28 November 2010

Playing with colour

Did you know that you can use Wilton’s icing colouring to dye wool? Not acrylic yarn, or cotton, but real wool takes the colour beautifully. It’s called acid dye and you can get interesting blended colour effects by changing the pH of the solution gradually during the dye process. Remember your primary and secondary colours from art class? Well, different dyes react with the wool at different pH levels, so you can ‘break’ the colour into it’s component parts by inducing some colour to work at one pH level, then another colour at a lower pH.

Yesterday afternoon, Princess Girl and I found the icing colours in their box in the pantry (The Reluctant Farmer is a superb cake decorator, and has all this great stuff in his cake decorating supplies … some of which I think he received from my mom!).The violet colouring jar had leaked at some point in the past, so we decided we’d try that colour first: I immersed the jar in the water (with my gloves on!) and rinsed off the outer guck, and then dug out the cardboard lid liner piece which had fallen in the jar and added it to the pot. The water was a lovely dark purple and this was an experiment, so hey, in the skein went.

The skein turned a bright pink with bits of darker purple, the pink was almost like a highlighter! This was very cool. While it soaked, I plyed up more yarn and then we added more vinegar and voila, the dyebath water turned blue! We dropped in the second skein and it started turning blue with just splashes of a light purple, as the reds in the purple dye had already come out of solution and reacted with the first skein. We left both skeins in, the highlighter-pink-and-purple skein turning quite a bit darker, and the blue-and-purple getting a deeper blue. After a bit we fished out the pink and purple skein and hung it up to dry, and left the other in until the dye bath was pretty well exhausted. Rinsed everything and hung to dry:


While I was in a dyeing mood, I grabbed some horribly-salmon-pink acrylic/polyamide thrift store yarn (nice and soft and halo-ey but what an ugly colour!), skeined it up and dumped it into the pot with Rit Wine coloured dye. The dye took quite well, with the resulting yarn being a slightly variegated maroon shade, almost like cherry cola.  Here you can see the before and after – that little stray bit of pink is the original (it’s a bit more orange in real life):


Since the yarn cost me all of $7.50 for about 10 or 12 balls and the Rit dye was on sale for 25 cents at the grocery store, I feel the experiment to be a success!


  1. Anonymous10:24 pm

    Wilton coloring is my favorite - it seems to be the easiest to clean up! Do you know how it stands up to washing? Does the color fade? Enjoy hearing of your adventures with fiber!

  2. Those are gorgeous colors! Knowing how that food coloring can stain your skin, you can be pretty sure that it won't easy wash out of your wool. :-)

  3. Definitely a success. The colours are lovely and vibrant.


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