Tuesday, May 17, 2011

True Blue Warp

I have a weaving class coming up soon at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas on Color that Moves. The instructor, Betty Vera, sent out loom warping instructions a couple of weeks ago.

The instructions have seventeen different warping options with many types of fabric. It was really hard to choose which one to weave, but I finally settled on an undilatating twill with several shades of colors in the warp.

When I went shopping to try to find yarn (online of course because the nearest weaving store is 50 miles away), I soon decided that I was not going to be sure that what I bought would be what I had envisioned. The only way I could see to get the color control I wanted was to get out my fiber reactive dyes. I thought I would document the process I used in hope that it will help someone else.

For dyeing yarn with fiber reactive dyes, I have been happiest with a direct application method where the dye concentrate is poured directly on the soda ash soaked fiber, massaged in, then left to cure. I tried a vat method a couple of times and I just was not as happy with the dye process.
Sample Stock  mixtures with paper towel color testers

The best brief write up I have found on this method of direct dyeing is in Weaver's Craft, Issue 15. Jean Scorgie, the author, calls it "Kitchen Dyeing". It is adapted from an out of print book for quilters called Dyeing To Quilt. I was able to snag a used copy of this book from Amazon. My fiber reactive dyes are from Dharma Trading Company. I love their website and fast shipping.

For my class warp, I decided I would dye eight values of Cerulean Blue. I did a test run on some thrums by mixing a small amount of dye, and then diluting it - just to verify I was going to like the colors.

Once I was sure I liked the Cerulean Blue color I had made, I wound two ounce skeins of my yarn, chained and tied itm, soaked it in soda ash solution. I mixed my dye with 4 teaspoons of dye powder to one cup of water. This is a stronger solution than the Weaver's Craft issue calls for - by double, but I wanted my dark blue to be really dark so there would be plenty of contrast as the values got lighter.

Weaver's Craft suggested 1/4 cup of dye solution to one ounce of yarn, and so I mixed 1/2 cup of stock for each of my two ounce skeins.

To do the eight values, I started with 1 cup of the pure stock. I had eight containers. The first container got 1/2 cup of stock for the first skein of yarn. Into the second container, I poured 1/2 cup of the pure stock, then I added 1/2 cup of water - diluting it by half. I poured 1/2 cup of this diluted stock into a third container, and set the other 1/2 cup aside for the second skein of yarn. I contiuned this for all eight skeins. The last container ends up with 1/2 cup of stock that is discarded. Each value has half as much of the pure stock in it as the value that preceeded it.

I dyed strips of paper towels by dipping them in each dye cup. When the dye drys on the towels, the color is pretty close to the actual dyed yarn. This gives me a reference I can file away for later.

I started with the lightest value. I placed the skein in a deep plastic container, then poured the container of stock over it and massaged the dye into the yarn.

In the past I have had problems with light spots in my yarn. To combat those spots, I set a kitchen timer and massaged the yarn in the dye soultion for two full timed minutes, squeezing it out and puting it back in the dye several times. Later I discovered my rubber gloves had a hole in them, so I am still sporting blue finger tips that make my nails appear bruised. Guess I better get those gloves in the trash!

When the two minutes were up, the skeins had all absorbed all of the dye solution, and I placed each one in a zip lock plastic bag.  The two minute massage pretty much eliminated the white spots in the yarn, so I will be doing this every time I dye like this.

Fiber reactive dyes like to be cured in a warm but not hot like an oven place. So, I put all the bags in a plastic box and set that box down inside of a cardboard box that had a heating pad in the bottom, then let them cure for 24 hours.

The next day, I rinsed out the yarn until the water was mostly clear. (If someone knows how to make the rinsing go faster I would love tips). I hung the yarn to dry and now I am winding cones so I can wind my warp.

Finished Skeins of Yarn with Paper Towel Color Swatches

I think this yarn is going to make a pretty warp. I am very excited to see the fabric it makes.


Cindy said...

Holy cow, Liz, you knock my socks off. Those are gorgeous and I can't imagine how gobsmacked we'll be by your weaving... Whew.

Grandmatutu said...

Agreed!! Exactly what I was going to say, Cindy. So beautiful, Liz!!

Cyndi said...

Wow! What a fantastic idea, Liz! You are so very, very talented AND organized! What a GREAT idea to use on your warping. I can't wait to see the finished product!