Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Challenge of Dyeing Red Part II ~ Success ...Just Barely!

A few days ago I wrote a post called The Challenge of Dyeing Red. In that article I detailed my struggles with dyeing a deep dark red and the method I was using to try to win this battle. Maybe the language I'm using is a little dramatic. After all, I'm just dyeing wool here, but red seems to be a color like no other. To get a deep, dark, true red just isn't that easy.

So how did it go? Well the roving in the picture from my original post completely failed. It seemed like I was on track, but using the dye method I chose, it just didn't happen. In the end, it wasn't able to absorb all of the dye and the color it did take was uneven. Even worse, the roving itself didn't fair all that well.

Frustrated, I threw another batch into a bowl to presoak. I went back to my tried and true stove top method of dyeing. I used the same color and the same amount of dye, and then went for it. I brought the temperature up as high as I dared with Merino in the pot. It was just below boiling with an active steam. Just about any other color would be fully taken by the wool in 10 or 15 minutes with this kind of heat.

Not dark red though. After an hour at this same temperature, the wool seemed stuck. It had taken maybe 50% if the dye, but beyond that, it wasn't budging. "Fine! I'll just leave you there!" I thought in my agitated state fully suspecting that I was felting and ruining another batch of wool. Another 30 minutes and still nothing. It seemed like a match of wills. Stubbornly I left the pot on. Then things changed. 15 minutes later I tested the water and it was notably lighter! "What's this?" I thought. "Could it actually be finally taking the rest of the dye?" Another 15 minutes and the water was clear. The wool when gently lifted from the pot retained a rich red color.

So after two hours of steaming hot cook time, I had red roving. How did the fiber fair? Pretty well actually. I knew enough not to bother it very much during those two hours. I only turned it in the pot every once in a while to ensure even color. The fiber is still lofty and draftable.

In case you're curious, here's the failed red from my first post. As you can see, the color is very inconsistent and the fiber is matted from being overworked. Part of me thinks I could feed it through my drum carder and still use it for something and another part of me never wants to see it again!

What's the yarn in the picture at the top? It represents the goal color. My red roving underneath is pretty close. In the future it won't be hard to adjust the ratio of dye to roving to tweak the color.

So this week has been an exercise in patience and perhaps I just finally learned what others already know. Some things just take time!


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

~ Phyllis ~ said...

Looks to me like you got it just about right. That red yarn is gorgeous.

Jenn said...

Thank you both! This project was challenging, but now that I'm spinning the roving, I'm in a much happier place. I'm glad I did it though.