I forgot about Colorhue Dyes (also available at Dharma): these dye without the application of heat. They do need to be diluted, though. I overdyed the scarf in Jacquard’s black acid dye (and again it didn’t seem to darken much), so then I put three drops of black Colorhue into a quart of water and let the scarf soak for 2 hours. It still didn’t seem to darken much, so I assume the silk has taken up all the dye it can reasonably take. It looks acceptably dark once it’s on my neck, so, not a total loss. But Colorhue would make things easier.
I always have a few undyed silk pieces from Dharma Trading Company lying around, so that if the instant-gratification urge to craft something hits me, I’m ready. Yesterday, that urge did hit, so I decided to write up the process in the blog in case anyone else is interested. This way you can get an interesting silk scarf for less than $10, instead of the $100+ amounts being charged by designers. And it will be one-of-a-kind!
Undyed scarf (duh)
Acid dyes in a range of colors you like (no more than 4 colors, though, otherwise it gets muddy). These are also available from Dharma, but you can get them at Amazon and many fabric stores as well.
Citric acid or vinegar
Long flat pan (like a lasagna pan, which is what I use for this) which will not be used for food again
Dedicated dye microwave (yes, I know this might be the dealbreaker, but see below for a cheap alternative on warm days)
small artist’s paintbrush (can also use toothpicks, or any other method of applying very small amounts of dye). In a pinch you could use the wet tip of your pinky, in the rubber glove, but you need to remember to rinse it off between colors! (Pfft. Ask me how I know this…)
Assemble your items. First, put enough water in the lasagna pan to cover its bottom. You don’t want to immerse the whole scarf in a big pot of water, the way we do for dyeing yarn, because your dye will swim all over the pot and make a brownish mess. So, a very small amount of water. Dissolve 1/2 tsp citric acid, or about 2 ounces of vinegar, in this water. You want to make the water’s pH acidic. If you have pH test paper around you can use that, and try to get the strip to an orange color, around pH 5.
Set the pan aside. Wash your scarf with soapy water. The purpose of this is to remove any lingering oils on the fabric (oils from the hands of people who touched it, such as the maker, the packer, or you, or oils that were used in the weaving or sewing machinery). If you don’t, you may end up with undyed patches. Oil prevents the dye from attaching.
Squeeze out the scarf (do not wring) and lay it in the pan , spreading it out. Mine always end up looking like a dropped noodle, winding up and down the pan in an S-shape. You want to make sure that the whole scarf is laid out, and that you don’t have any sections where it’s bunched up or folded over itself. A little bunching is fine, but large areas will not have as much dye takeup. Make sure the scarf has submerged in the acid water before you start the next part.
Now for the fun part! Wearing your rubber gloves, open one of your dye pots. Using the small artist’s paintbrush, dip it in the powder and then dab it here and there on the wet scarf. For the finished product below, I used some straight “dab” movements, some swirly movements, and sometimes I really mashed the color into the scarf. When that happened, a bit of it swirled into the acid water, but that’s okay because I only did it 2-3 times. Remember to rinse your brush out between colors or you will contaminate the dye pots. Ahem.
For a good, balanced, artistic look, do several ‘blobs’ of each color, and spread them out and intersperse them well. For a more unbalanced look, you could start at one end with red and work your way through the spectrum from L-R, or just concentrate areas of one color instead of spreading them out. On mine, they were spread out for a more symmetrical effect. You can see I overdid the red a little, but because I was going for a rose garden effect, it’s okay.
Let the scarf and dye sit in the water for another hour. Silk takes longer to soak up dye than other fibers, though on a fine silk scarf, it’s not as bad as a thick silk yarn!
Heat your pan. I set mine to 5 minutes in the microwave at full power, but shortly after three minutes I noticed it smoking so out it came. (Five minutes is an appropriate time for a thick pot of water and yarn. Not so good for fragile silk. Should have remembered that.) But, no harm was done, and the dye had set.
Pour out the hot liquid, wash the scarf again to get any excess dye off it, squeeze it out and hang to dry! If you like the very pristine scarf look, you’ll need to iron it, but I don’t bother.
Yesterday’s scarf got overdyed in a weak mix of Gun Metal and Black to give it a more goth look. Unfortunately I used the “contaminated black” which has been losing its potency. Somewhere around here is a sealed jar of black and this might get overdyed one more time with that, if I can find it. This scarf, as is, is paler than I wanted.
