Jell-O Yarn, Take Two!

28 09 2010

This weekend, I was a yarn harlot. There was rarely a moment when yarn was not in my hands. I knitted, I dyed yarn, and even found time to recycle a sweater. I was very, very productive.

The highlight of my weekend was dyeing yarn with Jell-O. I love dyeing yarn, and this time it was a Mega Challenge. I was dyeing 465 yards of yarn with the intention of making it the palest of greens. Having worked with pale colors only once before, I was very nervous that my yarn would come out either booger green or Swamp Thing green. I’m not sure that there is really much of a difference, but in my panicked mind, any shade other than my desired pale green would be a catastrophe.

(Click for larger images!)

First, I started off with a large skein of Lion Brand’s Fisherman’s wool I bought back in January (!!!) while on a shopping trip with a friend. Since a skein of yarn can’t be dyed in its store-bought form, I spent at least an hour winding the yarn onto my “yarn stick,” which I use to measure yarn I recycle from sweaters. It measures the yarn into three foot loops. This would work out well for dyeing, so I tied the yarn ever-so-loosely in several places to keep the loop shape.

It wasn’t until much later in the dyeing process that I realized the smart thing to do would have been to divide the yarn into two different dye projects of 230-odd yard loops rather than one large loop. Oh well…

Ta-da! It’s a big old hank of yarn! Unfortunately, it would be a while before I could actually dye the yarn (of all the times to be out of vinegar).

So I put the yarn in the only safe place in the house… the pantry! It’s the one place where I know neither feline nor canine can possibly reach my precious yarn! Although now that I mention it, my dog is a border collie. I’m sure if he ever figures out that his Milkbones are kept in the pantry, he will figure out how to get into it.

Unlike last time, I was using three times as much yarn as my recipe called for. Sadly, I only had two boxes of Jell-O. I figured that in the worst case scenario, I would have to go out and buy another box of Jell-O. My risk for getting the color too dark was very slim at this point. I relaxed just a little.

Well, I relaxed until I mixed all my ingredients into the pot. Yikes… Witch’s Brew, anyone? I tried not to think about just how dark that concoction appeared.

One of my hooligan cats came to assist me in the dyeing process. This is Karl, and he didn’t really want to help me. He just wanted his belly rubbed… and maybe a bite of whatever I was obviously cooking.

Unlike last time, I now have a thermometer to monitor the heat of my dye! Yay! TracyGP had made a comment that my dye needed to be about 180 degrees F rather than boiling. Okay, I can do that…

See? Easy as pie. Now I wait… which isn’t so easy…

About 175 degrees later, this is what my Witch’s Brew looks like. Still not very hopeful.

Okay, time to put the yarn into the dye! Yes, that is my arm there. Yes, this is about the time I probably should have reconsidered my plan of putting ALL the yarn into the dye. No one said I was very bright, though.

This is about the time when it hit me that dyeing 450+ yards of yarn at one time probably wasn’t a good idea. Oh well, too late to turn back now…

Yarn does not like going into the dye willingly. There was a mighty battle to be had. My spatula and I emerged victorious!

Now to wait… which was very hard. I knitted a while. I watched some television. I even played around a little on Facebook. Finally, fifteen grueling minutes had passed and I returned to check on my yarn. It still wasn’t done (of course), so I waited the additional 10 minutes it required before returning for another look.

In retrospect, I probably should have given it more time to soak up the dye, considering the quantity of the yarn being dyed. However, I was pretty happy with the color, so I went ahead and removed it from the heat.

This is the yarn after the water/dye was drained off of it. I have to admit, I was feeling a bit nervous here. I was worried the color wouldn’t hold and it was really just kind of a stained greenish-white.

Dawn bath sequence initiated… Time to wait for 30 minutes. Patience is not something I have a lot of, so I played around on Twitter for a while before checking back on my yarn.

It looks… like yarn. I was very happy that the color held like I’d hoped, but I still had a bad feeling about this yarn. I wasn’t sure what or why until I drained the bath and began the rinse process.

Dark green streaks… I should have known. I hadn’t stirred the yarn enough in the pot, so parts of it became darker than I wanted it to be. Panic and doubt rampaged my mind until a good friend of mine suggested that perhaps the darker splotches wouldn’t be as noticeable when it was wound up into a proper yarn cake. It was a theory worth testing.

I took the yarn outside to hang it on my porch to dry. It was my hope that once it dried, the real colors would show and perhaps some of the darker spots would go away.

Here’s the yarn, still damp as it hung out to dry in the sun. It took more than 24 hours for it to dry naturally in the sun.

Being the wishful (and irrational when panicked) thinker that I am, I hung the yarn up with the darker side on top. My theory was that as it dried, the darker parts would “run” into the paler spots. The darker spots would lighten and the lighter spots would darken. It made sense… right???

Whether or not this worked remains unknown. Perhaps just drying the yarn helped show its true colors. Regardless, here is the newly dried yarn:

See??? It DID darken up! Okay, it’s very slight and only I would have noticed it… Either way, it was time to bring my yarn inside and ball it up.

I’m still pretty clumsy with my yarn swift, and this yarn was far too important to risk tangling, being eaten by a dog, or stolen by my small pride of cats. So I cleared off my desk, draped half the yarn around a large bottle of baby lotion, the other half around my knee, and began winding it ever-so-slowly with my ball winder. It took a couple of hours with this method (and constant animal interruption), but at last, I put all 465 yards of yarn into one cake!

Of course, it wasn’t until I was about 300 yards in that I realized once again that perhaps making smaller cakes would have been a better way to go about things. As before, it was too late to go back, so I kept on trucking. Behold my Super Sized Yarn Cake!

Yes, that is a regular sized Pepsi can. And yes, I was playing Sims 2 while I wound my yarn, lol.

Godzilla Yarn (lol I think I just named it) beside an average sized cake of yarn (about 200 yards).

As you can see, the darker stripes aren’t nearly as noticeable now. In fact, they kind of give Godzilla Yarn a bit of character. I kind of like it, to be perfectly honest.

Well, once again, I have managed to stumble my way through another project without causing any lasting harm to myself, others, or even my yarn. I consider that an accomplishment. Add the fact that I got the exact color I was hoping for despite my many mistakes and you have one happy hobbyist.

Tune in next time for the brief tale of the turtleneck recycling adventure!




4 responses

28 09 2010

I think it’s beautiful! I think you essentially made a kettle-dye yarn. And, personally, those are my favorite types of yarns. 😀

28 09 2010
Jan C.

I thought it looked kettle-dyed, too, but I didn’t want to really say it and people be like, “Uh, no?” lol But I’m so very pleased with it, I can barely contain myself. 😀

28 09 2010
Nadine B

Yay, I’m glad it turned out. Another thing that might help, not only get the yarn all in there, but even the color out a bit is to presoak your yarn before putting it in the dye bath. Part of the darker color probably came from the fact that part of your yarn was in the bath for longer and had longer to soak up color than the yarn you were trying to stuff into the top.

28 09 2010
Jan C.

Ya know, I’d read about this “presoak” thing, and I never really appreciated what an important step that is… lol Next time, I’ll be sure not to skip that!

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