Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dyeing Yarn One Color in Seven Easy Steps

Thanks to the Guru of Color--Darilee Nelson from Main Street Yarns in Watkinsville. She was the guest speaker at the Knit Wits July Meeting. She showed in great detail and enthusiasm how to dye protein based yarn (wool, alpaca, etc)

Supplies (Once you dye, do not use these for anything else.)
• Pot (pick up very large stewing or bottle warming or Dutch oven pot at Walmart)
• Dye
• Water
• Salt
• Vinegar
• Rubber Gloves
• Face Mask
• Measuring set
• Spatula
• Tongs
• Salad spinner
• Various plastic bowls
• Plastic measuring cup

1. Before beginning, mix your dye stock solution. Using rubber gloves and face mask, mix dye stock. The dye is most dangerous when in powder form. Slowly add 32 oz hot water to 1 tsp dye powder. This is your dye stock. You will not use all of this so store in an airtight labeled container.

2. Soak undyed wool (any animal or protein fiber) loosely bound skein in a sink full of lukewarm water and salt (1 tsp of salt per 100g fiber) for 15-20 minutes. Make sure skeins are fully submerged and any air bubbles are gone.

3. The amount of dye stock solution you will add to you pot will vary depending on the shade of color desired. If you add too much, at some point the fiber will saturate and not hold any more color. For a medium shade use 1oz. dye stock to 2 oz. wool.

4. Fill a pot with new lukewarm water, more salt (1-2 table spoons) and vinegar (equal parts vinegar and water, i.e. one gallon of water and one gallon of vinegar). Add dye solution. Stir to mix dye solution and water mixture.

5. Add wet fiber gently. Do not stir briskly but just enough to get the dyed water into the nooks and crannies of the hank. VERY gently/occasionally continue to stir the pot throughout. This is to prevent dye from settling on the bottom of the pot and making dark places in your fiber.

6. Gradually bring to simmer on stove on low. It is important to raise the temperature of the water and the fiber at the same time. No rapid boiling or heavy stirring. This agitation will felt the fiber. Simmer/steam for 15 minutes or until you’re happy with the color. If your water is clear, all the dye is taken.

7. Place fiber in a bowl and allow to air cool. Rinse and wring it gently out in the sink..

8. Place fiber in “Salad Spinner” to wring it out (or the spin cycle of a washing machine). Pour out water of salad spinner every couple of minutes. When there is no more water coming out of the salad spinner, hang the skeins so they can air dry completely.

Information that I didn’t know until the Guru taught me….

• The color blue sometimes is the hardest color to “take”. It is the last color to be absorbed by fiber. For example if you are dyeing yarn green (yellow and blue), the yellow will be absorbed first and then blue.
• You don’t have to wait 15 minutes. It’s just a guideline. Once your yarn reaches the color you like, take it out to rinse. On the other hand, if the color is not deep enough, add more dye. Once the yarn has absorbed all the dye, the water in the pot will more or less clear again.
• By creating an acidic environment the vinegar acts like a binding agent for the fiber and dye. Salt is a leveling agent helping to disperse the dye evenly throughout the pot.
• Darilee uses to buy the powder dye. She used Pro Washfast Acid dyes. Other dyes include jacquard (available at or Gay Wool. Be sure to wear a face mask to mix the dye powder with water. The powder is potentially toxic if breathed. Once liquid, it is more or less harmless.
• Other dyes like Kool Aid and Wilton Cake Dye are more like stains. The color may fade over time. For example, think when you eat a birthday cake. The icing is colored with Wilton Cake Dye. If you accidentally smear some icing on your shirt but wipe it off, it still leaves a faint stain that will fade over washings.
• To dye cotton, use MX Reactive dye.
• Use rubber gloves. Darilee pointed out that while dye will wash off your skin, it will not wash off your fingernails as your fingernails are protein based—like the fiber you’re dyeing.
• Always keep your yarn labels.
• You don’t have use the stove top for your heat source. You can use crock pots, ovens and microwaves. Just make sure the heat is not too much. If you use the oven, dye in an aluminum pan on low (around 200 degrees F).
• If you want to dye different colors (i.e. one end of the skein red and the other blue), you can suspend one end of the skein on a wooden spoon (like a spit) over the pot of red dye. Then switch to a pot of blue dye and put the undyed part in the blue dye while the red end is suspend by the spoon. Or use Mason jars to drape a little of the fiber in each different colored jar..
• This is different than space dyeing. I’ll post another entry later on Darilee’s Space Dyeing method.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Koolaid is highly acidic. It will fade in direct sunlight, but most any color will also fade in such conditions. I wont vouch for wiltons, but I know koolaid will last long.