Thursday, August 03, 2006

Apparently it's easy being green

We started our two day seminar on fiber dyeing with Judith MacKenzie at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, July 28th by trying to get the water in our crock pots hot enough to dye fiber (that’s 180 or hotter) in a reasonable time. I have to say that didn’t work. Those suckers take forEVER to heat and as soon as the lid is off they cool rapidly and then take another forEVER to reheat. Peggy, genius and good twin that she is, brought an old electric deep fat fryer that had a plug-in dial and which heated in, oh, 30 seconds. At the end of that first day, and I know I’m jumping ahead here, we hit 3 Good Will-types on the way home and came up with two more adjustable hot-pots and the second day was far more productive.

Day one: our assignment was to start three pots, one with magenta, one with yellow and one with cyan – the three primes. We were to dip a small hank of wool into one pot after another until we came up with a color for which we had ‘affection’. It sounded odd but it became very clear that there were colors we loved and colors we couldn’t wait to over-dye. We did this all day. We did it with natural off-white wool, brown wool, black wool, gray Shetland wool, three different boucles (wool with nylon), mohair, cashmere, tweed…it took until about 3 pm. There were 21 of us. Here’s just a little of what we all did:

Judith let us all sit while she went through our product, proving that 1. many of the 21 of us would have done anything to sit down and B. there were no two colors alike (though similar) and that one can make any (every) color from the primes.

The second day we started with fresh pots. That assignment was to begin with yellow, dip a little bit of fiber, add a few drops of magenta, dip a new little bit of fiber, add a few drops, dip another bit of new fiber…on and on we went. My bits gradually turned from yellow to magenta and Peggy's went from yellow to cyan, bit by bit.

At the point which I ended with a totally magenta pot and Peggy a totally cyan pot, we were then to take the opposite prime – in my case cyan – and gradually work through the magenta until it was totally cyan, but [whine] we were too tired and we didn’t care anymore – we knew it would work so wtf, and off we went to dye actual project fiber.

Now above we have an example of a Kool-Aid dye project gone horribly wrong.

A few months ago The Wednesday Knitters (Peggy "The Good Twin", MaryEllin, The Other Peggy and me) got together for a Kool-Aid Dye Day. We had some successes and some not so much. (I ended up with a color I can only refer to as ‘babyshitbrown’ and not in a good way, IYKWIMAITYD. No photos of that one. It wouldn’t be kind and my rep as ‘not the good twin’ is solid enough.) My goal with this marino top shown above was to have four distinct colors: bright rose, bright pink, forest green and the natural off-white. As Judith explained: when the fiber is drafted for spinning the colors become less clear – more muted. What I ended up with was a pastel yarn in colors I didn’t like. Judith asked if I minded if she over-dyed it as an example for the class and what color would I like? MIND? That would be GREEN.

She started with a fresh pot of hot water, submerged the pre-soaked fiber in a circle and pushed it down. Then she poured straight liquid prime cyan over the center and dabbed straight powder prime yellow in spots around with the end of a chop stick. Note: if you’re going to be dyeing, keep those chop sticks. There actually IS a use for them.

Then Judith layered the rest of the fiber over the first and submerged it with a spoon, poured the cyan across the middle the other way and dabbed on more powdered yellow. I got to do the second batch myself! Our batches turned out differently, which I liked, and I’ll spin them separately and ply them together. I have just under 4 oz’s of each, which should give me enough for a little shawl ~ if I ever knit again, which is starting to become doubtful as all my time is now taken up with spinning and dyeing…

Judith's batch
my batch
Dry batches - you can still see the red and the pink!
Ar, reporting for Yarn Girls, They Do Get Wooly


Jessica said...

Awesome. And Judith's got a cute new 'do.
I'm intensely jealous. You'll need to share more with us on Friday.

Dave Daniels said...

OMG, that is some INSANE dyeing! I wish I still lived in Seattle, I'd take that class in a heartbeat. I love seeing all your results.

Anonymous said...

Fab pix Rebecca! I expected no less! I've never taken this type of dye class from Judith - tons 'o fun! I hope she makes it a regular now. So when will Miss Peggy SPEAK to de blog? Eh? Don't be shy now.....

Dye on - with confidence and hope that someday you'll be able to squeeze in your other hobbies!

Linda "K"

wavybrains said...

This is great! Thanks for sharing your experience. It looks like so much fun. I'm still a kool aid dye-maven, but you're tempting me to branch out.