Thursday, 27 October 2016

Breaking Food safe dyes

Food colours and Kool Aid are fun and fairly safe weak acid dyes.   A tad unconventional in terms of commercial or professional dyes, they are great to use with kids and if proper processing is used, they are fairly light and wash fast.    They can be more expensive than non-food grade acid dyes.  The downside of Kool Aid (unsweetened), which works quite well because the citric acid is included in the little packet, is that in our area, you can get only 1 or 2 flavours so have limited colour selection.  In the US, they seem to have a gazillion flavours and I've seen colour wheels done with Kool Aid there.

However, Wilton's Paste food colours, for cake decorating are readily available, work with vinegar and a couple of colours have interesting properties.   Violet and Delphinium Blue are made up of several different colours which get absorbed at different rates.  This means you can  force the colours to break or be absorbed separately, creating multi-coloured yarn or fibre from one solid colour dye pot.  

Delphinium Blue Dye
I had some Merino fibre which I had bought, which was seconds and fairly expensive for seconds which didn't quite burn test as wool and was pretty nasty to spin, even after washing.  The vendor assured me it was wool and it sat in my stash for a couple of years.    It was the perfect fibre to experiment with, because using it for something  was better than it sitting there waiting for the moths.   If I was lucky, whatever was making it icky, would finally get cleaned off it and I'd have nicer and pretty fibre.

Violet Dye

I used about 1/2 tsp of dye to a couple of litres of water and about 1/3 cup of vinegar.  Because I had to rebatch the Delphinium Blue with extra vinegar, next time I'd add about 1/2 cup of vinegar.  I used a fair bit of fibre though.  I prefer to use my smaller pot, which is quite deep, so that the fibre is sort of sitting in layers.

You can soak or put the fibre in dry.  Usually I soak, but with my kitchen still in pieces, I tossed most of it in dry.  Mostly it was fine, but there was a bunch which must have been coated with something because it required some help to get it wetted, both in the dye vat and in plain water.

Delphinium Blue with broken colours
The dye has to be heated up to just below boiling - about  185° to 208° if you want to stick a thermometer in it.    Then you push a handful of fibre in the vat, poke it in carefully, about 30 - 60 seconds later, push in a second handful, and 30 - 60 seconds later, push in another handful of fibre.   With a skein, just dip and dunk or slide part in each time.  If you got the temperature right the  dye will dye each handful with a different colour component of that dye.   If the temperature it too cool, you will still get awesome colour gradation.

Delphinium Blue gradiation colours - cooler water temps
 Here is the part that makes the dyes more colour fast.  Once the fibre is in the pot, the dye will exhaust fairly quickly.   If the water isn't exhausting, add a bit more vinegar.  Let the dyes simmer slowly bringing it up to the 208 mark for 30 minutes or so.  

I've had fibre dyed this way for over 10 years with minimal colour fading, including a pair of mittens that I wore non-stop for several years.

Violet Dye with broken colours
 You get fun effects with little equipment that you might already have on hand.  Safe and fun to do with kids and lets face it, fun for adults.  Sometimes you don't want to drag out the scales, calculator and record book to mix a bunch of dyes.  That being said, if you measure accurately and record your results, you should get fairly repeatable results.

Some days though, I'm up for a bit of serendipity.  I'm pretty happy with these results and yes, some of the dry fibre is light, fluffy and finally feels clean.

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