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I dyed today, and I'm still here in spite of it...

                              Well actually I dyed today and two weeks ago, and had a great time doing it!

I've been looking forward to experimenting with solar dyeing for quite some time now, and two weeks ago finally got the chance to give it a try. I'd been visiting with two of my great nieces one weekend when inspiration hit me. So when I got home, I took one skein of KP's Bare Superwash Wool/Nylon Fingering weight, divided it in half and got to work. I knew I wanted to do one of the skeins in a purple colorway, and the other in rainbow colors. I started with the rainbow colorway first. I placed two chairs 10 feet apart and started creating a new skein. When finished, I put it on the floor into a large circle. Then I made 7 (more or less equal) loops extending off that circle. I soaked it in a vinegar bath overnight, as I knew I wanted these colors to be really bright. Before mixing up the dyes, I did a test drive to make sure the loops would fit into the glass jars.  Then I mixed up 7 different Wilton food coloring dyes and poured them into the jars. I used Violet, Royal Blue, Sky Blue, Leaf Green, Yellow, Orange and Rose and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Since the yarn looped from one jar to another, I couldn't put lids on the jars, so I used a large black plastic garbage bag as a way to keep the heat in while I “cooked” my yarn in the sun.  I placed it out in the sun on a small table around noon and walked away from it to get started on the next skein.

Earlier in the morning I had wound the 2nd half of yarn into another skein by placing two chairs 2 yards apart. I tied it in many places to try and help keep if from getting tangled during handling.  I soaked this skein in a soap/water bath only as I wanted the dye to absorb at a slower pace. It soaked for more than an hour, but I don't remember exactly how long. I mixed up my dye bath using 1 teaspoon of Wilton's Violet food coloring along with ¼ cup of vinegar in a cup of almost boiling water. I added this dye to a pan of hot, not boiling water and gave it a stir. Then I gently added almost the whole skein into the dyepot, keeping a small amount out of the dye. I used a wooden skewer to hold the undyed portion out of the dye bath. Immediately I removed about 4 inches or so.  About 10 minutes later I pulled another 4 inches or so out of the dye bath. I kept doing this, leaving the remaining yarn in the dyepot a little longer each time. When the already dyed portion was long enough, I let it hang into a bowl and then onto a plate. Since this skein was 2 yards long, and I only removed 4 or so inches each time, needless to say it took a l-o-n-g time to do. After it cooled down, I gave it a bath.  I had quite a few problems with bleeding on this skein. I'm sure part of it was the color, but more importantly I think the amount of dye was far too much. I think I should have used maybe ¼ the amount I started with. I was following someone else's technique though, so I went ahead. Won't do that again! I think I needed more yarn, and lots less dye. I decided I would put it in plastic wrap and then in a jar and put it in the sun. This is what I got.
Back to the solar dyed rainbow skein. The dye had not completetly exhausted, so I left it outside overnight. I checked it in the morning, but it still wasn't done until I got home later that afternoon. Again, I had some problems with bleeding. Believe it or not, the yellow, green, two blues, and rose did not give me any problems. Yet! But the violet and orange sure did, even though their dyebath waters were clear in the jar.  Rinse, rinse, rinse was the name of the game, and even after all of that, I steamed them.  So much for trying to do it all with sun power! When I steamed it, the green decided it wanted to be with the yellow, so that has a green tint to it. Nothing terrible, unless your a perfectionist who wants it done 'just so' the first time around. (Who me?  Yeah, me! lol)  This is my version of the NBC peacock!
After leaving the violet yarn in the jar for another day, I decided I'd had enough after many, many rinses and finally gave it a vinegar rinse. It's interesting, when using a vinegar rinse, the dye stops bleeding. If you wash it with a tad bit of soap, it bleeds again. So in the vinegar it goes again.

There was a beautiful royal bluish/purple tint left in the dyebath, so the next day I decided to be brave and dyed a KP WotA roving, something I admire others doing, but was afraid to try. I did not want to ruin any of my fibers. (I can just here Gollum saying “My precious.” right about now – lol!) and ended up with this.  While walking through the back yard, I found this little bit of a Robin's egg and thought the two colors were remarkably close. (My youngest sister jokingly asked me if I had killed a baby bird so I could get a comparison.)  I was so amazed with the two strikingly different colors that were obtained. I would never have guessed I'd get this gorgeous violet color  and a robin's egg blue all from the same dyebath.  All in all, I was quite pleased with the three results. The purple doesn't photograph as purple as it really is. It reminds me of Violets!

