Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kettle Dyed Alpaca Yarn

One of the advantages of having a Mum who raises alpacas is that I can indiscriminately steal borrow from her yarn stash.  It's easier to justify this Misappropriation of Fiber when I'm using the stolen borrowed yarn for Mum.

(I'm giving it back, just in a different form.)

Because I didn't want to knit Mum's Unknown Project in white yarn, I decided to dye it, a harrowing process fraught with much nervous anticipation and occasional heart palpitations.  (To be honest, it wasn't that hard, but working with $60 worth of fiber that can turn into a gelatinous mass of fuzz at any moment isn't exactly a zen activity).

First, I soaked the yarn in lukewarm water.  (Before I added the yarn to the pot I tied it in a few extra places so that the skeins wouldn't unravel).

While I let it soak for a few minutes, I prepared my dye.  I used Cushings Acid Dye in a color called Myrtle, and added about a teaspoon to a cup of very hot water.  Once the dye was dissolved into the water, I added a bit of cold water to the glass.

I moved the pot of yarn to the stove, added a quarter cup of white vinegar so that the dye would set into the yarn, and then began "splotching the dye onto the yarn in sections.

After the dye had slowly dissolved into the water, I turned the stove on a medium heat.  Once the water in the pot was just to boiling (not quite, but close), I let it simmer for 30 minutes and then turned off the heat to let the yarn cool slowly.

It's important not to "shock" the yarn with too drastic a temperature change, as that would cause the fibers to felt, equaling disaster and tears and general weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (As I am having assorted tooth problems right now this would be doubly unfortunate).

Once the yarn had cooled, I hung it up to dry.  I wasn't sure how it would look once dried, so I decided to go with a lighter shade of Myrtle before I tried altering it.

It was an okay shade, but I found I was trying to convince myself to like it, which is never a good sign.

I'm so glad I decided to darken the yarn, because when I repeated the whole dyeing process (this time adding a bit more dye so that the color would be more concentrated) the finished color was exactly what I was hoping for.

It's a bit of a spruce green with hints of blue, and the color is so vibrant it almost seems to glow.  Alpaca fiber is fuzzy and soft, so I wanted a vivid color that would contrast nicely with the natural hazy affect of the alpaca fibers.

I was hoping still for a bit more variation in the skein, but as this was my first time dyeing the yarn, I decided to go for uniformity of color among the three skeins rather than a more kettle dyed look.  (I think it would be easier to achieve the kettle dyed look with only one skein to worry about).

Hope you like it Mum!

(There was a brief interlude when I seriously considered strangling Handyman.  He was trying to make me tea, but didn't realize he'd turned on the pot of yarn instead of the kettle.  Thirty minutes later the yarn was boiling merrily away and the kettle was cold.  I was freaking out that he'd ruined all my hard work, but thankfully the yarn didn't felt.  Handyman was soooooo lucky, because I would have cheerfully hacked him into pieces and buried him in the garden.)


Renee@LivingLaughingLoving said...

Ha ha! Poor guy! Your yarn looks great!! You consistently amaze me with your projects. Don't think I would ever consider dying yarn!! Great job!! And glad hubby is still alive! :)