Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Using acid dyes on wool and silk yarns.

The dyeing I have done, before this month, has been entirely with natural dyes. I never intended to only use plants stuff and natural dyes, but the more I used these dyes the more things there seemed to be to explore. I love the natural dye colours. Living as I do surrounded by a beautiful landscape, the natural dye colours are the colours of the world I live in.

However, I must confess that I enjoy the bright colours of modern dyes as well and have been interested to read about the way Peg uses her own dyed yarns in her weaving. So, I did not hesitate when the opportunity arose to sign up for a "Rainbow Dyeing" workshop with the Alsager Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. Especially as the tutor, Janet, is ex-chemistry teacher and colour expert.

I chose to use a type of yarn I haven't worked with before - silk - and also some light grey Suffolk wool. I chose these partly because I thought most workshop participants would turn up with white fleece and wool yarn, and so I thought it would be interesting to use something different.

I bought a 100g skein of silk yarn, and needed 10g skeins for the workshop. I found this skein did not unwind well from my skein winder, so ended up working with it laid out on the floor, winding first into little balls that I could check the weight of on my scales. These scales are precision triple beam mechanical scales, accurate to 0.1g (they are designed for laboratory use) from Adam Equipment. I find them easy to use, and very useful for all sorts of things from weighing dye stuff to weighing letters to work out post charges.

Here are the skeins ready for dyeing, the grey wool seems to have come out looking darker than normal in this photo, but it gives you an idea of where I started from.
It seemed to take an age to put together all the bits and pieces I needed for the workshop - I was up past midnight getting prepared. The crumpled mess on the left is an old man-sized denim shirt, which is my favourite choice of apron. Other essential items included a measuring jug, old yogurt pots, rubber gloves, white vinegar, washing up liquid, paper towel, cling film, old newspapers, marker pen and plastic labels.
Glaubers salt, dyes, paint brushes, pans, steamers and microwaves, syringes were all provided.

At the end of the day, this is what I brought home:Oh what fun it was! I had missed a workshop last summer on immersion dyeing, this workshop was another technique. We laid out our skeins on sheets of cling film and painted dyes on to the yarn. I was interested to see that when one side was painted, and the yarn looked throughly coloured, when it was turned over the second side was mostly white. So, the painting needs to be careful and thorough.

The dyes we used were Kemtex acid dyes, and they were prepared in 1% soloution (i.e. 1g dye powder to 99ml water).

The yarn / fibres were prepared by heating to 65 degrees centigrade in water, then simmered 10 mins. For each of the 10g of fibre/yarn we added 1ml washing up liquid, 10 ml vinegar, and 10 ml glaubers salt. How easy it was to measure the liquids with a large syringe! It was also easy to measure the dyes. For each 10g skein we used 40ml of liquid, which could be dye plus water, or all dye. It could be one colour, or any number of colours; hence the need for several yoghurt pots to keep the measured amounts with different colours separate. I used two colours at a time, and I started of with a "medium" depth of shade (or D.O.S.) which required 10ml yellow plus 10ml water, and 10ml blue plus 10 ml water. The two colours were in separate pots, and I had two household paint brushes to paint the colours onto the yarn. The result is the lower of the two skeins in this photo. The blue colour is dominant, it behaved differently, running into the yellow to make green. The yellow just didn't seem to run into the yarn in the same way.

The above skein was the second I painted, using 20ml yellow (no water added) to 10ml blue with 10ml water. There was still a lot of greenish yellow, but I did get some patches that were clear yellow this time.

The painted skeins were wrapped in cling film, placed in a plastic "roasting bag" and popped into a microwave with a mug of water to steam. They were given 1 minute microwaving, then checked to make sure the bag hadn't ballooned up, and then a 2nd minute. To set the dye using a steamer pan on stove takes 15 minutes. When the package was removed, one end was unwrapped first and the tip dipped into water to see if the dye ran out. All my skeins past this test first time, and so could be rinsed and left to dry.

I tried red shades next. The bottom yarn in this picture was magenta and red, and the top is red and plum. Again, I noticed some colours were taken up better than others - plum was stronger than red, and the red was stronger than magenta. As people using wool yarns were getting more intense colours than I was obtaining on the silk, I stopped adding water and used all dye. I also noticed that the silk didn't hold as much liquid as wool, so that 40ml was a bit too much for my 10g silk.

On the wool yarn , however, 40ml liquid was just right. This yarn is dyed with violet and plum colours.One of the best bits of the workshop (apart from lunch - which was a real feast, everyone had brought a different dish for the table) was getting together around a table at the end of the workshop with all the dyed yarns on a table in the middle. Everyone talked about what they had done and what they had learnt. Now you just don't get that experience if you are trying something new at home. There were lots of different fibres used, lots of different ways the colours were combined, and many different lessons learned. I was particularly interested to discover that hairy fleece absorbed lots of dye - just the opposite of my experience using the silk. Also, to learn that a dyer who wanted a distinct emerald type green found that blue plus yellow gave a better colour than the prepared green dye. One or two of us had learnt to keep our gloves on if we didn't want coloured fingers! Oops! At least the colour I got on my fingers was red, so it didn't look too strange.

One last handy hint from this workshop: see above. We labelled our yarns with plastic labels made out of plastic milk bottles, and wrote on them in marker pen. It worked very well.

Footnote - in response to a query:
The treatment of the yarn in a saucepan of water with the glaubers salt, washing up liquid and vinegar was a pre-treatment. The purpose is to improve the dye take up. The pot with all these things in was heated gently to 65 degrees C, kept there for 10 minutes and then allowed to cool. The yarn was taken out and rinsed before we used the dyes on it, so it was only slightly warm still by the time we started to use dyes.


Leigh said...

Really lovely colors. I can't make up my mind which I like best!

Peg in South Carolina said...

Lovely colors. Thank you for sharing all of this.

Barbara said...

Hi Dorothy, Thanks for comment. Much appreciated
The workshop sounds wonderful and the results are fantastic,fantastic,fantastic ! I resisted chemical dyes for ages as felt somehow that it was cheating a bit but I'm gradually being converted.