Gradient Dyeing – take 1

There are a few ways of dyeing a yarn so it has gradient colors.  I can think of three such methods and on the next few weeks will be posting each one of them here.  All of the methods I came across/developed are somewhat labor intensive, but well worth the effort.

This is the first one and you’ll need:
– yarn that has a high content of animal fiber in it,
– acid dyes (Kool Aid or food coloring works too)
– vinegar or citric acid (depending on the dye you choose)
– plastic film
– foam brush
– a source of heat (microwave)

Start by knitting a rectangle using large needles (goes faster this way).  On my sample I used the yarn held doubled.  The stitch used and how you knit (by hand or by machine) doesn’t matter.  You don’t need to bind off either:

For this one I’ve used Country Classic Wool Dyes (which I like very much for its color intensity and the fact that you don’t need to add any acid) in the colors Forrest Green, Spruce Green and Raven:

Those dyes (which come in powder form) were then dissolved in water – it’s a good idea to first soak your blank and then dissolve the dyes.  On a side note, if you have never dyed before, I recommend you start out doing a weak solution (you can always add more dye, or over dye the yarn later).  It’s a good idea to use hot water, specially if you’re using food coloring in gel form:

Now, soak your blank.  If you’re using acid dyes that require you to add some acid, add some vinegar (1/4 cup is more than enough) to the water (or dilute a teaspoon of citric acid in the soaking water):

Once your blank is thoroughly wet, squeeze the excess water out – it shouldn’t drip.  Take a long piece of plastic film out and arrange your blank on it.  I’ve folded mine in half lengthwise so it would fit, you can also fold it width-wise (remember that if you do that, you’ll have more stripes of the colors):

It’s painting time!  Soak your foam brush in the first dye (I usually go from light to dark, this way I don’t have to wash the brush after applying each dye).  You’re going to pat the brush on the blank (DO NOT rub it or you might felt your yarn):

I painted stripes, without letting the different colors meet at first.  Don’t worry about the reverse side of the blank, or if there are some spots that are lighter (you’re going to go over these again):

Next step is to get the different colors to meet and “mingle”.  Decide if you want some colors to have a larger stripe than the others and keep on painting towards one another.  I painted the spruce color first, to the place where I wanted it to stop, then with the forest green, I painted over a tiny area of what was already painted spruce green (same with the black):

Check for spots with no color and go over those again.  Now turn the blank to the other side.  There shouldn’t be much (if any) excess dye dripping – yet:

You’re going to repeat what you did on the first side, painting one color after the other.  There should be enough of dye leaking to this side that you’ll be able to see where to stop and change colors.  At this point, I added more dye to the solutions I had and went over the areas where the colors met:

Fold one end of the plastic film over the blank and roll it up like a burrito.  At this point there will be enough excess liquid and it will spill a bit.  Unless you want “interesting” looking nails, use plastic gloves.  If some of the dye spills on things you don’t want dyed, wipe it off with a cloth soaked in a solution of water and baking soda:

Put your roll inside a microwave safe container and nuke it for two minutes:

Take your yarny burrito out, let it cool for a while and when it’s cool enough for you to handle, unwrap it and roll it up again from the other end.  Nuke it again for another 2 minutes.  Note, it’d be wise to be using the gloves still, as the inner area of your roll won’t be set yet:

If the dyes were set correctly (and there isn’t excess dye), when you take the yarn out of the microwave for the second time, any excess liquid should be clear (or nearly clear).  Let it cool down, unwrap and rinse it.

A few important notes:
– Do not wrap the plastic too tight around your blank, nor seal the ends or your yarn burrito might explode in the microwave,
– In case the liquid isn’t clear (or nearly clear) after the second time in the microwave, you can keep on repeating the procedure, but make sure the blank is still wet.  Do not put dry yarn in the microwave!
– If you don’t have /don’t want to use a microwave, you can steam the roll.  The procedure is the same, but it will take longer.
– In my experience, blues and green dyes only get set properly at lower temperatures.
– Finally, if the colors aren’t as dark as you wanted them to be, you can over dye the blank by either repeating the process above or over dyeing using the lighter color – just toss the blank in the crock pot with a stronger solution of your lighter color (or in a container in the microwave).

Too messy for your taste?  The next tutorial will be a little less so.

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