Chemistry. She’s a fickle bitch.
Sometimes she is good to me. She often likes it when I acid dye.
And while I’m usually pretty meticulous with my measuring and addition of citric acid to dye powder to yarn weight ratio, sometimes I just throw all that crap out the window and slap shit together.
I hand painted some Kona superwash fingering for my Weenie swap pal on knitty last weekend. Nicole and Kalani came over, and we had ourselves a little dyeing party. Nicole brought along some of her Jacquard dyes as well, so I played with those, mixing them haphazardly together with my ProChemical dyes. The result? Not bad.
I’m not so sure about adding that fuchsia, but I think I like it. And I’m pretty sure my Weenie pal will too.
So yay, we had a fun day. But Kalani had grading to do and had to run away, so I didn’t have time to pull out the indigo dyeing kit that I’ve had hanging around for eons. (The instructions are in hieroglyphic, I’ve had the thing so long. I had to dig out my Rosetta stone to make sense of it all.)
So I decided to do that the next morning. I started early. And maybe this was my problem. I don’t think Chemistry is a morning person.
I added all the bits carefully, like a good little scientist. I stirred and waited and checked and measured, until finally my dyebath was ready.
the package instructions literally called this the ‘blue scum’
So then I carried the pot inside and added my yarn. And here’s where things got a bit tricksy for me. See, the instructions said to keep the dyebath at 120 F during the dyeing process. (At least that’s what I think they said. It was a picture of a standing guy, a sheep, a sun, and a portrait what I think was Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. But it could have also been Abe Lincoln.)
And this was tricksy because, as I had discovered the day before, my thermometer was broken. Whups. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just keep the burner on low, and everything will be hunky-dorey, yes? Sure. Although, I did realize when I checked on my pot later that the top was steaming. Since water boils at 212 F and simmers at 190 F, I probably oops-a-daisy may have gone over 120 F. No biggie. the instructions didn’t really make a big deal out of this, so it should be okay, right? I took the pot outside and pulled my yarn out.
(This was the really cool part too, since indigo is yellow until it gets oxidized. As you expose the yarn to air, it goes from yellow to blue pretty damn quick. I was going to do a whole post on the chemistry of this, but as she’s bitch-slapped me with a wet herring, I’m not feeling too enthused. Maybe later.)
Beautiful, beautiful blue!
A little too blue for my sock blank. I wanted to do a dip dye, so it would be light blue on one end and dark dark dark blue on the other. Oh well. So I left one end hanging out in the pot to get darker.
And now. This when Chemistry dropped her proverbial pants and showed me her ass. Because when I pulled out my second skein of sock yarn, it was a bit tangled. So I gently began teasing it apart with my fingers. Have you done this before? Untangled wet wool? It’s weird; when I do this, it’s like my brain is tangled as well. And as the yarn begins to come apart, my brain gradually relaxes too, until both yarn and brain are happy and untangled and ready to knit.
So as I was gently (gently!) pulling apart this second skein, my brain noticed that it seemed to untangle rather quickly. It went, “Hey! This is coming apart really…GASP!!!!!!”
Because that’s when my yarn broke.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I cannot even begin to describe the horror of this moment. It was like my brain kind of broke as well.
Oh well, I thought. (I get over stuff fast.) I still have one nice skein! And a nice sock blank, kind of. Let’s look on the bright side of life!
But Chemistry wasn’t through with me yet.
I let the yarn dry overnight. And when I checked it the next day, it seemed…odd.
Like it looked still wet. And it felt…crunchy.
And it, um. Stood up by itself.
So I did a little researching. And I found out that when you heat wool in a lye solution too high, the yarn can break. Lye is sodium hydroxide, and it’s used in an indigo bath like mine to keep the overall pH high so the reducing power of your reductant also stays high.
(Again, I will explain this sometime in the future. It’s cool, trust me. Oxidation and reduction have to do with the addition and removal of electrons, the currency of chemistry.)
What it can also do is eat away at the cuticle of the wool, making it not-so-wooly. Crunchy. Generally gross.
So in short, I killed it.
Here’s how the sock blank turned out, anyway.
Not so great. So Weez, you should be glad you’re not getting this after all. (Even though it was made with soft-and-squishy ivory colored Shibui sock yarn. Sob!) Because it looks like poo. And it feels like…well, not poo unless you have something terribly wrong with you. It doesn’t feel nice, let’s leave it at that. So that’s why I’m sending you yarn that somebody else dyed instead.
The dyepot is still sitting on my porch. I think I’ll let it sit there for a bit. But then I’m going to have another go. Because that’s what Chemistry and I do. She trips me. I get up. She sucker-punches me in the solar plexus. I barf on my feet and then stand up for more. Over and over and over again.
But someday, I’ll have a PhD.
And maybe some nice, blue yarn.