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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dyeing Yarn

If you're into saving money and into wool AND can knit or crochet, I have a really fun way to save a little more! Dye your own yarn! There are tons of places on Etsy, Hyena Cart, and throughout the web where you can get your yarn already hand-dyed but doing it yourself definitely saves money and you can make the yarn any combination of colors that you want!

I've been dyeing my own yarn for several months now here and there and have just finished up 7-8 skeins of it (I'll be selling it to raise money for a trip DH and I need to take for training in a new ministry we're involved in) and I wanted to share how I got the results I got. Keep in mind that I did lots of different color combinations. I also used only food-safe dyes to do my dyeing.

Ready? Here we go!

What you'll need:

  1. A collection of food-safe dyes such as Kool Aid packets (no sugar added variety), McCormick's Food coloring drops, or Wilton's icing gels. For this particular yarn dyeing session, I used Betty Crocker's food coloring gels and McCormick's Food Coloring drops.

  2. Any combination of animal fiber based yarn you want to use such as wool or alpaca. I used 100% pure virgin wool (that's what it said on my yarn, lol).

  3. Some glass bowls and/or jars

  4. A crock pot, big pot for the stove, or microwave safe dish big enough to hold your yarn

  5. Plastic wrap And if you're going for the microwave, make sure it's a good quality brand. Some of the cheaper ones will melt in the microwave.

  6. Gloves if you're concerned about dyeing your hands. I wasn't. Lol.

  7. Some scrap yarn for tying your skeins.

  8. Vinegar

What to do with it all:

1. The first thing you'll likely need to do if you've bought your yarn in your local yarn store is to skein it. When I do this, I use the backs of two chairs beside each other and just wrap the yarn around and around until the skein is as big as I want it. With the yarn I bought this time around, I was able to get 2 different skeins from the one ball of yarn. When you're done, be sure to tie it in several places to hold the skein together. Some suggest that you interweave the scrap yarn into the skein; you can if you want. I've also seen skeining done on a kitchen table, the edge of the counter, and even a niddy noddy (a device designed especially for this purpose, lol). Do what works for you. And keep in mind, the longer the skein, the more space you'll have to work with for the coloring (if that makes sense).
This step is quite important to the process so don't skip it over. It'll help prep your yarn for dyeing! Clean out your sink and fill it with luke warm water, adding a small drop of dish soap and ½ to ¾ cup of white vinegar to the water. Swish it around a little and then completely submerge your yarn in the mix. Don't agitate it or you could felt it! That wouldn't be good!! Let it sit in the water for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. Whatever is working for you. I've done 30 minutes and I've done 3 hours. Neither seemed to make any sort of difference that I saw.

  1. Mix up your dyes. Once you've decided the colors you want, you can mix them up. If you're using drops, you can simply add the drops to 1 cup of water and a dash of vinegar. If you're using Kool Aid, you can do the same. Be sure you get it all dissolved though. And if you're using gels, you'll need to use hot (possibly even boiling) water to get them to dissolve properly. I like to do about 1 cup to ½-1 tsp of gel color. You can do more or less depending on the intensity you're looking for and the amount of yarn you're dyeing. I seem to remember reading that the general rule is 1 tsp of color for 4 oz of yarn (but don't quote me on that one! Lol). For mine, I mixed up plain blue, turquoise using green and blue, a dusty blue using blue with a dollop of black, and a dusty cocoa using a combination of mostly red with some yellow and blue.
    Next, spread out your plastic wrap on a clean flat surface (I use my table) and get your yarn out of the water. You'll want to gently squeeze as much water as you can from the yarn before dyeing. The dryer the better since it will take up color better. Spread the yarn out on the plastic wrap.
    It's time to color your yarn. You can pour the cooled dye directly onto the yarn and squeeze the color in. You can paint it on in sections. Whatever way you choose to do it, just be sure you cover the spots you want covered. And also think about the combinations you put beside each other. Red and blue for example will mix a bit to create purple while green and red will mix and make brown. If you're looking for brown, then go ahead and do it! Otherwise, you may want to put something between them that will mix better. I chose the pour and squeeze method.

  2. This is the step where things get different. You can set your dye using several different things: a microwave, a stove top, a crock pot…for simplicity's sake, I'm giving you the steps I followed to make the yarn pictured here. The microwave. When the yarn is painted the way you want it, place it in a microwave safe dish, I like glass as it doesn't dye, and cover the yarn with luke warm water. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and nuke it for 2 minutes. When the 2 minutes is up, let it stand for 2 minutes. Continue this cycle until the water that the yarn is in is clear. This usually takes me 4-5 cycles. Some dyes will take more time depending on the color.
    When the water is clear, pull back the plastic wrap and set your yarn aside to cool. Don't mess with it! You'll felt it! Felting happens when your yarn gets too hot and/or when you agitate it. Let it sit until it's completely cooled. I've let mine sit overnight before and got it out in the morning.
    When you remove the yarn from the dish, run it under water the same temp as the yarn and carefully rinse it, removing any excess dye. When your water is clear again, gently squeeze the excess out and find somewhere safe to hang it to dry. This can take an afternoon or 3 days, it really depends on the weather, where you hang it, how thick your skein is, etc.

  3. When it's dry, I like to re-skein mine to show the variety of color and to make a more manageable hank. You can also just wrap it in a ball or a cake if you're planning to use for yourself. It's up to you. The one I have pictured here is lovingly entitle Sea Monster and wound into hanks.

That's it! You should have some amazing and unique yarn if you followed along! J

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