Monday, August 29, 2016

How To - Heat Setting in the Oven

A little while back, a fellow Raveler posted in the What A Kool Way To Dye group, asking about alternate heat setting methods. She does not have a microwave, and wanted to know of some different ways to heat set her yarn.

Most of the alternate methods of heat setting yarn seem to involve immersion. There were a lot of crockpot and stovetop suggestions, but they all involve getting immersing the yarn in water, which may not always give you the results you are looking for. If you hand paint your yarn, or are trying to speckle dye it, then full or even partial immersion could cause the colours to run.

There was one or two people who suggested steaming it using a double boiler, or a colander placed over a pot of hot water. I still have to try that method, but if the colander or double boiler is too small, then the yarn will get bunched together, and you may have the same blending colours issue.

So I started thinking about heat setting in the oven. I had thought about it before, and wondered how to do it. I know I could do rimmed baking sheet with water in it, but again, that would involve partially submerging the yarn, which I did not want to do. I wanted a way to keep the yarn out of the water, but still keep the yarn damp enough to not burn in the oven.

Then it struck me... a cooling rack. 
Using a cooling rack to help me dye my yarn
I use them when I am dyeing yarn to keep the yarn up off the surface to avoid colours blending too much underneath the yarn, and I have used one in the oven to cook bacon, so why not combine the two.  Yarn bacon.....mmmmmm.... 

No, just kidding... I meant the oven and dyeing the yarn on the cooling rack.  And because it is an oven, I could just set the temperature to the exact 180 degrees (F) that I needed, and 20 minutes later, out would pop the perfect yarn, right?  Well, not quite....

How not to burn your yarn...
Let's be honest here.... we are talking about putting yarn in the oven, and there is a very good chance it can burn if you do that. So how to do prevent that from happening? Wrapping it in plastic wrap keeps the steam in when microwaving, but something told me plastic wrap + oven = stinky mess.

To solve this dilemma, I do two things. First, I keep the yarn really damp...seems like common sense, if you want it to be damp, don't wring out all the water... but it is worth saying it.   Second, I put the yarn on cooling rack, that I place over a rimmed baking sheet, and then I add water to the baking sheet.  That way, when it is heat setting, the water can steam then yarn. You want to make sure you add enough that it doesn't just evaporate immediately, and you can always add more during the process.  This trick is borrowed from my baking escapades.... when I am baking cakes, I often will add a dish of water to the bottom of the stove to keep the oven moist, which helps you get a more level cake. 

MissReena gives it whirl!
My first attempt at using the oven to heat set my yarn was also my first attempt at dyeing speckled yarn with cake sprinkles.  The theory was there... put the yarn on the rack, dye parts of it, sprinkle parts of it, bake the coloury goodness into the yarn. So I set the oven to 180 degrees and started off on my great oven baked yarn adventure.

My Girly Sprinkles yarn on it's first round in the oven.
Now, for this yarn, I already knew I was going to bake it twice. I applied the dye and sprinkles to the top of the yarn, then heated it in the oven for 30 minutes (wanted to give it some extra time). When the yarn came out of the oven, I squished the sprinkles down with a fork, to really break them down and press them into the yarn. I then flipped the yarn over and dyed the other side.

Dyeing the other side of the yarn
Once the second side was dyed, I put more water in the bottom (along with the leftover dye from applying the new dye while still on the cooling rack), and popped it back in the oven for another 30 minutes.   When that was done, squish the speckles with the fork again, then let it cool. Honestly, I let it cool!  Which is super fast when it is on the cooling rack because the air can circulate much better.

Once the yarn was cool, I got my water ready in the sink, with a little bit of dish soap in it. I knew there was going to be residue from the sugary cake sprinkles, so I used the dish soap instead of the baby shampoo.  I started washing my yarn.  At first, everything was going really well... the sprinkles looked awesome, and the other colours looked pretty cool too.  

Then I noticed that the teal was start to bleed out of the yarn.  Oh well, not really a huge surprise....teal contains blue, and blue is notoriously a bugger to set. So I just kept rinsing....(Just keep rinsing, just keep rinsing..... borrowing a tune from Dory for this part).  The teal stopped bleeding, and I was just about to give the yarn it's final squeeze and get ready to dry it when the fuchsia started running.... It had not run during the whole time I was rinsing out the teal, and the water was fairly cool, so I was really surprised.  But not as surprised as I was going to be and the fuchsia just basically let loose and completely overdyed the white part of my yarn! 

When all the colour stopped bleeding, and the yarn was dried, I wound up with this very lovely yarn....
The final product....very pretty, but not quite what I was going for....

MissReena Tries Again
For the previous yarn, I had used my Americolor gel food colouring, and I used a lot for the teal, fuchsia and violet, so I thought maybe my issue was just oversaturation of the dyestock. I have been known to do that before....on more than on occasion.  This time, I was inspired by the neapolitan ice cream sandwich I was having as a treat. 

Cue the cooling rack again, and I dyed the yarn you see in the first picture in this post. Pretty sections of brown, surrounded by pink, with white spots left.  I sandwiched the brown between two bands of pink because I know that the brown will bleed, and the ends of the brown will bleed green, which I didn't not want in my ice cream colours... 

Once the dye was applied, I moved the yarn to my baking sheet/cooling rack setup, added my water, and popped it in the 180 degree oven again. This time I left it for almost an hour. Just in case my issue with the Girly Speckles was that it was not heated long enough. 

