I have been reading and watching videos about dyeing yarn cakes in a variety of ways and wanted to try my own experiment.
My preferred method of dyeing my alpaca fiber is either in a crockpot or the microwave. I have both that are only for the purpose of dyeing. Any utensils or items you use for dyeing should not be used for anything else.
For this experiment I wanted to see what the effects of dyeing it in a crockpot was. I also wanted to explore using hot water to start vs. cold water.
I started with two somewhat loosely wound – medium tight (on a ball winder) yarn “cakes”. If the ball is wound too tight the dye will not penetrate completely – if only medium tight it creates a more gradient effect and sparkles from where the yarn crosses each other. Too loose and you get a nice even gradient but no sparkles. One “cake” was for the hot water part of the experiment and the other was for the cold water experiment.
I had set one crockpot to heat on high, approximately 2 hours earlier with ¾ full water and ¼ cup white vinegar. The dry yarn “cake” was going to go in that when I was ready. For now it will sit on the counter.
I filled the second crockpot with the same amount of water/vinegar mix but did not turn it on yet. I put a yarn cake in it to soak for 2 hours – DO NOT TURN IT ON YET. You can put a bowl of water on top to help keep it submerged.
My choice of dye for my alpaca fiber is usually professional acid based dyes such as Jacquard or Country Classics with vinegar as the mordant. When doing just 1 “cake” very little dye is needed. I have a “just a pinch” measuring spoon that I like to use and I only use a very little amount in the spoon. I like to mix with hot water and an additional splash of vinegar to dissolve the dye. Mix according to the dye directions for the type of dye you have. If not using animal fiber yarn then make sure you are using the correct dye for the material you are using.
For this experiment I will be using the same colors of dye in both crockpots. I have decided to use two colors to see how it penetrates thru the “cake”.
You should wear some plastic gloves whenever using dye. If you are concerned about chemicals in the dye then a mask would also be recommended.
I mixed some blue dye in a container and then poured it into the HOT water crockpot, gave it a stir and then poured some dark pink dye into the center of the crockpot and DID NOT stir it-I did not want to disturb it; just wanted it to swirl.* With a pair of tongs I picked up the DRY yarn “cake” and carefully submerged it into the dye bath. You will have to hold it down to get it to absorb. Note you should see some bubbles as it is soaking in the dye. Once fully submerged I put the cover on the crockpot.
I took the soaking “cake” out of the COLD water crockpot and gently squeezed out the water and set it aside while I prepared the dye for this crockpot. I mixed the dyes in the same manner as before and then placed the WET cake back into the crockpot – Now turn the crockpot on High, cover and wait to see. Check it every hour or so to see how the dye is exhausting. If it seems like is is not taking it all in within 2 hours or so then add a splash more of vinegar to help it.
After 3 ½ hours the HOT crockpot with the DRY “cake” inserted had exhausted all the dye. The COLD crockpot with the WET “cake” had also exhausted all its dye. So neither method affected the time it took for dye exhaustion.
I shut both crockpots off and left the lids slightly ajar – I left the crockpots to cool overnight. Both “cakes” appear identical at this point.
I am a firm believer that the longer the dye sits the better it sets. Plus it will continue to absorb any residual dye that may be in the pot and will make it easier to rinse in cold water in the morning, without any worries about varying temps and felting.
In the morning I took the “cakes” out of the crockpots – gently squeezing out excess water. I then placed them in a cold water with soap (I use Dawn dish soap) rinse and then rinsed them under running water. Do not agitate the “cakes” just rinse and lightly squeeze out the water.
So far the difference I am seeing between the 2 is in the color of the dye on the bottom of the cakes.
I then wrapped the “cakes” in an old dry towel for about ½ to ¾ of an hour to help remove more moisture. It will take a day or so for the “cake” to dry completely or you can wait a few hours and then wrap it into a skein on a Niddy Noddy for quicker drying.
The colors on the “cake” that was in the HOT water crockpot seem to be more vibrant than those in the COLD water “cake”.
I LOVE the little white dots that are throughout the HOT water skein where the yarn crossed each other on the “cake”. The colors are gradient yet pull together nicely in spots. The colors of blue and pink that I started with blended together into a purple and violet.
The COLD water “cake” has more areas of white showing through and is actually more consistent in its dye color. There are still little white dots but this skein is not as gradient and the colors are slightly duller.
I personally like the COLD water skein better but my husband likes the other – what do you think?
Once dry you can leave it in the skein or wind it on your ball winder again into a "cake" as pictured at the beginning of this tutorial.
How did it knit up? I used the HOT water "cake" to give you a idea of how this gradient yarn will knit up.
I hope this tutorial was a help should you decide to try dyeing fiber and I hope you enjoy dyeing your own fibers as much as I do!!
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