Solar Dyeing Project, Part 1

A couple weeks ago, my friend and occastional shopgirl alternate Chloë mentioned that she was interested in trying out some solar dyeing, after reading an article about it (“Kissed by the Sun: The art of Solar Dyeing” by Caitlin ffrench) in the most recent issue of Knitscene, and wondered if she could use my sunny front window as the locale for this endeavour.  I hadn’t read the article yet, but I like having new and interesting things in the windows, so I said Sure! We struck a deal wherein I would provide the yarn and the jars (since I have quite a few kicking around from my hardcore canning days), and she would prepare them and take photos along the way…

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The materials were collected: yarn, jars, mordant, dyestuffs, and the ever-important instructions!

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We chose yarns as neutral or undyed as possible, and in a range of different fibers. From left, two skeins of Diamond Luxury Collection Pima Lino Lace (cotton/linen blend) in “Natural”, two skeins of Universal Cotton Supreme (100% cotton) in “Ecru”, two skeins of Louet MerLin (merino/linen blend) in “White”, and one skein divided into two of Briggs and Little Heritage (100% wool) in “Washed White”.

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Litre-size jars were used, because pint jars would have been too small to fit a whole skein of yarn *and* the dye.

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Check to make sure your yarn skeins *will* fit into the jars you’ve chosen. Even 50g skeins take up a surprising amount of space!

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Dyestuffs were collected: onion skins donated graciously from friends, plus tumeric, paprika, hibiscus, black currant tea, and black tea.

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Yarns were pre-soaked for at least twenty minutes to ensure they were evenly saturated, and therefore evenly damp, so that the mordant and dyes would strike at the same time, providing more even colour.

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Prepare the mordant. Chloë chose Alum because it’s reasonably easy to find (Bulk Barn!) and also relatively safe, though rubber gloves should still be worn when handling it. It’s also the one recommended in Caitlin ffrench’s article.


The dyestuffs are added to the jars…

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And then the yarns. Where dyestuffs were repeated (turmeric, black currant/hibiscus tea, and onion skins), the yarns were changed, so we’ll be able to compare how different fibers absorb different dyes.

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And a nice, warm, sunny spot is the final ingredient! We’ll be turning, shaking, stirring, and topping-up the water in each jar over the next few weeks. It’s difficult to estimate how long we’ll have to wait, but these colourful jars are certainly attracting a lot of attention from passersby on the street!

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They are accompanied in the window by my recently completed Citron shawlette, which kindof resembles a little slice of sunshine, doesn’t it? Stay tuned for updates in the SUMMER SOLAR DYEING ADVENTURE! (and big thanks to Chloë for developing this project and documenting the process!)

  • Cathy
    Posted at 11:55h, 17 May Reply

    Awesome! I love dying yarn. Will be interesting to see how these turn out.

  • sknits
    Posted at 15:35h, 17 May Reply

    I approve of how scientifically you set up/documented this! Also, I’m excited to see how it turns out.

    • needlesinthehay
      Posted at 16:02h, 17 May Reply

      Yeah, Chloe really deserves all the credit for that. If it had been me, it would’ve been a post that read “uh, I did this thing, and forgot to take pictures, so this is what it looks like now”… 😛

  • Iris (@bossyfemme)
    Posted at 17:58h, 17 May Reply

    You guys are so cool.

  • lisamnoble
    Posted at 20:56h, 17 May Reply

    So cool! The boys and I have solar-dyed with kool aid before, with great results, and watching the fibre suck up the colour, and leave clear water was pretty amazing!

  • Ashiepoo22
    Posted at 16:54h, 20 May Reply

    Oh man I’m really looking forward to your outcomes. I’ve been toying around with the idea of dying some Mountain Meadow yarns I picked up on sale at work, but I’m not sure what kind of dye to use. I’ve used kool aid before, but that wasn’t very exciting haha. I’ll have to pick up that Knitscene sometime!

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  • meghan
    Posted at 13:31h, 27 May Reply

    I love this! My grade six science fair project was wool dying, it was so fun. I still like to dye some yarn for fun. It will be fun to see the results, the blackberry tea has me especially interested 🙂

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  • Solar Dyeing Project, Part 2! | Needles in the Hay
    Posted at 11:33h, 25 June Reply

    […] Back in May, Chloe (shop alternate and friend) installed a solar dyeing project, and jars filled with dyestuff, mordant, water, and yarn have occupied the front window for the past five weeks. This past week, she opened the jars! […]

  • sundown and solar dyeing | Spitfire Alice
    Posted at 17:56h, 15 July Reply

    […] and I couldn’t be more chuffed about that little experiment. It seems I have good company: Needles in the Hay has a blog post in two parts about it, and I started out with a bit of fabulous help from petalplum’s blog […]

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