Saturday, 19 April 2008

Dying To Try Dyeing

Last weekend I paid a visit to my absolute favorite wool destination – Gaspereau Valley Fibres Farm Wool Shop in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I had a Christmas gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket! The rustic old building is a perfect place to spend a misty spring afternoon, browsing the wide array of luxurious yarns, while the woodstove belts out comforting warmth. While Muffy and I shopped, Chi-Chi and Nanny fed Willie the sheep and chatted with the resident chickens.

Since I learned to knit, I’ve been itching to create a couple of sweaters for the little ones. I’m consistently attracted to the beautiful hand-dyed yarns available. I marvel at the organic mixing of rich colors and the lush texture of the fibres. With the boys growing like weeds, I am well aware that these little sweaters will experience limited wear. Although I’ve been known to drop a fair penny on a certain never-ending poncho project for myself, I wasn’t willing to spend $60 on a sweater that may be outgrown in a year.

I was admiring a creamy white merino wool skein, imagining how quickly it would become stained with mud and blueberry juice, when the friendly lady at the shop suggested I dye the wool myself. Eureka! I had not considered this! This sounded like a perfect project that would prove to be very economical. $13 was all I had to spend on enough wool for an entire sweater!

In my past days as an avid rug hooker, I had tinkered with hand dyeing my wool. I have an extensive set of dyes and recipes. These dyes, however, are very toxic! They must be if the instructions call for safety goggles, rubber gloves and a facemask. Somehow, it didn’t seem appropriate to use these chemicals on garments destined for my little ones. I’ve heard of people using both Kool Aid and Wilton icing color to dye wool and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a shot!

With Chi-Chi and Daddy gardening, and Muffy enjoying an afternoon siesta, I set to work in the kitchen. Earlier in the day, I had set my skein in a bowl of water and vinegar to assist the dye in attaching to the fibres. Winging the rest was my approach on this project. I laid the skein out in a roasting pan and mixed up a couple of dyes with boiling water. I chose Wilton’s Royal Blue, Leaf Green, Moss Green and Sky Blue. I figured the colors would not muddy since they were all a combination of blue, green and yellow. I “painted” the skein using a sponge brush, alternating the colors along the length. Once finished, I poured boiling water into the pan so that the wool was completely immersed. I then set my stove on medium low and sat back with a cup of tea and waited. I dumped in another cup or so of vinegar and continued with the waiting game.

After about an hour, the water in the pan was clear and the dye was well “attached” to the wool. I parked it on the back porch to cool and made another cup of tea! Once cool, I laid the skein in some old towels and squeezed out as much water as possible. I hung it on the line to dry in the gorgeous spring sunlight. How beautiful it looked against the backdrop view of the ocean. Obviously, my color selection was ocean inspired. I’m so pleased with the results. My knitting needles are ready and waiting!


nurturedmom said...

I LOVE IT! When is the next craft night? :)

Katherine C. said...

Absolutely beautiful job! My cousin is near Wolfville, I'll have to get her to stop by Gaspereau for me!

jenny-junebug said...

Thanks for the kind words! I can tell this might be a new addiction for me. It was TOO much fun!! (: