Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful.
-- Aldous Huxley
Okay, I'm a little obsessed
I ordered a few vials of Gaywool dye (okay, that's enough snickering from the Franklin peanut gallery; I didn't name the stuff) based on several recommendations I'd read. Gaywool is made by Louet, and comes in crystal form. Mordant is incorporated within the crystals so you don't have to add a separate substance to set the color; however, the directions do recommend heat-setting it by simmering on the stove. Best of all, I didn't notice any chemical odor during or after the dyeing process.
I began experimenting with the six different colors I purchased: two shades of pink, olive green, a forest green, indigo and plum. (In case you're wondering why those, I picked the pinks so I could compare them with the pinks I can get pretty readily using food coloring, and the rest because they are colors I can't get as easily with the food coloring.)
My first set of experiments were with the immersion method: you put the yarn in a metal bowl with water, then sprinkle the crystals over the top of the yarn, immersing the yarn in the water as the dye starts to dissolve. Then you let the yarn simmer over low heat for thirty minutes. I put a splash of vinegar in the water and let the hank soak for a few minutes before I started adding dye.
My first batch, using the two pinks and the plum, looked like this when I scattered crystals over it:
and after the crystals dissolved, it started to look like this:
Upon rinsing and drying, it came out like this (hank on the right):
My second batch used the two greens, same method. Once again, the ultimate color scheme was deeper than I had planned, at least in places. Here's what the dark green looks like knit up, in hat form:
Lesson number one: Need to use less dye unless I want really deep shades, and be especially careful with deeper shades of dye -- a little goes a long way.
At this point I switched from aran-weight to fingering-weight yarn. Here's where it got frustrating. The sock yarn, using only the pink Gaywool shades, with a tiny dash of plum, came out like this:
Yes, the shades were lighter, but in spots the dye hit so lightly I got some nearly white patches. And although I was using two different shades of pink dye, I was disappointed that there wasn't more differentiation between them. I may overdye this in order to even out the splotchiness. Chalk this one up to experience.
More Food Coloring
Feeling cranky, I switched back to food coloring and Kool-Aid brand unsweetened drink mix (sorry, had a little trademark moment just then) and tried to replicate the rainbow skein I did early, using fingering weight yarn in the hope I could make a pair of socks.
Not quite as impressive than the first rainbow skein. The transitions between colors weren't as smooth and the colors didn't take as strongly. I tried a range of blues, and was less than thrilled with that. Same problems: splotchiness, unevenness, lots of dye running out in the rinse.
I gave it one last try: oranges and pinks, with a bigger splash of vinegar to try to get better color saturation. This, I like.
I have decided I don't like the fingering weight wool yarn (which was all the same brand, from an on-line retailer whose name rhymes with Snit-Licks). It didn't seem to take the colors as well as the thicker yarns I was using and much more dye washed out in the rinse. I suppose it's possible that the thinness of the yarn or some unknown factor (more lanolin? different bleaching process?) may be affecting my results. I'll have to find an alternate supply of fingering-weight, undyed wool that isn't shriekingly expensive and see if I get better results with different wool.
Back to Gaywool
The next day, I reverted back to thicker yarn and decided to play more with the Gaywool dyes. I used some worsted weight yarn (Paton's Classic Wool) and played with the concentration of dye in the water, keeping the overall shades on the lighter side. I love this periwinkle color, done with a relatively dilute concentration of the Indigo, and was pretty pleased with this skein (although it looks like it needs its hair combed).
This yarn is definitely destined to become a cap for the Ship's Project, since it looks like camouflage -- unless it knits up so ugly that I wouldn't want to send it. I used the plastic wrap method, with each shade of green in swathes across the skein. I had a bit of bleeding together, but overall, not awful. The olive color isn't my favorite, but I guess it's all part of the experimental process.
After playing a little more, I decided I like the Gaywool dyes and will definitely continue using them to expand my color ranges, although I will still use food coloring/Kool Aid too.
What do you do with all this yarn?
Daryl wants to know what I plan to do with all these skeins of yarn. I have to say that I will not be making any oven mitts. I finished the pink scarf for myself with one skein and will probably knit another scarf or two with some others. I owe mittens to each of my kids, and since the weather is getting chillier again in Philadelphia, started a quickie pair for James (yeah, like I need to start a new project).
I'm going to make at least one pair of wristwarmers for myself, and the rest? I will probably do one or two hats for Afghans for Afghans and The Ship's Project, so long as the colors are appropriate and I can be sure some poor sailor won't take his hat off only to find green dye in a ring around his buzzcut. I may play around with the odds and ends to make a sweater for Grace using stripes and/or fair isle patterning, switching from bright color to bright color. Needless to say, I am also looking forward to Leigh Radford's book on One Skein Knitting, due out in April. And there's always socks.