Where there is a will there is a way

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to kettle dye wool (yarn) - in Utah with my sister Wendy

When I visited my family, some who now live in the US, I dyed wool with my sister Wendy (who I believe will one day be famous, she's so creative). She showed me how to kettle dye wool with "acid dyes". I am very excited about it.

You can save money by buying undyed wool, then artistically dye it yourself.

Above - one kilo of undyed wool (Peruvian Highland Wool, Worsted Weight, "Bare" by Knitpicks).

You can do this either on the stove, or using an electric kettle. In the States, we used Pro Washfast Acid Dyes. In NZ, Wendy suggested Ashford dyes.

Electric kettle. (I think that would be better than on a stovetop anyways - safer.)

Wendy suggested 4 colours. I wanted to choose both the blues and greens of the ocean, and also the deeper darker greens of the NZ bush (forest). This is for a jumper (sweater) for my husband. Forest Green, Avocado, Moss, Turquoise.

First you soak the yarn in warm water with 1/2 cup of citric acid (white powdery stuff). The citric acid makes the dye take faster, a "faster strike".

Dissolve each colour of dye in a separate cup. (About 1/2 cup water and 2 teaspoons dye).

Sometimes the dye (especially turquoise) can be hard to dissolve. Try to dissolve the gummy stuff as best you can - can take a lump out to keep soaking and add later.

Next, Wendy (wearing gloves or else you'll get very colourful hands) took the wet noodley yarn out and placed it all in the heated kettle (with some water in first so the wool doesn't get burnt). She had her kettle heated up to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Arranging the hanks (skeins) like this...

Then she just started pouring dye all over it!


I call it..."where the forest meets the sea..." or something like that. Seamoss forest? Anyways it's both forest and ocean colours together. THEN wait 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, she added more water, especially between the wool and the sides to prevent burning, and let it cook for one more hour.

At which point Wendy and I found something industrious to do. This is my sister Wendy, spinning wool.

1 hour later. Ok. Let's see what it looks like...

Lookin' good!

After the dyeing, the remaining water will be quite clear if the dye has been "exhausted". If not, Wendy always throws some extra wool in there to soak up the dye. This is unspun wool. She saves an assortment of wool dyed in this way, until she has enough to do something with.

Then wash the wool, adding 1/2 cup of vinegar, and at this point you can add a few drops of essential oils to help it resist bugs - we used lemon and eucalyptus, but I imagine tea tree oil would be really good too.

Not bad!

Now I just have to figure out how to knit a jumper (that's "sweater" to you, North Americans).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story and photos, very helpful :D

Carrie Johnston said...

Thank you for the information and pictures. I loved the color.

My question is: what dye do you use? What is it called and where to you get it?

Thank you

Avery said...

Other great use of kettle. Thanks for sharing.