Gradient Dyeing – take 3

This is by far, the less labor-intensive method (of the ones I’ve posted) to achieve a gradation in yarn.  It still has more steps to it than other dyeing methods, but it’s quite fun.

For this one you’ll need:
– yarn
– acid dyes (yes, Kool Aid is an acid dye) or fiber reactive dyes (if you’re using plant fibers)
– a pot (unless you’re using KA or food coloring, save this pot for dyeing only)
– a spoon/skewer or some other utensil to push the yarn down into the dye bath
– some time
– optional: a kind soul (or person you can bribe) to wind the yarn into a ball

I first came across this technique while browsing Pinterest and it inspired me to get back to dyeing, so I’d like to thank Xandy :D.  Here is her post on the subject.  In this link there is also an interesting spin on her method.  Now, how I did it.

First you have to wind your yarn into a ball (no skein winders, sorry, you have to do it by hand).  I’ve made two of those, one using wool and another using cotton (I’ll take a bit about this at the end of this post).  For the wool yarn, I used only one skein (100g), as I though the dye wouldn’t go deep enough inside the ball (I’ve tried it before):

Unlike the tutorial on the first link I’ve posted, I soaked the ball prior to dyeing.  I squeezed it until bubbles came out:

Mix the color(s) you want to use.  I used orange, pineapple and lemonade Kool Aid:

Put your dye mix in a pot or pan, turn the heat on and add the ball of yarn (I prefer to start with a cold dye bath, but you can heat it prior to adding the yarn):

Keep on rolling the ball (and squeezing every now and then) so that different areas of the yarn have a chance to take in the dye.  As the temperature rises (don’t allow it to boil though) and the dye sets in you’ll notice that the dye bath changes color:

Notice that the outside of the yarn turned an interesting orange/brown color.  I didn’t plan for that (I thought it would turn green), but I liked the way it turned out.
The problem I had with this technique was that you get a somewhat specked yarn as the dye goes deeper into the ball:

To fix this (if you like the specked look, you don’t need to do the following), I wound the yarn into a hank while still wet and over dyed it using green food coloring, some lemonade Kool Aid (I ran out of pineapple) and some yellow soap dye:

I don’t have photos of the finished yarn at the moment, but will post again showing all of my results later on.

Now, for the cotton yarn.  Two years ago I bought some natural dyes to try out, but up until recently did nothing with them.  I had an amazing success using Logwood, so I decided to do a gradient dyeing using some Madder root with cotton.
I used the method described on the second post of this series and got less than satisfying results.  I’ll use this yarn to knit Maria with you guys, so I had all three skeins into a hank.
Being lazy, I decided to wind up the whole thing into a big ball and dye it using Rit Dye.  I wasn’t expecting great results and was ready to over dye everything – I just wanted to it done.  To my surprise it did work.  Not only that, but it worked better than the wool yarn.
I’m not sure if it’s the cotton or the dye, the fact is, the dye penetrated deeper into the ball and I got less speckles.
So now you have yet another alternative dye you can use (Rit works on pretty much anything).

A few notes:  My not-so-inner child prefers Kool Aid as a dye – it’s faster to set the dye and it’s kind of magical to see the liquid’s color disappear so fast.  My anal self, on the other hand, prefers the flexibility and reliability of commercial acid dyes – with them you always know what color you’ll get.
After I had finished dyeing for this tutorial, Joel told me he always mixes yellow and black to get dark greens (which is something I’ve been trying to achieve for a long time now).  I haven’t tried this mix yet, but when I do I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update: review of this technique here.