Dyeing For My Favorite Color

So, I’ve been learning about natural dyes and the process of dyeing yarn for the past few weeks. I got an awesome color and I wanted to reproduce it on a bigger scale. I got a very deep and beautiful purple from blackberries. I’m now going to knit a hat with it and super excited. Warning: Über Long Post.

I have a confession. I’m a bad chemist/scientist. When I was trying to figure out how much of the Tin and Cream of Tartar to put in, I had no idea how to convert it. The instructions given for the Tin was based on weight and not volume. So… I used a 1/4 tablespoon and poured tin into a paper towel until it looked like a good amount. And then the proportion of tin to cream of tartar is 1:3-4, so I did 3 tablespoons. Ultimately this is the measurements I used:

3/4 tablespoon of Tin mordant
4.5 cups of Blackberrys
3 tablespoon of cream of tartar
3.5oz wool yarn roving
Enough water to fill 2 giant pot
2 pots
A stirring thing-a-mabob

The first thing I did was “cook” the yarn in water with the cream of tartar, tin and water. Luckily for me, my yarn was in a hank!

This is a hank. If you click the image it’ll take you to an awesome blog post about how to get yarn from wool sweaters.

You have to make sure it doesn’t boil. Felting will SUCK. This should be done for 30 minutes. It was interesting to watch this. When it was boiling you could see the little clumps of tin forming on the waterline. You have to press he yarn gently down every once in a while to make sure it absorbs the tin. After about 25 minutes, I was shocked to that the water was clear! Another cool thing was that the yarn inflated a little bit and took up more space.

Oh wool. It such a distinct and… horrible smell when wet. I don’t think there’s any way to explain that smell. It’s so unique. That is one thing I’ll never enjoy about dyeing is that smell. Guess what else smells bad? The dye itself.

With the blackberries this time, you put in a generous amount of water. The only reason I used the word generous is because I read it somewhere when reading instructions and had no idea what they meant by that. Put your dye material in. I put four cups and a half of blackberries, looking back , I should have put only about 2 cups. I smashed the blackberries before I put in the water to make sure as much dye was going to come out. “Cook” the blackberries in water for 30 minutes as well. The color was black but when you put it in a spoon, it was dark purple.

Now for conception. I put the hank straight into the blackberry dyebath (a dyebath is what you call it when you have a large quantity of liquid for dyeing). Can I just say something? I didn’t take out the blackberries because I thought it was a good idea and if not YOLO (You Only Live Once). I regret it a tiny bit. Please do yourself a favor and take the blackberries out of the dyebath. You have to “cook” the yarn in the dyebath for 15 minutes this time.

I took the yarn out to cool off a little bit and extracted the blackberries from the dye. It took SO long even with a strainer. I then put the dye in jars because there was SO much dye left. This is the reason I should have used less blackberries. It’s nice I guess that I’ll have dye left over just in case I run out of yarn for my project.

This part was painful and annoying… I had to get rid of all the seeds that were stuck in the hank. I was NOT a happy camper. Took about 15 minutes to get them all out. Sigh. After that was done, I dried the yarn by using a fan and separating the fibers and pressing them in towels. PRESS, do not wringe. If you wringe, you will felt the yarn and you’ll be screwed. I then did a center-pull ball out of the hank (click here to see how to make it).

Some tips:

  • Use a stirrers and pots you don’t care about. The wooden spoon I used is purple where the dye touched it… The plastic stirrer I used is permanently purple… The pot has an extremely faint purple tint to it.
  • You don’t need that much dyestuff
  • Always put your yarn in a hank
  • Save the dyebath for later just incase you run out of yarn on your project
  • Don’t boil the dyebath or the yarn
  • YouTube and the internet is your friend.
  • Do tests before you get to grand scale
  • Always write down what you did even if it was a mistake

I forgot something! ACRYLIC YARN WILL DYE WITH MORDANT! AAAAA You have no idea how excited I am about this discovery. The majority of dyes don’t work with acrylic and it’s colorfast! The last picture in the slideshow is the acrylic yarn.

Here are some pictures:

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