Wednesday June 23rd 2010, 9:56 pm
Filed under: To dye for

Yesterday afternoon was one of those times when I was glad I had a knitting project that didn’t require a huge amount of attention–not those rows, anyway–as I sat on hold on the phone for forever. (Yes, it helped me get that shawl finished.)

One of my fellow falcon observers asked me, Oh, did you have to wait on AT&T too?

No, the IRS. Trying to get a refund straightened out.

She winced and decided that maybe the other sounded not quite so bad.  But “it’s all good,” I reassured her, problem solved now–with thanks to an extremely helpful and knowledgeable IRS agent, wherever she was. She answered all my if I/did you/can you questions well.

The other thing I did yesterday was I got a package in the mail from Colourmart: they’d had a brief sale, and I’d ordered a cone of the 70/30 cashmere/silk,  990 yards/150g, the top one there.  Nice!  A little more salmony-orange than I was expecting, but I could always find someone who’d love it and it was pretty enough to be knittable to my  eyes.

So.  I hanked and scoured it to get out the mill oils: they gray the yarn and feel like dried hair mousse. Routine step when dealing with cones. If I’m going to knit cashmere, by golly it’s going to feel like cashmere for me too, not just the recipient later, even if it takes a little extra time and effort to wash it beforehand; after all, that missing last manufacturing step is why cones are usually a lot cheaper.  And no skein ends to connect as you knit!

When that gray was out, though–my stars.  Dumbstruck. I’d never seen a change quite so dramatic.  Note that the color here is actually slightly subdued by being wet.

Who on earth ordered this screaming chunk of fluorescent traffic cone?

Um. Yeah. So now I knew why it was $20 inc shipping from England. (All their US prices include shipping–something to know on that site.)

Now, part of what had been going on in the back of my mind all along with that order was, hey, a cashmere shawl for twenty bucks. If I don’t like the color, I’ll break out the dye pot. Matter of fact, it’s been nearly two years (!) since I hefted that biggest pot, this’ll be a kick to get back to it–I love playing with watercolors, and I physically can now, so, hey, this’ll get me jumpstarted.

Done it many times. Gotten a good yarn cheap because of the color, changed the color.  But–wow. We were definitely going for that dyepot.

Only, the yarn was not.

Now, I have read that there are only so many dye-receptor molecules to be had and that a yarn that is fully saturated simply won’t take up any more.  So here I was, firing up the stove, pouring in the dye–eyeballing it, thinking about it and pouring in a lot more–I wanted a nice deep red here.  I knew just how to get there.

When the time was up the yarn had absorbed some and had let loose some of the orange (oh good)–but most of the dye simply poured right on out of there.  I hate doing that. I try to have something on hand to absorb the excess if possible when needed, but I just didn’t want to be taking up that orange. I am so not an orange person.

Then when I went to rinse the skein, it crocked: the technical term for, it bled dye. Profusely.  Repeatedly.  Redredredglugluglug, without ceasing, no matter how many times I rinsed it.  Dozens.

I knew I could never be happy with knitting something that might ruin the wearer’s other clothes  should they happen to get rained on, or walk through a lawn and have the sprinklers suddenly fire up, or have their kid go wild with a supersoaker, or… Hearing aid wearers watch for water, but normal people don’t.

I looked at that skein in today’s morning light and thought, maybe…  So I fired up the pot again, threw in vinegar, just a little more dye, if only… and put that yarn back in there. Vinegar does nothing without heat, so, heat. There you go.

At least it crocked a lot less this time.  Again, I rinsed it over and over and over. It still does a little, though, and if anyone has any suggestions at this point I’d definitely love to hear them.

The end result is, now it’s what I thought I was ordering in the first place. (It’s not quite so pink in real life, but this is close. If you enlarge their picture and this one and put them side by side, you’ll see.)  And with all that heat and agitation, it has shrunk up a bit and the eight tiny plies have melted and felted very nicely into each other while retaining the shine of the silk.

I quite like it.  But I’m still going to have to wash it some more. (I blowdried it for the moment. No mildewing my cashmere!)

So that thing about the certainty over dyeing and taxes?

It’s all a crock.

11 Comments so far
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That was interesting! I’ve never dyed anything so I am absolutely no help. But I’ll be sure to read your other comments as they come in.

Comment by Joansie 06.24.10 @ 5:12 am

Stunning. Okay Alison, you’ve done it. I’ve NEVER had more than a casual interest in dyeing, but if you can turn the traffic cone into one of my favorite colors…

(But I’m sure I’d give up long before you did.)

Comment by Channon 06.24.10 @ 6:33 am

my, that certainly was bright — I like bright, but that was a bit much — the “after” color is very nice, still cheerful but not so much shouting “I’M HERE!” (or maybe it was shouting “WATCH OUT!”)

are you still planning to over dye or just keep rinsing until the color sets?

you need a shawl pattern called “hibiscus” for this onw

Comment by Bev 06.24.10 @ 6:33 am

Only Alison could beat dyeing and taxes! Your patience and persistence (and talent) are admirable. The yarn is beautiful but if it were purple you could call it IR(i)S.

Comment by LynnM 06.24.10 @ 7:15 am

I think it’s a lovely color just like it is!

Comment by Diana Troldahl 06.24.10 @ 8:12 am

Well, I may not know anything about knitting (does that make me a knit wit?), but I certainly prefer the red color over the orange!

Fun –

Wear short sleeves. Support your right to bare arms.

A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

Comment by Don Meyer 06.24.10 @ 8:55 am

Wow – I looked at the first picture and thought “DynaMITE over a/my little black dress!” Takes all kinds, eh?

Comment by Joan 06.24.10 @ 9:59 am

Oh, you crack me up! Thanks for the smile today! I’ve dyed a bit of yarn, but not the overdying. I’ve heard about vinegar and salt helping to set dyes, but haven’t really played with it. Good luck!

Comment by DebbieR 06.24.10 @ 5:24 pm

Sounds like it might want another vinegar bath – or maybe one of the spunkier mordants? Alum or something?

But I hope the effort to make it fast isn’t too taxing.

Comment by twinsetellen 06.24.10 @ 7:54 pm

I hope no bulls were about when you got the first colour! Wow!

Comment by Suzanne in Montreal 06.25.10 @ 7:18 am

Yup, hearing aid wearers definitely wath or water. I have a paddington bear rainhat I keep folded up in my purse for those surprise storms…..

Comment by Carol 06.26.10 @ 8:37 pm

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