Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unscientific food coloring experiment

About a year ago, I bought a skein of now discontinued KnitPicks Bare Donegal yarn.  Most yarn sits in my stash for a while until I decide It Is Time and I sacrifice the yarn to a project, but I couldn't find the right project for this one.  And frankly, the longer I looked at it the more I didn't like it.  I didn't originally intend to dye this yarn but since I didn't like it naked, I decided to experiment and dye it.  But, what color?

Picking out a color was time consuming (I can't help myself) and I spent a couple weeks obsessing about the color choice.  After all, if I dyed it red, then the yellow and blue flecks would show and that didn't sound pretty.  Choose blue and the red and yellow flecks would be prominent.  Yellow and...well you know.  But then I thought, wait.  Green.  Green with red, yellow and blue...looks like a Christmas tree!  So there it was.  Phew, color obsessing out of the way.

Since I never dyed yarn, I did some research online about my dye options. Acid dyes are toxic and you have to wear gloves, a mask and can never cook with that pot again.  Food coloring is safe, it is something you eat. I am accident prone and lazy, I decided to go with food coloring.

Food dye used to dye yarn

I saw a picture online of someone's yarn soaking in a jar, so grabbed my yarn and stuffed it in a jar.  I didn't realize how big the skein really was!  It looked ridiculous but I decided it would still work, so I added some water, a shot of Dawn dish detergent and a glug of vinegar (to make the dye "stick") and let it soak overnight.  Then let it soak two more nights because remember I told you, I am lazy.

Yarn ready to soak in water/vinegar

I finally got my act together and pulled the yarn out of the yarn and into a strainer to drain excess water.  It seemed a little slimy but I wasn't sure if that was just my imagination.  I decided that since I didn't see anything growing, it was fine. (I later learned that a little mold never hurt anyone's dye job, I forgot to ask about slime though.)

Yarn draining excess water

I started some water simmering in a pot, dumped in another glug of vinegar because that seemed like a good idea and dripped in some green food coloring. I also added a few drops of red to neutralize the green a bit and then some black because the green looked frighteningly Shrekish.  I didn't know if that was the right decision, but when I dipped a bit of paper towel in the water, it looked good to me.

The yarn is mostly immersed, soaking up the dye.

It only took a couple minutes of simmering before the yarn had soaked up all the dye and the water ran clear.  I was shocked!  Unfortunately the yarn was still pretty light and I noticed a problem.  There were a lot of areas that were still white.  The next five minutes were spent with me alternating between adding more green and yellow and being shocked every time I realized the water was clear; consequently I ran out of green food color.  So I pulled the yarn aside with my whisk (hey, it was handy) and dripped in some blue and yellow.  (You can see this whole process was very unscientific.)  The yarn started to develop a lot of different tints of green, it was even better than I had hoped for!

I heard you can felt the yarn if you're not careful, so I gently moved the yarn around to check for light spots (most of them were around the ties that held the yarn in the hank, they were a bit tight) and dripped yellow right in those areas. Eventually everything had some color on it and it looked perfect.

Finally, every bit of yarn has at least some dye on it

I let it simmer a bit longer, turned off the heat and let it cool.  Then I carefully submerged it in a bowl and rinsed it out several times.  Once cool, I rolled it in a towel to squeeze out the water and then draped it over another towel to dry. I was a bit concerned it might be a mess of tangles (see above) but it only took me a few minutes to sort out a few obnoxious strands and it looked all organized once again.

I gave it a few days to make sure it was really dry before I twisted it up into a hank.  There's so many different color layers, I just love it!  And the areas where I dripped yellow showed as yellow/green, adding to the variety of green tints.

Christmas tree yarn!

Finally, this yarn has the perfect project waiting for it - Christmas tree socks for Mom!


the queen said...

That is so gorgeous! And you can wash it and no green comes out? I would think food colorig sye would be water soluble.

A. Malcontent said...

That shade of green is really nice! The whole process sounds pretty easy, too. I might have to try this food coloring dying stuff.

Rayleen B said...

The vinegar sets the dye, the heat helps too I think. I just took a dye class about acid dyes and those are the two things that matter most. I'm assuming it's the same with food coloring. We'll see how the dye sticks with the first wash.

Anonymous said...

I like the color! Looks festive without being obnoxious.