Last Christmas a good friend gave me a book about dyeing yarn and a couple of jars of dye and I have just now been able to collect the equipment I needed and give it a go. It was fun! A little bit smelly and a tad messy but I already have a bunch of other color combinations running through my head that I want to try.
Those were the resources I used. The book has detailed recipes to produce the particular projects shown: how much fiber, how much of what color dye, what technique. However if you were only going to purchase one, I’d recommend the video. It teaches you how to figure out all of those details yourself: how much dye you need for how much fiber and once you have those recipes you can alter them however you want.
I mixed up my dyestock the night before. I had two colors, Teal and Chartreuse. I wish I had mixed them the way the video instructed (by weight) to be more exact. Instead, I sort of eyeballed by volume and therefore none of the dyeing I do with these stocks will be repeatable because I’m not sure exactly how much dye is really in there and it turns out you need to know how much down to the gram and milliliter to have measurable results.
I decided to dye some Romney yarn from a local farm, some Elsawool Cormo yarn, and some BFL/Gotland locks. I somewhat haphazardly bundled the locks together with cotton yarn before dyeing.
Darwin approved of this plan. (Can’t turn my back for a second!)
Then into a pre-soak they went! The book said to soak in a water/vinegar solution while the video said water and Synthrapol, a detergent and wetting agent that helps the wool fibers open up. So I soaked them in a little bit of both.
I did a full immersion dye on the Romney and the BFL/Gotland locks. I used the teal dye, the citric acid solution necessary to make the dye stick, and lots of water so the fiber was completely covered. Here it is at the end of simmering on the stove for half an hour, you can sort of see how the dye is now entirely on the fiber and the water around it is relatively clear.
For the Cormo I tried a low-water immersion dye, which is supposed to lead to more variegation in the skein for that kettle-dyed look that I love. For this you only put enough water to barely submerge the skein and then you randomly pour the dye over it and DON’T stir, so that it absorbs more in some areas than others.
And there are my results! I love the depth of color in the teal yarn and fiber, I’m very happy with those. I’m not a huge fan of the day-glow green color that the Cormo came out and it’s a bit more solid than I had wanted. However, no worries, I can always overdye it! I ordered some more dye colors (grey, yellow, chestnut, and turquoise) and am planning to experiment on some fiber that I will dye day-glow green and then combine with the new dyes to see what brings me closer to what I had envisioned.
Here’s the short list of things I think you need to do immersion dyeing (remember, anything you use for dyeing should NOT be used for food prep afterwards):
- dye & fiber (obviously)
- 2 quart stainless steel pot with lid
- mason jars or tupperware for mixing/storing dye stock
- citric acid
- kitchen or yarn scale
- dedicated spoons and stirring sticks
- one big spoon for the dyepot
- vinyl gloves
- measuring cups and/or graduated cylinders or syringes that can measure small volumes of water in mL
If you want to handpaint or dip-dye there are some additional things you’ll need (mainly more cups to hold the dye, paint brushes, saran wrap, and a steaming apparatus of some sort). But really, that’s about it! Have you experimented with dyeing before? How did it come out?