To overdye: while your scarf is cooking, mix up the overdye color and acid in a container that won’t be used again for food. I used a 32-ounce Ball mason jar; we have lots of them around. Remember to make it weak or it will obscure all your little dabs of color!
When the scarf is done cooking, take it out of the lasagna pan and rinse out the pan, and then put the scarf and overdye solution into the pan. Spread it out so the whole scarf is wet and submerged in the overdye bath. Let it sit for an hour while you clean your work area and go have some coffee. Then take it out, dump the overdye, rinse the scarf, squeeze, and hang to dry as above.
And voila! That scarf cost me $3.63, but I already had all the other materials on hand. Each half-ounce pot of Jacquard Acid Dye is about $3.50 and, if you are only doing these types of scarves now and then, should probably last you most of the rest of your life!
About that dedicated dye microwave: Obviously not every hobbyist dyer is going to have one. You can get around this in two very inexpensive ways.
- Put your dye pan into a black plastic garbage bag and set it in direct sunlight for 4 hours.
- Leave your dye pan where it is for 24 hours.
Then proceed with the rinsing.
The dye will set in these two circumstances, but it takes a lot longer. Heat helps the dye set more quickly. So if you’re not crunched for time (e.g., needing a new accessory for tonight’s dinner), you can do it this way.
I have been working with Artyarns “Ensemble Light” recently. This yarn is so soft and exquisite that I conceived the idea of doing a “cheek test” – rubbing all my most luxurious yarns against my cheek to see which was the softest. I drew up a chart (by hand!) listing each of the yarns and having an empty column after it for the ranking, which I had expected to be from 1-10.
The experiment started with Arctic Qiviut’s “Arctic Beauty” – a blend of 60% qiviut, 20% German angora (German being the rabbit breed and not the country of origin), and 20% mulberry silk (cultivated silk). (In case you’re wondering, there is indeed uncultivated silk (sometimes known as “wild” silk). It is more precisely known as “Tussah silk” and is rougher in general. Now back to the testing.) Qiviut is marketed as being softer than cashmere, so I assumed this blend would take the top notch on my chart. Angora, too, feels very soft because it is a slick fiber, not grabby like wool. And of course silk – “as soft as silk” is a descriptor for a reason, you know.
But this didn’t really feel very fancy against the cheek. I assumed it has something to do with the twist of the yarn, and set the skein aside to try Sweet Georgia’s “Cashsilk Lace.” As you may guess, this is composed of cashmere and silk. No discernable difference in feel from the Arctic Beauty. Set it aside and continued.
Next: Artyarns “Cashmere 1.” This is a fine singles strand of 100% cashmere, better than almost any other cashmere I’ve ever worked with (the exception always being Filatura di Crosa Superior, which will always be the best yarn ever). Didn’t notice anything specific about it. Set it aside and picked up the Ensemble Light, which I’d been saving for last.
My conclusion is that cheek tests are pointless! There will be a followup to this post after I finish the Ensemble Light project, because my next project will be with the Arctic Beauty. At least at that time I will be able to report in on “finger sense” rather than “cheek sense”!
On Thursday Chris found out that his college friend Graham and family would be visiting Portland over the weekend. We hurriedly found ourselves a hotel, packed, and planned.
We drove down on Friday morning, congratulating ourselves all the way down for avoiding Seattle morning rush hour. Of course we got stuck in Portland lunch rush hour. We were about half an hour late to meet them at the Oregon Zoo, but eventually we’d all arrived and went through the zoo.
By mid-zoo, feet were aching, throats were parched, so things got a little tense (at least in the US Picks family unit). Eventually we got water and meandered on, slightly cheered.
At the end, we did some group photos. Here they are.
On Saturday we got up, ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and headed downtown to the Fluevog store, which was my tax-free reward for all the driving. We were amazed (and very irritated) to find out they don’t even open until 11AM – on a Saturday! I never heard of any store in the US opening that late. Sunday, yes, but not Saturday. So we went to Powell’s and looked for Diane’s books (the info desk guy said they’d “had one copy of one book [“Suede to Rest”] but it sold really fast”) and then went for second breakfast. Finally at 11 we got into the store and I got the new black, white, and hot pink Margie.
And on the way home, ran into crazy-stupid traffic about 10 miles south of Tacoma; the road signs said it would take an hour to go those 10 miles. So we detoured through back-of-beyond country roads until we got north of Renton and zipped back home.
A fun, but tiring, weekend jaunt!