August 29, 2010

The Beet Juice Experiment

I usually use chemicals to dye my yarns; but I've been investigating organic dying a little and thought that I would do a little experiment.  So here is what I did:

Step 1:  I mixed 4 parts water with 1 part vinegar and let the undyed merino DK wool sit in this bath for about 15 minutes--just to make sure it soaked up the liquid completely.

Step 2:  I microwaved the yarn on HI 3 times in 2-minute increments.  The original directions that I found at Pioneer Thinking said to simmer the yarn for 1 hour; but I have a fear of felting, so I microwaved, instead.  I've never had anything felt up on me in the microwave.  The purpose of this is to pre-fix the dye before I add it so that it will "stick" and not bleed out during rinsing/cooling.  I let the yarn sit for a couple minutes between microwaving sessions, and then I let it cool down to room temperature before adding my dye.  I drained the excess vinegar/water from the dish so that it would cool more quickly.

Step 3:  I took beet juice, which I saved from 3 cans of beets ($0.89 per can makes for a pretty cheap dye!) and soaked the freshly-squeezed yarn in it for most of the day (about 6 hours).  I used plain old beets, not the pickled kind.  Although, come to think of it, the pickled beet juice might kill two birds with one stone if I add just a little more vinegar to the already vinegarized juice.  I will have to try that next time.  The ratio was 2 cups juice to 1 cup filtered water.

Step 4:  Pour the beet juice over the yarn, mix well (I carefully turned the yarn over--with gloves on, of course!--and then pushed down on it to make sure that the juice fully saturated the yarn), and let sit for an hour and a half.  I turned the yarn once about half-way through this step to make sure that there was even saturation.

Step 5:  I microwaved the yarn again, twice, in 2-minute increments, letting it cool for about a minute between sessions.  Then I let it cool back to room temperature.

Step 6:  As a final measure, and to make sure that any vegetable remnants that might have been in the beet juice are washed out, I did a quick "shock" soak in iced-cold water in the sink (about 10 minutes).  I didn't agitate it much, just enough to move any vegetable particles off of the yarn.

Step 7:  I squeezed out excess water and let it dry on a drying rack.  Here's the final product.  Sadly, the finished product is much, much lighter than I had hoped.  Oddly enough, I ended up with some spots of an orangey-ink color in about 5 places on the skein.  Not sure why.  I think next time I will hold myself back and let the juice sit on the yarn overnight.  Maybe there wasn't enough saturation time.

And here's another project from 2 weeks ago.  I've been dying (no pun intended!) to show off this little number, which I custom-dyed for Roberta from Tallahassee for an August yarn swap.  It's super-gorgeous, and this picture doesn't do the subtle color variations of turquoise justice.  880 yards of lace-wt. merino.  Roberta says she LOVES it!  I'm so glad.  This turned out so well that you can expect to see this little number in my Etsy store for spring.


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