You guys, this is a big deal for me- I tried hand dyeing yarn today!
A little back story, as you might have learned, I learned to knit last fall and have absolutely fallen in love with it. I’ve knit a scarf, a cowl, some socks, a cabled headband, a colorwork headband, a messy bun hat and I’m halfway through a pair of mittens. I absolutely love it. Naturally, when it came to looking at trying new hobbies, I wanted to look for ways to extend the things I already love. The first thing I thought about was hand-dyeing yarn. I absolutely love buying hand dyed yarn from indie dyers and thoughts and images of becoming an indie dyer have been filling up my daydreams lately.
I found the website Wool2Dye4 and ordered their platinum sock yarn. It’s fingering weight and 75% merino and 25% nylon- perfect for making socks. The dye I bought is from Dharma Trading Company and is the Jacquard Acid Dye. I also used citric acid as the mordant though lots of people use white vinegar. You also need to wear a respirator mask because the powdered dye is an irritant and you don’t want to breathe it in while it’s in powdered form. My dad works a lot with cars and he lent me the most extreme respirator mask you can probably buy.
My first skein is currently drying and I learned a lot and while my yarn looks nothing like I intended, it’s still really pretty. The problem was that, despite thinking I understood it, I didn’t correctly make a 1% dye stock, which is what I was aiming for. I used yellow, orange, green and turquoise. My goal was to not necessarily have rainbow yarn, but to let each color overlap with it’s neighbors and to create lots of other colors and shades.
This is what the yarn looked like directly after putting in the yarn. Please excuse the poor lighting. You can see that there are some white spots, particularly in the green and towards the center.
So, after dropping those colors in, I initially felt like the orange was too red toned and that the green and blue were too dark and the yellow felt very primary while I was intending for something pale. In the spirit of just giving it a try, I went with it. After just a few minutes (literally 3), this is what I had. You can see how the green just took over everything- suggesting to me that maybe I had slightly too much water in the pot, allowing the dye to spread too much and that my dye was maybe too concentrated. I like the way the orange, in particular looks in this photo.
I think if it had stayed exactly like this, it would have been awesome.
So after about 20 minutes, we ended up with this, and this is roughly how it stayed and how it looks while it’s drying. As you can see, it’s very green.
Another clue that I used too much dye is that the dye was never exhausted from the yarn (meaning that after the yarn had cooled completely, there was still dye in the water– in theory, it should run clear). On top of that, I had to rinse the yarn for a good 45 minutes before the water ran clear. I’ll be more cognizant of that next time. Oh yes, there will definitely be a next time and hopefully it’ll come out more like I envision.
I’ll take some picture after it dries (I’m not exactly sure how long it takes) and after I twist it up into a skein (which I’ve also never done before. I don’t think you can tell in the current pictures, but up close, there are some really pretty blue streaks and some orange and yellow and bare streaks too– that’s on top of the very tonal green. I really think it will knit up nicely and I’m excited about it!
Here’s what I learned (so far) in my first take of yarn dyeing.
- Wear the gloves that are suggested when you’re working with dye (coming from my currently turquoise hands)
- Make sure you understand how to make dye stock (this is something I need to brush up on big time as I’m quite certain my dyes were wayyyy too concentrated)
- Understand how much water you need to have in your dye pot. If you want a speckled look, you need to have less water that doesn’t even cover all the yarn… that way the dye can’t spread as much, if you want a solid color, your dye really needs to be swimming in it. I wasn’t really going for a speckled look, but I think my water level needed to be just slightly lower.
- Less is more. When it comes to dyeing yarn, it definitely feels like you don’t need as much as you think you do (at least that seems true for me). You can always add more in, but I think it’s best to start with less!
- When washing/rinsing the yarn, keep ahold of one of the ties around the hanks. You can’t tell it in the picture, I don’t think… but I have some pretty gnarly tangles to work out that I think could have been avoided with a bit more care in handling.
Ok, that’s all for now. Check back in a couple days (unless I’m still untangling!!) for the finished skein! I’m so excited to see what it turns into!!