Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Great Dye Experiment of 2013, Part 2

I dye my own tapestry yarn. And I dye yarn for my students to use in my classes. And sometimes I even sell it to them. I posted a little bit a few months ago about some dye projects gone bad.
A bad dye job
The Great Dye Experiment of 2013, Part 1

This weekend was my first dye run in my new place... the dye studio residing in my garage now. I took some good advice from my expert dyer friend Cornelia Theimer Gardella and watched the pH of my pots much closer. I usually just dump in enough citric acid to drop the pH all the way to 3.5 and call it good. But I think sometimes that makes the dye hit too hard (and Conni was sure of it, so I decided to listen to her). So this time I used much less acid and monitored the pH. The results were excellent. Even the light colors which are always the most difficult to level turned out great.

Here are the oranges I dyed in March which were so bad.
And here are the ones I just dyed.
The first batch will be overdyed and turned into something lovely.

My biggest question for all of you out there who dye in various parts of the world is, did the water have anything to do with this difference?
The water I was using in Alamosa, CO was well water with large amounts of minerals in it and no water softener. The water I used in Velarde, NM before that was also well water but I had a water softener and had less trouble getting even dyeing than I did in Alamosa. Now I am on Santa Fe city water and I would bet there are still a lot of minerals in the water, this being NM and all, but as far as I know, there is no water softener in this house...
Does the water make a difference in how the dye takes up and how even it is? Have any of you had this experience?
(I'm using Lanaset/Sabraset acid wool dyes and dying Harrisville-milled wool.)

Not a bad days work though... nice, even, hand-dyed yarn ready for another workshop.


  1. Yes, water can make a difference. I too have lots of minerals in my well water and no softener. I do have a thingy at the well that oxygenates the water to remove the iron. You can buy pure softener at ProChem and I use an arbitrary percentage in the dye pot. I also use a WOG percentage of acid to start, adding more later if needed. The last dye pot I used several times w/o adding anything. Love it!

    And I liked your "failure" skeins, but the overdyed ones are pretty too.

    1. Thanks Sherri! I didn't know about the softener you can add to the dye pot. I'll check into that for sure. I may go back to the WOG percentage of acid. I used to use liquid acetic acid, but it is too hard to find now that people aren't doing as much film photo processing (stop bath), so switched to citric acid which I feel is safer and smells much less. So now a powder which should actually be easier for me to get the amount right.

      Good point on the "failure skeins" too. Perhaps I should try weaving with them as they are. The color is light and the result might be lovely. :) I just don't want to admit I screwed up when dyeing when my students ask why the yarn is so variegated. I should just say I did it on purpose.

  2. In natural dyeing, water makes a big difference. Iron is the worst thing. The rest of the minerals just change the color. The sulfur in Pagosa Springs really caused problems with the dyes - had to switch to distilled water for some of the dyes as the sulfur just took them out. I think softener is also available from Dharma. I also have been told that citric acid, at least with natural dyes, should be neutralized with calcium carbonate or the wool will eventually rot. I don't know what happens in the chemical world.


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