The dying workshop in Haliburton reminded me of the chemistry lab in high school. Not my strongest subject. It was a day full of measurements, beakers and heat sources. I tend to be an experimental, experiential, feel-it-out and figure-it-out kind of person. I have difficulty following precise directions. In my world recipes are lists of suggested ingredients, not hard and fast directives. Not surprisingly, following the precise weights and calculations of acid dying felt like putting on someone else’s clothes.
Reading over the homework assignment, looking through my notes and staring at the calculations I was completely intimidated. Even though I had made sure to join a group in class that included a fabulous womyn that teaches textile chemistry at the university level, I was still overwhelmed by the mass of details. And now I had to reproduce the whole process alone at Peace Flag House. Yikes.
The homework assignment was a 10 step colour gradation from 10% to 100% colour. I chose G&S Dye’s New Turquoise in the Printer’s Palette, Jewel from Cascade Yarns and the Blue Faced Leicester fibre given to us in class. With those details nailed down I moved on to mixing up my dye stock.
I mixed up the dye outside, measuring carefully and being sure not snort up any toxic dust, and made a 1% dye stock solution. First major detailed calculation completed. The big mason jar of dark blue liquid was enticing and part of me just wanted to start dunking fibres into the that jewel toned juice. But I stayed the course and started measuring out my batches of yarn and fibre in 5g bunches, leaving it to soak in water with a touch of EcoVer Orange overnight.
Day 2 was when magic happened. I organized my mason jars with the corresponding dye amounts, once again checking and double checking my calculations. I made sure the fibres could “swim” in the liquid; allowing the fibres enough dye bath to swish around in and become fully saturated with colour.
I did the dying in 2 batches, watching my times, heat and vinegar additions very carefully. Put fibres in jars, place in the pot of water, heat to 70C, pull fibres out, add the first round of vinegar, stir, put fibres back in and let the colour strike. Keep at 70C for 15 minutes. Repeat the vinegar process. Keep on the heat for another 15 minutes.
In both batches, only jars 1 and 2 actually exhausted their dyes. I left the fibres in the dye bath overnight and found that each jar had mostly exhausted in the morning. Although, there was still a little tinge of blue left in the water. Had I calculated the original dye pot incorrectly and it was stronger than a 1% solution? Or was the dye powder stronger than expected and actually brewed to a 2% solution? The anxiety of following such precise directions made me sweat.
Regardless of a little blue tinge in the dye baths and my nail biting over the calculations, the results were beautiful. A gorgeous 10-step array of turquoise yarns emerged from the jars. There was some real magic in this process. The neutral tones of natural yarn goes in the dye pot and coloured yarn comes out. I can see why dying becomes addictive. It’s like making yarn candy.
I’m a little less intimidated of dying day now. I’ll likely still sweat over the calculations and when nobody’s looking, I’ll start experimenting with colours, times and vinegars. But overall, if playing around with colour and fibre counts as of chemistry, then I’m all in.
Show and Tell Time! How has acid dying gone for you? Did you have great success? Horrible failures? Tips, tricks and lessons learned? Tell us your stories and send us your pics. We love hearing from you.
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