes and then restarted the 2 minutes heat 2 minutes cooling for 2 more cycles.  This gave me a total of about 10 minutes in the microwave, and took about 45 minutes or so.  I think my microwave might be a bit hot so maybe 1 min 30 sec would have been enough at a time for the heat setting.

I let the wool cool to room temperature (a few hours) then rinsed it in the kitchen sink.  Surprisingly, very little of the colour leeched out.  I only needed 3 rinses and the 3rd was very clear.  I gently squeezed out water from the wool and spread it out to dry on my "sweater dryer" frame... which is great for drying just about anything!

Then the hard part... waiting until the wool is dry enough to play with.  I wish it were summertime and the drying conditions were better :(

2 days later: I got this :) 

Finished braid:  Lemons, limes and blue sky

I'm not sure how lightfast or colourfast wool is after dyeing with the icing gels, but I really had fun :)  and I'm pretty sure that I will be interested in doing some more dying.  Love the vibrant colours, and the process of playing with colour.

2. March 2009 14:30
by Jobo

Natural Dyeing Series... Onion Skins - Part 2

2. March 2009 14:30 by Jobo | 2 Comments

After waiting days (yes seriously, it takes wool that long to dry out!) I finally got to play with the rest of my experimental onion wool. 

I found when I was rinsing the wool, I found that quite a bit of my colouring had come out... I don't think I had heated the dye bath enough for all of the dye to become adhered and colourfast.  Next time I will spend more time making sure things have been heated thoroughly.  This time I was worried about felting the wool, but next time I won't be so fussy.

Here is the resulting braid... the colour is a peachy gold colour.  Think the colour of hardwood floor... aka it matches mine perfecrtly!  the same light golds, and darker golds of wood grain.

During the dying process I had tried to leave some areas light and make some darker, just so the finished yarn would have some more variation and depth.  Here are some more gratuitous drafted top pictures.


And then... the fun part - the Spinning.  I started out wanting to make something sock weight, or fingering weight, but realized that I didn't really have enough top prepared to make anything substantial.  So I decided to make a basic two ply, which ended up at around light fingering to fingering weight.  Maybe I'll knit a scarf or something out of it.  This is the nicest merino top I have come across, so it is a real dream to spin... good thing I have about 10 lbs of it left upstairs in my studio... lol

It was fun to see the varied shades of peach and gold fly by in long stretches

I wound the singles into a centre pull ball and left them to sit for a few hours, to let the twist mellow out of course.

Then plied from the inside and outside of the ball to get a thin 2-ply... here it is on the niddy noddy

and finally... finished skein!  ta-daa!


26. February 2009 22:54
by Jobo

Natural Dyeing Series... Onion Skins

26. February 2009 22:54 by Jobo | 2 Comments

Hi Ho... This is Kermit theeee Frog Here...

Um, oops, I mean, Newsflash! Tonight I decided that it was officially time to try out this natural wool dyeing thing. I have been reading about it for a while, and a few weekends ago, in a moment of wool-weakness, I purchased about 10 lbs of a delightful combed Merino Top... so here we go! From the online reading I've done, it seems that one of the simplest and most straightforward dyes that one can find in ones kitchen is Onion Skin. Depending on the minerals present in the water, and what mordants are used, Onion skin can create dyes that vary from olive greens, to deeper oranges and browns. At home we cook with onions very regularly, in fact I use an onion for most meals... so I started saving the skins some time back. The end result of my onion addiction - about 2 8 ounce jars of chopped onion skins, yellow and red onions in the mix.

From what I have learned so far, it takes a large quantity of natural material to make enough dye to really colour anything.  One reference said you need 50g of onion skin to dye about 100 g of wool.  I'm not sure if I had quite that much, but it felt like a lot.  One of these days I will manage to buy one of those kitchen scales, and then maybe i can be more exact with my measurements.  For the wool, I just held up the roving against another 3.5 oz roving I had in my stash. (Not very scientific at all! I know...)

After chopping up the skins into tiny pieces (yay scissors)  I added them to a pot of boiling water and simmered on the stove over low heat for about 1 hour, then left it to steep for about 30 minutes.  This is the colour that came out:

The resulting colour kind of reminds me of orange kool-aid, though it came out more like a pumpkin orange on the wool itself.  I was really surprised, since I thought I would end up with more of a yellowish beige colour, more like the yellow onions themselves.

At this point, I let the dye cool down a bit.  My wool had been soaking in hot tap water (which in our house is quite warm, but not quite boiling)  and when the dye had gotten cool enough to stop steaming, I poured it into the bottom of a glass/pyrex 9 x 13 inch pan.  Then I carefully added the pre-soaked (in water and white vinegar) wool and swirled the pan a little to allow the dye to mix with the wool.

Using a microwave method, I loosely placed some plastic wrap over the top of the pan, allowing some space for vents.  Then I nuked the whole thing for 2 mintues, then rested on the countertop for 2 minutes.  I repeated this for a total of 6 minutes nuking, and 6 minutes resting, then I let the whole thing return to room temperature, and rinsed the wool.  After the Rinsing, some of the colour seemed to leach, leaving a peachy orange on the natural wool.  I would imagine that if the wool was pure white, the end result would have been very peach, and less orange.

I saved a small sample of the dye so I could try an experiment in "exhaust" dying over the weekend.  The whole principle of exhaust dying is that if you place fiber in the dye and then remove it before the entire amount of dye has been absorbed into the fiber, then there is a portion left... and you can dye a second fiber, and so on until the amount of dye in the liquid is completely used up.  The resulting dyes should have gradually lightening colours.  We shall see anyways.

Pictures of rinsed and dried wool to come later in the week... along with maybe some spun pictures too?  time will tell...  stay tuned!

Part 2

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