Today, I did another batch of solar dyeing. I joined a mystery shawl KAL on ravelry that Pickle talked about several weeks ago, and I need a fingering weight, hand dyed yarn. So I started with this, wound off 3 smaller skeins, leaving them all attached. Then I soaked the first and third skein in a vinegar/water solution. The 2nd skein got soaked only in water with a drop of Dawn soap. I soaked these for 30 minutes. I wanted the 2nd skein not to be as dark as the 3rd, thus the reason for soaking it in water/soap only. Time will tell if my theory worked. This is what I used to dye with today. I used ½ a packet in the first jar, 1 ½ packet in the 2nd jar, and 2 whole packets in the 3rd jar. When I put the yarn in, the first jar exhausted almost immediately.  I wrapped them up in my handy, dandy black plastic bag and let them 'cook' from 10:00 a.m. till 4:15 p.m. It was hot today, at least 93*, so I figured they would be done. It was hot inside when I opened the bag, hot enough that I went back inside to get my instant read thermometer. The water temperature read 120*. I was quite pleased with the color. Not the color I expected, I was expecting more of a periwinkle color. This looks more like blue jeans. But so far, I really like it.  I brought it on the porch to start cooling down. It got down to 100* in two hours, so then I brought it into the air conditioning to finish cooling down. Almost 5 hours later it now registers 76*. I need to give it a bath and let it dry, then I'll take pictures of the finished yarn.

All I can say is, this is very addicting. And so is spinning, and knitting, and... … … ah bliss!

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Comment by Beverly Roberts on July 4, 2011 at 12:01pm
Wendy, I don't recall the books you mentioned, although when my son was young I bought him one entitled something like  Emmet Otter and the Jug Band Christmas (?)  I loved that book...much more than the did...LOL!
Comment by wendy on July 3, 2011 at 12:31am

Susan, yum - yum is right!  This sounds delicious.  And I have everything on hand to make this.  Have you made this before?  Thank you!


Beverly, my oldest sister collects frogs too.  I've seen some pretty awesome frogs over the years, and I'm always on the lookout for fun frog birthday cards too.  Your placemat story reminds me of a story I used to read to my girls when they were little,  The Frog Band the Onion Seller, and a few others by Jim Smith.  Cute stories and we loved the illustrations. Have you ever seen these?

Comment by Beverly Roberts on July 2, 2011 at 8:04am
Wendy and Susan...blueberry lemon cake...oh yum!  and I bought some blueberries at the grocery store only yesterday...should have gotten a lemon cake mix as well and now I will be thinking of this all day (groan)...I haven't baked anything from scratch in years, possibly decades...LOL.
Comment by Beverly Roberts on July 2, 2011 at 8:01am
Jo, my oldest sister collects frogs.  When I first got married (1000 years ago) she gave me a pair of Frog-shaped placemats as a gag gift...appropriate since I married a Frenchman (hope I don't offend anyone here, it didn't offend the French man at all...he got a good laugh over it).
Comment by Susan the Blue Lake Knitter on July 1, 2011 at 8:21pm

As a matter of fact... Blueberry Lemon Cake...


Again... yum, yum.

Comment by wendy on July 1, 2011 at 7:57pm
Wouldn't that be a great job to have?  I'd sure love going to work everyday!
Comment by cherylbwaters on July 1, 2011 at 1:54pm
Wendy, you should be a fiber photographer!
Comment by wendy on July 1, 2011 at 10:27am

Susan, it reminds me of a blueberry cake.  I love blueberries, and am now wondering if there is a blueberry/lemon cake recipe out there somewhere.  Hmmmmm... I'll have to look later. ;o)

Pickle, hopefully I'll be able to show you next week what I've been doing in the 'daily fiber requirement' area of life.  Pretty excited about it!!!

Beverly - thank you.  I think I spend more time photographing fiber related things than should.  My family just groans when they see me with my camera in my hands.  I love photography!

Thank you Jo!  What a cute story, I can just picture it in my minds eye!  This particular frog and toadstool salt and pepper set was a bridal shower gift to my mom many moons ago.  It was given to her by a sorority sister, who ended up being my godmother and kindergarten teacher.  I've been drawn to toadstools since I was very little.  Can't stand to eat a mushroom, but find them fascinating to look at. 

Comment by KnitWhich? on July 1, 2011 at 7:45am
I love that yarn and the photo!  I collect frogs and that setup is darling!  My husband and I had a Halloween party the year we got married and I was the princess and he was the frog.  Since then, we've been collecting frogs.
Comment by Beverly Roberts on July 1, 2011 at 7:36am
Wendy, Love the cake.  You do take such creative photos!

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