Chesnut-y Goodness

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned my first attempt at hand-dyieng my own variegated yarn.

It was tougher to get the rich, varied brown I had in mind than I anticipated! I guess I assumed with all my years’ experience mixing colours for painting, it would be a breeze. Oops.

Wrong. Oh, so VERY…wrong.

This is the stunning colour I was hoping for:

The amazing Tulgey Wood by Becoming Art – a rich golden red/brown with darker bits.

I read through Clara Parkes’ article on dyeing semi-solid yarns then spent an ENTIRE WEEKEND dyeing and re-dyeing my yarn!

Pipetting, spooning, zig-zagging and finally overdyeing and baking in an oven (!) until I ran out of yellow and dark brown and decided enough was enough! I had spent way more on dye than anticipated, and was defeating the purpose of my cheap French linen/cotton bonanza from my recent holiday!

The yarn went from the flat, rather dull bronze below:

To a variegated chestnut:

Not bad for a first attempt, I guess. I particularly like it in the seed stitch border as it breaks up the colours into little, pixelated nubs!

Here are a couple images of my process. I started out winding the yarn into long hanks on my umbrella swift (which took forever by hand!).Then I soaked the hanks and squeezed them dry, laying them out on plastic for dyeing.

I read that linen doesn’t do well with acids like vinegar, so left that bit out.

Using simple Dylon dyes, I started with a zig zag pattern first, using dark brown, hoping to break up the pooling randomly (which worked).

I then added blobs of orange-yellow to the triangles between the zig zags.

What I should have done here is to steam these up in the oven for 1/2 an hour before  rinsing.  Even leaving these the recommended amount of time on the dye packets, the depth of colour wasn’t even half of the intensity of when I cooked the hanks (which I tried later)!

After rinsing, spinning and letting them dry a bit, I realised I wanted richer colour and overdyed in the brown…then zig zagged with red and yellow…then overdyed in red to get to the final colour… then FINALLY wound them into crunchy, autumnal little cakes. Phew!

Think I went through the entire process about 5 times over 2 days, using 5 packets of Dylon dye, on my hands and knees rinsing everything out in the tub!!

Frankly, it was a bit painful.

However, in the end I feel I have a better understanding of the process now! Thinking I will invest in  a cheap pot to dye in, as I don’t feel comfortable using chemicals in the oven.

Here are the pretty, shimmery cakes all wound up and ready to use:

Much, much better than the dull bronze they started out as! I wanted subtle colour variations – not the clown-like colour changes you often see in hand dyed yarn (which I despise!). Shimmer and depth was what I was after.

As you can see, there is some variation in the cakes – some warmer than others, so I have been alternating knitting two cakes at a time, which seems to work nicely for breaking up the pooling.

I swatched up some samples of the yarn in various stitches and decided to use the seed stitch border on my Owls cardi shown above, as it looked so knubbly and really shows off the colour variation nicely.

Nearly done the little cardi and will blog on it soon!


2 thoughts on “Chesnut-y Goodness

  1. Whoa, that’s crazy! I don’t think I could be bothered dyeing my own. Yours looks lovely though. I agree about a lot of hand-dyed yarns looking a bit hmmm…. overdone. I’m no yarn expert though! I have to learn more!

    • I had to try it…it is too much like painting not to! So hard, tho. I REALLY can appreciate how hard it is to get those beautiful, subtle shades that shimmer…like Becoming Art’s and Madelinetosh…instead of drastic colour changes that create harsh stripy patterns.

      It really is a huge skill.

      And then when you get into natural dyeing…! Wow. It is all so complex and interesting. Hoping to try more.

      I just bought some Glauber’s salts to try and get some dye out a pink cashmere I frogged, so will be firing up a cauldron any day now. Once I have the equipment sorted out…yipeee!


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