My very first post on this blog was about my system for keeping track of colors when I dye yarn. Looking back, I realize how little I knew about blog writing because, man, that post is long-winded! I still stand by my system, though. I spent some time over the last few days adding to my collection of dyed samples.
Here are some of my favorites.
My goal was to create a definitive set of ratios for dyeing the basic color wheel from yellow, red, and blue primaries. (Unfortunately these are not as straightforward as you might think. What looks like “orange” to me is 90% of the yellow dye and 10% of the red dye, for example.)
Every color on this wheel is made up of only one or two primary colors. People often advise that you do this if you’re dyeing for the first time, since it’s really easy to create “mud” if you mix all three primaries.
Complex colors contain all three primaries, and to my eye are often more interesting. To avoid “mud,” I measured out 90% of each original color, plus 10% of the color opposite it on the color wheel. Although these look dingier than the original colors, I think they’re also easier to wear. I would gladly knit a whole sweater out of most of these colors.
It’s interesting to me that mathematical changes don’t always correspond to changes in what we see. For example, the yellow-y shades on the wheel appear to shift a lot when you mix in 10% of the complementary color, whereas the purples shift much less.
To dye these little samples, I use the microwave method described in this book. These are acid dyes, which sounds a bit scary but really just means you need an acidic solution (such as diluted vinegar) for the dyes to set. It’s kind of magical to watch the fluid around the yarn go from opaque to clear as the reaction occurs!
The downside to the microwave method, as I learned from my friend and dyeing guru Liz of Dharma Trading Company, is that the results can be uneven, because you add acid to the reaction at the beginning, making the dyes strike very quickly and potentially unevenly. You also can’t stir continually in the microwave, so some areas get exposed to more dye than others. And of course there’s a limit to how much yarn you can dye at a time. On the other hand, I’ve had good luck dyeing single skeins this way and actually really like some mild variegation in my yarn. To me it looks more interesting and, well, hand-dyed. For example, the yellow yarn I used to make the socks in this post is something I dyed in the microwave.
Now I just need to decide what to do with all these teeny-tiny skeins!