We crafters can never be faithful to one craft. It is not unusual for knitters to branch out to spinning, dyeing or even rearing sheep. Knitters over here, as in India, have our own set of challenges to pick up a new hobby: lack of raw material, lack of tools and experienced crafters around. All these problems were solved when it comes to dyeing. One of our Bangalore crafters discovered the availability of undyed mohair in a store on Commercial Street. All of us flocked to get our hands on that mohair and we all ended up with a hank or two. Next obvious step was to dye it. Another courageous crafter, Di, got her hands dirty (or should I say colored) and learnt the process of dyeing. She even experimented with natural dyes, which was a huge success. Di was kind enough to host a DAL (Dye-A-Long) for us where she would hold our hands and teach us dyeing. A meet-up was planned and as it usually happens, I had to drop out because of personal commitments. Di sent me detailed instructions so that I could do dye the yarn on my own.
Step 1: Mordant
I did not have access to natural dyes, so I dyed both my hanks using food colors. I mordanted the first hank with vinegar. Used about 200 ml. of vinegar in half a bucket of water. Soaked the yarn and left it overnight with occasional stirring in between. Hung the yarn out to dry. With the second hank, I initially soaked it in alum solution hoping to use natural dyes with it, but when that did not work out, I re-mordanted this hank with vinegar. I was extra cautious and tied the hank at several places so that the yarn does not tangle up later.
Step 2: Color it Pretty
Following Di’s detailed instructions was a cakewalk. I laid out newspaper and a polythene sheet on my kitchen counter. Mixed the powder dye with water. Poured it over the hank and rubbed it in (with gloved hands) until I was satisfied with the color. I wanted a deep, rich color, so I used up almost 2 boxes of powdered dye. The green one was a no brainer. It absorbed the color fast and became more even as I gave the hank a gentle rub.
The orange one gave me a bit of trouble. Could be because it was previously mordanted with alum, but the color did not spread fast enough through the hank. I struggled to get the color evened out, but I like the tonal effect of the end result.
Step 3: Zap it
I bundled up the hank in cling film and microwaved it on high for 3 minutes. Let the hank cool down to room temperature and zap it for 3 minutes again. Repeated this a total of three times. I followed this faithfully for the green hank, but when it came to the second one, I found the bundling yarn in cling film part really mess. I dumped the hank in a big enough microwave safe bowl, put the lid on and zapped it. I almost expected the microwave to blow up, but it didn’t! I did not end up with a (dis)colored bowl either, so all is well.
Step 4: Wash
After both the hanks cooled down to room temperature, I soaked them in water and let them rest for 5 minutes. Washed them clean in running to let all the extra dye wash away. After some 3-4 washes, the color stopped bleeding and the hanks were put out for drying.
Step 5: Show off
And here are the beauties. Love, love, love how they turned out. Both the hanks have a tonal effect which I love. I can’t wait to cast on with this yarn. A KAL is planned in the next month and am waiting with bated breath.
A big thank you to Di who wrote out such detailed instructions that any noob could follow it.
Now that I have picked up dyeing with food colors, I want to try my hand at natural dyeing. There is also the drop spindle waiting for me to pick up spinning. Hmmm… too many crafts and too little time.