Adventures in Dyeing, Part Four: Real Kool World

To recap. We’re in pursuit of a self-striping yarn swatch. We’ve made a warp, sketched out a pattern, calculated our yarn gauge, and wound of skeins. Now we’re ready for the main event….dye!

I carefully transferred my sub-skeins to my dye-safe area (the kitchen), and soaked them in some water for a while. I planned to apply the dye on top of the yarn, and it will absorb better in a short time if the yarn is damp to begin with.

Now, let’s go back to the pattern:

Clearly we need 3 colors. When I planned out my pattern, I didn’t really care what colors they were as long as they contrasted nicely to show my technique. I also wanted to use something quick and simple because it was just a test. The natural choice: Kool-Aid flavors.

I had a few packets lying around, so I mixed up three colors: red - Watermelon Cherry; blue - Blue Moon Berry; green - Arctic Green Apple.

I used a small amount of liquid and dissolved the powders, mixing them with a fork. I added a small amount of vinegar as well, to help deepen the dye and increase absorption.

After the dye was ready, I removed the sub-skeins from the water and squeezed out the extra. I wanted the yarn to be ready to accept liquid, but I wanted to make it hungry for dye. I laid them out on some small sheets of cling wrap and used paper towels to cover the skeins that I didn’t want to dye with the first color.

Here you see them laid out - the one on the left is easy to see because there’s only a cookie sheet under the plastic. On the right, there’s also paper towel under the plastic.

Then I applied dye with an eye-dropper style 1 tsp. medicine dropper that I got at the drug store. Here you can see the process when I’m doing the 3rd color - blue. I’ve already dyed the red and green and wrapped the sub-skeins in plastic wrap. To do the solid color, I covered the yarn entirely in dye (that’s the one on the left that I have the dropper on). To do the speckled color, I just put a few dots of color on the yarn (the one on the right).

I put the whole mess in a ziplock bag and popped it in the microwave so that the heat could set the color. With such a small amount of yarn, I just did it for a couple of minutes.

This is what I had after I took it out:

As you can see in the blue speckles, the color expanded a little. I had a lot more color in the green and red speckles because I left less white overall. I need to remember in the future that less is more.

I also had a problem with the dye from the solid colors leeching into the speckled sub-skeins. This meant that my speckled sections had a couple of colors in them. In the future, I’ll leave more white space between the sub-skeins, to minimize the dye that climbs up the yarn. The white bits of yarn you see are scraps of Cotton Classic that I used to tie the sub-skeins. As you can see, it didn’t absorb any of the Kool-Aid.

Fortunately, the colors didn’t overlap all that much, so I didn’t get a muddy brown. Just a little more interest in the speckled sections of the swatch when I knit it up.

At this point, I let it dry. Then I wound it up and knit my swatch.

And a close-up:

Remember I was going for 4 rows per color, but that I rounded up my yarn calculation? Well, I got between 4 and 5 rows per color, so it worked out just about perfectly!

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. In the next post, I’ll tell you about some of the tools I used (can you figure out what the yarn is sitting on in the above shots?). And in other future posts, I’ll talk about some variations. I’ve already worked up a couple of other swatches for stripe patterns, to play with some colors and work out some ideas. I’m knitting them now and will show you soon.