Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Indigo woes

One of my most involved recent projects has been a gift knit with 2 skeins of Dazzling 4 ply yarn from The Natural Dye Studio.

Throughout the whole knit I have been frustrated by excess dye rubbing off onto my fingers; I don't mind getting covered in dye but was concerned with the prospect of giving a flawed gift.

 I tried a few experiments with sample sized pieces of the yarn, based on my previous dye-speriments, & on advise from the Natural Dye Studio.

 L-R;
1 Simmering in vinegar solution for 40 minutes; blue yarn was turned grey, & excess dye still marking hands
2 Soaking overnight in vinegar solution (a glug of vinegar in small basin of water); yarn was slightly faded & still marking hands
3 Washing with dish-washing liquid; in this case Ecover; yarn was very faded but did not mark hands anymore
4 Untreated, for control purposes.

After trying these experiments I was livid; with only a week before the gift-giving occasion I had to make this work. I was gutted that the only method of stopping the yarn from marking the wearer would significantly effect the colour. I was not going to end up with the same colour yarn I had purchased. But I had to give a wearable knitted item, so I washed the finished object as directed;
Soak in hand-hot water (if you cannot keep your hand in the water, it's too hot)
Remove & liberally apply detergent (ecover in this case)
Rinse until water runs clear. 

I ended up rinsing out the suds in the bottom of our shower tray - I may have applied the detergent a little too liberally. I was frankly shocked by just how much dye came off in the initial wash - the water was dark navy blue.

 Thankfully the finished knit did not fade quite as much as the first test. I think I managed to rinse out all the excess dye, but will give a disclaimer tag with this gift; give it back to me to fix if it runs more!
Based on discussions on Ravelry, it seems that this is a common problem with natural dye substances, 
in particular the indigo used for blues (and in greens & purples too). The explanation given for this is;
Indigo coats the outside of the fibres rather than soaks in. We double wash all our yarns, however as they are dyed in big hanks sometimes the yarn in the middle of the hank doesn’t get as much washing as the outside.

I am disappointed that the yarn is not the same colour as when purchased, but am relieved that I have a gift-able finished object to show for it all! I will certainly be cautious in future before buying any naturally dyed fibres or yarns, but I suppose now that I know what to expect I won't find it so stressful.

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