Posted by Peg in South Carolina
I deemed the skein sufficiently tamed to endure the dyebath.
Because I use Lanaset (also known as Sabraset) dyes for my silk, I need a source of heat. So I use my kitchen to dye. A general view of my setup is in the photo at the left. The range is gas, which means that it is very easy to control the heat. I have a professional hood. It pulls the fumes (which are barely noticeable) into the garage, but I open the garage door when I use it. And it has really neat LED lights.
But I do not mix dye powders in the kitchen. That happens in the garage. I am a careful and fairly neat dyer. And I am always alert to the need for cleaning up. One time I did have a disaster happen. I knocked a liter of yellow dye with my elbow. It went over and onto the floor. A white floor. It cleaned up perfectly, though I was sweating it out for awhile! I know keep dye containers well away from the edge of the counter.
My dyeing process follows fairly closely the process Karren Brito describes in her book called Shibori: Creating Color & Texture on Silk. Despite the book’s title, Brito has much to say to anyone who dyes silk. I found her book invaluable for helping me to refine the process I had been building up over time from reading other books.
I begin the dyeing process by heating up water with sodium acetate, citric acid, and Albagel SET. Brito, in email conversations on the dyers email list, has insisted that sodium acetate is not appropriate for using with citric acid, only with acetic acid or vinegar. She is a chemist. She is a skilled dyer. I believe her. Still, this combination works for me. These additives will help the yarn both to take up the dye and to take it up evenly. I could also add salt to slow down the dye take-up still more and so further enhance the possibilities of level dyeing. With silk fabric, I probably would. But with weaving yarn, I actually like a tiny bit of inconsistency.
THE FIRST HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES
When the water reaches 120 degrees I put in the skein of yarn and move it around pretty much constantly for 10 minutes. I then remove the skein, pour in the dye solution, return the skein to the 120-degree water and move it around for 10 more minutes. Then I set the timer for 60 minutes and manage the temperature so that it raises to 180-190 degrees in that time period. That means that I try to raise the water 10 degrees for each 10 minutes. But I don’t move it around very much during this period. I am more concerned about watching the temperature because it is the slow raising that helps the dye continue to take up but take up evenly.
To keep me sane I do odd little 2-3 minutes tasks like reading an email, knitting a round on a sock, and then I come back and look at the temperature. The first few times I did this, I had widely fluctuating temperature climbs (and drops……..). I’ve done this often enough that I have a pretty good idea of how to control the temperature.
Here is a close-up photo of the dye pot. It is stainless steel, though very cheap so the walls are thin. That means I have to be careful that the yarn does not rest for any length of time at the bottom, for it can burn. Yes, I learned that from experience!
Cheapness also means than I cannot have the water above the level of the rivets near the top. Water will rust them out and when that begins to happen, the pot will start leaking at that point. Yes, that happened to me as well….
At the top of the pot is a wooden dowel. To this I attach the skein by two polyester cords that I insert through the center of the skein, keeping them apart. I like to use rather thick cord because it is easier to move the skein a bit along a slippery cord. I try to do this a few times during the process so the skein gets re-arranged in the pot instead of just pulling it up and down or moving it back and forth.
Note that the polyester cord takes up the dye as well as the silk.
In the pot on the left side is a thermometer. The thermometer is inside a metal armor guard to prevent it from breaking in the jostling of dyeing. There is a loop at the top of it through which I put some thin polyester cord and tie it to a pot handle. This way it is not going to slip down into the dye pot.
THE SECOND HOUR
But the dye process is not yet done. At the end of the hour, I set the timer again for 60 minutes. This time I manage the burner so that it keeps that dye pot water at 180-190 degrees. This is not very difficult. I check the thermometer only every 15 to 20 minutes.
At the end of this second hour, I just let the yarn sit in the dye liquor until morning.
To learn more about Lanaset dyes, go here.