Marlowe’s birthday is fast approaching, and her party dress is coming along nicely. I’m done the skirt, just turning a little picot hem at the bottom – because you know. The idea wasn’t quite frilly enough.
I have all the cabbage roses knit for around the neck, and I placed them around the other day and thought it was good, but not great – something wasn’t quite right, and the other day I realized what it needs. Leaves – I immediately imagined pale green leaves under the pink roses on the white bodice, and scoured the stash. An hour later I’d trashed the stash room and come up with several things that were totally unacceptable, although I did spend another two hours pretending they were acceptable before I finally admitted that this little dress was way too perfect to start compromising now. I spent another hour cruising the internet looking for the perfect green to order, before I realized it wouldn’t get here in time anyway, and that I didn’t really want a whole skein. I was stumped.
I called a friend and bemoaned the lack of a perfect pale green, and she said something like "It’s too bad you couldn’t dye the white silk yourself… " and a little bell went off. Why couldn’t I? Silk is easy to dye, and so I decided to give it a shot. I got a pot, and some food dye and vinegar and my big pyrex measuring cup, and then I thought about what I know about dyeing (which isn’t much, I’ll tell you that right now) and I skeined up a little of the white silk – just enough to do the leaves. I have lots left – so if it didn’t work, I thought I could give it a few tries.
First, I mixed up the dye. The green was a little too green on its own, so in went a little yellow.
Then I remembered that you’re supposed to soak the yarn. I don’t know why you soak the yarn exactly, I think it’s got something to do with the dye going on evenly… so I was sure to do it. I usually don’t break a rule until I know why it exists. (Usually. There have been some spectacular exceptions.)
Next, very carefully and strategically, I violently backhanded the entire pyrex container of dye into the backsplash, counter, floor and cutting board, while reaching for my coffee, and spent 25 minutes cleaning it up. Then I mixed up the dyes again.
I feel sure you can skip that step.
I put about half of my colouring and some more water and a glug of vinegar into a pot on the stove. I know you’re not supposed to use any pots or utensils for dyeing that you will use for food, but since this was food dye I felt pretty good about skipping that rule. I brought it up to heat, squeezed the water out of my mini-skein, and plunked it in. I gave it a little stir, then left it there – with the water just below a simmer, until the dye was exhausted and the water was clear. (For the record, I think that’s the first time I’ve exhausted a dyebath. I’m usually exhausted before it is.)
At that point I thought it was dark enough (if it had been too light I would have dumped in the rest of the dye) took out the yarn, and hung it to dry.
Perfect. Just exactly the green I was hoping for, and my favourite way to solve a problem. Quickly, with found objects, and for free. It’s like getting a Scrabble triple word score, only with yarn.