I live in a fairly small apartment, so I don’t have room to store a lot of colored yarns. I also like to choose from a large palette of colors (who wouldn’t?). So, what to do?
Why, make up your own dye samples, of course!
Here’s how I did it:
The first half of my equipment: an electric frying pan plugged into a thermostat (bottom left corner). The thermostat is a temperature controller with immersible probe that I bought on eBay, and which Mike kindly wired up to an electric outlet for me. It keeps the electric frying pan at any temperature I like from some minimum temperature (I think it might be 32F) to 220F, which covers the entire dyeing range (and then some). It fits 16 glass canning jars, which contain the samples.
Here’s the second half of my equipment: a scale that weighs up to 2kg in 2g increments (used for weighing out stock solutions), and a smaller scale that weighs up to 200g in 0.1g increments. I use the small scale for weighing out dyes.
Also in the photo are three tubs of a 1% stock solution (1g dye for every 100g water), and three jars of a more dilute solution in the background. Because I’m working with very small quantities of dye for each skein – way smaller than my scale will handle – I make up a stronger solution and then dilute it. That makes it easier to handle, and measures more accurately.
I use the graduated syringe in the foreground to measure out dye solutions.
Here are the skeins sitting in the dye. In this photo I’m dyeing 2g skeins of embroidery floss for some Procion MX dye samples. I’m testing out medium shades, so I’m dyeing at 2% WOG (weight of goods) – 2 g of dye for every 100g of fiber. A little math says that I have .04g of dye for every skein of floss.
How do I measure out so little dye? I start with a stock solution of 1% dye (easy to measure out and store) and then dilute it by a factor of 10, so I have a 0.1% dye solution. That’s .001 grams of dye per ml. Then I just need to add a total of 40ml of dye for every skein of floss – simple and easy to measure accurately.
I keep meticulous records of dye technique, proportions, etc. so I can reproduce it later. I think of it as a bit like maintaining a lab notebook – a little effort lets you do reproducible (and beautiful!) results.
To get the full range of colors from each set of three dyes, I mix them together in varying proportions, based on a 10% range. I number each sample for identification. For example, 10-0-0 magenta-yellow-turquoise is 10 parts magenta, 0 parts yellow, 0 parts turquoise. Moving down the line, 9-1-0 is 9 parts magenta, 1 part yellow, 0 parts turquoise. There are 66 possible combinations, and I do one dye sample for each combination. The end result is a set of samples that tells me, more or less exactly, what happens when I mix these three colors.
Here are some finished and labeled dye samples. You can see the gradual color progression from left to right, and also down the diagonals: the green on the right is gradually getting bluer, as is the purple on the left.
These samples were dyed with Procion MX dye, but I also have samples for acid dyes.