Now that I have a couple dye jobs under my belt, I think I have a reasonable idea how the dyes take to the wool and what the process is like. So, it was time to attempt something a little more difficult -- gradients.
One thing I love in some yarns, but have trouble finding are yarns with a long gradient of color change. The one yarn that I love the color gradients on is Kauni's Wool 8/2 Effektgarn. Now, that yarn is not soft, it's more like Icelandic in its feel. The long, as in 100 or so yard gradient from one color to another and back makes this yarn desirable though. Just look at what it does in double knit for the Victorian Raffia scarf pattern. That kind of gradient is my goal. Looking at their yarn, it looks like they may be dying their singles in long gradients, and then twisting their singles offset. I planned to keep it simpler and just do a single yarn (sock weight) and dye the gradient in it. Initial colors would be a bright red to a black.
With that in mind, I had to create large large large loops of yarn. I wanted a 100 yd between the center of the solid color. To do this I created a crude little yarn measurer. I took two boards, secured them 6 feet apart, and put nails in them 1 inch apart. I then unwound the yarn onto this, serpentine pattern around the nails until I had gone around 25 nails, then wet back on itself to the beginning. This meant that the distance the yarn traveled from first nail to first nail again was 100 yards (50 wraps, 2 yd/wrap = 100 yd). I then bundled every 5 wraps into 5 mini-skeins. Then came the difficult part, dyeing. First, I dyed everything the bright red. This color was amazing, and I may just make more yarn just that color.
Next, I had to add the black. Here I planned on using extra black dye, and adding in portions while pulling out the mini-skeins. Basically, I put 4 of the mini-skeins in the bath, added a portion of dye. Waited a few min, pulled out the next mini-skein, added more dye. Each time I waited longer between the adding of dye and pulling out of yarn. This mostly worked. The dye was not exhausted, even though the last section was a good black. The issue was though that I didn't get a good gradient in color between the red and black... it was very blocky, almost like you would see in self striping yarns. This is not a bad thing, but not what I wanted either.
I then wrapped each mini-skein in plastic wrap, and microwaved for a couple minutes to make sure the dye is set. Oops... the wrap melted and was a pita to get off the yarn. The colors didn't bleed over, and I was able to rinse the yarn until it ran clear. I then hung it on the measuring rack I created to dry and untangle. You can kind of see in the picture between the 5th row of red and the row below it, there is a big color change. The picture looks worse than it really is.
After it dried, then came the fun part... re-winding it and de-tangling. Detangling was a PITA for this. I spent about 1 hour to go through and detangle about 1/2 the yarn... after that it got easier. It's now wound though, and waiting for a project. The next attempt will use the lessons from this and do things a little differently to get a better result.