Last Wednesday Michelle from Woolly Wumpkins spent the day at the show helping me to dye some yarn I had bought in April. While at the Wonderwool, Michelle showed me a variety of different dyes and I chose the colour I wanted. It took us a while to recuperate from the show but last week we were finally ready to dye!
We didn't use quite the same process as Michelle would normally use as there isn't a hob in the shop but by dint of lots of kettles of boiling water and a microwave we got there. It is absolutely fascinating to watch the alchemy of dyeing. Well technically it's chemistry, not alchemy, but it appears almost magical so I think alchemy fits better.
The yarn I had to dye was shetland aran weight which I had bought ready spun and hanked but still with a little oil. If I'd just knitted it, it would have needed the oil removed but it was fine for dyeing. I began by soaking half in warm water with a little fairy liquid to get it ready for the dye bath and then we were off. The yarn was transferred one hank at a time into a dye bath containing citric acid and the woad coloured dye. It was soaked until I liked the colour and then transferred to a second dye bath to give it a little bit a difference in tone from one end of the hank to the other. As I want to make the yarn into a cable patterned garment, Michelle and I decided not to go for an obvious tonal effect, opting instead for more subtlety. After dyeing, the yarn was rinsed in the sink with a little hair conditioner and then hung out to dry.
The process of dyeing yarn is quite simple but I couldn't have achieved such a lovely batch of yarn without Michelle's help. Her eye for colour and experience at yarn dyeing means the colour take-up is pretty uniform across the hanks, something that a beginner wouldn't achieve any where near as easily.
I now have to keep telling myself that I don't have time to take up dyeing yarn in earnest and instead cast and knit myself a rather lovely jumper.