Saturday, June 15, 2013

... Or Try Dyeing

This is a post about color and as always when I speak about color through my pictures I am exasperated that I cannot catch the true color of items with my camera and show it on the computer screen. And this is especially true about the last picture, which is reddish while the true color is purple-brown aubergine.

So, it seems I am one of those people who don't know what they want. And I'm also in a mood for experiments. Because knitting for me is not so much about the clothes themselves, I don't really "need" another cardigan, it's mostly about the process in its synergy of color, yarn, texture and design. What I want and need in the end is the satisfaction that I've made something I like.

And because the yarn market in my country is limited and I've been knitting intensively for the last three years, I've already tried the yarns and colors that would be my easy choices. Therefor this summer I'm experimenting with yarn combinations and colors I don't usually knit. And finding that not always the colors I like are the colors that fit me or that I would wear. As was the case with Gardenia and the coral-cream combination, which I like so much, only not on me. Or my latest cardigan - Cobalt. I liked the color combination of light and darker beige so much in the beginning. The knitting process is easily the most enjoyable I've ever experienced - I want to knit this cardigan again right away, I LOVED every minute of knitting it. But when I basted the five finished pieces and put the cardigan on me two days ago, the reaction was MEEH! The cardigan looked old womanish and dull. No point in frogging it - I like the design, I like the fit, it's the color again that troubles me. So, I decided to take a risk and dye a knitted item.

After an hour of googling the cotton dyes sold locally, I chose DYLON. Because I had in mind a pair of old corduroy pants that I've had for years but worn no more that a couple of times because of their light beige color. The corduroy fabric is 60% cotton, 35% polyester and 5% elastic thread. I've been planning a refashioning job on these pants for months, but the local dry cleaning studio, which also provides dyeing services, refused to dye them because of the poly content. And DYLON is advertised as capable of dyeing cotton-poly fabrics. The pants are really out of fashion - high waist and flared legs, but the fit is nice and the flaring can be easily fixed.

The corduroy pants

Cobalt cardigan in beige

If the color suited me, these two would have made a nice combo.

After I made the decision to dye the cardigan and chose the color, the only question that remained to be solved was whether to finish the cardigan and then dye it or to dye it while still in parts. Dyeing in parts had multiple advantages - blocking of the parts after dyeing, more homogeneous distribution of the dye and no danger of partially dyed stitches near the seams. So I decided in favour of dyeing the unfinished cardigan and some unknitted yarn, needed for the neckpiece:

And then I decided to take the experiment even further and chose the dye which is for machine dyeing. I know, that's crazy, but I really wanted to see what would happen if I put the knitting in the washing machine :) The color I liked is Burlesque Red, which I would rather call aubergine. No other mordant is required but the package of dye and 500 g of salt.

So, the experiment begins. To be machine dyed:
- a pair of corduroy pants, cotton-polyester fabric;
- knitted cotton fabric, made from combed cotton and mercerized cotton;
- two small skeins of yarn, 15 g mercerized cotton (light beige) and 40 g combed cotton (slightly darker beige)

1. I washed thoroughly the pants, the cardigan and the yarn, using mild detergent (Perwoll).
2. Rinsed heavily in tepid water.
3. Set the program of the washing machine to cotton, 40C, easy ironing (less spinning during the washing), hold rinse (no spinning cycle).
4. Emptied the pack of dye into the drum.

5. Covered the dye with the 500g of salt and put in the damp items.

6. Ran the cotton cycle, no spinning.
7. Then ran again the cotton cycle with the same settings, adding detergent (Perwoll) and fabric softener (Silan).
8. Ran an empty cycle with detergent to clear the machine. The producer promises that the dye will not damage my machine or affect subsequent washes. Probably I'm not exactly the trusting type, but I've planned my next two laundries (I already ran the first) to be only black items and then two more colored laundries, to be on the safe side. I really wouldn't want a purple stain on a favourite Tshirt or something.

9. Hung out the pants and the yarn and blocked the cardigan pieces.

The yarn and the pants are already dry and dyed in a lovely purplish eggplant color. The cardigan is still drying, I'll add a photo tomorrow.

Observations: The dye is great, I would strongly recommend it to anyone. The color is fixed, after the washing with the detergent there was no color transfer from the knitted pieces to the towels, no color bleeding. The two cotton yarns dyed differently - the mercerized lighter cotton became darker, absorbing more dye and showing excellent durability of the thread. The combed cotton absorbed less dye and showed some pilling. The pants dyed perfectly and darker than the combed cotton, despite of the poly contents, which is again an excellent testimonial for the dye.
Mistakes: shouldn't have left the yarn ends of the knitting unweaved, in the end everything was a mess and I spent at least an hour untangling the yarn. Wouldn't try dyeing large quantities of yarn in the washing machine again.
Would I try DYLON again: I really recommend the dye, it is the best I've used so far - strong, saturated color, no bleeding, easy to follow instructions. The only disadvantage is the price - it is 20 times more expensive than the local dyes and cost-wise intentional purchase of yarn to be dyed with DYLON would be unjustified. Still, I want to try the hand wash dye too, if tempted by a color.


  1. Wow! I'm amazed at how saturated the color is! It's beautiful! And it was fascinated to read your experience dying in the machine - I've always been too afraid to try it!

  2. I once had a pair of cords that deep purple color. Wore them out! They were a very favored pair of pants. Can't wait to see the cardigan!

  3. What a fun experiment. And to use your washer? Brave! I so like this color so much more than that tired ol' beige.