Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some Initial Dyeing and Color Blending Experiments

While I drove people nuts with questions on Ravelry's Love To Dye thread last October, it wasn't until just this last 2 weeks that I actually made up some 1% dye stocks and started tinkering. I have a mishmash of dyes at this point -- about a dozen Country Classics, about a half dozen Cushings and a whopping 2 Jacquards.

I've always hated purple. Ditto hot pink. Something weird happens when you get into fiber though. Suddenly colors take on a new life. I'm now actually intrigued with purples. But only blueish purples. I still can't find love in my heart for reddish ones. And there's a particular color of purple that's in my head and I rarely see. It straddles blue so closely that it's a really fine line.

In search for it, the two Jacquards I bought were Purple and Lilac. I figured one of them would make a close base. In searching for the perfect shade, and to see how other colors might come into play in getting it, I've been test dyeing candidate additions in 20g lots of Romney locks. 1% stocks, and starting with 1% DOS. I did one blue at 2% and the Lilac at 1.5%, 2% and 2.5%. At some point I'll stab at mixing for it, now that I'm getting an idea of the colors I'm working with.

Also, while I do love combing because I tend to spin worsted, as long as I'm experimenting, I've been making friends with my drum carder too. Finally! Not just to see if I can spin more woollen, but also as a tool for color blending.

The fun of "surprise mason jar dyeing" notwithstanding, the beauty of working with 1% stock solutions is that you can dye on a moment's notice because there's no powder mixing PITA setup needed. Second, controllable and precise color mixing. But also, repeatable results. And I reeeeally want that shade of purple that's in my head.

Here are some random, related colors, the idea being to see what I had to work with in terms of DOS at "some" given stock strength.

In comes the carder. A couple of the bird's nests are my first stabs at color blending on the carder.

Focusing a little more on that side of the box...

And one of them, closer...

So I could see right away, I need to do a LOT of experimenting because I got different results loading an accent color through the carder's feeder slot vs. streaming it right onto the big drum. And there's a very fine line between overblending which gives nothing more than a new solid -- and stopping at the point where you have a heather. And also how to get spot color.

So that's what I'm starting with, just the typical beginning stuff.

What I really have some surprised joy about is that the Jacquard "Purple" (which produced exactly the shade of purple I still hate) gave me something I'm in love with! I used it as a base for my first (throwaway) blending test. I added some white, some baby blue, and then I got a little more aggressive and loaded some hot pink directly onto the drum. And that's another color I'm not in love with. I mean, Cushings named that dye "Cherry Red" and dammit, it's fuschia! Hot pink! Why didn't they just name it Fuschia? But it was high contrast, so I figured it would be a good choice for trying to get spot color.

I decided to spin it up, just to see how this would look in yarn. As I was drafting, my disappointment was growing because it seemed that any colors in the blend that had some distinction in the mini-batt just got mudded in the drafting -- to whatever extent they hadn't in the carding blending.

So fearing all I'd get would be mud, I spun about 6 yards, then plyed it. I thought MAYBE, just maaaaybe this would have some character as yarn, even though it wasn't what I was after at all. So I knitted a tiny swatch just to see what I got.

The hot pink did actually come through as a distinct color. Sort of. HOWEVER!!!
What surprised me totally was that I took the swatch outside and impaled it onto a nail so I could see it in better light, and OMIGOD, to heck with the pink part. I was smitten by the more solid sections at the top and bottom. This came out a really gorgeous wine shade. Not "purple." It's a color I don't think I've seen in yarn shops because I definitely would have noticed it. I think I'd have bought it.

So now, in addition to the magic purple I'm after, what I'm also now after is finding out how to get that same heathered wine shade again. I think I know what I used, but how I used it, not sure. And how much of it I used, doubly not sure. But also, I want to figure out how to get little spots of color here and there (I mean almost FLECKS!) against an otherwise heathered background. This pink presence

This is going to take tons of experimenting. Tons! Not only in the dyeing, but separately, in fine tuning the blending process on the drum carder. If there were a class around, I'd be having at it. But I don't know of any.

So goals:
1. Find the magic purple formula!
2. Be able to reproduce that wine color with a heathered texture;
3. Find how to create another color that was magic -- some sort of coral/salmon locks that I stumbled into last year at Dye Day (and gave to Jenny with great sacrifice, because as much as I liked it, she was almost crying with love for it. It just had to be hers.) But I think I can reproduce it from memory. The above includes a mini batt of my first "ground zero" stab at it. I think I know where to go from there.
4. Learn more about blending on the drum carder --
(a) to get "flecks" or inklings of color against a steady background;
(b) to get a true heathered yarn;
(c) to create new solid colors from blending