Welcome to the Potions Lab

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I am participating in the Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup on Ravelry.  I’m having great fun with the group and have been using it as something of a learning experience- stretching my skills, trying new things, generally trying to keep my adventures with fiber new and exciting.

One of the challenges offered is that of the Headmistress- something totally separate from class participation or quidditch, option but open to all who play along in the Cup. I was thrilled when this term’s challenge was introduced as it worked perfectly into an idea I’d already been tossing around. The challenge was to conduct experiments in pairs to test different things.  As soon as I read it, I knew it was an opportunity to play with dying roving, something I’ve tried as a result of the cup and have been having great fun with.

I’m going to beg a bit of forgiveness as what follows is a copy and paste from my official turn in post on the HPKCHC challenge page. Too much info to type up a 2nd time, but I had so much fun with it I thought I ought share with you, too!

**Experiment 1**: Does the acid used in the pre-soak of the fiber affect the outcome of the dying process.
*Process:* The experiment was conducted using 2 bombs of white Shetland wool, one soaked in vinegar & water, one soaked in lemon juice and water (to keep them straight, I tied a string loosely around the vinegar bump), then used 2 different icing gels (Duff sapphire and American Color lemon yellow). Both pieces of fiber were laid into a pan and placed in the oven to set the dye
*Result* No discernible difference in the final product, therefore I will stick to vinegar as my primary acid as it is significantly cheaper than lemon juice

**Experiment 2**: How does the roving color affect the final outcome
*Process*: This experiment was conducted using one bump each of gray and white Corriedale roving. Both were soaked in a vinegar and water bath prior to applying the dye. Dye used was three shades of icing gels, all American Color Electrics in blue, green and purple. The dye was heat set in the oven.
*Result*: The white roving produced a true-to-color result with all three dyes used giving very bright, almost neon colors as I expected. The gray roving toned down the brightness significantly and altered the colors quite noticeably.

**Experiment 3**: Compare the final color produced by 2 different purple dyes
*Process*: This experiment was conducted using 2 bumps of natural colored, mixed breed wool. One was dyed using one packet each of Grape Kool Aid and a seasonal offering called “Ghoul Aid” in Blackberry. Each bump of fiber was cooked in separate cauldrons over a low fire for approximately 45 minutes.
*Result*: Results started early with this particular experiment- the first coming when I mixed the dye- it turns out Blackberry is, indeed, much closer to black than berry! The final result did,though, still provide a glimpse of 2 different purples as I’d expected. The grape produced a much more true purple. The dyes used to produce the purple color are prone to some breaking but not too severe. The Ghoul Aid Blackberry, however, breaks very easily as you’ll note by the frequent bits of blue in the final braid. In addition to the blue I got a very muted, almost plum color.

**Experiment 4**: Does changing how the roving is placed into the cauldron affect the final outcome
*Process* For this experiment I used 2 bumps of light gray Corriedale wool and dyed it with 3 packets of Black Cherry Kool Aid. One bump of fiber was placed loose in the cauldron, the other was braided prior to being placed in the dye bath The cauldron was placed on a low fire for approximately 45 minutes to set the dye.
*Result* The fiber that was braided prior to placing it in the dye bath produced much more variegation in color- the “inside” bits did not absorb color really at all while the exterior parts of the braid took color very nicely. The free-range roving is much more evenly colored though because the dye was poured into the cauldron after the roving was placed in it and not stirred, there is some variegation due to how deep in the pot the roving reached.

**Experiment 5** Do different breeds of wool absorb color differently
*Process* For this experiment I used 2 different bumps of natural gray wool, one Shetland, one Corriedale. The dye used was 2 packets each Pink Lemonade and Tropical Punch poured into separate sides of the cauldron but allowed to mix freely. The heat method was a low fire for approximately 45 minutes.
*Result* The Shetland appears to have absorbed the color slightly better than the Corriedale, especially showing the 2 different shades of dye used. It is possible that this may have been due to placement of the roving when the dye was poured into the cauldron more so than actual breed difference. I think I will need to conduct this experiment again before I can determine an official result.

So much for my mostly natural colored roving stash! Don’t really foresee slowing down on the dying any time soon, either… Of course, my fiber to spin is far out pacing my spinning time but I guess this should surprise no one, least of all ME!


4 responses to “Welcome to the Potions Lab

  1. I love this experiment. I was just telling a new spinner friend of mine the other day (who is also a lab scientist) that she should start a lab notebook to document her spinning. Problem, hypothesis, etc…. I particularly loved how the wool turned out differently when it went in the pot braided as opposed to the one put in loose. That had a lot more effect than I would have imagined. You would think that there would be enough space for the water and dye to get in those braided areas, but apparently not. It’s a bit like tie dye.

    • There were a few bonus discoveries outside the individual comparisons, too! Which made it even more fun. My bff raises sheep and I have several bumps of wool from them that are on the verge of unusable as the fibers have compacted quite a bit. I took the best of the lot for the 2 purples experiment and it turned out the wool came out of the pot in better shape than it went in so I’m wondering now if it’s just that the processor left more lanolin in the wool than I’m used to and the extra time cooking helped to remove more of that? It’s going to lead to another experiment, I can tell you that for sure!

  2. This was very helpful, I will definitely be reflect on your dying experiment when I finally learn how to dye. Is there any book you suggest for learning how to dye fibers?

    • Honestly, I’ve just poked around the internet. I’ve not expanded past simple food-safe dyes at this point so the “What a Kool Way To Dye” Rav group and a bunch on line tutorials have proven pretty helpful. Once you have the basics, it’s fun to just play. If I get into actual chemical dyes I’ll get a better reference book but for Kool Aid and icing gels the experimenting is good enough for me!

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