I’ve tried the ball method again, as I thought there was room for improvement. Well, there is, but even doing extra steps, the results aren’t exactly what I wanted.
– I started out by winding the yarn as loosely as I could – so much so that I had trouble when I made the hank. The reasons for doing this was that I thought my first few tries were a little too tight, which might had led the yarn to work as a resist on inner layers. I didn’t notice any difference on how the yarn came out.
– I soaked the yarn in soapy water: soap reduces the surface tension causing the dye particles to spread further. Again, no noticeable difference on the dyed yarn.
– Instead of mixing all colors into one dye bath and letting differences in dyes/temp/timing do the job, I made several baths and worked from lighter to darker color. Same results as the first few tries.
– The ball sat in the final dye bath over night – no difference.
Big, huge sigh. I used a lace weight superwash yarn and noticed that while in a ball the dye wasn’t exhausted (I over dyed the yarn, after winding it into a hank, and it exhausted the bath in a matter of minutes), no matter how long I left it in the bath or how many times I nuked it. This tells me that only the few first outer layers were exposed to the dye and became saturated; the other, inner layers, remained untouched by the dye.
Why then, the one I did with cotton worked so well? I think the answer is two-fold. First, it was a worsted weight yarn (with which I had better results), second, and probably more important, it is cotton.
Cotton is known to work as a wicker (if you ever followed an argument on why wool mittens work well and cotton ones don’t, you know what I’m talking about). Wool, on the other hand, repels water to some extent – meaning it isn’t a good wicker.
This is an interesting technique, but I’ll keep it to use with fibers that work as a wicker (cotton and maybe tencel?). As far as wool (and dare I say silk?) is concerned, to get a good gradient dye I need a technique were I can get most of the surface of the yarn exposed.