Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hand Painted Yarn

Is something you can do at home--with out any special tool or material.

Here is how I do it—It's not the only way—but the way I like best..

Begin with white (or near white) yarn. Colors are truer on white yarn, but light natural whites are very good too. I frequently use:
Lion Brand Sock Ease (100g skeins)--white (color marshmallow)
Patons Kroy (2 50 g skeins)--near white (color muslin)
Red Hearts Heart & Sole (2 50g skeins) white (color white)
and occasionally have used other other yarns—Lace weight, or DK weight yarns for projects other than socks. I have also over-dyed pastel colors, and even deep colors. 

Other supplies:
Vinegar (plain white vinegar—I buy it by the gallon!)
Food coloring—the small bottles of food colors (sold in 4 color packs), the 2 oz bottles of food coloring (love that black is available!), or Wilton's Paste food coloring, and easter egg dye tabs.
Tooth picks.
Small glass jars
Disposable plastic trays (I use the kind that come packed with “family size” packages of ground beef (3lb packages) But I have also cut down plastic gallon bottles (milk and water bottles)  You'd need bigger containers for more skeins (I rarely do more than 100gs)
A recycled spray bottle (from windex or the like) and/or a squeeze bottle (bought in the 99 cents store)
(One is OK, Two are better—One for plain water (to control over all moisture, a second for a vinegar water mixture to set dye)
A microwave (or a crock pot—I actually have never used my crock pot.. but..)
And, of course, some disposable gloves (I always start out with gloves.. and at some point ditch them and always end up with my finger tips dyed, too!)

This post is about the process I use for  hand painted effects. But I have also create some wonderful color ways with food coloring and pot dyeing. Like these recent experiments--Nectarine color way,(left)  and Spring greens (with blues and yellows) right. Both are examples of Lion Brand Sock Ease sock yarn(each skein is 100g's) 

Some food coloring are very stable (that is they tend to be uniform in color, other food coloring (especially Wilton's Paste) are more likely (easier!) to break.

What do I mean by having the color break? A food coloring is often made up of several food colors mixed together. And each color has an optimal PH level for dye take up. RED (especial red #40,but all reds ) requires very little vinegar--(too much and the color will not be colorfast) other require more.

If you take a food color jar that has a mixture of 3 or 4 colors, and use it in  a single one shot dye bath—some colors are going to more readily adhere, others are not. The results will be uneven dye up take—some of the component colors will be more visible, and the coloring will be uneven. If you make a dye pot (a contain filled with liquid/dye stuff/acid(vinegar) and yarn you can break colors to get tone on tone/semi solid color ways. 
Breaking can be a bad thing if you are looking for an all over even color—but intentional breaking a color can create lovely hand painted effects.

Hand painted is not the same as pot dyeing.  It always has uneven color uptake, and you can even paint different colors on to yarn--and get a multi color result. 

To start—You can work wet or dry—I like to work wet.

So make the skeins of yarns into hanks. (I use my swift) Tye the hanks in several places.
Soak the hanks in warm water at for at least a half hour to get them full wet.
Then squeeze out excess water, and roll them in a dry towel and squeeze out all the excess water.

I want the skeins wet (very damp to the touch) but not dripping, soggy wet.

Spread the hanks out on a water proof surface—I go the lazy route—I use the glass turntable from my microwave!--but another choice is to  cover the work surface with newspaper, and plastic wrap, spread the yarn out on the plastic  (and wrap the yarn in the plastic to transport it from work surface to heat.).  

Take some Wilton's food coloring –in this example I used color Brown (component colors: yellow6, red40, yellow5, blue 1) and color Burgundy, (component colors: red3, yellow6, blue1) –and started with white yarn (you can pre-dye the white yarn any light/pastel color first.) There is over lap in the component colors—but since each color breaks differently, and sometimes, not completely-and some of each will be added a the last minute--(to minimize the color breaking) My guess before I started was: I should end up with some pretty colors. Some Reds, from pale to deep (burgundy) and some oranges and browns, and blues and yellows (and maybe even some green shades).
Using the toothpick to paint on the coloring paste. Be sure to get some on the top, in the middle and on the bottom of the yarn –and if using 2 hanks/skeins—try to get even distribution of the colors—for more closely matching skeins.

Fill the spray bottle with a mixture of 25% vinegar/75% water.--If your dye has a lot of reds (there are several different numbers of red food dye--check the ingredients)--start with a much milder mixture-- 10% vinegar is plenty—it's always easier to add vinegar to the spray bottle and re-mist the yarn. If you are working with dry wool, use even less vinegar to start.

(Some advocate using full strength vinegar on dry yarn! There are so many options—and so many different final effects as a result! Half the fun is experimenting—No-- you can't always be sure of the results—But I have never had a truly bad result.

Spray—lightly misting the coloring/dye paste. The yarn is wet, and will easily re-wet)

Go slowly—you can always spray on more vinegar and water—and you don't want too much water and to get the yarn to wet—the colors (and the water) will spread and puddle  and be muddy on the bottom! The wool shouldn't be so wet as to have puddles of water collect. Just keep it moist. I really find it easier to use a spray bottle than to squirt on small puddles of water with a squeeze bottle —but others disagree. You'll have to experiment, and see which way works best for you!

Spay the wool between the painted areas, too, to help the the colors spread--as the colors spread, they are much more likely to break. 
Wait. (This is the hard part!) It can take some colors up to 15 minutes to break and spread--here is how the yarn looked after sitting 15 minutes--Not to much breakage in the colors--but they have spread a good deal.

Repeat with a second color, (or more of the first) till you have as much color as desired—or add more vinegar to the water, and re-spray. Since different colors are expressed with different PH solutions, you can change (in a totally unknown way!) what colors in the mixture show up, just by adding more vinegar to the wetting solution.

It might be necessary to add some plain water if the yarn dries out too much—as it might on a warm, or breezy day.

Heat-to help set the dye—be careful—wool can scorch (and burn!) so go slowly—I use my microwave at 50% power, heating it for 5 minutes, letting it cool, (re-wetting with plain water, or more water/vinegar) and heating again. Here is where having wool that is evenly pre wet and on the turntable is a big help! It's easy to carry the wet yarn from the work space to the microwave--with out disturbing it too  much, or worrying about drips, either. 

Once in the microwave, and I can be sure, having started with full wet wool, all of the wool has some moisture-- and is less likely to scorch—(and almost certainly never going to catch fire/smolder!--Watch out—this can happen if you start with dry wool!)

Be careful with the heated wool--Even 50% power is enough to heat some of water enough to turn it to steam.  Steaming hot wool is too hot to touch! (hotter than 212°/100°) Let it cool with the microwave oven door open (or with the turntable out of the oven) for 30 minutes. Re-wet with plain water—if any of the water takes on any color the dye is not fully set—and you'll need to reheat—after the cooling off period. When the colors are set, and you are happy with the results, rinse well in cool water.

Eventually, you'll end up with something like this—an artful, hand painted, one of kind (well in this case 2 of kind)--skein of yarn!

And the colors? Not at all what I predicted! The end result is more like cherry cordials—with dark and milk chocolate brown, a bit creamy white fondant, and lovely cherry tones.

Perhaps I would have more color breakage with a stronger vinegar solution.--Yet, look close.. there are hints of blue.. and small bits of green, and some of the brown tends to orange, too. In the end, who cares? Not exactly what I expected—but it's a success—by any standard!

These are short skeins--only 37g's--so I'll need to add a solid color for a complete sock--maybe another shade of brown --or maybe even some white--for the cuffs, heels and toes.  

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