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Experiments in Mock Dyeing

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Preface: Two things to
know about me before we dive into this post.

  1. I love the
    texture and simplicity of a garter stitch.
  2. I have a degree
    in Biology with a mind for running experiments.

My love for the garter
stitch runs deep. It is extremely versatile; you can knit vertical stripes from
side to side AND horizontal stripes knitting from bottom to top. You can even
use either side as the right side, depending on the look you are trying to achieve.

I recently ran across a sweater
pattern that was all garter stitch. The weight of the knit fabric was light
enough for a perfect summer cardigan.  I
immediately thought of stripes and wanted one of the stripes to be the natural
color of the wool. I chose our Clackamas yarn as it is lightweight and drapey,
perfect for this project.

Off to the dye pot went
half the yarn and the other half, I conditioned in hot soapy tap water. (If you
want to learn more about why conditioning your yarn is important, click here.) I
hung the yarn to dry.

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I was a
little surprised to find that although both skeins started out the same length,
after the yarn dried, the dyed yarn skein was noticeably shorter than the undyed
yarn.  I thought conditioning the yarn
would have adjusted the twist to match the dyed yarn. As an experiment to
remedy this situation, I decided to treat the undyed skein to a trip in the dye
pot without any dye. Viola` the skeins are now the same length. The hotter
water in the dye pot caused the twist in the undyed yarn to tighten more and
match the twist of the dyed yarn.

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Next,
onto the needles with the yarn! While knitting in my beloved garter stitch, a
thought crossed my mind (an added benefit of garter stitch is you can think
while you knit and put your hands on auto pilot). Is there another advantage in
doing a mock dye to a undyed yarn in regards to protecting the undyed yarn from
absorbing dye cast off from the dyed stripe when the garment is washed? 

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This is where the
scientific experimental part of my brain kicked in. I decided to use black and
white yarn to test the bleed potential of using an undyed and dyed yarn
together. The next logical step was to dye test yarn black, mock dye ecru yarn
and condition a yarn sample in tap water and soap. For this test I used our Rainier
yarn
. I then knit 3 swatches.

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The left swatch pinned
with the orange marker is mock dyed ecru yarn and black stripes.  The middle swatch pinned with the green marker
as the control, dyed black stripes knit with unconditioned yarn. The blue marker
is tap water conditioned ecru yarn and dyed black yarn.

I washed the swatches in
the hottest soapy tap water. As you can see from the photo below, there was
residual dye from the black released into the water.

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However, after letting the
swatches dry none of the residual dye bled onto either sample. I can now
breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my undyed yarn will not absorb residual
dye during washing.

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 What about you? Do you like to experiment
with your knitting?