Adventures in Dyeing, Ch. 1: I Hate Pink

I was given a very small amount of a pink nylon yarn. PinkDye1

Ordinarily, given its color and small amount, I’d just use it as stuffing, but I’ve been meaning to knit a small sleeve for my cell phone to protect its screen from scratches when it’s in the same pocket as my keys, and this yarn would be the perfect amount. Since nylon can be dyed like wool, I decided to see if I couldn’t come up with a color I liked better – my goal was a warm, possibly slightly variegated, brown.

To do acid dying, you need three things: dye, acid, and heat (oh, and water). For dye, I had some gel food colors. For acid, I used a splash of plain white vinegar in my dye water and soaking water. For my heat source, I chose to use a slow cooker, since my stove tends to have irregular heat and my microwave is positioned in such a way that taking hot dye water in and out would be problematic.

I began by winding the yarn on my DIY niddy noddy, tying the hank with some cotton string so it wouldn’t tangle, and putting it in some warm water with a splash of vinegar to soak for half an hour or so. PinkDye2

Then I prepped some green gel food coloring by mixing it with water until it was fully dissolved, and added a bit of that mixture to my slow cooker along with water and another splash of vinegar (as you may be able to tell by now, I didn’t really measure anything…), and heated the whole mixture up until it was steaming.

I added my yarn, and let it cook until the water was no longer green (indicating that the yarn had taken up all the available dye).

PinkDye3 PinkDye4

I then let the water in the slow cooker cool until I could reach in and grab the yarn. I made sure to use rinse water the same temperature as the still-warm water in the slow cooker (this would be important with wool, as sudden changes in temperature can contribute to felting, but I’m not sure it was really important here). There was no color coming out in my rinse water, indicating that I’d done everything right and the dye had fully bound to the yarn! The only downside was that I now had a particularly bright green color…

PinkDye5After drying the yarn fully, I repeated this process with different colors. (Here’s where I started to have trouble.)

My next dye was red (red + green = brown). I used just barely enough water in the slow cooker to cover the yarn, and dropped the red in various places on top of the yarn instead of putting it in the water before adding the yarn, in the hopes that this would give me a nice variegated brown. I definitely got variegation (picture taken during soak for next round of dyeing). Taken during soak for next round of dyeing

Patchy green and red isn’t a good look, so I mixed up some brown dye from some green and red dye and put all the yarn in that dye bath (in the microwave this time). I knew from my research that red strikes (attaches to the yarn) fastest, so I wasn’t too surprised by the results…

PinkDye7 PinkDye8

I couldn’t get the green dye to exhaust (leave the water and attach to the yarn), even though I left it for a long time. I think what happened was that I reached the point where the yarn couldn’t take any more dye part way through my last dye bath, so the red that was dyed first blocked the green from attaching to the yarn. It’s not exactly the color I was looking for, but a dark dusty red is a color I can live with, so I’m pretty happy with my first experiment in dying.

PinkDye9