On our dye days, we got up early to beat the heat. We opened the kitchen window and put in an exhaust fan. A cooling rack went in front of the window with another small fan nearby to cool the yarn. Four stock pots got filled with hot water and put on the stove to start heating up. Each one had its own candy thermometer so I could keep the temperature between 160 and 170 degrees. Rugs and towels were strategically placed on the floor so we wouldn’t slip.
I covered the counter with a vinyl tablecloth so the dye wouldn’t stain stuff. Then I arranged the things I would need to get started: rubber gloves, measuring spoon, dye bottles, stirring spoon, and tongs.
Once everything was ready, my dad would go and get four of the tied three-skein sets (12 skeins) — one set for each of the four pots. The reason he would get them and not me is because, well, do you know how heavy wet wool is? Three skeins, equaling 300g when dry, probably weighs a couple pounds when sopping wet. So 12 skeins sopping wet is quite heavy. I’m not a weakling, but I happily turned that task over to my dad. ;) He would bring them into the kitchen in a bucket, wring them out, and stage them for me to put in the dye pots.
When the pots were at the right temperature, I would put a couple glugs of white vinegar and the dye in. After a stir, in went the yarn.
Half-way through the cooking time, I’d fish out the cotton tie and check the yarn to make sure the dye was being absorbed evenly by all 3 skeins. Then I’d loop the cotton tie over the handle of the pot and let the yarn cook a bit longer.
When the water was almost completely clear, I’d pull the yarn out and hand it off to my dad. He would hang it up, wring it out, and put it on the cooling racks. Once it was cool, he put each set in its own bucket of cold water to post-soak. This helps the yarn not smell quite so much of vinegar.
All during this process, I was always busy prepping the pots for the next batch. It was one big circular process, and we got our timing down pat. While the next batch cooked, Dad got the previous one out of the post-soak, wrung it out, and hung it up on the big drying racks he built for me. Then we’d take turns wringing them out a few more times, so we kept plastic containers under the dry racks.
Each of the two racks could hold at least 90 skeins, which was perfect for our typical dye day. We could space them apart so that the fans would dry them within a few days.
Once the day’s dyeing was finished, we’d clean everything up and take a nap. ;) No, just kidding. Usually we worked on re-skeining after the dyeing was finished. But that is for another part of the series!
Come back tomorrow for the next part of the series: Re-skeining.