Thursday, March 17, 2016

The first yarn I ever dyed

Before I get into all of the technical posts, where I talk about the equipment I use, my methods (or lack thereof), and all of that kind of stuff, I wanted to share a bit more detail on the first yarn I ever dyed.  I had done a bunch of research online, trying to figure out how to do this. I think I got the most information from this video on YouTube, by Rebecca from

I will add the high level details of how I did this specific skein in this post, so if you don't see all the details you need to dye your own, please be patient, as the full details will be coming soon.

You may have already seen the picture of the yarn and the beginning of the first sock that I made with it on my first blog post. But just in case you missed it, here it is again.

The base for this yarn was a 100g skein of Knit Picks Stroll Bare. I soaked the yarn in water with a huge glug of vinegar added to the water. I honestly did not measure the vinegar, I just dumped some in the water. I believe I soaked the yarn for about an hour while I got everything else ready.

The dye for this yarn was an RJ Rabbit Easter Express egg dying kit from the dollar store. It was one of their "premium" items and I think I paid $2 for it. I have since learned to wait until after Easter and get them when they grocery store has them on for 75% off, but this was my first attempt at dyeing and I didn't want to wait.

I used 6 of the 6 oz glasses I had in the cupboard to mix up the colours. Because I didn't really know much about dyeing, when I prepared the dye stock, I followed the directions on the side of the package. For some of the colours I used vinegar, but for others I did not.  Since then I have stopped adding acid to the dye stock for anything I hand paint. I add it to the water when I soak the yarn, but not to the dye stock itself.

I covered the table with a large clear garbage bag, pulled the yarn out of the water and squeezed a whole bunch of the water out. Since this was the first time I had ever done it, I was super careful with it, worried that I might somehow damage it if I squeezed it too hard. I have gotten over that fear since then.

I tried a few different ways to apply the dye. I bought some of those foam paint brushes, but I found more of the dye stayed in the brush and not enough was getting on the yarn. I really only tried it with one colour before I decided it was going to take way too long (no patience, remember?).  I did one tiny section where I just poured it out of the glass, but that made too much of a mess. Luckily I was smart enough to make a mess with yellow, so it was easy to "fix" it.

I finally settled on medicinal syringes that I got from the drug store. The ones that you get to help you give liquid medicine to kids or animals, is how I think of them.  I sucked up the dye in they syringe and squirted it on the yarn.

One thing I noticed right away was that in the video, she was able to add the dye and squish it around the yarn, but I was not able to do that. Pretty much as soon as I added the colour, it got sucked right into the yarn, and all I could squish around was the water.  (I have since learned that it probably has a lot to do with using superwash yarn.)

I don't know if I actually planned out the 12 sections or if it just kind of worked out that way. I was really just playing with it since it was my first time dyeing. I did remember to flip the yarn over and do the other side, but I did not think about separating the yarn and making sure to get lots of dye inside the skein too. You can sort of see the lighter spots in the back pink section in the image  below. It also had one of the ties in that pink section, and I didn't move it around enough when I was adding the dye.

Disclaimer - I am not nearly that neat, so this is NOT how the yarn looked right away after dyeing it. I am pretty sure this is a picture after it was washed, because I had forgotten to take pictures up to that point. But you get the idea of how much dye I used and where I placed it.

After the yarn was done, I wrapped it in plastic wrap, put it on a really big plate and heat set it in the microwave. I am going to guess 2 minute intervals in the microwave for a total of 10 minutes. I am thinking I actually did let this first one cool before I unwrapped it, and I came EXTREMELY close to cutting the yarn by mistake trying to use scissors. I have since put them away and try not to pull them out at all any more, unless absolutely necessary.

When it came out of the microwave, I was still a bit skeptical. Sure it looked like the colour was set, but come on....this is Easter Egg dyes on yarn... I was pretty sure it was going to wash out.  So I filled a bowl with barely warm water and added the yarn...and was completely amazed that none of the colour came out of the yarn!  It actually looked quite pretty sitting in the water like that.

At first I thought there was just a hint of the green/blue coming out, then I realized that was actually just a slight tint to the glass. Even with a drop of dish soap added, the colour stayed and was gorgeous and bright and vibrant.   I rinsed the soap out, wrung out some of the water by hand, then wrapped it in a towel and twisted to get more water out. I then took it down the furnace room, where I think I put it over a hanger and hung it on a pipe.

When I went down to get it the next morning, I was a little surprised to see how many lighter spots I had in it, and to see that it was a bit lighter than I thought, but then again, I had been dealing with wet yarn through the whole process. Of course it will lighten a bit.

I wound it up with my nifty new ball winder, and quickly starting working on some socks. I loved the way the stripes seemed to spiral around the sock as I knit, and even had someone ask me to measure the sections of my colours so they could try to replicate it.

Here is my first pair of finished sock (in retrospect, the green might not have been the best background colour, but oh well), with what was left of the 100g skein once they were done.

I stil have these socks. They did not get given away to anyone, which is what happens to a lot of my socks that I knit. They are actually going to be framed and hung on my wall, since they are the first socks that I made with my own hand dyed yarn.   I do have to be careful how I display them though. I was showing them off so much at first that I left them on the coffee table so I could show people, and then put them on the top of my dresser so I could see how pretty they were,  and I didn't realize that both spots got direct sunlight. So one side of each sock is a little more faded than the other.

So that was my first adventure in dyeing, and how my obsession began. I got so many compliments from so many people about how bright the colours were, and how great the stripes looked, that I knew I had to keep doing it.


  1. I've noticed the same thing with the sponge "brushes". I did one blank that I spent forever painting but no matter how much food color I added to the dye, the color that transferred to the yarn was very pale. Will give the kiddie syringes a try next time.

    1. I guess it would be a good way for me to get a pastel colour, since I do not seem to be capable of doing that when I mix my dyestock ;)