Thursday, August 25, 2016

How To - Speckled Dyeing with Cake Sprinkles

Yup, you read that right... Cake Sprinkles!

I have to start off by saying that this idea came from a couple of fellow Ravellers, who got it from a post on Facebook.  Although I will admit that I have often looked at my sprinkles and wondered if they could be used... the one thing that held me back from trying it is the one word of caution I am going to give you all right at the very beginning, before I give you the how-to's of how I did this...

Cake sprinkles contain sugar, and sugar can burn yarn that is heated in the microwave!

I have been lucky enough that I have not had any mishaps with my yarn that I have heat set in the microwave, even when I used dyestock that had sugar in it, but there are many stories out there of people who were not so lucky with their yarn. I do not know what all the contributing factors were (possibly yarn content, strength of microwave, level of dampness of the yarn, etc.), but I do know it can happen, so if you are going to try this, please keep that in mind! Something to think about if you are every trying to use the already sweetened drink crystals too.... they contain a LOT of sugar and most of the burn victim yarns I have seen have used those.

What I used

  • 100g Bare Felici Superwash yarn from Knit Picks
  • Dinosaur shaped cake sprinkles (they were on sale)
  • Citric Acid powder (for soaking water and for spraying water)
  • Microwave safe plate 
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Baby shampoo
My Felici yarn from Knit Pick and my sprinkles

Couldn't resist the dinosaurs! There were pink ones!
Soak the yarn
Because this is a sort of hand painting that will be set in the microwave, I soaked the yarn in water that contained one tablespoon of citric acid powder.   I will say I have tried alternate heat setting methods (more on that in a later post) and even for those, I added my acid to the soaking water. 

Apply the sprinkles
When I got the Bulk Barn, they had these dinosaur sprinkles on sale. Because they had no white in them (don't need white on bare yarn), I snatched them up right away.  I removed a bunch of the water, but did not wring it out like I normally would with hand painting. I wanted the yarn to be really damp, but not so much that I was getting puddles on the plate. 

I also spread the yarn out on the plate. At first glance it looks like it will be a tangled mess, but it was quite easy to find the ties and pick it up with any tangles or fuss.

I sprinkled a whole bunch of dinosaurs on my yarn...
I spread out my yarn and let it be invaded with dinosaurs

And then, to be on the safe side, I mixed up my citric acid and water mixture (1 tablespoon citric acid powder to one cup of water) and put it in a spray bottle. I then used that spray bottle to give the top a really good spray. I wanted the yarn and the sprinkles to be really wet.
My spray bottle with the citric acid and water mix

Heat Set the Yarn
I wrapped the plate in plastic wrap and popped it into the microwave. I used my standard two minute intervals, but got distracted by laundry after I started the second interval, so that meant the yarn got to sit in the microwave for about 5 minutes before it got the 3rd two minute interval. Although I think this worked to my advantage, because the plastic wrap dropped down onto the yarn and it created a bit of a vacuum, which actually helped squish the sprinkles into the top of the yarn
Squished dinos! It may be hard to see in this picture, but there is plastic wrap on this is vacuum sealed it self to the yarn and flatted out all the former dinosaur sprinkles
Flip over and do the other side
One thing I have learned about any kind of hand painting is that the colour never goes all the way through, so you need to flip the yarn over and do the other side. I let the yarn cool until I could handle it, then flipped it over.
See? Hardly any colour on this side
I added a bunch more dinosaurs, then sprayed down with my citric acid mix, wrapped in plastic, and microwaved again.  As luck would have it, I had another load of laundry to go out, so I did the same thing... 2 of the two minute intervals, hang out laundry, then do 3 more intervals. I two more on this side than on the last because I knew I was not heating it any more after that.

Let it cool, rinse, then dry it
I removed the yarn from the microwave and set the plate on a cooling rack and removed the plastic wrap. It is really hot trying to do that, but it lets the yarn cool faster. 
See some of the leftover colour and sugar blobs? Some are on the plate, some are on the yarn...

For rinsing, I wanted to rinse while the yarn was still warm, so I could use warm water. Not all of the sprinkles completely disintegrate when heated. Some of them, and the non-colour components of the yarn, turn into these sort of sugary blobs of you want to be able to use warm water with your baby shampoo or mild dish soap to get those out of the yarn.

After it was all washed, I actually hung it up outside to dry. I had all the best intentions, because it was a nice breezy day out. But after about an hour I got impatient (who me? never!), and brought it in and put it in the dryer. 

Twist it and admire the skein!
Normally I like a lot more colour in my yarns, even in my speckles, but I was really happy with how this one came out. It is a bit more of a muted speckled yarn, but I already have plans for it.
One side of my Dino Dots colourway

And the other side of the skein
I did do another skein where I had section of solid colour and sections of sprinkles. For that one I used the longer, flatter cake sprinkles. Again, I went for a combination that had not white in it, even those do seem to be rare. 
My dyes

My Girly Sprinkles Colourway
You can't see as much of the sprinkles with the way it is twisted, but you can still see them. 

Verdict - this is a lot of fun, and I can see myself checking out the Bulk Barn for their discounted sprinkles. It does not give as much coverage as my other sprinkle method, but this is definitely good for when I want more muted sprinkles.  And I have a friend who has a cupboard with a whole bunch of old sprinkles in it that she was thinking of throwing out, since she has no idea how old they are. Now she is going to give them to me to play with. 

Cautions - As I said at the beginning, sugar can burn in the microwave, so make sure the yarn is really damp, and well covered with plastic wrap. And keep a close eye on it.  

And beware of brown sprinkles....many times these are chocolate and that is going to be a whole other mess to deal with! 


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Carol
      I am not quite ready to start selling just yet... I am probably a couple of months away from being ready. However, if you are on Ravelry, send me a PM and we can talk about maybe doing a one-off for you :)

  2. Love this! Thanks for sharing the info.

  3. I have just had my first try at this technique, the colours are good, but my sprinkles (little round balls) had cornstarch in them too and the gooey blobs are taking some time to soak and separate out from the yarn. At least it is superwash so I don't have to worry too much about the water temperature!