Friday, June 11, 2010

Tinting Wool

Tinting wool with food coloring is fun and easy! The first question everybody asks is will it last? Because I just started this and can not tell you first hand I do not know for sure. From my human hair tinting experience I can tell you that I'm pretty sure once the color is deposited in the core shaft of the hair it's there to stay. Some colors may fade faster than others but once the color is set and the water is clear when you rinse it out you are good to go and it will stay and last.

Try it out, it's not messy or toxic and the dye is readily available at the super market. If it tints your hand because you forgot to put on gloves, no worries just do a load of dishes and it's gone. I have been using my crock pot and my microwave oven. I like to use glass dishes because it's just easier to wash them out and see the colors.

Stick to the basic primary colors available red, yellow, blue, and mix colors for shades you want to create, use your imagination let the artist come out. You do not need any special equipment or special yarn. There is one rule you can only tint animal protein fibers with food coloring, wool, mohair, alpaca, cashmere, silk etc. Man made fibers and cottons will not work, we need "hair" to tint. You do not need special "blanks" which is wool that has not been dyed, you can use the "over dye" method. Take a skein of yarn that you have and may not like the color so much and over dye it.

Animal protein fibers only although some blended yarns will work if there is a high percentage of animal fiber mixed in. Oh yes food dye will work on human hair too it helps if your hair is "bleached" up first but if your hair is a light blond or dare I say gray, you can use food coloring to make your hair purple or blue! But I digress.... I used to be a hairdresser .... maybe that is why I'm so fascinated with this process.

How to test the fiber? I use the simplest method the burn test. Carefully burn the end of the strand and if it melts it's man made, if it goes to ash it's organic. How to tell the difference between cotton or wool? The smell will tell you, wool will smell like burnt hair and cotton or rayon will smell like burning paper or wood. I'm sure there are many different ways to test but this is my method and it seems to work pretty well for me. When the yarn is mixed I can sort of tell how much of it melts and how much goes to ash. Test swatch is the answer here.

The method is pretty similar to Kool-Aid dyeing but I find liquid food coloring is easier to mix and control colors. No powder to inhale no little mystery packages and it's cheaper than Kool-Aid packets. I've been buying 8oz bottles for under $3.00 at my local Smart & Final Market. Some people keep meticulous records and formulas but as you may have guessed I'm just not that type. I just jump right in and consider most of it as an art with a sprinkling of science behind it.

For example, my good friend Molly is not the jump right in sort but the type of knitter who will swatch and swatch and research and study and will meticulously keep wonderful records and will follow the exact directions on labels. She invited me over to work on a program for children she is teaching this summer (I'll be her assistant) at the Fairview Library in Santa Monica. She is dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid and teaching the kids to knit.

We had a wonderful time in Molly's kitchen testing out all the colors and fibers.

Molly was measuring labeling and keeping very detailed notes, I was just eyeballing. Hoping that I will remember what I did. Ok my method may not be the best I see that maybe a few labels and some notes may be needed here. I'm off to cutting labels and getting my old tint box that I used for my hairdressing days and keeping records. (Maybe)

There is an article on Knitty describing dyeing with Kool-Aid click here. Paas

This is cotton dyed with Rit Dye...... I'll tell you about this method after a few more test runs. I'm very happy with the outcome of this. I crocheted an iPhone and wallet cozy to hang around my neck for those quick access occasions.


Steve in Seattle said...

Bright orange and pea green/yellow. I love it! Only you could pull off that colorway!

Ellen Bloom said...

Oooo...the test kitchen photo is good! Can't wait to see your yarny results at World Wide Knit in Public Day...Clover Park, SM, 6/12 3:30 PM!!!