Resist-dyeing, revisited

I seemed to have confused people with my description of how I dyed these yarns, so I dyed up more wool and took photos as I went along. (Who says I don’t bend over backward for all y’all?)

This process can be applied to yarn or unspun fiber – in this example, I used ~3 oz of combed Merino top (64 count). I soaked it for 60 min in warm water. While it soaked, I prepared the resist strips.

I used a clear plastic bag to better illustrate the resist, but you can use whatever they hand out at the grocery store.

Cut the bag into strips about 2 inches wide.

Wind the plastic tightly around the fiber, wrapping it several times. Secure the ends with a firm knot.

Tie as many or as few resist strips as you like, in whatever order. You can bind the entire skein together or leave parts untied – the sky is the limit. I tied until I ran out of plastic.

I picked 2 coordinating colors – Country Classic “Spring Green” and Washfast “Grape Juice.” I started with spring green. I set the turkey roaster to 200F, sprinkled in a few teaspoons of citric acid, and sprinkled in some dye. I stirred until everything dissolved and checked to ensure that I had a pastel dye bath.

I dropped the wool into the bath, put the lid on the roaster, and let the dye do its work.

I came back occasionally to rotate the fiber gently, and after 30 minutes, I added a little more citric acid to coax more of the dye onto the fiber.

I waited until the dyebath was mostly exhausted (the pic may or may not show a faint green tinge in the liquor).

I removed the yarn from the bath, squeezed out excess water.

Even with the ties on, you can see that parts of the top are white – they resisted the dye because liquid couldn’t flow through the area. Remove the ties, and this is what you get!

I poured a little more water into the dyebath (no need to change the water, the first color was used up, and the bath might still have some usable citric acid remaining), added more acid, and shook in a small amount of the purple dye. I stirred to dissolve and checked for a pale color again.

I tied fresh ties onto the top and tossed the fiber back in the roaster. Usually, I check the progress about every 10-15 minutes while dyeing to rotate the fiber and ensure even take up. (That’s why the color bands looked fairly consistent after the first dyebath.) Uneven color can be due to a few things – local high concentrations of citric acid from incomplete dissolving (eg, there’s a large, solid, chunk that is diffusing slowly), local high concentration of dye (again, due to incomplete dissolving), and local higher temperature (eg, immediately above or next to the heating element).

Well, I was away for a couple hours because I made dinner, ate dinner, and cleaned up dinner. (We had pizza with homemade crust, Italian chicken sausage, and veggies from my CSA. It was very good.) Without hovering or intervention, the purple struck very darkly in some places and very lightly in others. The blend of colors that come out of the second bath are very interesting to me. Some is white – twice resisted. Some is “pure” green because it was under the resist for the second bath. Some is green overdyed with lavendar or dark purple. Some is pure purple because it dyed white fiber that was under the resist during the first bath.

Don’t the colors get all lovely and complex? It looks like handpainted top, yet I put in only about 5 minutes of work. I didn’t have to make multiple dye stocks, measure weights of fiber or acid, clear out a large table space, or babysit a simmering pot. What’s not to love?

So that’s how I do resist dyeing with plastic grocery bags. I hope it’s clearer now?

For the yarns pictured previously, I did not use any ties for the second dyebath (thus, no white areas). I used previously dissolved, concentrated, liquid dye stocks (eliminating the possibility of chunks of dye powder) and checked those baths frequently to ensure even take up. Unspun fiber is far more forgiving of extreme color values, and I wasn’t as concerned about leaving it undisturbed in the dye pot for a long time.

Anyway, I decided that the project wasn’t finished yet. This wasn’t a particularly nice fiber – despite the “64-count” label, the Merino felt a little harsh (even before dyeing). I thought it might be fun to improve it by blending with silk. I poked around the stash (mmm, advantages of having a big stash) and found some handpainted tussah silk top (from Carol).

A word about color selection – green is a combination of blue and yellow, purple is a combination of blue and red. Because blue was the common color element of the 2 dyes, I selected a blue silk to unite the two. The silk actually is half golden brown and half pale blue. It reminds me of the beach – sand, sun, and water. I chose this fiber for blending with my dyed top also because I hoped the gold would add a little contrast to the green/purple and bring more depth to the combination.

I blended it on the drum carder in a 60/40 ratio of wool/silk. (Hint: a subsequent post will detail how I blend fibers on the drum carder.) Can you believe the transformation?!?

Mmm, it’s like a misty, foggy morning on a lake. The fiber feels lighter and smoother already.

20 thoughts on “Resist-dyeing, revisited

  1. Thanks for the tutorial. I have a hankering to dye something similar to the yarn in your earlier post. I want to knit a shawl and love the semisolids of the handdyed yarn in the kit, yet the colors would be most unfortunate with my coloring. I already have yarn (of course), now I just need some dye and citric acid!

    PS: When you share your carding information could you please tell us what your drum carder of choice is and how you reached that decision? Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  2. I thought the roving was beautiful, but once you carded it with the silk it’s just incredible! I’m looking forward to seeing it all spun up 🙂

  3. That carded fiber looks amazing! I really love that combination of colors.

    I’m seriously going to have to pull my long-unused drum carder out and get to work.

  4. That fiber is gorgeous, June! And thanks for the tutorial. If you’re ever in Cincinnati, you’re SO invited over for a day (or more) of fiber fun. I think together we could do A LOT of damage 🙂

  5. Beautiful! When you drum card the silk top how do you keep it from getting neppy? Do you only put it through once? It looks like it’s blended a little better than one pass through the carder. . .

  6. I would not have believed that the colours of the merino and the silk could turn into misty morning when combined. It’s a truly beautiful colour. Thanks for the tutorial.

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