Trying my Hand at Hand-Dyeing

The above photo was taken yesterday afternoon, and shows my hand painting set up for my 1 skein of yarn.  I was going to put the best photo of the effect on the top here, but that would spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it?!  You’ll have to look through the whole blog post to get to the good stuff.

Above you can see my table up in the attic where there are normally clean clothes waiting to be put away.  Not yesterday!  Instead I covered it with newspaper, then made a rectangle of plastic wrap where the damp yarn will be laid out.  The pot in the center holds the yarn that soaked in water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  That soaked over night even though such a long soak wasn’t necessary.  I just ran out of time the day before to actually do the dyeing.  The jars of dye are:  red, yellow and green all-in-one acid dyes (which I bought from Tall Yarns at iKnit London last summer).  The jar of blue dye is actually 3 packets of Kool-Aid.  I didn’t have any other blue to use.

Above you can see how I laid out the yarn and painted it with dye.  I had not yet done the green at the top of the photo.  I could really tell the difference between the acid dyes and the Kool-Aid.  The acid dyes, especially the red, took very little of the liquid to achieve a completely saturated color.  The Kool-Aid on the other hand had to be dabbed with dye water over and over again to get the color in the yarn.  It was a lot more work than the acid dyes.

I tried my hand at bleeding the colors together to get an orange.  This worked pretty well.  It took very VERY little red on the brush to overpower the yellow.  I did some blending too between the yellow and blue, but the Kool-Aid dye didn’t play very nicely and didn’t blend very well.

After making sure everything was as saturated as possible, and there was no dye water running around to contaminate the other colors (meaning, that all the dye was taken up by the yarn and the water around was pretty clear), I wrapped the plastic wrap around the yarn.  I then put another layer of plastic wrap (in 4 pieces) around it, from the top and wrapping around the bottom.  This made a pretty neat package without anything leaking out.  I then coiled it up and it was ready for steaming.

The day before I had bought a plastic colander that I thought would fit into my biggest pot.  Unfortunately I don’t have a big canning pot (do you have any idea how hard it is to buy canning supplies in Europe?  Darn near impossible.).  This worked out just fine though.

The colander fit perfectly and the pot lid laid nicely on top.  I put about 2 inches of water in the bottom, brought it to a boil and steamed the coil for 20 minutes, then turned it over, and steamed for another 25 minutes.  I then put the coil outside in the back garden to cool off.

It looked kind of melty and weird and I really didn’t know what to expect when I unwrapped it.  I let it cool completely without disturbing it.  The plastic wrap actually came off without too much trouble and only melted a little to itself.  The yarn looked amazing!  Here’s a photo of it drying upstairs, after I had rinsed it for 5 minutes continuously.

Look at those brilliant colors!  Wow! 🙂

This morning it was completely dry and I twisted it up into this.

And then I couldn’t help myself.  I caked it.

I just love it.  I can’t wait to make socks from this.  I know, they will be very colorful, loud socks.  But they will be MINE, all mine.  I tell you, dyeing yarn is magic.  I can’t wait to do it again.

Oh, by the way, I learned everything I know, and used instructions found in two books:  Teach Yourself Visually Hand Dyeing by Barbara Parry, and Dye One Knit One from Tall Yarns.  This is also the place I bought the yarn and acid dyes.

This is just too much fun not to try for yourselves!  It’s not rocket science.  Go on, make a mess and have some fun!

p.s. I didn’t tell you about measuring and making the skein to dye.  The skein originally measured about 60 inches around.  I wanted to be sure to get stripes and not just dabbles of color.  I wound the skein into a cake, then set up my swift to measure about 92 inches in the center, then reskeined the yarn.  I divided that measurement into 4 for each of the 4 colors.  I have no idea now if that was big enough to make striped socks.  I’ll just have to see when I knit it up.  I have a feeling it will be just 1 round per color, which will be OK, but I would have rather had 2 rounds per color.  We’ll see!

5 thoughts on “Trying my Hand at Hand-Dyeing

  1. Ballee May 16, 2010 / 22:45

    Thanks for your photo report! Love to see the whole proces! And it looks good, very good, happy sock knitting 🙂

  2. Berti May 17, 2010 / 17:15

    hi, wolheks from ravelry here.
    whenever you need canning supplies they are really easy to find:
    new: blokker, marskramer stores
    second hand: secondhand shops, markets
    online: just google weckketel or weckpotten………

    there you go 🙂

  3. Christopher May 18, 2010 / 01:36

    Oh, Alex, this yarn is SO beautious ! (remember?! not hideous!)

    It is really cool to see the process you used. The yarn was gorgeous in person, and I am really excited to see how the stipes end up in the socks you make with them.

  4. Lou May 18, 2010 / 17:56

    It looks great..I wish I had the space (and no annoying dog) so I could have a go at this. Can I see a Under Dutch Skies hand dyed line appearing in your shop soon? lol

  5. Lou May 19, 2010 / 17:37

    I just showed my OH your dying methods. Gavin said no..I make too much mess as it is. Cheeky boy

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