Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dyeing Basics with Jacquard Starter Kit

So a while back, I bought a Jacquard Acid Dye starter kit from KnitPicks. Just to try out dyeing yarn and roving.

The kit comes with black, 1 shade of yellow, and 2 shades each of blue (sky/sapphire) and red (fire/vermillion). I think that the idea here is that there are 2 colour wheels: a "bright" colour wheel and a duller one. The bright colours are: yellow/sapphire blue/fire red. The duller colours are yellow/sky blue/vermillion.

When I first got the kit, I wasn't too concerned about how to mix them or anything, I just was happy to throw some dye powder into some water in a squirt bottle, and to let serendipity strike. I got some cool one-of-a-kind rovings this way.

But this last weekend I had some time - as well as 2 hanks of "bare" sock yarn - to kill, so I decided to get a bit more scientific about dyeing. I made 2 colour wheels using the dye kit. This means I now know how to get specific colours from this dye kit, which will be useful if I have special colours in mind. It also left me with 200g of rainbow-dyed sock yarn!

Here's what you need:
- acid dye starter kit
- household white vinegar
- personal protection (dust mask, gloves, apron)
- way of accurately measuring 1g of powder (I have an accurate scale for my handspun for this)
- way of accurately measuring down to 1ml of water (I used plastic syringes from a lab supply store)
- home canning pot with 6 mason jars and metal holder
- some undyed yarn - I used 2 skeins of sock yarn
- 6 plastic cups to hold the stock solutions

This is what I did:

1. I made up so-called "1% stock solution" of the 6 colours. To make: 1g of dye powder into 100ml of water (tip: This is when you'll want to wear that mask. Make a paste of the dye powder in a little water first, then add hot water to dilute. Or it remains lumpy.).  One can store these solutions in jars, almost indefinitely. The advantage of this 1% solution is that it's far easier to dose out accurate amounts of dye from 100ml of liquid than from 1g of dye powder. Also, you don't need to worry about inhaling dye powder once it's been diluted this way. The other advantage of this stock solution is that in order to get a "1% shade intensity" (which is a nice intense colour), you use the same amount of dye solution in ml as the weight of your fiber, in grams. (example: to dye 8g of fiber to a 1% shade of red, use 8ml of red 1% stock solution.) This makes mixing colours accurately and reproducibly, easy. It also means that you don't waste dye.

2. I divvied up my fingering yarn into 24 skeinlets of about 8g each. I have a small niddy-noddy (1 yd) that I used for the purpose. This was tedious work...

3. I soaked the mini-skeins in a solution of vinegar and water for about 30 minutes. Use about 1/4c of plain household white vinegar to a sink full of water.

4. I decided to do each colour wheel systematically. I put out 6 mason jars for the "bright" colours: yellow, sapphire blue, and fire red, arranged in a triangle.  Since I'm dyeing 8g of fiber in each jar, I added 8ml of each of the appropriate 3 stock solutions to 3 of the jars - the ones at the corners of the triangle. I used my handy-dandy syringe for this, rinsing it well between each use! Then, I made the in-between colours: green, orange, and purple, by using 4ml of stock solution (green = 4ml yellow and 4ml sapphire blue, etc).

5. Only 8ml of liquid in each jar isn't very much, I topped them up to about 2/3 full with water. Then I put a miniskein of presoaked (and squeezed) yarn into each jar. The skeins were completely submerged. The jars went into the canning rack (no lids) and suspended over (not in) boiling water for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes of steaming, I carefully took the skeins out (with tongs) and I noticed the liquid that was left in the dye pots was completely clear. All the dye had stuck onto the yarn! Yay! See point about not wasting dye and associated point that I'm not dumping unused dye down the drain for the fish to drink.

For the next 6 colours, I did the even-more-in-between shades, at 2ml/6ml proportions.

Then I repeated the whole thing for the "dull" colour wheel.

 [two colour wheels, done!]

Things I learned:

1. I learned which colours are bright and which are dull. The kit doesn't tell you this, you have to guess. careful readers will notice that I guessed wrong by examining the colour wheels above! Not that this matters, horribly.

2. The fire red colour is very overpowering. It is hard to get a bright orange - a 50/50 mix of fire red and sun yellow is still quite red. So to get a nice orange you have to work at the 25% red/75% yellow level and beyond (ie. even less red). again, careful readers will note that because I combined the "dull" blue with the bright red, I got very red "purples". Presumably the brighter blue would stand up better to fire red...

3.  The home canning thing works for small skeins, but not for amounts over about 10g. The jars don't hold enough water for larger amounts of yarn. Also, I broke 2 jars by initially lowering the canning rack into the water (which was only 2inches deep!). Duh! I got my green contaminated with red this way...

All in all, though, a very instructive activity. I know that if I want to make lighter colours, I simply dilute the stock solution (ex. use 1/2 the amount of stock solution to dye the same amount of fiber for a 0.5% shade intensity). Or use more for a stronger colour. Some colours can stand a 2% or even 3% colour intensity - I think black is one of these - but most are good at 1%. I didn't play with shade intensities for this exercise...something for another day.

As a final exercise, I tested what black does, by making a gradient skein from red to black. I tested it out by dipping strips of paper towel in the dye pots first, to see what colours I was getting. I made 4 mixes of red/black between 1 jar of "pure" black and 1 jar of "pure" red. I had 112g of fiber, divided into 6 skeinlets, for about 19g each (so 19ml total dye stock per mason jar).

Turns out that black, too, is very overpowering, so if you divide into equal steps you get a colour scheme heavily canted to the black end. Only small amounts of black are required to give you a dark shade of red. I did black:red ratios of (1:18, 2:17, 3:16, 8:11) between 100% red and 100% black to get the skein below.

[red-to-black gradient]

I have not yet learned how to make brown - I think that this will involve more systematic experiments using black, added to each colour in turn.

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