Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Natural Dye vs. Artificial Dye

Hello, my four faithful followers!

I know at least two of you...feel free to introduce yourselves in my comments so I know who is reading...or who *else* might be reading!

I did more dye experiments the other day, and thought I'd share the results.

I bought more hibiscus flowers, thinking that I could do a little experiment on getting different results from two different mordants. I had some junior assistants (who insisted on helping) pour the water in and add the flowers, but then it was hours of simmering and soaking. First I boiled the water, then it was about an hour of the flowers steeping in the hot water, drawing the color out, while the 50 gram yarn hanks soaked in vinegar (hank 1) or alum & cream of tartar (hank 2). I then carefully drained the liquid out of the yarn and poured the color into the two vessels containing the yarn and allowed them to steep for several hours.

When I pulled it out after a while of soaking, gave them each a squeeze, and the yarn had barely changed color, then let it steep longer. And longer. And overnight. Before going to bed, I added more vinegar to hank 1 and more alum and cream of tartar to hank 2.

The next day, I checked them again and the vinegar yarn was still quite pale while the alum mixture was getting some color. I had checked a web site that contained tips on natural dyeing that suggested alum was the way to go, and that it required simmering for a couple of hours, so I mixed them together and threw them back into the dye pot to let them simmer. I checked on it every 20 minutes or so, then forgot about it for a period of time...when I went back, most of the liquid was gone, so I pulled it off the stove to let it cool.

In the end, instead of the bright red-purple color I was expecting, I got a rather pinky-brown. Disappointing, but at least it's a different color and it's permanent. I let it hang dry. In all, it took about 24 hours and cost $2.70.
While it was out there drying on the line, I took another hank of yarn and made it the color I wanted using two packets of black cherry Kool Aid. It took 10 minutes and cost 50 cents.


Thursday, August 5, 2010


Getting ready to teach a class on dyeing with Kool Aid, so I decided to do a test run on the class. I pulled out the ingredients and decided to see if it was so simple, even an 8 year old could do it.

First, I needed an 8 year old. Check! Then, the boy and I (not pictured) went on a shopping trip!

I went to get a few supplies: several packets of Kool Aid, large plastic bowls for mixing, and two large skeins of wool yarn (total cost: about $30). This should be enough to teach 8 students.

Then I took the wool yarn and cut them into 100 yard pieces (approx. 50 grams). I took two dining room chairs and set them a few inches apart so that one wrap around both chair backs would be two yards of yarn. 50 wraps = 100 yards. I loosely tied them into these 100 yard skeins.

Step one: soak 50 grams of yarn in warm water--not boiling. Do not agitate! Note that heat + water + agitation = felted wool. It's important to put wet wool into your dye bath to encourage even absorbsion of the dye.

Step two: put two packets of Kool Aid into large plastic bowl. To get a nice, uniform color, two packets per 50 grams is what I would recommend.

Step three: add about 6 cups of boiling water into the large plastic bowl. Fully dilute the powder before adding the wool to avoid specks. Give it a stir with your wooden or plastic spoon.

Step four: gently lay wet yarn into bowl. Squash down with plastic or wooden spoon. Do not agitate. If you wish to add a second color, continue to step five; if not, just move on to step seven.

Step five: empty second color of Kool Aid into a small separate bowl and add about 1/2 cup very hot water. Mix with a spoon to dissolve all powder.

Step six: pour second color mixture over yarn in the bowl--big pour in the middle, stripes, or blobs... whatever you wish.

Step seven: when all color is absorbed (about five to ten minutes), carefully lift yarn out of bowl with plastic or wooden spoon (*CAREFUL*! It'll still be screaming hot).

Step eight: DO NOT rinse with cold water...this may cause wool to felt! Let it hang to cool (20-30 min) and then rinse with warm water. Gently squeeze out excess (do not wring or twist!). Hang to dry.

When finished, you'll have a lovely skein of colored yarn! Because the powder is acidic, you don't need another mordant!

Good luck! Have fun!