I tried something new on the weekend and ended up with an Atomic Sunrise and Goosebumps. No, those are not new cocktail ideas…although they could be, I will have to think on those a spell.
Anyway, back to my new adventures. I have oodles of Wilton’s Food colouring gels in the kitchen not being used up since I don’t bake as much as I used to (lots of reasons, and hubby being one of them). With closing the Northern Homestead for the winter, all my natural dye supplies are up there waiting for Spring to arrive and me with it. So instead I went looking for another way to flex my creative muscle on two freshly spun skeins of yarn.
Food colouring and Kool-Aid are 2 very good mediums to use on animal fibers (wool, alpaca, silk, etc.) but they do not work on plant based fibers (cotton/linen/hemp) so skip those. The added bonus of using food based dyes is that it isn’t harmful to ones health as some of the natural dyes and mordants (or acid dyes) can be and you can use the same cooking equipment as you use for your home cooking. For the natural dyes, I have a whole set of pots/utensils just for them.
For the making of my food colour dyes, I employed the use of my crockpot. A great heat source that you don’t have to coddle like a pot on the stove.
First up was to soak the yarn in an acidic solution to help bond the food colouring to the yarn. I let the 2 skeins soak overnight in a pail of water mixed with 2 Tbsp of Citric Acid (Fruit Fresh) or plain White Vinegar or Lemon Juice would also work. The Citric Acid I had on hand to use up along with the food colouring.
Next was to plop the yarns (processed one at a time) in the crockpot with just enough water to cover the wool along with 1/2 cup of white vinegar or lemon juice. Let it heat up on high for about an hour and a half or until the temp reads 150F.
While the yarn is coming up to temp, take 3 glass jars (or however many you need for each colour) and using wooden popsicle sticks, scoop out about an 1/8th of a tsp of gel colouring and smear it all around the insides of the jar. Pour in half a cup of boiling water and stir to dissolve.
When the yarn has come up to temp, pour the dye in whatever colour pattern you like. Try to keep to the same colour families (like red/orange/yellow or blue/green/purple) or you’ll end up with an unpleasant brown (unless that is what you are going for).
Do not stir, just place the lid on the crockpot and let it sit for an hour or until the water in the pot has turned clear. This means the colouring has been exhausted and sucked up by the wool. Remove the lid, turn the crockpot off and let it sit until the yarn returns to room temp.
Remove from the crockpot, squeezing the water as you go and rinse in the sink in the same temperature water as what it was sitting in (or you risk felting the wool with a shock in water temperature). Hang to dry and voila!
Atomic Sunrise and Goosebumps.
I named the blue/green/purple Goosebumps as it reminded me of a cover of a Goosebumps Series (R.L. Stein) book that my son read long ago. As soon as the skein came out of the crockpot, that is what I though of.
The Atomic Sunrise is self-explanatory and is actually a lot more vibrant (think neon) in person. I have a ball and half of bright orange wool left from my “I’m Not a Deer” hat that I knit last fall for my daily walks during deer hunting season so I will combine them into a matching scarf.
So now I must get back to the spinning wheel(s) to make some more yarn to dye with in this newest creative outlet. If you want to try this at home but don’t want to spin yarn, you can over-dye commercial yarns (wool/alpaca/silk, etc only – do not try on acrylic as the colours won’t take) or you can buy ‘bare’ yarns from various yarn companies to play with.
Enjoy and let your fun side out!