‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’ Albert Einstein
A day of torrential downpours: too wet to dig the garden so I decided it was a good opportunity to dig out my dyepot instead. I had spun 200g of Romney/kid mohair blend for hiking socks – well over a kilometre of spinning – so time for some colour. I wanted to recreate the ‘Norwegian Summer’ colour scheme from my very first dyeing attempt using the same mix of blue, turquoise, bright yellow and soft yellow dyes.
I sprinkled the powder in anticipation, put on the lid and waited.
The result was . . . well, disappointing. Disappointing and very green, in fact. Not that I have anything against green, but where were those beautiful blues and vibrant yellows? Forget ‘Norwegian Summer’, this was more like ‘Laughing Leprechauns.’
Now I know I’m on a steep learning curve and mistakes are going to happen, that’s all part of the fun – but what on earth had gone wrong here?
On reflection, I think it might have something to do with heat. My first dyeing projects were done on the old gas stove outside, the last two on the wood stove indoors. In both cases – this one and my ‘Midwinter Fire’ yarn (below) – the colours had mingled rather than staying separate and I suspect it’s because the pot was hotter initially on gas so some of the dye fixed straight away whereas on the wood stove it made a colour blend soup first.
One thing I had definitely learned from previous projects was that the turquoise dye is always the last to be exhausted; it’s powerful stuff, so I had really reduced the amount I used to guarantee a clear exhausted bath. Ha ha ha. Not only was I left with green wool but a very turquoise dyepot. Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.
At this point I decided it would be a good idea to go and do something else for a while, a bit of exercise to clear my mind and ponder a solution. It was supposed to be a running day but a glance outside suggested maybe not; I don’t mind running in light rain but heavy downpours full of hailstones are a different matter. Yoga, then.
I love yoga, especially Vinyasa or ‘flow’ yoga which moves seamlessly between postures like an energetic dance.
I really haven’t done enough over the last couple of years so I’ve made a commitment to several practices a week and to structure them I’m following Lesley Fightmaster’s Yoga Fix 90 day programme. http://www.fightmasteryoga.com/yogafix90/
I like Lesley’s style: she’s gentle and smiley and very human, so different to some of the humourless perfectionist instructors I’ve followed in the past. I like the way she occasionally slips or wobbles or stops to tie her hair back up, because I do those things, too. The yoga is fantastic and mighty challenging, certainly great cross-training for running. The last session had seen me doing The Wheel (gymnastics ‘bridge’) for possibly the first time in 35 years. In this session, the ultimate pose was Bird of Paradise. http://www.yoganonymous.com/yoga-pose-breakdown-svarga-dvidasana-birds-of-paradise What, me? Really? I can at least confirm that concentrating on folding myself into human origami – and wondering if I would ever be able to unfold again – drove all thoughts of dyeing disasters from my mind. It was just what I’d needed (although between you and me, I haven’t yet found the courage to see what Day 90 looks like).
Back to dyeing and Plan B. I put the green yarn to one side for the time being and tackled the dyepot. There was far too much turquoise left and I wasn’t going to throw it away. I dashed through the rain to my wool stash in the horreo and found a bag of Romney wool top: I was thinking colourful socks of the future. After a soak in levelling agent, I tossed 100g into the dyebath – wow, instant result.
The theory was, after 30 minutes I’d have some beautiful bright turquoise wool and a clear dyebath. Dream on. The wool was vibrantly turquoise . . . so was the dyebath. Okay, time for another 100g. Same thing. At this point, I decided to test my heat theory as Roger had stoked the stove to cook dinner and the pot was close to boiling (boiling wool is not a good idea, by the way). I sprinkled some darker blue dye powder over the wool: if my theory was right, it should create a two blue effect, not a uniform darker soup. It worked: look at those deliciously gorgeous colours. I love this wool, I can’t wait to spin it up.
Checking the dyebath, all the dark blue had gone but . . . guess what? Yes, it was as deeply turquoise as ever. Nooooo! I’d had enough turquoise to last me a lifetime so thought I might as well try an overdyeing technique I’d read about. First I folded the first batch of plain turquoise wool and tied three big knots down its length, then I added a small amount of magenta dye to the turquoise which made a surprisingly dark purple dye and threw the knotted wool in. The idea is that where the wool is knotted, the new dye can’t reach so you end up with a painted effect.
Untying it, there wasn’t quite as much turquoise as I would have expected but there is a lovely variation of purples and blues and this will certainly make some snazzy socks, too. The magenta dye was completely exhausted; so was I, in all honesty – this had started life as a quick half hour’s dyeing activity several hours ago. However, the dyebath was as turquoise as ever. This just scientifically couldn’t be possible, surely? Aaaaaaargh! I was of the opinion that, short of dunking a whole sheep in it, the dyebath was totally inexhaustible so I admitted defeat and have saved it in an old milk bottle for future use (probably several hundred future uses, in fact). If the world ever runs short of turquoise dye, you know where to come.
What of the green yarn? Well, obviously overdyeing wasn’t going to work; no way I could get blues and yellows back.
To be fair, there was some differentiation of colour so I decided to heat it up again with more yellow to try and lift the colour in a few places.
Mmm, not a hugely successful idea that one; time to call it a day. The socks will just have to be green; they won’t be quite what I’d envisaged but they’ll be fine all the same, I’m sure. Maybe I need to find a texture to add some interest to the pattern? Moss stitch seems very appropriate! No plans for more dyeing just yet but of one thing I am sure: next time – possibly several next times – there will be no turquoise involved. 🙂