After I let the yarn cool on the rack (can you imagine? That is two skeins in a row I let cool!), I added it to the sink with baby shampoo and cool water for a rinse... and my pretty neapolitan inspired yarn tuned into what I am now calling Chocolate Cherry.... see any resemblance to the Girly Sprinkles?
Chocolate Cherry Yarn
Yup, you guessed it... the pink ran, and the white sections disappeared... 

Third Time is the Charm?
After the second one ran, I knew there was definitely an issue, and the issue was that the yarn was not getting hot enough.  Just because you set the oven to 180 degrees, does not mean the actual yarn is going to get up to 180 degrees, which means the dye may not completely set. 

So I painted a second ice cream inspired yarn, this time with the cooling rack placed over the sink, because my towel was in the washing machine. 

Let's try this again...
And I set my oven to 350 degrees... that is my go to temperature for a lot of things, so I figured, what the heck...worst that could happen is I could burn the yarn...but I figured if I kept a close eye on it, I could make sure that did not happen. 

I moved the yarn to the baking tray with the cooling rack, popped it into the oven after it had finished preheating, set the timer for 30 minutes, and basically become obsessive compulsive for about 30 minutes. 

I kept extra water beside me, and I probably opened the oven every 5 minutes to make sure things were still steamy and not burny.... I am sure the yarn would have set faster if I had not kept opening it, but when you are experimenting, you sometimes have to do these things.   I even kept my spray bottle of citric acid mix with me, and sprayed the top of the yarn a few times, although I am sure that was probably unnecessary... just me being paranoid.

I thought about covering the whole thing in tin foil to create that same kind of steam trap that plastic warp creates in the microwave, but decided against it, because if it started to burn, I may not see it. Plus, I was not sure what citric acid + tin foil + yarn + heat was going to equal. Better not to risk it.

After 30 minutes, I took the yarn out and set it on the stove to cool.  The brown travelled quite a bit in one of the pink sections, and the pink sort of took over a few other white sections, but I was still happy with what I saw. 

Freshly Baked Yarn!
I let this one cool most of the way (I was getting impatient at this point), and then proceeded to wash the yarn. Because this is superwash, it didn't need to be completely cooled because I don't have to worry as much about felting. I just made sure the water was the same temperature as the yarn, and I added my baby shampoo.  Then I took a deep breath, added the yarn to the water, and rinsed. 

The result? Neonpolitan Yarn! (Not a typo...that is what I called it due to the neon property of the pink)
One side of the skein...look at the pretty white sections!

And the other side... Can't you just smell the vanilla?
Turn outs 180 degrees (F) is not a high enough heat to bring your yarn up to the right temperature. You need the oven to be at least 350 degrees in order for your yarn itself to get enough heat. And 30 minutes was a good time, although if I had blue in there, I might go as high as 45 minutes. But I would keep a close eye on the amount of water in the bottom, and add more if needed, to make sure that the yarn did not dry out. 

Will I use this method again? Most definitely! It was actually a lot of fun, once I got it figured out. Although I may switch to one of my older baking sheets... one thing to keep in mind is that with repeated exposure to citric acid and heat,  things like the cooling rack and the baking sheet may start to corrode over time. I had this happen with a round cooling rack I use when doing my ball-dyed yarn.

I may keep an eye out at some of the local second hand or restaurant stores. I know they make steam trays that are sort of like double boilers...water in the bottom and a tray that sits over the top with holes in it. If I can find one of those that will fit in my oven, I may snag it. I think I could do multiple skeins that way. 

If any of my readers try this, I would love to hear how it worked for you. But keep a close eye on it, and I take no responsibly for burned yarn if your oven is too hot, you don't add enough water, or you get distracted :)


  1. I love seeing all your gorgeous yarns and the 'how-to's. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. And BTW, I love the Chocolate Cherry.

  2. You're saving my life here! Well,a skein of yarn really,but same difference,right?! I tried dying yarn for the first time today and the first skein was a total success(dip-dying with food-colouring,playing it safe here) but the second one...uh-uh. Epic fail. It looked beautiful in the pot and then ALL the colours washed out when I rinsed it. Back on the horse tomorrow,trying your oven-method. Wish me luck! (Now,I know this is a fairly old post and you might not even see my comment but it's past midnight and i couldn't sleep until I found a solution for my colour-predicament so I HAD to let you know how grateful I am for this post(laughed all the way through!))

    1. So happy that you found this helpful! I have since done a lot more in the oven. I now put the yarn in a roasting pan, pour the dye stock over it (lifting it or flipping it over to make sure both sides get dye), then I cover with tin foil, making sure it does not touch the yarn, and leave it in for about an hour and 15 minutes. I set the oven at 225, and so far that seems to work.
      Don’t forget to either soak the yarn with acid in the water, or add acid to the dye bath.
      I wish you the best of luck with it :)

    2. I just had more yarn delivered so I'm off to finally try the oven.. fingers crossed I can report a success later on 😀

  3. Weeeeell... the good thing is: it only burned in three teeny-weeny spots. I blame say yes to the dress 😂 BUT the colours are bright yellow and orange so I can rightfully call this skein Burning sun now 😋 I'll wait to see how it looks after drying completely. I'm not done with the oven yet!

  4. Could you cover it with foil and crimp the edges down around the baking sheet to trap steam?