Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dyeing to get back to my projects

Boy has it been a crazy half year.  I knew it had been a long time since I last posted here, but had no idea it had been since Christmas.  I've been spending that time in absolute crisis busyness.  Since then, my whole life has changed.  Our family moved from here:

To here:

While packing, painting, and repairing before the move, I actually got so busy I couldn't knit for 2 months.  This made me crazy. I'm so glad to be have my therapy back.  My current project is to finish up some knits for my friend William to take to his next pirate festival.  He is the reenactor who has helped me find the great people who want to buy my historic knits.  My Etsy shop has also been very neglected during this move, so as soon as I finish knitting for William, I'm going to get my shop more like I want it.

Anyway, William asked for another Gunnister Purse.  This is the first one I made for him:

I made several others, but they sold so quickly I forgot to get pictures.  William wants a purse in yellow this time.  I didn't have the right yellow on hand, so I decided to use a turmeric dye bath.  Turmeric does a great job dying (or staining) wool with no mordent.  Perhaps more importantly, it fits William's pirate character, William Brand of the Mercury Crew, who spent some time in Jerusalem.  I believe the spice would have been sufficiently common there to use for its color.

I did a little research before beginning. The simplest tutorial on turmeric dying is from Lyon Brand Yarns.  Some other people suggest using vinegar in the dye bath, as you would with acid dyes, and I wondered if I should try.  The owner of Sweetfern Studio luckily did the experimenting for me.  She tried turmeric alone, with acid, and with a base.  You should check out the results, which are very interesting!  It was clear from her experiment that I didn't want to use anything but the turmeric for my desired yellow on wool yarn.

I didn't measure my water or the turmeric.  I put about a couple of teaspoons of turmeric in a pot of water (maybe a quart and a half) and set it boiling.

Next, I walked away and forgot about it until the entire pot of water had boiled off, and I started smelling the truly lovely smell of toasting turmeric.  I'd skip this step if I were you!

Then I scrubbed out the pot, was grateful turmeric isn't too expensive, and got another pot boiling.  This time I let it boil for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Near the end of the boiling, I started skimming the foam off the top of the pot, in hopes of keeping the yarn cleaner.  I think this was worth it!

Next, I put my mini-skein of yarn (only 10 grams) in the pot for 30 minutes, turning the heat down to a simmer.  I gently turned and stirred the yarn several times.

I should have soaked the skein first, but I was very distracted that day and forgot.  No worries, though, because the yarn came out a beautifully even marigold yellow:

Now the question was, to go darker or not?  With William's input, I decided to give the yarn another bath.  This time, I soaked the yarn first, then let it simmer for 20 minutes.  After rinsing and drying, it was obvious that the yarn hadn't dyed evenly.  I think this was because I forgot to turn the yarn.  See how great I am at this?

You can barely tell in the picture, but the unevenness was obvious in person.  The yellow also got more muted and mustardy with the second bath, but not darker.  

After a bit more debate, I decided to dye a bit more to even out the color.  Note that every time I do this,  I have to reheat the dye bath to boiling, adding a bit more water so that it doesn't boil off!  This time, I soaked the yarn again, and put it back in the bath for 10 minutes, turning it often.  I was starting to get worried about felting it from so much handling, but I was gentle and it turned out well.

The finished skein is waiting to be knit up as soon as I'm finished with the gunnister purse currently on the needles!

 The kids started school again yesterday.  My mother's heart ached to see them go, but I will hopefully have my hands more free to catch up a little...and unpack a few more boxes!

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