dyeing · yarn

Dyeing Adventures

I’ve recently started to experiment with some yarn dyeing. It’s something I’ve wanted to try out for quite some time but I never really had the courage to do. I guess I’ve always been afraid of burning the yarn or something. I keep having this waking nightmare that my yarn would turn into a giant fire ball and burn down my house.

I may be a tad bit overly paranoid. Anyway, I finally decided to give it a try. Video tutorials on YouTube have been a huge help, in particular the videos from ChemKnits (though really, there are so many wonderful tutorials out there, video and written, there’s something for everyone).

Of course for first time experiments I wanted to stick with kitchen-safe dyeing, and the two main techniques you’ll see floating around the internet is with  Kool-Aid or with food coloring. Where I live, I don’t often find Kool-Aid (or maybe it is readily available but I’ve never seen it. Truth is I never think of looking for it), so I decided on using some generic food coloring found at any local grocery store. I used some of the small skeins I made when I was learning to spin, so they’re hardly very nice looking, making them perfect for experimentation.

My first attempt was the most simple technique I could find. I filled a pot with water, mixed in some sort of red food coloring and threw in my pre-soaked yarn. Brought the water to a light simmer and kept it there until the dye in the water was completely soaked up by the yarn. During my second experiment I stepped it up a notch with a more variegated look to the color. I threw the yarn into my pot just as the water reached a simmer and then dripped in blue and green coloring into the water. I turned off the heat, covered and let it cool slowly (ever so slowly…). In this experiment, the colors took longer to get soaked up into the yarn which caused some parts of the yarn to be a more prominent blue or green. Best of all, the areas in the pot where the two colors met left the yarn with some nice tonal shifts.

The downside with food coloring is that the colors are a little glaringly bright to an almost obnoxious degree for my current tastes. I attempted to overdye my first dyed skein with some tea to mute the garish pink, but it unfortunately didn’t work. I definitely hope to try some natural dyeing next, in particular with indigo (just look at those incredible blues!). My ultimate goal is to work with acid dyes, but for those I will need to take some extra precautions, like tools that will not be used for food prep, gloves and maybe even a mask. The day will come, but for now I’m sticking to safer dyes. Next technique I plan to try is handpainting.


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