Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Dyeing handspun yarn

I spun some Portland (cream) fleece a few months ago, about 160gms, about Aran weight. I was intending to dye it with onion skins but didn't get around to it until last week, mainly due to the length of time it takes to do the whole process, from making the dye, mordanting the yarn and then dyeing it.

So, last week, finally having a few hours to spare (doesn't happen often) I decided to go for it. I weighed the onion skins, about 100gms, which wasn't really enough. According to my dyeing book. I should have the same weight of onion skins as yarn. So, I thought oh well, it will come out a paler yellow. I set the onion skins in a large pan with plenty of water to cover them, brought it to the boil and left it to simmer on a timer (60 minutes). Once boiled it has to cool down in the pan.
Boiling onion skins
  Then I had to mordant the yarn, I was using Alum and needed 3% with 2% cream of tartar which fixes the dye better. You have to dissolve the mordant and cream of tartar in a little warm water, then add plenty of cold so the wool woukld have room to move as it simmered. The whole pan had to be brought to the boil over one hour, then simmered for 40 minutes and left to cool in the pan. Once cool, it has to be rinsed well to remove any excess mordant.
Wool mordanting
 By the time I had done the dye and the mordanting, I decided I should leave the actual dyeing process until the following day. You can leave the mordanted wool in a plastic bag for up to three days. Apparently it is difficult to wet once it has dried.

The next day I drained the liquid from the onion skins.
Drained onion skins
Then added enough warm water to enable the yarn to move freely in the dye bath. This time it had to be brought to the boil over 30 minutes.
Wool in dye bath
Then it had to be simmered for 30-45 minutes. As I thought it would be weak, I simmered it for 45 minutes. The resulting yarn had to be rinsed well and air dried.
Dyed wool being rinsed

Rinsed wool
I was surprised at the depth of colour, it was a lovely golden brown.
Wool being air dried
It dried out to this colour -
Balls of dyed yarn
I was so pleased with it. It is such a feeling of satisfaction to make your own knitting yarn. I was going to make something for the WI competition for next month's speaker (Sue Taylor on her rare breed Soay and Manx Loagthan sheep), which was a small knitted item. I was going to knit a cat, but it would have been quite big, so I decided to knit a pair of wrist warmers to the pattern we used a lot last year. This is a cable pattern, free from Ravelry.

So far I have knitted one wrist warmer. Hopefully I should have enough yarn to make a hat as well.
Wristwarmer before sewing up

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