Friday, 8 May 2009

Jam-jar dyeing

I have been playing around dyeing small amounts of fleece with food colouring. Its the first time I've tried this and it is quick, easy and great fun.

My current knitting project is a garter stitch shawl in natural Shetland colours, cream/white, moorit and Shetland black.  Unusually for me I decided that some bright colour was needed to brighten it up.  

I only wanted very small quantities of coloured fleece so after reading a few tutorials on dyeing with food colours and some experimenting I found that using a jam-jar in the microwave was a quick and easy way of dyeing .  

First I filled the jam-jar about half-full with a 50:50 water/white vinegar solution, added a small handful of washed fleece and left for about 15 minutes to make sure it was thoroughly wetted.

Then I added a few drops of food colouring, this one was yellow but I was a bit enthusiastic and added a few too many drops - you really need very little.

The jar was covered in cling film and then pierced to let the steam escape. It was then heated in the microwave to set the dye.  I found that after 5 minutes at medium power all the dye had been taken up by the wool leaving the soaking solution completely colourless.

The jar and contents was were left until cool enough to handle and then rinsed in clean water and left to dry.  The rinsing water should be the same temperature as the fleece, a sharp change in temperature could cause the fleece to felt.

The resulting colour was a very bright orange but the next time using less food-colouring I got a nice golden yellow.  this would be a very easy way to get a range of colours just by varying the amount of colouring used.

I've since bought a bottle of blue food colouring and have combined the yellow and blue to give a clear green colour.  I can see I am going to have a lot of fun mixing lots of colours together!

The first colour to be added to the shawl was the orange. It looked extremely bright amongst the browns and beiges as I spun it,

but once knitted, I think it blends in well.  The shawl is still small at the moment but I think as it gets bigger it may well contain a lot of different colours in amongst the natural Shetland shades.


Heather L. said...

How fun! We were just discussing dyeing yesterday with my sister and a friend who were here for tea and knit. I've ordered some wool felt balls for my flowers and we're going to need to dye them. Christina does a lot of dyeing and can't wait to show me -- she uses crockpots. I'm going to show her what you've done. Apparently, dyeing is easy -- and it looks like it from what you've done!!

Moonroot said...

What a great idea! Now I just need to learn how to spin...

How colourfast are the food dyes?

Rebecca said...

What gorgeous colours! The splash of colour against the naturals works really well.

willow said...

Heather, Crockpot dyeing sounds good especially as its important not to agitate the fibres too much - good for treating the fibres very gently.

Moonroot, When I was rinsing the fleece to get rid of the vinegar there was no colour run. I do wonder if they would be very light stable though as long term light stability wouldn't be of much importance in a food dye! Hopefully they will last and at least with a shawl it will be worn out of sunlight and its not a garment that needs frequent washing.

Rebecca, Its quite fun to knit, seeing how the different shades come together although in this pattern I'm increasing stitches as I go along which is less fun - I think I prefer patterns where each row gets shorter!

Moonroot said...

I've nominated you for an award - details on my blog.