Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The (half) dyeing onionskin man

Someone asked at the last knitaholics meeting how I dye with onionskins. I thought I write a post about it.

It’s fairly certain that we can’t meet next time at the usual place, as the Cineplex was flooded, like a lot else in and around Carrick-on-Shannon, and Ireland indeed. Here are pictures showing the extent of the Carrick floods.

But back to the onionskins:

First you have to collect them, and best is to ask friends to collect them for you as well, because you need approximately 100g onionskins to dye 100g of wool. And you know how light they are. Keep them in a paper or cotton bag or an open container.

The good thing with onionskins, however, is that you can use the same dye bath several times for more yarn, getting somewhat lighter good yellows each time.

Apart from onionskins you need Alum as a mordant if you want to get yellow. Alum should be available from chemists, or online from companies selling natural dyestuffs, e.g. here or (cheaper) here.

You also need a large pot not used for cooking, and a thermometer.

Now here is what I did last time. My intention was to dye two 100g skeins yellow, and use the dye bath for further skeins to make the turquoise colour I got greener.

I found I had 160 g onionskins collected. That’s not quite 100% to 200g of yarn, but I went ahead.
1. I crumbled the onionskins with my hands into smaller pieces. It’s great gymnastics for hands. I did this in a large paper bag. That prevented the onionskins from flying all over the kitchen.

2. Then I made the onionskin man. A piece of old tights was used for that. Which was then tied securely. Tights are good for this purpose, because they expand and can take a lot of material. I don’t like to have the dyestuff loose in the pot ending up having to remove it from the yarn later on.

3. After that the onionskin man went into the pot and was soaked in rainwater. I find colours turn out better with rainwater. He was left there for several hours.

4. Then the pot went onto the oven, and your man was boiled for an hour.

5. After that the Alum was added, as the liquid was still hot. It needs high temperature to get properly dissolved.
How much?
15% of the weight of yarn you dye. For my 200g I therefore dissolved 30g Alum in the hot dye bath.
The onionskin man stays in the pot as long as you keep on dyeing.

6. No, you can’t now immediately throw the yarn into the pot. It would get a heat shock and shrink or felt. You have to wait until the dye bath has cooled down to 40 degrees Celsius. If you wait until the next day, you warm it to this temperature and then put the wetted yarn in. If your yarn has grease in it, or possibly any chemical residues from industrial treatments, wash it first in wool detergent.

7. When my yarn had joined the onionskin man in the pot the temperature was brought to between 80 and 90 degrees Celsius or somewhat lower, and kept at this for an hour. Don’t let the dye bath boil! This would felt and shrink the yarn. Keep moving the yarn frequently at the beginning, and now and then later on.

The yarn indeed looked orange in the pot, but when lifted out it was yellow

8. Switch off the oven and wait until the dye bath has cooled a bit. With an old wooden spoon lift the yarn out of the liquid and let as much liquid as possible drip back into the pot. Squeeze out the yarn to help this. Beware! It feels hot for some time, especially at the bottom. Rubber gloves help here.
9. I had prepared rather hot water in the sink with some wool detergent. The two skeins went into this now.

10. At this time I dissolved Alum for my next three skeins, which I wanted to over dye, in the pot. For 300g I needed 45 g of Alum now.
The yellow skeins were then further rinsed twice in cooler water each time, until the water stayed clear. A few drops of vinegar were then added in the last bath to calm down the wool.

11. Squeeze out the skeins. Never wring them. Hang them at a spot like over the bath or in the shower or outside on a dry day. Water will keep dripping of them for some time.
Enjoy the yellow.

13. Repeat the process for more yellow skeins until you feel the dye bath and the onionskin man are exhausted.

My next turquoise skeins turned into grass green, and I got further green skeins from the same dye bath.

You can dye with onionskins without mordant. That gives a burnt orange colour. Usually, when I wasn’t aiming to over dye, I did a first run without mordant, and added Alum for yellow for the second and more runs with further skeins.

The onionskin man’s content then goes onto the compost heap.

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