The great dye experiment of 2013, Part 1

I have been forced to do some experimentation with my dye procedure lately. As I related in THIS POST, I have been having difficulty getting the very light colors to dye evenly. So I was very very careful with the next batch of light colors which was a very light orange and a very light gray. The first go-around with the gray was a disaster. I've never had this much of a disaster actually. I am that kid who got straight A's in high school and when my Spanish teacher gave me an A- one quarter (and it should be noted that that was the quarter I was home sick on the couch for 3 straight months and I was doing the material on my own), I flipped out. I was not the child who got an A-. I suspect that explains a lot about me actually.

I can't even show you a photo of the first gray set. I don't think I could even bear to take one. The second go-around on the light gray was better. It is close enough that the "I'll only accept A's" girl will accept it even though her inner dye critic wouldn't give it an A. (I overdyed the first light gray batch a lovely black. Turned out perfect.) The second color I did that day was light orange. It didn't turn out so hot.
It is not going to pass my critical standards. I can just hear the students complaining now. I have to decide if I will use it in one of my own pieces for a really spotty effect or over-dye it something else lovely. The yarn to the left is the gray. The blue yarn to the right was the teal I messed up and was posted in "A Bad Dye Job" post. Spotty teal yarn becomes a lovely, even blue. I hope I can replicate it!

This is what I did the second time around. I soaked the yarn using some Synthropol to help with penetration of the water. I added the right amount of glauber salt as well as some sodium acetate, I made sure I put the acid in at the beginning so the pot wasn't too hot, and I brought the temperature up to boiling maddeningly slowly. The gray passed (but barely), the orange didn't. Same treatment.

I have never had this much trouble leveling my dye baths. This is supposed to be easy after all! What has changed is that I bought pre-scoured yarn packaged for knitting. It is the same yarn, just scoured by Harrisville and skeined in knitting quantities. I started thinking that perhaps their scouring process was somehow causing the problem. So I ran a little experiment. I do have a masters of science degree and I did take chemistry, so I feel that there is a tiny bit of validity in this study, though the reliability is likely poor partly due to the abysmally small sample size. At any rate, here it is. I may have to get a critical analysis from my number one experiment-designing professor friend, though I don't know if I can take the heat.

Now I know you're going to find the first flaw in the experimental design right away. I didn't use the same dye color I have been having trouble with and certain dyes do take up better than others. You're right. I know. But I needed blue. So blue it was.

The other experimental design dilemma I had was whether to dye them all in the same pot. This should give me a better idea of whether it is the scouring of the yarn that is doing it... theoretically. Plus it is a lot less work to put them all in one pot than to do three separate runs. So, into one pot they went. I did not use any synthropol, Abegal SET, or sodium acetate for this experiment. I only used glauber salt which is my usual procedure.

The three groups are as follows:
 (The plant is Llois. She is clearly in rehab. In fact she was named after the rehab patient of mine who gave her to me. I hope the real Llois is doing better than this Christmas cactus. Incidentally, I call her Yo-is because of the double L.)
So the groups included (B1) the same yarn made by Harrisville but bought on cones unscoured, and subsequently scoured by me; (B2) skeined yarn dyed as sent by Harrisville which is supposedly already scoured; (B3) the same Harrisville pre-scoured yarn but I scoured it again. (Scouring just means you wash the junk that keeps the dye from bonding out of it in really hot water.)

All the blue in one pot. I'm getting a little nervous partway through and here is why:

And the results are in:
The yarn is hanging left to right, two skeins each: B1, B2, B3.
B1 and B3 turned out very similarly--both even and quite pretty. Both of these groups were scoured or re-scoured by me.
B2 flunked. Uneven dyeing, will have to be fixed. Of course I can't really say that there weren't other variables that contributed, but from now on I am going to scour all the yarn regardless.