Monday, March 8, 2010

Colour me happy

I know this is hardly earth-shattering news to anyone, but colour really can influence one's mood.

Take, for example, my current work in progress. It's a very simple pattern for a perfectly nice if rather unremarkable hat, but just looking at it lifts my spirits and puts a smile on my face. Even more so than the lusciously soft Malabrigo I'm using usually does. All because of this incredibly happy shade.

Bubblegum Wrap Cap

It's not for everyone, I know, but I love this colour so much I almost want to frog the hat so I can keep the yarn whole and complete forever.

Because I can't get any more of it; Barbie (hey, I don't have to love the name) is a discontinued colourway. Fortunately, I have another skein in its virgin state.

Another colour I'm loving at the moment is one I can fortunately replenish -- not, perhaps, perfectly, but almost so -- as often as I'd like, far into the future: the rich blue from my black bean dyeing:


Rachel (aka knitaddict) asked in the comments for the recipe. It's a super-simple one:

  1. Soak dried black beans (with my latest batch I used 975 grams of beans, and dyed about 500 grams of yarn. I'd recommend a dyestuff-to-yarn ratio of approximately 2:1 by weight) in water to cover by a couple of inches for 2-3 days. Add water as necessary to keep them covered by a good few inches. I kept them at room temperature for 24 hours, then put the pot in the fridge.
  2. Strain beans and keep them for soup/beans & rice/bean dip, etc. Some people put the yarn right in there with the beans, but I figure why waste good food?
  3. Transfer soaking liquid to a dye pot or bucket (you won't be heating the dye & yarn, so a bucket is fine). DON'T dye your yarn in pots you use for cooking!
  4. Add water -- enough to keep the yarn you'll be adding covered. Adding water does not dilute the dye, so don't skimp. You want the yarn to be well covered and surrounded.
  5. Add pre-soaked yarn to the dye pot/bucket. I soak the yarn for at least an hour in room-temperature water. I have only used yarn I pre-mordanted with alum and cream of tartar; I have no experience using un-mordanted yarn. I might try it next time to see what happens. Superwash wool takes up the dye much more than non-superwash does (see those pale ties on the yarn above? -- those are non-superwash wool). The yarn pictured above is superwash. The paler blue yarn pictured in my last post is non-superwash alpaca.  
  6. Soak yarn until desired colour is achieved. The superwash above steeped at room temperature for 48 hours.
  7. Remove yarn, rinse in lukewarm water, then soak it in wool wash for a wee bit and let it dry. 
  8. Exhaust the dye by adding new yarn to the dye pot, if desired. The alpaca was dyed after I removed the superwash. 
At the rinsing stage, you can modify the end colour towards pink or green by adding an acid (vinegar) or base (household ammonia) as an afterbath. 

Clear as mud?


  1. I love your dyeing stuff so much! I find it so facinating with the natural dye stuffs you use. Whoda thunk black beans would turn out a beautiful blue yarn? Not me! :)

  2. That is an interesting wat to dye. It looks awesome, what do you plan on knitting with it?

  3. Thanks for the break down! I am curious about it too.

  4. Lovely colour from the black beans! I'm interested in your room-temp dyeing. What inspired you to not use heat for this bath? Have you tested for colourfastness/lightfastness over time?

  5. Thanks so much for your recipe! I look forward to trying it out. I'll post my results when I do.