I’ve recently been experimenting with yarn dyeing. Step 1 was lots of googling and research, I thought I’d share what I learned about yarn dyeing on my first trip down “dye-street”. Why 11? I dunno, just the number I ended up with!
1. Its fun!
Simple one to start with, but that might be all you need to push you “over the edge” into yarn dyeing!! My first Skein didn’t really turn out like I wanted it exactly and I split the black dye a bit so it went a bit brown but I had fun doing it and its totally unique!!
I used a Speckle method of dyeing, where you sprinkle dye onto the yarn. It didn’t work out exactly as I expected but it did work!
2. You don’t need a lot of specialist tools to try yarn dyeing…
…but you do need a few specific things, I found them all in cheapo stores in town! This is what I used.
3. If you are using an Acid Dye, you will need to wear a face mask.
Who knew?? There are lots of different types of Dyes, one of the most common ones for dying wool is an acid dye which requires use of a face-mask. Luckily my hand other-half had one in the garage so I was all set!
3. You will need to use some sort of acid to set the dye.
This is for Acid Dye and Food colouring, I’m not sure about other, natural dyes, I think you need some sort of mordant still, I’ve not investigated that yet! For Acid Dyes or Food colouring, you can use white vinegar or citric acid. The kit I bought had some citric acid, its preferable (to me) to vinegar as it doesn’t smell at all, unlike vinegar!
4. Heat needs to be applied to the yarn to “fix” the dye
You can either use a pan on the stove, the microwave (carefully) or the oven. I used the stove for this one but I might try experimenting with the microwave too. The oven, seems to take hours to get the yarn hot enough and there is more danger of singing the yarn so I’m not sure I’ll try that one yet”
5. Food colouring can be used to dye your yarn
You don’t need to use Acid Dyes, apparently food colouring will work just as well. You still need the same acid and heat source to help is “fix” I didn’t try it, but I will!!
6. Don’t use the family roasting-tin when yarn dyeing
The advice is to use different tools and equipment to the ones that you would use to cook with, Whilst Acid Dye is not toxic, its not intended to be eaten! A quick trip into the cheapo store in town and I found a stainless steel roaster and pan. Food colouring is food-safe so the same precautions don’t necessarily apply, you might still want to use different tools though, just in case you end up with Blue food afterwards!!
7. Use glass or stainless steel tools so that they don’t react with the dye
I think you could use plastic jugs and bowls but they will absorb some of the dye (ever put tupperware in the dishwasher and had it come out slightly red because it has absorbed some of the tomato sauce that used to be in it?!)
8. Make sure that you have some plastic sheeting down to put your tools on
If you’ve been poking at the yarn with dye on, your tools will have dye on and you don’t want to accidentally dye your worktop!!
9. If its your first time yarn dyeing, use Superwash yarn
It’s apparently VERY easy to felt the wool by using too much heat, cooling it too quickly, or agitating it too much. They (the gods of google!) advise using superwash as a beginner so that you can learn to do it without these dangers!
10. Acid Dyes and Food colouring will work for yarn dyeing Animal Fibres
Acid dyes are intended for dying animal fibres (ie different types of wool, alpaca, merino, etc) and not for plant fibres (cotton, hemp, etc). They also won’t work on acrylic yarn. So if you do want to give it a go, make sure you are buying 100% wool (I’m told that a bit of a mix, ie, 80% wool, 20% nylon) might be OK still but I’ve not been brave enough to try that yet! I will though!
11. Find something to do whilst your yarn is drying, it will take a few hours
Trust me, checking every 10 minutes WON’T make it dry faster, I’ve tried that, doesn’t work!!!