Have you ever tried to dye? Without going into any mental health discussions, I can tell you I’ve tried to dye once. It did not go so well. I think it’s because you need at least a minor in chemistry to understand what’s going on. I know, I know, I have one of those, but I’m really not sure how I achieved it.
There are two basic ingredients required to dye protein fibers (that’s animal). I’ve never tried to dye plant fibers, since obviously alpacas aren’t plants, but I know it’s different. Plant fibers such as cotton, soy silk, and linen are composed primarily of cellulose. Cellulose is the cell wall that protects plant cells. Animal cells don’t have cell walls (I’m a biologist hur dur).
Anyway, to dye protein fibers many people use “acid dyeing” techniques. The acid is a mordant or fixative, it prepares the fiber to accept the dye and makes the finished product colorfast. First, you simmer your fiber in a mild acid such as lemon juice or vinegar for about an hour. Then you rinse most of the mordant out, and simmer your fiber again in a bath of the actual color.
I used mulberries for color and vinegar for my mordant. And maybe it would have worked, except I forgot to do one crucial step. I forgot to separate the locks of fiber completely, so the dye didn’t penetrate to the inside of the staples. So while the mass of fiber on the left looks like it’s been dyed purple, if you look at the stuff on the right, it’s not really very purple. Tulip’s fiber didn’t want to take the dye at all. I’m not even sure what went wrong there.
And that’s why I don’t dye fiber. I’ve decided I can’t be an expert in EVERYTHING and I’m drawing the line at dye. This little experiment was carefully recorded, in excruciating detail, into my fiber notebook. Then I put it all in labelled bags, and stuffed them in the back of the closet, where all fail projects go to die.
Good gracious wordpress! I promise, “dye” is a word. Don’t have a seizure.