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Thursday, March 23, 2006

: the Dye Pot

Awhile back, my friend Rachel picked up some luscious yarn. Problem was, the color was not so wonderful – or at least what Rachel needed.

Emboldened by my garment over dyeing, we decided to transform the color of that yummy yarn.

Enter the Dye Pot…

Here’s the original yarn in all its glory – Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere in a rather glorious fuchsia. However, lurking beneath the surface of that color was the Soul of a Jazz Purple.


Rachel sent me these two samples of Purple to peruse…

But wait – this yarn is 85% Cotton & 15% Cashmere – and here’s where the dyer stumbles. What to do with a combination yarn?

Get out ye olde calculator and pencil, that’s what. Following the directions given by the dye manufacturer for immersion dyeing using Procion MX dyes, I first figured out a factor to convert the quantities of materials used. They give all directions relative to 1lb. of dry fiber. I would only be using a *sacrifice* 50g skein of yarn.

So I went through the list and converted all the quantities as needed – but still there was a question tickling my brain.

This yarn is a mixed protein and cellulose. How was the dye going to react since each fiber needed different handling?

The Cellulose (Cotton) needed Alkaline (Soda Ash). The Protein (Cashmere) needed Acid (White Vinegar) AND Heat.

So I decided to Start the process with heat and a little acidity to welcome the Protein, then finish the session with alkaline and a cooled down temperature. There was no guarantee this would work – but what I’ve noticed and learned in my other dyeing attempts is that if I follow the basics, I have gotten great results. So I decided to just go for it.

I added the needed water to the pot and brought the temp of the liquid up over a flame. Usually with cotton, you would just use warm tap water. I watched the liquid closely so it was just giving off a little steam on the surface, not simmering, not boiling.

After I added the salt and mixed dye (1 part Raspberry; 2 parts Lilac; and 1 part Midnight Blue), I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, and mixed well. Then I added the yarn, reduced the gas flame as low as it would go and stirred constantly for 10 minutes. Then I turned the flame off and followed the manufacturer’s instructions for the rest of the process (20 more minutes of constant stirring; remove fiber; add soda ash; repot fiber; stir every 5 minutes for another half hour) with one exception.

Big Difference: I added 1.5 times the amount of soda ash that was recommended to neutralize the acid of the vinegar. If I was dyeing a larger amount of fiber, I would make the percentage of the alkaline even higher.

Voila! The color Purple! I am a Lucky Dog – I must say, I am so totally amazed that this worked – the color is clear and deep. The surface and texture of the yarn seems unaffected by the process and is still soft and *new*. Now let’s see if we can pull it off on a whole batch of yarn… :)

30 responses to “Thursday, March 23, 2006”

  1. Laura K. says:

    So very, very cool!

  2. margene says:

    You are a genius! I couldn’t imagine why you would want to dye fuchsia but that purple is fabulous. Good luck with the big batch!

  3. Scout says:

    Is that for me!? PURPLE! It is my birthday next week……all of that calculatin’ made my head hurt. BUt it’s beautiful!

  4. Leah says:

    Be still my heart! You could color my whole world that gorgeous purple.

    Thanks for the tips!!

  5. A jazzy purple indeed! I’m really impressed by your patient scientific techniques.

  6. Karen says:

    Very pretty! I do believe I have some of that same fushia yarn in my stash. Now I know where to send it if I want to change it to purple. ;)

  7. rachelkates says:

    When I did the scroll down through the pics I nearly fell off my chair. You are geek extraordinaire!

  8. Chris says:

    Thanks for describing your process – I’ve always shied away from dyeing blended yarns because of the complications, but it doesn’t sound THAT bad. Gorgeous color!

  9. That worked wonderfully! I *adore* that color of purple too! Gorgeous!

  10. Imbrium says:

    Woohoo! It’s beautful! You’re magic.

  11. Wanett says:

    You are some sort of knitting mad scientist/evil genius. But lucky for us you use your powers for good :).

  12. kim says:

    when i get to the part where you say,”…remove fiber…” i see this image of this pile of wet fiber dripping dye all over everything. Where are you doing this project? Certainly not in that lovely kitchen of yours?

  13. amanda says:

    What a great shade of purple! Congrats =)

  14. Jennifer says:

    Wow! That’s a lot of figuring to make that gorgeous purple. I like the yarn’s new color. Lovely.

  15. Amy Lu says:

    Bonne Marie, you never cease to amaze me!

    I would like to write something poetic about your ability to create beautiful shapes and garments out of ordinary string (and how amazing that is) and now you’ve gone to the level of quantum physics by breaking it down to before the beginning. The color you’ve come up with is a miracle in and of itself!

    Thank you for making me pause today and consider all of that….

  16. Jo says:


    This is wildly off-topic, but had to let you know.

    I just ran into a fellow ribby cardi wearer in, of all places, a cafe at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. So we had a great time oohing and aahing over the coincidence and comparing yarn choices.


  17. ivete says:

    Looks wonderful! I think, though, that you probably can just dye this as if it were 100% cotton — there is almost no cashmere at all in DB cotton cashmere, 10% is a negligeable amount of fiber in any blend, really. You don’t get the benefits of the cashmere, the yarn doesn’t behave like cashmere when it’s knit up, and it can be washed like other cottons, and will shrink like other cottons if dryed on really high heat. . . just my experience!

  18. ivete says:

    sorry, meant to type 15%, not 10!

  19. laughingrat says:

    That color has turned out really nice. I’m sort of amazed (but delighted) that your wild chemistry experiment turned out! :-D Very cool.

  20. Terry says:

    I have to agree w. “fidgety knitting” blogger that you ARE the Techknit Goddess – aka to us as TechDyer! Absolutely great job – so when’s the yarn company starting? And thanks for the dye info – I think I may use it soon.

  21. claudia says:

    Very nice work. I once did something similar with a cotton/angora roving. In an (inadvertent) two step process, soaking in straight soda ash solution then heat and acid was a failure, but then straight alkaline and batching worked beautifully.

    If you were to dye Rowan ASC, how would you do it? Frankly the acrylic content seems an insurmountable barrier.

  22. Sarah says:

    Beautiful. :) What will you make?

  23. meg says:

    What a fantastic friend you are, working that yarn color magic! It’s just gorgeous!

  24. i wish i could think of a clever knittish meaning for PhD, because you are so summa in the fiber department. lovely work!

    um, the chipotle stat — i will pretend i never saw it.

  25. Marg says:

    Bonne Marie, such a purple! Makes me wanna go out and stomp grapes! ;-)

    Dear Queen Bess (Like the Queen) knows about spinning and knitting — she does it. P’rhaps she can help you out.


  26. Debbie says:

    If they’d given us examples like this in school, I think I would have gotten a whole lot more out of chemistry. Thanks for sharing your thinking process!

  27. Marg says:

    OOOPs! It’s the Yarn Harlot who wanted advice about making a sweater from home-spun yarn…not you! (blush) But I still love this purple!

  28. Becky says:

    Purple is THE color this season. I love how you’re always ahead of the fashion game! And such a brave soul for trying out that dyeing. Believe me, if I tried that I’d probably blast the color to heck.

  29. Kirsten says:

    This post inspired me to try dying some old beige yarn of my Mother’s (circa 1972) with Berry Blue Kool-ade. I know, not nearly as cool as real dying, but it turned out a lovely Robin’s Egg Blue. And I feel like I’ve accomplished some thing wonderful…

  30. Delica says:

    Bonnie Marie – oh my! I love a rich purple. And muchas gracias for the dying notes – I didn’t think you could dye a mixed yarn.

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