I’m considering changing my dye methodology for my 1500+ samples. I timed some steps, did some calculations, and discovered that the rearranging and relabeling of skeins between dyebaths takes a lot more time than expected. The total amount of time required for each skein comes out to almost 10 minutes a skein! That is, at least in theory, pretty close to the amount of time required for individual dyebaths. And individual dyebaths would be of more practical use since I wouldn’t have to do three dyebaths to replicate the color in the sample.
So I have been working on developing and refining my methodology for individual samples. It’s been…complicated. Here’s my basic setup:
The dyebath needs to be kept at about 90F, which is difficult to do when working with small jars for individual dyebaths. So I am putting glass pint canning jars into a pair of circulating water baths. (The right-hand water bath has no jars in this photo – I was still setting up.)
A bucket below the jars contains a pump and a bucket heater (to maintain the temperature).
The pump (meant for a small fountain) pushes the water up the tube on the left, into the first water bath:
Water is coming up from the bucket through the left-hand tube. A clear tube on the right side siphons water out of the bath and into the next circulating water bath. Because the pump and siphon are on opposite sides of the container, water moves through the entire container, keeping the temperature even. A temperature probe (the cord taped to the back right corner of the water bath) controls the heater in the bucket and keeps the temperature of the bath at 90F.
The second circulating water bath is a bit simpler. It’s located a few inches below the first water bath, so gravity pulls water through the siphon in the first water bath down into the second bath. A second siphon at the opposite end of the container pulls the water down and into the bucket, to be pumped up again. (Here the inlet hose is in top right, and the siphon to the bucket is in the bottom left corner.
It’s an elegant solution, but also quite fussy. The siphons have to remove water from each circulating bath at the same rate that the pump is pumping it in, which is a bit tricky. I accidentally flooded my first set of skeins when I made a small adjustment, walked away to check my email for a few minutes, and came back to find the water bath overflowing! Lesson learned: if you’re doing something for the first time, for heaven’s sake don’t walk away from it and assume it will work!
I found initially that the jars, when empty, tended to float. So I stuck rocks into them to weigh them down. (No, those are not potatoes in the bottom!) It worked, but I have some better ideas for next time.
Here’s what it looks like with 50 individual dyebaths going:
Each dyebath has a different concentration of Gold, Mixing Red, and Navy Blue.
Because of the difficulty of measuring small amounts of dye and other dyebath additives, I made up stock solutions of dye, salt, and soda ash, and measured out the amounts with syringes (tested for accuracy). Here is Kaye (my dyeing buddy) adding soda ash solution to one of the dyebaths. She’s holding the skein up above the dyebath as she adds the soda ash solution with the syringe.
As you can see, this method is much fussier and more error-prone than the sequential-dyebath method. However, it will enable me to reproduce the results with a single dyebath. And, if I decide to sell color plates of my samples, they will be much more useful to buyers if they don’t have to do three dyebaths to achieve the same results. So I am continuing to experiment and refine the process, to see if I can make individual dyebaths work. So far I’ve botched three sets of skeins, but I’m learning something with every dyebath, and I’m confident I can figure it out, though it may take me a few more weeks. When you’re doing something new, you’ll inevitably run into snags – this is just giving me more snags than most.
Meanwhile, Mike has very kindly put together a skein-drying and storage rack in the dining room, turning an untidy pile of skeins into a beautiful curtain of color.
Thankfully, this is what the cats think of it:
And that’s it for now! I’m hoping to have pretty pictures of a successful batch soon. Stay tuned!