Oh dear! I said a day or two for this post in my series about basic dyeing....life just gets in the way of blogging sometimes. But, as promised, here's the third and final installment of my early morning dyeing series…..
This first picture is really the end of the process, of course, but all the colors are so happy that I just had to start here. Would you believe that there are 26 yards of wool stacked and folded on my kitchen table? So our dyes are mixed & stirred….time to get the big pots of water onto the stove. I like to use these big 16 qt. white enamel pots but any big canning-type pot will do (except aluminum….). I generally fill the pot about ¾ full with warm water. Sometimes, if I want a more mottled look to my wool, I'll add less water.
More water + more stirring = more evenly dyed color
While the dye bath begins to heat on the stove, I'll pour my bucket of wool into the sink and let it drain for a couple of minutes. I'll gently squeeze out the excess water, gather the wool into soft folds and
into the pot it goes!
I'm a compulsive stirrer so the first thing I do once the wool is in the pot is give it a really good stir. I want to be sure that all of the wool is exposed to the liquid very early in the process because the different colors in my dye formulas move into the wool at different temperatures. Blue tends to move into the wool very quickly. Yellow moves into the wool much later in the process and at higher temperatures. When I want a mottled effect I force myself to walk away after that first stir and find something else to do….maybe a bit of hooking?
Let it simmer (never boil!) for awhile…..
Once a good amount of the dye has moved into the wool and the dye bath has begun to clear (generally 15-30 minutes), it's time to add the mordant. This is the important step that chemically binds the color to the fiber permanantly. Since I use acid fast dyes my best choices are acetic acid (common household white vinegar) or citric acid crystals (the chemical form of Vitamin C).
When I first began dyeing I used vinegar because it was so readily available at my local grocery store. However, it definitely has its drawbacks! Some time ago I switched from acetic acid to citric acid because I took pity on my teenaged offspring and got tired of hearing "Mom, it stinks in here!" every time he walked in the door. Having made the switch, I'd never go back. I've seen no difference in the quality or shades of my colors and the convenience of citric acid is wonderful. I fill a labeled Mason jar with the chemical and keep it with all of my other dyeing supplies....it's so easy to use. Since I really hate to run out of supplies I buy 20 pounds at a time. It would take up my whole linen closet to store an equivalent amount of vinegar! A good source out here on the Left Coast is Dharma Trading Company.
I add about a teaspoon of citric acid per yard of wool into a large 2-cup measure…
Then I carefully dip it into my pot, fill it with liquid from the dye bath and give it a good stir until all of the crystals are dissolved (this doesn't take long).
Finally, I slowly pour the solution back into the depot while stirring at the same time. Many people advise removing the wool from the dye pot, adding the citric acid and then adding the wool back into the pot. I find this to be an unnecessary, messy and risky step and don't advise it.
Once the citric acid is added, I'll let the wool simmer just below the boil point for a full 60 minutes and then remove it from the heat. It's very important to apply heat for a full 60 minutes after adding the citric acid in order to fully bind the dye to the fiber. (If the dye bath isn't completely clear it really is not necessary to add more citric acid or vinegar. If you're patient and allow the wool to cool completely in the dye bath you'll usually find that the water will be very close to clear. If you're dyeing dark, saturated colors (especially reds) the water will never be completely clear…..don't worry about it!
After the wool has cooled, I drain it in my kitchen sink and then I place it in my washer & run it through the spin cycle to remove all of the excess moisture. Finally, it goes into the dryer on the normal setting with a big fluffy towel. Pull it out of the dryer as soon as it's dry to prevent wrinkles and…… Now you have beautiful hand dyed wool! Tigger does get rather insulted when the table is full of wool because she thinks I've placed the table there just so she can watch the world go by from the big kitchen window!
Have fun in the dye pots.....